I’m sure we’ve all seen the footage of hordes of screaming and crying girls all trying to catch a glimpse of their favourite heart-throbs whether it was The Beatles, Elvis, New Kids on the Block, and most recently Justin Bieber. I had often watched in utter bewilderment while these girls would gyrate up and down while streams of tears roll down their faces... and not just one... but hundreds of them! No wonder female hysteria was seen as a mental illness or even demonic possession a couple centuries ago – it is a bit crazy to witness. I was always the first to say, “Stupid girls!” whenever they aired the mobs of wailing teens at the latest concert or signing appearance – and then it happened – I had to eat my own words.
It was grade 12 and I had finally the opportunity to see Pearl Jam, my favourite band, perform live for the first time. They had been around for the better part of a decade by now, but due to one schedule conflict or another, I was never able to see them until that year; I was definitely excited, but I was still able to contain my bodily functions.
During the opening acts, I was just impatient. I understand how hard it must be for smaller acts to open for big names, but really? Screw them! Bring on Eddie. It was a festival-type concert and it already had been a long afternoon. It was about 35degrees in the shade – which meant it was even hotter for all of us grunge freaks that were wearing cargo pants, boots, black t-shirts and plaid. I had even turned down copious offers of the various smokable herbs that were going around – I wanted to have my wits about me when Eddie arrived.
Finally, the roadies were finished swapping over the stage and the lights went down. When they came on stage, I got a rush of adrenaline through me that erupted in a “Whhaaaaaaoooooooooooo!” OK, so that was normal. Most people were doing that anyway and it wasn’t like this was my first concert; the “Whhaaaoooo” yelp was pretty standard and I usually sounded like Harvey Fierstein by the end of a gig. It was like the culmination of the last 8 years of myself adoring the music of this band was FINALLY being witnessed live; it was euphoric, but that’s not quite the moment that changed it all for me.
About 6 songs into the set it happened... the all-too-well-known melodious twangs of that single guitar begun and everyone went bananas... and I was frozen. My favourite song had begun to play: Black. My heart was racing, goose-bumps prickled over my entire body, and then something completely indescribable came over me when those first lyrics flowed from Eddie’s mouth:
The sensation grew and grew and bubbled to its climax – and I started to cry! Not just a tear in the corner of my eye either – it was a full-out gasping for air, sniffling, weeping, snot-producing sob! Even I had no idea that the music was able to affect me that strongly. My friends couldn't help but notice and had to comment, “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you crying? Ha, ha. You’re a freak!” Yes, yes, thank you all for your understanding – but I really didn’t care. I was so immersed by the song that I just wanted to hold on to that moment for as long as possible, so I kept crying my happy tears. If that song was a tangible thing, I wanted to crawl inside it and live there.
So, yes, although I still maintain that many of those crazed girls that chase after their favourite heart-throb du jour are ridiculous, I gained a deeper level of understanding that day as to how someone or something can overwhelm us to the point that we lose control of ourselves. I just think that it is up to us to harness it back a bit on the psycho-meter. As for me, this ‘Black’ incident will always be my top most music-related memory that gave me a profoundly special moment – just between me and Eddie Vedder – everyone else in the universe disappeared.