A Slight Digression On My Own Experience Starting a Rock Band

Before the end of seventh grade, Kurt Cobain was dead from suicide. It was announced one morning as we sat in homeroom watching Channel One news where Anderson Cooper got his start in journalism.

A month ago, I queued up a post about buying my daughter her first guitar. My daughter is seven years old and in second grade, yet she’s already on her second rock band. I’m still planning to post that piece, so stay tuned. Tonight, I want to share with you a slight digression on my own experience starting a rock band and the accompanying stage fright.

Music has always been an integral part of my life. It goes back as far as I can remember, serving as a soundtrack to my existence from the time I was in kindergarten at Phenix Elementary School. As clear as day, I remember at age four years old pumping myself up to swing higher on the swingset by placing a Bruce Springsteen song in my head (“Born to Run”) as motivation against gravity.

Summers at Phenix pool were no different. Prince, Phil Collins, Firehouse, Eddie Money. We all remember the names and the songs they sang. I used the anthems of these artists to hit the wiffle ball harder or round the bases faster outside the fenced area when it was my time to bat.

One evening, shortly after the start of seventh grade, while riding in the backseat of my mom’s car leaving River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg, Virginia, my cousin Gary handed me his headphones and told me to listen. It was Nirvana’s In Utero album. I’d never heard anything like it.

Before the end of seventh grade, Kurt Cobain was dead from suicide. It was announced one morning as we sat in homeroom watching Channel One news where Anderson Cooper got his start in journalism.

By the time eighth grade hit, I was introduced to Weezer, Green Day, the Offspring, Rancid, and others. When a new music station’s radio waves entered the area (104.7 The Buzz) that summer prior to the start of ninth grade, I was hooked. It was no longer just about listening, it was about making. I wanted in.

So did my friends Joshua Holt, Dwayne Davis, John Howard, and Derek Smith. And for roughly two years, non-stop, we talked about starting a rock band. Then, we finally did.

I was originally the lead singer of Anti-Lou. Granted, we weren’t called Anti-Lou then. We had no name. But I was too scared to sing when I stepped up to the mic.

I can’t sit here and say I’m an Eminem fan, but I can tell you the lyrics in “Lose Yourself” are spot on:

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy . . .
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out

I remember the feeling of vocal paralysis like it was yesterday. My friends and I were at CI and Sharon Hall’s practicing in their garage out back in Drakes Branch. CI and Sharon had a full set-up, including a PA system and were kind enough to let us youngsters use it at the start of our rock dreams.

Joshua started playing a Nirvana song on guitar, and when it came time to put lyrics to the chords, I couldn’t open my mouth. Because of my intense fear that day, I actually left the band out of embarrassment.

If only I had known back then that the NBA’s greatest winner, Bill Russell, used to throw up before every basketball game due to nerves, things may have taken a different trajectory.

Not long after I quit, Dwayne moved from playing bass to lead guitar and a spot opened back up for me on bass, which I gladly filled though not knowing how to play an instrument for the life of me.

Think Sid Vicious without the drug problem.

I later went on to sing lead on quite a few songs with Anti-Lou, and had what is safe to refer to as “stage presence.” I went from being terrified to sing to wielding the mic around at the front of the stage like a man possessed.

I still got nervous before shows, but instead of vocal paralysis, I just pissed about twenty times. I don’t even know how my body produced that much urine since I consciously would not drink any water for hours before a show because I knew I was going to have to take a leak like that character in the Adam Sandler skit, “The Longest Pee.”

Admittedly, I haven’t played music in almost twenty years since shortly after the demise of Anti-Lou. I screwed around on a couple of side punk projects, one based locally in Charlotte County (ahem, Scab and the Infections) and one in Lynchburg, but they all flamed out.

However, getting rid of my bass, even though I no longer play it, has proven hard to do. So, wherever I have made my home, it has followed despite sitting in its case not being played. That is, until recently, when my kids have come knocking on my workshop door with the request to play it. And play it they have.

You may also like: A Brief History of Anti-Lou

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2 Comments

Nirvana was the first band I ever saw when I was 14! It was the last they played before he died by suicide. These moments form us in ways we don’t see. Great post!

Beats my first concert: Vanilla Ice 🙂

My second was Rancid, so I feel as though I made up for past transgressions there. Granted, I still know all the lyrics to Ice Ice Baby by heart.

That’s crazy you went to Nirvana’s last show if you think about it. Who would have thought that would end so abruptly and in the manner it did? In a way, I guess the writing was on the wall. Even so, still hard to fathom. We can only wonder how many garage bands started in the 90s based on their influence.

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