This week, I was supposed to be preparing to go to my first music festival. Sure, as a teen I went to a few Ozzfests, and one legendary Locobazooka, but these were day-long events. I have never found myself at Bonnaroo, though I’m ecstatic with its turn from hippie blazefest to music festival over the course of the last decade. Lollapalooza, despite being an important touchstone from the ’90s, was a tour I was too young to get to in its first incarnation, and an event I’ve been overall unimpressed by as a three-day bender. Pitchfork’s fest would be intolerable. SXSW, while still my fantasy, is a daunting pricetag, let alone experience. Smaller festivals across the country would all depend on lineups, and as we know, small festivals, by virtue of size, have shakier lineups.
More than that, however, was the length of time. I’m not going to pretend I’m as young as I once was, and my body shudders a bit at the thought of three days of early afternoon admittance to a fairground and no chance to leave from there on out. It’s a constant mental struggle between getting one’s money’s worth and not being miserable all damn weekend. Even this time around, the idea of being in a city for three days, and spending all three days seeing nothing but a park, felt like a waste of a city. But it was time: Riot Fest drew me in, and I was mentally on my way.
Riot Fest had a number of things going for it, not the least of which being a location in Chicago. Chicago became one of my favorite American cities not long ago, and I’ve been looking for excuses to go back. With a friend now located within its limits, it was a good moment to catch up and a way to save some money while in town. The moment was perfect too… announced shortly before graduating, it felt like a good gift to myself. It was on sale after the other festivals, so I had a better idea of my finances. And the bands, well, they were give and take, but the give was so grand. There was the premise of ten bands performing their classic albums (which made Weezer being on the bill not seem so awful, since we’d be treated to the Blue Album). There was a mix of bands I’d always wanted to see (Headliners like The National, Jane’s Addiction and the Cure), and bands it had been too long since I’d seen (The Flaming Lips, for example, or Andrew WK). But the real biggie for me was the sheer wealth of bands that should never be playing somewhere. Not because they aren’t great bands, but because they were, for all intents and purposes, defunct. The Afghan Whigs, who I had the honor of seeing play at All Tomorrow’s Parties, were high on the list for me. Failure, probably best known for lending A Perfect Circle a song and a guitarist, made me more excited than I realized I would be. The kicker for me, though, was Mineral, the late 90s second-wave emo band that was, for me, one of the first reasons I’ve never associated “emo” immediately with nasal whines and angular haircuts. It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a number of bands I would rarely get to see any other time, all at once. So I bought a ticket.
What I neglected to do, however, was book travel, figuring I could do so when I was in a better financial position. The months passed. I never was. My ticket traveled to Chicago, in hopes of finding a companion to take it to the show. For my part, I desperately scrounged up any reason to be OK with this turn of events. There was the money back, when the ticket ended up selling, which would be nice to have. There was the ability to go to an event a friend of mine had been planning. And there was, I recalled, a Mineral show in Boston, the day before I would have had to depart for Chicago. I mobilized.
I make this all out to sound like Mineral was at one point a favorite band, and that seems dishonest. Mineral, at the moment, represented an opportunity not to be missed. They were an icon of something in my past, and they were back for at least one tour. They spoke to a more beautiful time, when rock music infused itself into different styles more meaningfully, and when the catharsis of emotional music was felt, instead of the formulaic creations of the world’s Fall-Out Boys. They reminded me, by extention, of third-wave bands that felt new and important at the time (Brand New and Taking Back Sunday held so much promise when I first was exposed to them by a friend in California who, by all recollection, actually knew them). They remind me of my friend Beth, from whom I gathered any knowledge of their existence. In the era of youth and Instant Messenger Away Messages, “Gloria” made an appearance in hers regularly, and the lyrics were bewitching enough to need to learn more. They connect to a moment of musical exploration, through Jade Tree and Deep Elm, through mix tapes from this or that moment, through this or that “ping” of a band or a song from Emo Joe, a sort of music guru for some of us at the time at what was, in the late-teen era, “our” coffeeshop… Mineral is a link either directly or indirectly with a lot of what was going on musically in my world, and music was always a link with everything else in my world. Just seeing the band’s name in the context of reuniting meant it didn’t matter if I was an original fan of Endserenading or knew all the lyrics to “Parking Lot.” It filled me with that era of feeling free and feeling, well, anything. It’s weird to remember how amazing time long past was, because it puffs you full of autumn breeze and optimism that you didn’t realize was the reality of your past, but is recognizable as the feeling of that very moment. That, more than anything, was what a Mineral reunion meant.
The show itself remained a moment of symbolism above and beyond anything else. Sure, it was good. Sure, there was that weird hushed crowd that only a legendary band can create… the only noises heard being cheers between songs and the occasional swell of singing. But it was, above all, a trip back in time, when music could be created in this manner and still be heard. My friends and I even ended the night with pizza at Antonio’s, the late night by-the-slice pizzeria that was so much more a part of these halcyon days than part of my current life. The mood of the crowd in general seemed to be of preserving the memory, not restarting the train. An audience member shouted gamely, toward the end, “when’s the next record”. Vocalist Chris Simpson repeated the question, paused, and answered: “2034.” This wasn’t necessarily about a revitalized, restarting band, or the regeneration of a bygone glory. It may be Mineral has nothing new to say, and is OK with drifting back into the silence when this jaunt is over. After all, glory is a silent thing.
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