This article appeared in the July 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
On a summer afternoon in ’93, I’m lying on the floor of a friend’s garage in La Grange, Ky., during band practice. My 15-year-old head is swimming in a cloud of reverb and feedback, feeling the electric rumble of hope in discovering and making music with friends, in finding a voice to express a whole host of feelings that I never knew were rattling around or had a thing to say. Oh, and I’m also filled with the electricity of an ancient, ungrounded PA system, my arms flapping like a hummingbird’s wings on the cold cement.
On Dixie Highway the summer before, in what now seems like a bizarre post-middle school rite of passage, I have my braces removed and convince my mom to help me buy my first bass guitar: a Sunburst P-bass copy of questionable construction. That night my dad’s LP collection becomes a playground library. CCR, Humble Pie and, of course, Led Zeppelin. The needle hits the groove and my brain is transformed into a mess of wires and gears. Every new sound completes a circuit and a new world is opened for me to explore. Completely unsure what role the bass guitar actually plays, my fingers fumble around those four strings, struggling all night to mimic Robert Plant’s voice.
Before the commonwealth of Kentucky would give me means to leave Oldham County on my own, my mom sacrificed perfectly good evenings supporting her son’s newfound obsession while waiting in the parking lot outside Tewligan’s on Bardstown Road or the Machine in St. Matthews for shows to let out. Some of the most memorable weekends were of Rodan, Hula Hoop, Falling Forward, Guilt and the countless other bands they formed, like a musical-chairs game. Being in the crowd those nights, hundreds of souls searching to be in the moment and free to let themselves feel, without judgment or hesitation, whatever they needed to — that connection, a chain of simultaneous reactions between the sea of kids and the bands onstage till it felt like the tide was crashing back and forth, both sides feeding off each other in a harmonious and cathartic way. It would inform me more about playing live than anything I’ve experienced since.