A good portion of the staff at The Daily Soundtrack have been friends for long enough that our friendships are about as old as we were when we became friends. Wrap your mind-hole around that one while I tell you a story of these halcyon days.
The summer we all graduated, we went down to Myrtle Beach for a post-grad vacation. Matt Belair’s fam had been going down there as long as we’d known him (and still do), so this year, we all got together and joined the party. Invited, of course. This required a 4am wake-up call, which even in my more spry days was cruel and unusual punishment. Seeing Belair’s family, right down to his grandfather, up and at ‘em and ready to driiiiiiiiiive would have been comical against the sad sleepy sacks of teen boy in the second car, if I had been awake enough to notice the humor. Not that there wasn’t plenty of humor along the trip once we grew more alert:
Matt’s dad: You know that thing I told you never to do?
Matt: Back up on an off-ramp?
Matt’s dad: Yeah, we’re doing that.
It was a beautiful day for a drive at least, and the banter in our own car, along with the walkie-talkie interplay between the “Adults” and us “Kids,” made the going mostly smooth. We grabbed breakfast shortly after backing off an exit in mid-Connecticut, and made good time throughout the day, even with the traffic of New York and the tolls of Jersey (which were less of a hassle with Matt’s family ahead of us–quoth one toll booth operator, “They paid for your broke ass”). As music lovers even then, we had plenty of ammo for the ride, too, and so there was a constant stream of 90s essentials and ephemera fueling us, and probably a good helping of classic rock as well. Sure, the pressures of interminable hours cooped up in a small space with four other guys all jockeying for attention, as us guys are wont to do, wore on us a bit throughout the sojourn. Sure, we had our disappointments: finding out the “Port of Whim” we’d all clearly read in Delaware was actually the Port of Wilm(ington), the smell of Virginia about halfway through it, and the dispatch over the airwaves of a simple “No” just as we were joking about contacting the family side of the equation about stopping at Exit 70, home to a very well-publicized (literally a billboard every couple of miles) strip club. I suppose that wasn’t a real disappointment so much as the start of riotous laughter. Point is, we persevered.
North Carolina was our final stop for the day. It was growing darker by the minute, and what little light there was showed a fairly ominous sky ahead. We ended up arriving at the hotel some time around Hella Late O’Clock, so as we were driving through the middle of nowhere to get there, we decided we needed something to keep us alert. On the road nearly 20 hours, sore and tired, we needed some serious aid in this endeavor, and so we chose a long, eerie, loud, brilliant Tool album to put on. It played. We drove.
Now, AEnima, if you’re familiar, can be an unsettling experience in the best of situations, but in the pitch black of an unfamiliar place, it gets just a bit weirder. “Message for Harry Manback” becomes tenser, and in the silent darkness the threats become even more real. “Die Eier Von Satan” reads stronger than ever as the pagan ritual it is meant to evoke. “Cesaro Summability” is just fucking terrifying in all contexts. “AEnema,” however, was the major “hit” from the album. It is possibly the single strongest statement of anger against society, to the point where even my mother respected how well it mined its territory, despite all the “fuck this” and “fuck that.” Maynard knows how to use dynamics well, and his delivery doesn’t shy away from screaming out his anger, but the more telling bits are when his voice is lower… he is literally seething over the sorts of people he believes to be destroying our world, and that is what makes his anger feel so righteous and so powerful. Whether he’s right or not is not at issue: he’s passionate about it, and that’s what makes the song powerful. Like the rest of the album, however, things were not what they appeared tonight.
You may note that the album here is called AEnima, as in “spirit,” while the song is “AEnema,” scatological humor meant to reflect the song’s main point, that maybe flushing some debris out of the pipeline wouldn’t be so bad. It was to our surprise, amusement, and perhaps slight horror that as this track came on, and its talk of natural disaster and Armageddon and massive floods ramped up, it started raining. And we drove. And it rained. Heavier. Heavier. And then the thunder and lightning starts. Right as the song builds up (you know where if you’ve heard the song and you’d be able to cite where by listening to it now if you haven’t yet). Maynard is angrily spitting that we must learn to swim, because the flood is coming. The sky is angrily spitting pretty much everything a summer storm can spit at you. As the song crescendos, the storm follows. It was as if we had found ourselves in the most elaborate fireworks display ever orchestrated. The problem was, no one was orchestrating the rain, and we were the ones orchestrating the music. To really ice the surreal cake, though, as the song ended in a snarling huff, the storm did too. The heavy downpour ceased almost immediately after the final angry gasp, and sparse drizzle and faint, distant rumbling lasted just long enough to punctuate a bit of “(-) Ions” with live electricity before it too died down. By the morning, even the river Styx outside out hotel room was mostly dry, and the weather was mostly lovely in Myrtle Beach itself, outside of a night of lightning that manifest in some of the most fearsome presentations I’ve seen to this day. Two freak bouts of weather in an otherwise beautiful (if surf-shop-tacky) week.
About a month later, on my first run through college, I would get the chance to see Tool live. That fiasco could write its own blogpost, so I’ll spare you the details for now. Worth noting, however, was that during the show, unexpectedly, it began to rain. And that is why Maynard James Keenan controls the weather. I try not to be paranoid, or put my faith in ridiculous sounding figureheads, but I will be frank, I’ve heard many more crackpot theories in the last few years. At least on this one, my comrades and I have evidence.
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