This is the third and final installment in my series of college essays that I’ve chosen to publish as a blog post. Again: They’re from 2010, but good writing is timeless. I hope this is good writing…
There it was.
After an eternity waiting inside the Ramshead Live Club of Baltimore, the lights had finally dimmed to signal the start of the show.
And when those lights lowered, there it was.
No, not the skinny-jean clad opening act bouncing onto the stage to start the first mediocre pop-punk song of their set.
Then, what was it that I had found?
I had found freedom.
Usually shy and reserved, I danced next to a sweaty stranger. At any other place, this activity would feel awkward. Yet here, I was perfectly comfortable. Echoing the words of the lead singer, the voice of this nameless stranger melded into the giant sound of the crowd.
A melodious echo, so large it encompassed my voice, engulfed the room in its ghostly presence.
The crowd’s energy, a volt of life shooting through the body, shocked me like nothing ever seen or heard of.
My soul, so long weighed down by loathing of my home surroundings, felt relieved of all burdens. Instead of feeling confined by the open fields of Carroll County, I felt released by the crowd of a packed rock club.
The concert, an escape from home, was so different from the place I had come from that night. That one-stoplight town of Union Bridge, different than me in so many ways, had always made me feel suffocated.
But now I could breathe.
Empowered, I realized I did not have to be a product of that town from which I came.
The night became a soundtrack, a swirling collage of sound and static that swelled all the way to the roof. Those lofty ceilings, so perfectly crafted for acoustics, were as masterful as the Sistine Chapel.
The sound of the concert, loud in volume and overwhelming in emotion, did not have to compete with the cliché sounds of rural life or need to drown out unwanted noise. Instead, the soundtrack of life, now liberated, could represent who I wanted to be.
Life, unlike a Gary Marshall-directed romantic comedy, rarely possesses literal background music. But that night at the concert, it did.
Alternative music, from piano-soaked ballads to gritty, punk anthems, spoke to me. The music’s messages, of love and loathing, isolation and camaraderie, and fear and hope, were true to my life.
Now these songs were not just music blasting from the speakers, they were blood pumping through my veins.
That one-stoplight town, full of conformity and misunderstanding, always made me feel so wrong and out of place.
Well, no more.
The ringing in my ears came from standing too close to speakers not from church bells chiming on Main Street at the change of the hour.
Instead of John Deere tractors holding up traffic, taxis and buses clogged the streets.
The skyline glittered with tall office and apartment complexes, not with the blinking lights of the local cement factory tower.
The city, the concert, and the people surrounding me differed so much from what Union Bridge represented.
Yet, they made no attempt to hide who or what they were, so neither would I.
The stranger, the one dancing beside me, and I had made a pact. An unspoken agreement saying, “It does not matter where we are from, because here we are.”
The concert was where he chose to be. It was where I chose to be. The choices we had made were all that mattered.
Traveling to the concert that night, I expected a great show. Maybe, if I was lucky, I would get an autograph or catch a guitar pick thrown out into the crowd.
No amount of concert videos on Youtube or reading reviews in Alternative Press magazine, however, could have prepared me for what I would really find.