We didn’t have clubs in southern Illinois where I grew up. Every now and then a cool group would come to the arena, but I wasn’t a big fan of arena shows – the audience wasn’t involved enough. I can’t just sit back and /watch/ a band!
We had shows in basements. Punk rock. Hardcore. It was great. Dark, low ceilinged basements. Beer smell and cigarette smoke heavy in the air. Young men in leather and studs and jean-jacket vests with their backs slightly hunched over and arms holding the rafters. The band would start and the loud, driving music would compel my body into the pit. I’d go ’round and ’round blind to any audience, feeling bodies whipping around me, with me. I loved that feeling of being surrounded by hot, sweaty bodies exerting our angry, desperate for release, out of our heads, animalistc energies. If I fell down, anonymous hands came out of nowhere and grabbed me everywhere, picking me up off the ground. There was a solidity to it all, a cameraderie in passion.
The songs would end and we would come to, as of out of a trance – sweat pouring down our faces, soaking our raggedy tshirts. We would make eye-contact and recognize ourselves in each other. Nod. Grab a beer. Slap each other on the back, still growling, huge smiles on our faces.
I sometimes wish I could transport myself to age 17 so that I could experience that again. Now, I go to a show and I stand at the edge of the pit, watching the people in their frenzy, feeling the energy eminating from it. Where I stand, I am packed in tight with bodies pressed around me. We are dancing together, throwing our fists in the air and yelling because the pressure is building and in these older days the only way we can get it out is through our lungs. But they are pressing against me, and every time I rock back and forth to the surging music I feel the bodies pressing into mine and I remember those fevered nights of my youth and I am transported.