Like most things that I became enamored with when I was younger, this obsession was first brought into my life by my cultural ambassador, the person who ushered me though a majority of my musical rites of passage: my brother.
When I was in second grade, I distinctly remember the sensation of all the blood gathering at the top of my skull in a huge wave. My brother was teaching me how to head bang.
“Don’t tell, Mom!” Josh warned me. Oh, if my mom had only known the grunge fascination that was to about to ensue.
I immediately felt dizzy, clutching a pillow and collapsing on to the floor, to a sound I had never encountered.
Later, I remember the sound coming through car speakers. I distinctly remember the song mentioning daughters, but not in some cheap country pop way that was popular at the time. This throaty rocker was distinctly different. I imagined him with dark wild hair and intense eyes. He never smiled. He was always just, you know, intense. I knew he wasn’t threatening or too serious. He was wise. A messenger delivering passionate growls to my 8-year-old heart.
But I never wanted to to see his face. Ever. I knew it could potentially shatter all my tiny riot grrrl expectations.
Eight years later, at 16, my brother played matchmaker again.
“You’ve never? I mean. You’ve never listened to that album?!” He brought me into, literally, an underground record shop and we dug through the used CDs section.
“There. There you go. Happy Birthday.”
I rushed off to the docks for my ferry boat ride to my summer job. In hand, my Walkman and the album, each track holding that man’s deep, gritty, song.
I ripped off the cellophane packaging and went into a trance, silencing the squawking chatter of tourists on the boat’s deck around me. I stared into the sea as if it would open up into a giant mosh pit.
Still, it wouldn’t be until almost Ten years later at an outdoor concert, when I scurried through a crowd of sweaty, older, bulky men who were reliving their own 90’s mythology, that his face would actually come into view. Others were clad in cargo shorts and flannels, clutching flasks. I wore a short flowered dress and red Patent leather shoes. The benefit of going to concerts alone, as a result of your friends scoffing at your love affair with a nineties rock star who wasn’t Kurt Cobain, is that you can push your body through the masses to the edge of the stage. And when you lose one of your shiny sandals while holding your own tossing around in a crowd of spinning bodies, a godlike voice comes over the mic to say:
“Let’s be nice. Let’s all be nice.” His face glowed, his hair sweaty, wild, his eyes kind. Still intense.
Happy Anniversary, Eddie Vedder.