By this point, the evening had grown well beyond my expectations. My favorite band, not for the last time, had returned after a break-up. I had watched them play live from the most intimate of concert positions, standing in the center of the front row, Louise Post playing guitar and singing mere inches in front of me on the tiny elevation that barely counted as a stage at the old Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We had even had the pleasure of briefly meeting Louise prior to the concert as she and her bandmates milled about the small music venue. I certainly expected nothing more from the event.
That band was Veruca Salt, my favorite since falling in love with Nina Gordon and Louise Post on the stage of the Van Andel Arena just four years earlier during my freshmen year of high school. Fans of the band may note that the formation of the band I was currently watching was hardly the original. Louise remained the only original member in the line-up, taking up the name on her own, to the delight of some and the dismay of many. Still, it was new music from a musician significant to my teenage self and an in-person experience of thrilling proportions. Louise was charming and friendly in our brief encounter and, though I did not know it at the moment, the new members of the band were fascinating people.
How fortunate I was in my friendship with Jon, my fellow music nerd and concert companion. I would have been ready to go home following the show, the promise of the ticket I had purchased fulfilled, but Jon was seeking more. As the evening was already turning to memory in my mind, Jon motioned to the alley behind the venue and ventured down without me. With little choice and much anxiety, I followed into the darkness.
At the end of the alley sat a magnificent sight, a large silver tour bus and the members of both Veruca Salt and their opener, the Canadian band Starling. They looked up as we approached and I stopped with the shame of a teenager sneaking out of their bedroom at night. Jon continued on, introducing himself, his girlfriend, and me and received welcoming smiles in return. What followed was a fanboy’s dream, with the bands and their crew treating us as guests. I sat against a brick wall with bassist Suzanne Sokol, discussing life and music. I convinced guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick to sign the setlist I had stolen from his stage monitor after the show. We took photos with everybody, including the bus driver. We were granted autographs on our CDs, posters, set lists, guitar picks, and even my shoes. In the end, they were kind enough to invite us to the next night’s show in Detroit, even granting us a place on the official guest list.
As we traveled home that evening, my mind was not on the early morning classes I had promised my mom I would pass in spite of the late night concert. My thoughts focused on the exhilaration of the experience, the rewards come of risk taken, and the very real sense that, in a short life, it was important to take hold of every moment.
We did just that, somehow convincing our parents to allow us to attend the Detroit concert, as well as a number of other school night shows. We traveled the Midwest, putting in nearly 2000 miles as we followed the band and built relationships with fellow fans and the musicians themselves. The product of those days are shown in countless photos, souvenirs, and those signed shoes that still hang in my office today, but the most important result was my newfound motivation to pursue the adventure of life.
I’ve coined a phrase in recent years, a counter to the internal sense to consistently move to that which is familiar, normal, and safe.
“Always do the thing.”
Fear not the dark alleys, the unknown experience, or individuals yet met. When life presents a choice for a new exploit, in place of a retreat to that which is known, always do the thing.
These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.