I was in the 10th grade in 1982 and September of that year was the first time that I had the awesome privilege of seeing Rush live. I can't exactly remember how I was able to go by myself but 'go it alone, I did'. More than likely I told my parents that a buddy's parents were taking us. We did what we had to do in those days to get our asses to concerts. There was not a huge Rush following in my circle of friends and certainly none of which were girls. I'd taken the bus to the Pacific Coliseum hundreds of times so transportation was locked. Next I needed the gear, I needed; the look. Rush was considered hard rock (and later progressive rock). This meant my look had to be tough. There were going to be a lot of tough guys at the show and most of them older than me. The right look was not only meant to help me blend in but was also meant to ward off bullies or 'pricks' if you will. It's simple anthropology people.
Where to start? Jeans and boots, preferably steel toed was a given. A jean jacket would be cool and totally acceptable but I wanted to add size to my grade 10 frame. Luckily I owned what we used to call a mack jacket; commonly known as the lumber jack jacket. At the time there were 3 distinct ways of donning the 'kick ass' apparel.
1. Wear jacket as is…with boots and well-weathered jeans
|newer version of the 'mack', original had tough-guy buttons|
3. Cut sleeves off jacket and wear over a denim jean jacket
I opted to go with the 'mack' as is and blended in just fine with the 12,000 other die hard Rush fans. Where I did not blend was ethnicity. In short I was the only black cat in a mack jacket in the joint. Alas, we were all fans of Canada's greatest band ever and it never became an issue. At one point as I was making my way to the stage (you never stayed in your assigned seat in those days unless you were a loser) I bumped into a girl about my age with a rockin' body that wouldn't quit. I can safely say that if I was the only 'brother' at that show, she was definitely the only girl at that show. We stopped and stared at each other briefly before smiling.
She gave me a hug and said, "what are you doing here?"
"I love Rush what are you doing here?" I laughed enjoying the hug and the smell of her hair.
"I love Rush too!" We both laughed and told each other to enjoy the show. She moved away from the stage and I toward. I heard the guy she was with ask who I was. She responded that I was a black guy into Rush and wasn't that the coolest. Although our time was brief I shall never forget my Rush girlfriend. We were kindred minorities who shared a tender moment as passing ships in a tempestuous yet magnificent sea of hard rock, pot and fleecy plaid.
Eventually I made it to the front row. As a group or perhaps gang it was somehow decided that we'd stand on the backs of the metal folding chairs. We were slightly in luck as the chairs were locked together at the legs so all we had to do was balance. We did this by linking arms standing shoulder to shoulder. But, like any dominoes wall when one portion of the human wall began to teeter so went the entire human chain. When this happened we usually fell backward into the row behind us. We'd scramble to get up and quickly rebuild the wall. Believe me when I tell you if you haven't been part of a human rock n' roll wall at a Rush concert…you have not yet lived. I'm happy to report that during the two hour plus, show our rock line tumbled a mere 49 times. It was outstanding and for the record there is
Returning to my 'Rush almost never looked back' comment from paragraph one. The band is still on fire to this day but where forced to take a couple-year hiatus when tragic news befell Neil Peart. In the course of a year Neil lost his college aged daughter to a car accident and later his wife who died of a broken heart at the loss. Understandably Neil called it quits and not just from the band but from drumming…music altogether. He locked up his home, hopped on his motorcycle and rode from Toronto to Alaska, down to Mexico and then some. Bandmates Geddy and Alex also devastated by the events were also done with Rush. They would not replace Neil. In fact, Alex barely touched his guitar for a year. Neil wrote an amazing book of his tragic journey/ road to recovery entitled: Ghost Rider...Travels On The Healing Road. I highly recommend it.
The pieces now firmly back together Rush is rocking harder than ever. As a kid Neil was one of my top 3 drumming influences and reading his book helps push me to keep pen to paper. The trio bring nothing but the pure rock; no auto tuning, no ghost studio players, no B.S. just the raw rock that has changed the lives of millions of people for over 45 years. I've seen them close to 20 times since that rip roarin'-bone crushing-body tumbling-minority bonding-coming of rock age-explosive concert in 1982. Thanks for the music and memories Rush--happy birthday Geddy Lee! You guys are still the best!