The 6 Steps of Rocking Out (When You're Over 30)
The Beatles made me love songwriting and production, David Bowie trained me in theatrics, and Pink Floyd moved me with grandeur. But at 18 everything changed: Soundgarden taught me how to rock.
The Before Soundgarden and After Soundgarden pictures are quite telling:
I can't stress just how important Soundgarden in general, and Chris Cornell specifically, were to my development as a musician and music fan. They changed the way I thought about music, the way I wrote music, and the way I sang -- taking me from a high B at best to a high E when I learned to open my throat like Chris. I started writing and singing stuff like this. (It's a rushed, shitty eight-track cut mostly from a live recording. You kids today with your GarageBand/Pro Tools don't get it! Also, the video is deliberately awful, so shush. Also, it may suck, but it sucks in a far more awesome way than my high school stuff sucked.) And in 1993, I saw Soundgarden at a Philly show and got roughed up in the mosh pit and it was awesome.
But just two years from their high-water mark, they called it a day. Cornell would go on to release two very good solo albums, three very mediocre albums with Audioslave, and one godawful collaboration with Timbaland that we will not discuss. Ever. Under any circumstances.
Click all you want. This is not a video embed. It will never play. As it should be.
Then a few months ago, they released King Animal, which is so good, it instantly cured any and all of the band's former sins. Cornell's Timbaland transgressions forgiven. Matt Cameron slumming it on drums for Pearl Jam forgiven. Kim Thayil raping his neighbor's dog forgiven! Here's a taste with a video link that will play:
In this state of euphoria, I went to see Soundgarden at Terminal 5 in New York City a few weeks ago. Their new album left no doubt that they could still rock, but could I? After all, I was no longer a long-haired teen. True, the passing years had brought me a lifetime of accomplishments and hard-earned sexual competence, but could I rock? Here is my night. You tell me who the rock star is.
Picking the Right Clothes for Rock
Unlike the sexy young man from '93, I have a job. A job that sometimes requires wearing a suit. There was no way I was going to a Soundgarden show in a suit, so I wisely packed a change of clothes. But what about shoes? Two pairs of shoes? No way. I'm a grunger, baby. I wore my Doc Martens with my suit. What about The Man? Yeah, well, The Man would just have to deal.
After a full day of work, I lost the suit and replaced it with jeans and a fashionably tight green sweater. Why not flannel, you ask? Because I wasn't going to a grunge cosplay party. I was just dressing like myself, which is what I did back in the day when it became inexplicably fashionable for a couple of years in the '90s. See, grunge was always about doing what came naturally -- whether that was wearing some beat-up jeans, drinking 400 cups of coffee, or blowing your head off with a shotgun while tainting Neil Young lyrics.
Pregaming Before the Rock
As a youth, or possibly Robert Brockway, you might prepare for a concert by getting incredibly high. You might drink all the beers, because yeah beers rah! But I was a grown man with grown man responsibilities. I'd have a few beers at the show, sure, but sometimes really rocking out means getting home without being too banged up to go to work the next day. OK, it never means that, but sometimes you can't get too banged up because you have to go to work the next day. Therefore, I pregamed with breakfast food to absorb the few beers I'd be downing later.
Rock 'n' roll!
I also left a 20 percent tip, because ROCK!
Waiting in Line for Rock
Part of going to any show is the pregame cruising for chicks: "Hey, girl. You like Superunknown? Cool. Let's bone." But while that may have worked in 1993, there are three reasons it wouldn't work today: 1) It never worked in '93; 2) I'm married now; and 3) Soundgarden fans sure have gotten old and ugly. Holy cow, it was depressing. It looked like all that teen angst turned into 30 pounds of gut and male pattern baldness. Strangers looking at the line outside Terminal 5 probably assumed they were selling massive reconstructive surgery inside.
Also, some putz behind me kept goading the scalper for how much he was charging given what he'd paid on StubHub. Who tries to shame a scalper? It's his job to charge too much. That's the point. So yeah, I was a huge rock star on line, but the bar was set incredibly low. I also saw someone who might have been described as a "grunge hooker."
"Black Hole Sun costs extra."
Finding a Place to Rock
For those of you who've never been to Terminal 5 to see a show, it's important to know that it doesn't matter where you stand -- the sound will suck. And it did. So it was a standing-room-only show and we had to decide where to stake our claim. While I went front and center in '93 and spent the show moshing, I decided I'd have a lot more fun this time if I did the exact opposite of that. I went to the balcony, avoiding the clutter. Furthermore, the balcony had close proximity to the bar and soft pretzels. Rock!!!!
In '93, this display was filled with buttered heroin.
Anyway, no complaints. My view was awesome and I had a ledge for my beers.
Also, the mosh pit I avoided was basically just 20 guys being lame in the middle of a crowd. Not missing much. It moved so slowly, it looked more like an angry amoeba uncomfortably copping feels from surrounding folks who were just trying to watch the show.
Rocking During the Rock
Soundgarden came on and killed it. Just killed it. Despite the bad Terminal 5 mix, they destroyed the place, playing songs from throughout their career while integrating the new material, which held its own against their classics. Chris Cornell, now in his 40s, hit all his paint-peeling notes and the unit was super tight.
I nodded my head, tapped on the railing, sang along when it wasn't too obnoxious to sing along. Meanwhile, one of my buddies gave up his view of the band to some girl at the show. That's like a Motley Crue move. Boo. A real Soungarden fan would never let anything -- not even a vaguely attractive 20-something with too much eyeliner -- come between him and the band.
Then they closed with the same song they opened with in 1993. One of the greatest, loudest, meanest songs ever written: "Jesus Christ Pose."
After the Rock
Man, the show is just the warm-up, right? After Soundgarden raised the roof for two hours, me and the boys were ready to hit the town and purge some of those antsy demons summoned by the power of grunge. We were feeling stupid and contagious. But first it was important to urinate.
Most likely where Terminal 5 keeps its sound system.
After tapping the spoonman (to use a grunge phrase for urinating that in no way is a thing people actually say), we hit the New York City streets. "Where to?" we wondered aloud. Some wanted to hit bars in the Village. There was talk of an after-show party in Brooklyn. And one guy wanted to hit Penn Station to catch the last train before midnight. That someone was me. And showing all the defiance of the most badass grunger, that's just what I did.
Watch the new HATE BY NUMBERS, where Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas recruits Britney Spears to make even worse music. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.