My year of concerts

Yesterday I heard an Oleander song on the radio. Does anybody know whatever happened to them? (Mental note: Try to find them on Wikipedia.) It was an Internet radio station called “Gen X Rock.” I don’t think that being born in 1983 places me in Generation X, but that song—called “Why I’m Here”—took me back to a formative time in my life. I guess you could say it was when I really got into rock music. Feel free to snicker because most of what I listened to was on the “alternative” station beloved by everyone else in my peer group. I was truly obsessed with Third Eye Blind, for example. If only I had known back then that Modest Mouse existed. (Actually, I need to backpedal a bit; I still really, really like Third Eye Blind’s first album. I just don’t make Web pages about them and keep scrapbooks of their photos and interviews anymore.)

It wasn’t just about the music. I was fifteen years old in 1998, and finished my first year of high school that spring. I hated high school then. Freshman year was before I started making friends, taking honors classes and getting involved in extracurriculars. There must have been plenty of other kids who felt like misfits, who didn’t want to party and drink, and who felt unusually mature just because they weren’t complete a-holes. Some of them must have been in my ceramics class, which was my only refuge during the school day. I was a sad girl, though, and I didn’t really know how to reach out to people.

Anyway, I did find some things to latch onto, and music was one of them. After I bought the first Third Eye Blind CD I would let in spin in my Walkman for hours at a time, while I closed my eyes and pretended I lived in San Francisco. During my ridiculous and mandatory computer classes, which gave assignments like searching the Web for a picture of a tree, I hunted for photos of the band and scoured their interviews for insightful quotes. Part of it was rock-star worship, of course, since I thought most of the band members were hot; but I swear to you that my crush was primarily based on their musicianship. Their 1998 tour included a stop in Berkeley. My fervent desire to see them in person must have been obvious, because my mom consented to drive my friend and me out there (two hours each way) and watch the show with us. She claimed to enjoy it. I, however, thought it was about the greatest event that had ever occurred in my life. Come to think of it, I wonder how much my mom paid for those tickets.

I think of 1998 as my big year of concerts—most of them smaller than Third Eye Blind’s arena show. Oleander and Simon Says were a couple of hard rock bands making a name for themselves in Sacramento. Soon they were both picked up by major labels, but before that happened they played a lot of local festivals. My dad, who is a musician, took me to see them a number of times. Outside the confines of high school, and away from home, those shows gave me a chance to forget about my teenage alienation. I was a gawky girl trying to look cool in my ball chain necklaces and souvenir concert T-shirts. I didn’t mosh, but I probably bobbed my head and patted the sides of my legs rhythmically, self-consciously. My dad was typically a little more ebullient, making things more fun and only slightly more embarrassing. Our love of music was the only thing we had in common. At least, it was the only thing we knew how to communicate to each other during those awkward years.

It felt pretty cool to be able to say that I’d attended such-and-such concert. I had T-shirts, bumper stickers, and photos to prove it. When we saw Eric Martin play at a club in Roseville, my dad talked to him briefly and snapped a picture of me standing next to him—hesitantly, because Eric Martin was actually talking to someone else at that moment. I don’t think we got an autograph from him, but I did have some CD booklets signed by Oleander and Simon Says. There was also an Oleander bumper sticker plastered on the cover of my school binder, which got the attention of at least one cute rocker guy from my Spanish class. Later that year I had the pleasure of being truant for morning classes and showing up to school, late, wearing an Aerosmith T-shirt from their concert the previous night. That served as a conversation piece, too, with some of my classmates.

Life got busier and better. My ardent devotion to particular bands died away. I didn’t feel anything quite like it again until I first listened to Modest Mouse, just a couple of years ago. I think I would have really loved them when I was a teenager.

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