The Early 00s
For the sake of full-disclosure, I was starting high school when the new millennium was beginning. MTV still played videos, and the radio played shit by Limp Bizkit and Korn, and sometimes Rage Against the Machine. It wasn't all bad, though. WHFS was this radio station that used to broadcast out of D.C., and they always seemed to some sort of an idea of what they were doing. They used to do this thing called the HFStival, and it was a one day concert in the same vein an Lollapalooza. It was kind of a big deal, in the sense that people always wanted to go and get wasted and groove out to the latest in popular alternative music. I went one year, and I remember seeing two things: Eminem, which I'll talk about now, and The Strokes, who I'll get to after that.
Eminem was insanely popular when I was in these years. I remember being in seventh grade when "My Name Is" started to get played on the radio. In eighth grade, it was "Forgot About Dre" that was all the rave. That was always the game. You get a partner, and see if you both know all the words to "Forgot About Dre". You didn't really need to know the Dre part because everyone always wanted to be Eminem. Literally, when I was 14 everyone wanted to be Eminem. Not me. I was too oblivious to be angry or angst-y about anything, and besides, my mother wouldn't let me dye my hair blonde. It seemed like every day he was more popular than he was the day before. The reason I mention most of this is, because the year I went to the HFStival, Eminem was the headliner.
The HFStival of 2002 was my first live concert experience. It was the first show, and is being mentioned solely for that reason. In addition to Eminem and the Strokes, the line-up included Our Lady Peace and Good Charlotte. Historians have since determined that this was the worst line-up in the the 14 year history of the festival. That might be a bit harsh, but it's not an exaggeration. The thing about the HFStival was that it was a concert whose line-up was comprised of whatever was popular on HFS that year. So in 2000, they had Rage Against the Machine, Stone Temple Pilots, Cypress Hill, Deftones, and the Blue Man Group. The headliners for 1995 were the Ramones and Tony Bennett. Jay-Z performed in '04, and Kanye did it in '06. None of this is terribly exciting, but it's worth noting that the '94 line-up included Pavement and the Meat Puppets.
Anyway, the events leading up to the show are all pretty pedestrian. Scalping tickets in the parking lot. Gawking at breasts. Going to Section 420. Taking unattended beers from the railing. Gawking at more breasts. Crowd surfing. More gawking, and et cetera, et cetera. However, the good times would soon come to a halt. The crowd started becoming violent all of the sudden, and I'm fairly certain that it had nothing to do with the fact that Hoobastank was performing on stage. Eminem was coming up next. I remember having to move off of the field, and on to the bleachers because of the elbows being thrown. Eminem came out on stage, and the crowd moved forward which was unfortunate for the people already in the front because they got trampled. When that happened, Eminem became incensed and started demanding that the crowd back up, and if they didn't he would leave. I'm pretty sure someone died as a result of the crowd's insatiable desire to get closer to the blonde one.
Eminem came out on stage in a suit, and there was a podium and the whole thing was supposed to have the vibe of a politician giving a speech. Eminem asked the crowd to put both their middle fingers in the air, and yell "Fuck You". I remember looking around, and seeing children and adults all with their fingers in the air. I saw entire families participating, and while I didn't dwell too much as to why you would take a nine year old to the show, it still struck me as odd. I hadn't become cynical at this age, so I blocked this event out for many years. But later on, I became disenfranchised with just about everything and then I remembered this. I was in the middle of White America. This is what the people had come to represent. Most wouldn't want to admit this because it's not exactly the most flattering portrait, but it was accurate. This was the people, in their realest form. They were seeing their favorite performer live in concert, and they were acting accordingly. I still remember that moment to this day. I don't remember all the sex. There were people having sex in the lawn, and there were people having sex in the bleachers. They were in the bathrooms, and at one point I saw coitus done on a couch in Absolut Vodka DJ tent. Those are all just flashes, but every single one of those faces with accompanying middle finger is as a clear as watching a hockey game in high-definition.
It wasn't all bad, though. Earlier in the day, I saw the New York rock and roll band, The Strokes. This band left an indelible mark on me. It was almost June, but here were these five guys decked out in leather jackets, skinny jeans, and boots. This was the first time in my life that I saw bros. I didn't know it then, but upon reflection I know this was the case. When they came out on stage, they started playing. Everyone except lead singer Julian Casablancas. He stood motionless for a minute, and then there was this rotating camera that circled the stage. And, Julian went after it. Once it came within reach, he grasped for it and hung on it for a second before letting go. Then there was some mild swearing, and after that he picked up the microphone and started singing. At that moment, I determined this was rock and I wanted to hear more of it.
Predictably, I bought This Is It the next day. And I bought Room On Fire the day it came out. I was hooked. I couldn't believe that a band could sound like this, and still get played on the radio. I didn't have the internet in this day, so I didn't know any better and it would have blown my mind to learn that online people were hating on this band because they weren't cool. I didn't know any of this. I only knew my radio, and shortly after it started playing The Hives, The Vines, and The White Stripes. I started believing that any band worth a damn had a "The" in their name. I liked each one more than the one before, which explains why I flipped for The Vines. They were the last ones to arrive, so I was the most ready to embrace them. I didn't know where these bands were coming from, and I didn't really care. One night, my younger cousin brought his guitar over, and I got my bass out, and my brother did the drums, and the three of us covered "Last Nite" three or four times and we were convinced that it was epic. In a way, it was.
I didn't have the slightest idea of how to find more music like this, but I stuck by the radio. Eventually, I gave up because HFS went off the air and DC 101, the other "alt" station, still played the same corporate playlist from 1996. With few options, I turned to "classic" rock because it was all new to me at the time and I eventually determined that the best way to get over The Strokes was to get into Pink Floyd. This actually worked for a few years.
My teenage years showed great promise given my initial fervor for The Strokes, and for having the vision to be wary of Eminem. However, in this same time I became dumb and susceptible to anything so I started listening to older music because it was easier. How can you argue with what's easy. A few years later this would change, but at that juncture of my life, which now works as the end of this article, this was the case.