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The Alice in Chains Concert

by Justin Douglas Lee 9 months ago in metal · updated 9 months ago
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Crying openly in public

The Alice in Chains Concert
Photo by Yvette de Wit on Unsplash

The year was 2014. I had only recently come to terms with my new beliefs about the origin of life in the universe and the implications of those beliefs. I was still 23 years old. My brother had passed away only six months prior. I was excited about the upcoming Coheed and Cambria concert, Alice in Chains was just headlining. I was going with my two friends, Shelly and Cory.

I actually introduced Shelly and Cory to Coheed and Cambria's music. I'd been a fan since college. I loved how they sounded and the way they tell stories in their songs. Shelly thought the band was fronted by a woman at first. She and Cory didn't like them when I first exposed my friends to their music, but after I played a few songs, they grew to like the band. Then they started loving Coheed and Cambria, a lot more than I did, actually. I love it when I introduce somebody to something new and they fall in love with the experience of whatever it is. I'm always recommending music, shows, books, movies, and anything else that I enjoy.

By Natalie Cardona on Unsplash

I wasn't drinking at the time, I just basically stayed high all the time. But I promised Shelly I would stay sober at the concert, because she had just made five years sober, and I wanted to show her respect. So, my tolerance for alcohol was basically down to--one beer and I'm tipsy. I go through cycles of building up a tolerance for alcohol and then losing it; the cycles revolve around how easily I can get some weed.

I'm from Louisiana, so a trip to Texas for a concert can be done in a single day. I was looking forward to that day for what seemed like forever. I kept joking that I was going to go see the new Alice in Chains cover band. And I was stoked to see Coheed and Cambria perform live. I'd never been to a concert before. The closest I'd been was live music at a bar.

By Matt Palmer on Unsplash

The trip there was uneventful, but we did make sure to arrive early, and pass the time at a mall nearby. We were just browsing, not really looking for anything to buy, but we ended up running into our other friends, Amber and Nick. They told us they'd run into Coheed and Cambria earlier in the day, the whole band, at the mall and got them to sign their t-shirts. I thought that was pretty awesome. We didn't try to chase the band down or anything, but we were happy for Amber and Nick.

When we got to the venue, the area set up for and around the concert was bigger than I expected. There were booths everywhere for souvenirs and food, and alcohol of course. I kept my promise and didn't get any beer, but I kind of wanted some. I wasn't used to being sober for more than a few hours and kind of wanted a buzz.

I think there were two bands that played before Coheed and Cambria. I don't remember who they were, but I remember they performed well. I wasn't really paying attention to them. I was more anticipating Coheed and Cambria. When they finally came out, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I was ready to rock and roll. I already had high energy from being in the pit with the crowd, night was beginning to fall, and the vibes around me were great.

By Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

Coheed and Cambria were great. They were all I had hoped for and more. Claudio's hair was amazing as ever, and their performance overall was flawless and beautiful. I lost myself in their music, and some of the people around us were singing along as well. They are a great band that I love recommending to people and talking about. They are super creative and have a very unique sound.

Next up was Jane's Addiction. Crucify me if you must, but I'm not really a fan of their music. But they did give me a really cool concert experience. At one point during their set, Perry Farrell stepped off stage and came back with a bottle of wine. When he opened it and took a swig, I screamed as loud as I could, WOOOOOOOOOO! He noticed me, and after their next song, he handed the wine bottle out to the crowd in the pit, everybody was reaching for it, but he said, "No, that guy," and handed it directly to me. I gotta be honest, everyone was jealous of me. The guard held onto the bottle for me for safe keeping, and poured the contents into a cup for me. Shelly insisted that I drink that wine, and so I did. And I got a really good buzz going by the time Alice in Chains stepped on the stage.

By Janosch Diggelmann on Unsplash

I grew up listening to Alice in Chains in the 90's as a child. They came on the radio a lot, and my father had one of their CDs. I hadn't heard the band since Layne Staley replaced Jerry Cantrell as the lead singer. When that man stepped out on stage with his spectacular afro and cool, confident demeanor, I still didn't expect him to blow me away with his performance the way he did.

Many people have experienced the way that being in a large crowd during a particularly moving performance can generate powerful joyous feelings of ecstasy. Layne Staley's voice is magnificent and their set included many of the classic 90s hits. Somewhere in the middle of it, I finished the wine and was fully immersed in the experience. The nostalgia I felt for their music brought up many great memories I had with my brother, Jesse, as we grew up.

By Vishnu R Nair on Unsplash

I remembered spending the Summers together, riding in dad's cramped two door Toyota truck. My two older brothers, Jacob and Jesse, riding closest to the window with me, trying to keep my legs out of the way of the stick shift. It was in that truck where I really experienced the music of the 90s. It was where we'd hold new pets in our laps on the ride home, from turtles to puppies to kittens. We found Butterbean hiding under the bridge that crossed the ditch at the end of my dad's driveway in Tennessee coming home one day. He was a skinny, starving golden kitten, and we took him in as our own. He lived a long life and grew up to be a very independent tomcat.

I remembered waking up early in the morning before the sun came up and cramming into that truck to go fishing, and stopping along the way to get a moon pie and chocolate milk from the gas station. Then we'd get there and I wouldn't bother trying to fish. The fish were gross and their fins always cut my hands. I preferred playing in the water away from where they fished. It was a lot more fun, although it could be very cold, but at least it wasn't as boring as fishing. Jesse, on the other hand, loved fishing. It was one of his favorite things to do. He was always excited when he caught a fish, and I remember the day he reeled in a 9lb catfish. We were all so impressed. He fought it for a good 15 minutes. We had plenty of delicious fried catfish filets that night.

I remembered riding the bus to school with my brothers the year I lived in Tennessee with my dad for 4th grade. I was obsessed with my Gameboy. The original kind, shaped like a brick with a tiny black and white screen. Pokémon was the big thing back then, and I couldn't stop playing. I ate through batteries like a moth eats through cotton. I would play for hours at a time, for so long that the music would continue to ring in my ears for long periods after I turned the Gameboy off.

My brothers and I stood together on the bridge over the ditch at the end of my dad's driveway. It had been raining particularly hard, and the ditch below us was a fast moving, deep river. I was holding my Gameboy and had somehow dropped it into the ditch. I started crying because I thought I ruined it, but Jesse quickly climbed down and retrieved it from the rushing waters, handing it to me. He told me to let it dry off before I tried to play it, so I set it in my desk at school and left it alone for the whole day. When I got back to school the next day, the Gameboy worked fine.

These memories and experiences were living themselves through me as I vibed out to Alice in Chains' beautiful music and excellent performance. Then, they decided to end the show with Rooster.

All my emotions, my nostalgia, my love for my brother and the fact that I missed him so much. The memory of that phone call at 7AM when Jacob called to tell me Jesse was dead. The desire to go back and be with him for just a little while longer. All of those things welled up inside of me and burst out in drunken tears as I sang along to one of my favorite songs of all time.

The crowd went wild as soon as the song began, and sang along with the entire song. I was in my own world, though, having my own experience, singular in the mob. I was crying openly and finally letting myself experience the moment for what it was. Just losing myself in the music and how I felt. I was filled with a love and appreciation for life and the experiences I was getting to have. I missed Jesse, but that moment was when I was finally able to let it all go. I cried nonstop for a month after he overdosed. And it was like that one last good cry finally got it out of me. Something about that moment was magical to me. I really just let go of all of my inhibitions and exposed myself completely to everything and everyone around me, and everybody else was as caught up in the music as I was, being swept away by the spell.

It amazes me the way memories can be tied to music so strongly that simply hearing a part of a song can sweep you away into your memories until you become completely lost to the world around you. Music has the power to elicit any range of emotions in the listener, joy, anger, sadness, loss, love, really anything you can feel can be portrayed by music.

Alice in Chains, especially that night, bring back many good memories of my childhood and growing up with my brothers. Whenever I listen to their music (I have one of their CDs in my car right now), I think about those good times and I feel a satisfied joy within me. I remember that night with great fondness, and I love to try and relive that moment in my memories whenever I listen to Rooster.


About the author

Justin Douglas Lee

Pupper Blog

I'm an aspiring author and poet, on a life-long journey of self-discovery and learning. I'm an avid reader and lover of all things creative and independent.

[email protected]

You can find my book on Amazon.

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