The year was 1999 and being in grade 9 was introducing us to a whole new swath of feelings and experiences. Girls, girls, girls – and it had nothing to do with the yet to be discovered Motley Crue. I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve always had pure thoughts and going to a Christian high school was probably the only thing that kept me in check – at least for a couple years.
I had never learned about sexuality, my parents always pulled me out of those classes in grade school and it was laughable to think we even had them in high school. Outside of ‘save it ‘til marriage’ our sex education was paltry and left much to the imagination, a part of the brain that, luckily, I found myself exploring more every passing day.
With a lack of outlets though, things were bleak for a love-struck, girl-crazy, shy-boy. My first crush was Jenna but she lived an hour away and had a boyfriend, my heart was in a perpetual state of tearing in half because of this. We’d talk often but it was never meant to be so there I sat in the corner at lunchtime listening to a cheap CD player. My friend Steve introduced me to a bunch of punk bands that year and I dove into that world with him. It was always a fine line trying to convince our parents the music was totally kosher and what sounded like swear words was just terrible singing.
As summer approached we caught wind of a concert being put on by our favourite band at the time – MXPX. We would have to travel to Cincinnati, or maybe it was Toledo, to check them out on this tour though. With no Detroit dates it looked bleak, we’d have to convince our parents to drive 3 hours each way, through a border-crossing, and let us blow ourselves up in a mosh pit while they looked on in bewilderment.
The big break came, two of our parents sacrificed 12 hours of their time and as the weeks ticked down we slept less and less in anticipation. Finally the night before the show came, I didn’t sleep and I’m pretty sure Steve didn’t either. We awoke the next day and I’m fairly certain we still had to sit through a grueling 6 hour school day. As the final hour ticked down I’m sure we looked like a couple of kids on Ecstasy our grins were so broad.
5 seconds after the bell rang we were in a minivan and headed for the border – our first real concert. We arrived at the venue, a small cadre of 14 and 15 year old kids that wanted to experience what we thought was punk music. The venue was adjacent a University so the line was filled with colourful characters both intimidating and fascinating. As we filtered past the bouncers and into the club, the smell of musty wood soaked with 1000 beers greeted our virgin nostrils and, no doubt, tingled the very workings of our hearts.
I’m going to stop talking about MXPX now because they aren’t actually the focal point of this story. I still listen to them sometimes but this particular night wasn’t destined to be theirs.
It wasn’t like a concert today, back then there were fewer distractions and the whole crowd was buzzing with anticipation. The opening band, 22 Jacks, was okay, good solid fun but something happened after their set. Time slowed and the club darkened, a band I had never heard of was about to take the stage. Maybe attraction to the unknown contributed to the immeasurable sense of power that washed over us when the second band took the stage but I think it was more the fact they were just so damned good.
From the first riff, No Motiv had the crowd stunned and enamored. Sometimes at live concerts you’ll see a band that owns the stage so hard you forget the reason you went – this was one of those times. I didn’t know who they were, what kind of music they played or where they came from but I knew that it was love at first listen.
Whether or not the crowd had come to the show for MXPX, they were firmly in the grasp of No Motiv at that point, everything became singular. The whole venue was moving to the thunderous bass, volcanic drums and fat guitars deftly punctured by soaring vocals – we were trying to stay alive in our first mosh pit. They played harder and faster than we had ever thought possible and it would become one of the defining moments of my life as a music fan – everything seemed possible after this spectacle.
The rest of the night was spent wide awake and starry-eyed while gazing into the distance, reliving the monolithic experience.
The next school day was a blur, the things I once knew seemed to matter less. The girls I wanted to chase seemed inconsequential, if only for a short period of time. Deconstructing the encounter afterward was difficult for a young mind to comprehend. All the ideas that had been taught were subject to scrutiny and re-evaluation, no ideas were safe. I would go on to chase many girls and love a few of them but after that day the biggest part of my heart belonged to another, crueler mistress.
I had pledged myself to music.