Where These Bands Take Me


Dave Matthews Band – Summer of 2001, riding in a Ford Taurus with someone named Peter.

Peter wears those wire glasses and parts his hair to the left by slicking it down with water. He plays guitar for the worship band at the camp for college Christians we live at this summer in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Peter drives us to teach Bible school to children whose parents are down the road at a conference to help them lead college students to Christ.

We listen now to a burned bootleg copy of The Lillywhite Sessions.

The song is “Bartender,” and it seems to always be on when I’m in the car with Peter. He tells me Dave Matthews Band is the only secular music he listens to.

This summer, Peter and I will proselytize to strangers. This summer, like that song, will be filled with a specific loneliness. More than that, though, a fruitless trying.

Creed – 1996 in a weight room with Henry who has just moved to my hometown from Indiana. Henry’s dad is the new superintendent at the Mennonite private high school. I go to the public school, yet I hang out with the Mennonite kids. We just get along better.

I spot Henry as he lifts.

He wears black gloves – fingertips cut off – along with a white t-shirt with yellow stains under his armpits as the hard rock station plays Creed.

This is “My Own Prison,” a song Henry tells me – after his set is over – is pretty cool. I smile and nod.

I like Blues Traveler and Hootie and the Blowfish. This singer sounds like a frog, I think.

But, glad to have a new friend, I say nothing, lie back on the bench and just lift as much as I can.

Korn – 1994, riding in a passenger seat of Ryan’s car. Ryan is a classmate of mine and this is his Trans Am with t-tops.

This is unusual, I think as we drive aimlessly around our small town. I do not drive around. I definitely do not drive around with Ryan.

Ryan chews tobacco as he puts in a tape. Josh, who also in our class and will one day marry the girl he started seeing in the 7th grade, gave it to him.

The music begins now, and it seems connected to the “bad things” in my hometown: drinking, smashing pumpkins – before I knew about Smashing Pumpkins – and being mean to teachers. My mom is a teacher.

“This shit is crazy,” Ryan says, then spits in a Mt.Dew 20oz bottle.

The music is deafeningly loud and with the t-tops I am acutely aware of how the people in my hometown can hear the music. I want to crawl out of my skin.

Mates of State – Sometime in 2002, I have fallen for someone. She’s in the car with me listening to Mates of State. A childhood friend of mine, Paul, is in the backseat.

We’ve just been to Famous Dave’s where I watched Paul eat. And after each bite, he licked his fingers clean like a cat.

My sisters would’ve never let me hear the end of it if I did that in front of a girl.

Though Nina didn’t seem to mind. She sat closer to Paul than to me.

Now Paul walks to his dorm at the University of Sioux Falls and I take Nina back to Vermillion, where we live.

I know her from college, though only vaguely. She has blond hair and straight teeth and perfect everything, I believe. That evening, I manage the courage to tell Nina I like her.

The next day I have an email in my Hotmail inbox. Nina has a thing.

It is not for me.

The Magnetic Fields –  2004 and I work at a Christian group home as a houseparent. I drive down the main street of a small town in Nebraska. One with a similar feel to where I grew up. Not quite 1,000 people live here too.

Here I am in love. The kind of love you pray for it come true.

It’s nearing the end of my time in Nebraska and I listen to “How to Say Goodbye” as I drive. Over and over it plays and when the line “I’m overjoyed to hear about your wedding/I’m writing you to wish you ever blessing” I believe it was written for me.

I think of writing a letter. I think of moving to wherever she does for the rest of my life.

Animal Collective – 2007, seeing Beth. She has curly hair and is better for me than anyone I have ever seen or will ever see.

Her age is a problem, though. Or that’s what I tell people is the problem when they ask why I’m seeing other people.

I don’t really think Beth is too young. I just want to see other people. I’ve never lived in such a big city. It’s never been possible before.

Months go by with Beth and by late summer I call her and say I have a song she has to hear.

She lets me come over to Wallingford, to her place overlooking Lake Union, and we listen.

This is one of the last times I’ll be with her and I have no idea.

Reel Big Fish – A hotel room in Aberdeen, South Dakota in 1997.  The next day I’ll shoot a 39 on the front nine at the state golf tournament. On the back nine, sensing something has to go wrong, I’ll fall apart and finish near the bottom.

In my hotel room the night before, I watch MTV. My hometown doesn’t have MTV so I have never heard this song before. This is the best thing I have ever heard.

Not long after, a girl will be in my hotel room. She has freckles and will also play in the tournament tomorrow. When we kiss, I understand I’ve had the best moment of my life so far.

Alkaline Trio – It is 2000 and wear black and think, quite seriously, about getting a tattoo.

One night, as we in my college’s Christian group make plans for next week’s meeting – who will give the testimony,  the message, what kind of skits we’ll do – one of them asks if I’m “going goth.”

The question makes me feel cooler than I ever have.

Jenny Lewis –  In 2008, I walk to the Fremont library in Seattle. Leaves are on the ground. I have CDs to get from the library, or maybe I have CDs to take back to the library. I walk this way everyday.

The rest of my morning I’ll spend on a chair in front of a computer. I’ll write “a novel.”

After that I’ll go to work in the industrial park, south of downtown.  They call it SoDo. It’s supposed to be Seattle’s SoHo, though there are just trucking businesses and abandoned warehouses.

In the morning, though, before my “day job,” I write and listen to Jenny Lewis as a reward. If I keep on, I’ll have someone like her.

MxPx–  1999 and God has put in my path the one He promises every person who calls on His name. Her name is Andrea and soon after we begin seeing each other, she says she has someone else.

So I buy a shirt, pastel blue. On the front is a cartoon picture of a little boy and a little girl. The little girl has the little boy’s heart in her hand. Blood drips from the wire-like arteries between the pair and below that it says, “Girls are Mean.”

I wear it often and am proud to wear it at my Christian group meetings. Even more proud the time Andrea shows up with her guy.

Months later, I go home with the shirt. My mom does my laundry and I never see it again.

Bloodhound Gang – In 1996 at a Bloodhound Gang show in Sioux Falls with my best friend who later trails to drugs as I trail off to God.

This is a couple years before, though, and we are best friends. His nickname is “Butterball” and mine is “Egghead” – because of the shape of my head – and even if I play sports and he does not, we fit together perfectly. I will never laugh harder with anyone else.

At the show, we’re in the front sweating from head to toe, amazed by the number of ‘alternative girls’ in the crowd. We watch the lead singer fellate a banana as the band samples “Around the World.”

“It’s a popular song guys,” Jimmy Pop says, “you should know this.”

And maybe we should. Maybe we are a little backwoods. Still, Nathan and I are having the time of our lives.

Stone Temple Pilots – Fall of 1995 and “Dead and Bloated” is on the small stereo in the boy’s locker room of my high school gym.

Everyone is putting on their pads and getting pumped up. Some of the older boys, along with some the younger boys who want to appear as though they will play, put tape around their ankles and wrists.

The song is so loud, but I kind of like it. It’s better than Sawyer Brown.

Sawyer Brown is on whenever Larry wants Sawyer Brown on because he is, by far, the biggest boy on our team. Larry likes to tell me about my lisp and my oblong shaped head and how hot my sister is.

I will always dislike Sawyer Brown.

Crash Test Dummies – 2004 at the off-duty house of the group home in Nebraska where Seth and Casey and I listen to a mix of Magnetic Fields and Crash Test Dummies and play Halo.

Seth and Casey are my from Washington and Kansas, and kind. They let me talk about Megan. Better than that, they are not good at Halo and react in a way that makes me laugh like Nathan once did. They distract me from Megan, only a block away but she may as well be on the other side of the world.

“Afternoons and Coffeespoons” is playing now and I like how much they like this song.

I forget about Megan, for a moment.