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From NKOTB to Tool: Finding Myself Through Music

I try not to generalize, but I think it’s fair to say that most of us have private personas that are different than the ones we display at work.  Although many employers have softened their rules within the last decade, as professional adults we are still  expected to behave…professionally.  However, we are all multi-faceted people who are so much more than our careers, and it’s interesting to see the other side of our colleagues.  It’s important for young adults entering the workforce, or trying to decide on a career, to also understand that their parents, teachers, doctors, etc., are all “real” people, too.  With that in mind, I’d like to share with you my love of rock.

My First Time

At age 10, I was obsessed with New Kids on the Block.  I listened to their cassette tapes constantly, got all the new Tiger Beat magazines so I could see their pictures, and had intense debates with my friends about who was the cutest (Donnie).  During the spring of my 5th grade year, they came to Louisville and I was lucky enough to go to the concert.  My friend’s mom took us, along with two other girls, and before the show we ate at the coolest restaurant around: Chi Chi’s.  I remember so many things from that night, including how I felt.  I was hooked on live music from that moment on.

Adolescent Angst

Several months later, fall of 6th grade, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit first aired on MTV.  Seeing that video changed everything; I suddenly loved the grunge scene that was taking over.  Slowly I changed my clothing, room décor, etc. to reflect my new taste in music.  While I’d grown up listening to classic rock, I’d still been hypnotized by the packaging and hype of pop music as a young girl…now I found something that I could relate to on a more personal level.  By the time I was a freshman in high school I’d amassed an impressive collection of flannels, belly shirts, combat boots, and cut my hair off.  I thought I was too cool to continue cheerleading or participate in sports.  My free time was spent hanging out with friends, listening to music, and reading Spin magazine.

Baby Steps

My dad’s favorite band has always been Aerosmith.  When I was 14 they came to Louisville, with Jackyl as their opener, and my dad decided to take me.  One of the most memorable moments of the entire show was Jackyl’s lead singer, Jesse James Dupree, trying in vain to destroy a wooden chair using a chainsaw during Lumberjack.  I still smile when I think about it, but it was also important because it let me know that ANYTHING can happen during a live show and I had to go to every concert possible.

No Turning Back

November 20th, 1995: White Zombie was coming to Louisville and I HAD to go.  I was 15, lived 30 miles away, and it was a school night.  My mom was adamant that I was too young.  I had never been so thankful that my parents were divorced, because I was able to talk my dad into letting me go, and he in turn persuaded my mom.  It became an important milestone for many reasons:

  • First concert without adults
  • The Ramones opened
  • The venue was Louisville Gardens (now closed)
  • General admission = first mosh pit!

“Shows are Really Strange. Sometimes You Don’t Know What to Expect.” – Maynard James Keenan (MJK)

Following White Zombie, I attended as many concerts as possible.  I’d go with friends to a festival and other times I’d go with my mom to see    someone she loved.  I’ve always felt that as long as the music is live, you’ll have a good time.  Sometimes I’ve been disappointed in a band’s performance (Cheap Trick forgot lyrics) yet other times I’ve been so impressed that I’ve become a devoted fan, as is the case with Tool and their lead singer, Maynard James Keenan.  I’ve seen Tool, along with his other bands, multiple times and will do so every chance I get.  Other bands I’ve been fortunate enough to see include: JayZ, DMX, Method Man, Redman, Korn, Rob Zombie, System of a Down (multiple times), The Mars Volta, Fleetwood Mac, John Mellencamp, Donovan, Dixie Chicks, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Kid Rock, Powerman 5000, Monster Magnet, Bloodhound Gang, Matchbox 20, Sugar Ray, Local H, Wilco, Reel Big Fish, Better than Ezra, Bush, Veruca Salt, Metallica, Corrosion of Conformity, Kiss, Def Leppard, and Against Me!  As perfectly stated by MJK, anything can happen at a show, especially at a music festival.  I’ve included official posters from festivals I’ve attended, and the following is a partial list of things I’ve seen/experienced there:

  • A man with at least 100 flashlights duck taped to his body, bouncing around a field of people
  • People wearing body paint…ONLY body paint
  • A man fall down a flight of concrete stairs and walk away without spilling his drink
  • Tens of thousands of people, of all ages, singing together
  • Musicians accept gifts thrown on stage and interact with the audience
  • New friends made in overly crowded parking lots over a mutual disdain for said parking lot and a mutual love of beer

What Do I Get Out of This?

When I go to a concert, I know I can completely relax because (mostly) like-minded individuals surround me.  I don’t worry about whether my attire is professional, if someone can see my tattoo, or if I’ve responded to someone appropriately.  Once I’m on my way to the show I can be the raw, unpolished version of myself, set any life stressors aside temporarily, and live completely in the moment…something we all need to do from time to time.  Some unwind by practicing yoga, reading, or taking a walk…I go to heavy metal concerts.


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