While the mass of our peers were usually headed to football games, movies and awkward dates to Applebees we would plug cheap guitars into cheaper amplifiers and smash away at elementary song writing. Like most misfit teenagers who were into to skateboarding, it didn’t take long until we discovered punk rock. Between going to shows and listening to records, at a certain point a few of us thought collectively ‘this doesn’t seem that hard and definitely looks like a lot of fun,’ so we formed a band.
Twice a week we would meet in the drummer’s basement, disorganized and lacking any formal training we began to thread power chords together. It was noisy, fast and we really didn’t care that much how bad it was, it felt good. With only ourselves and a terrified pet rabbit as an audience we played what little songs we had with ferocity, over and over until strings and sticks broke and vocal chords were left strained. We would learn to play a few cover songs rooted in simple chord progressions and punk and eventually got up the nerve to play our first show, a terrifying experience at best.
The adrenaline from that first show must have left a serious impact on all of us because it wasn’t long until we were playing another and then another. In the basements and lawns of suburbia we would throw ourselves blindly into a 30 minute routine of buzzing guitars and thundering drums, a cathartic teenage ritual fueled by Dr. Pepper and angst.
We went on like this for about two years, getting marginally better at playing our instruments until high school ended and we went on to do whatever was next in our lives. I don’t think we ever thought we were gonna be something or go anywhere, it was just a simple endeavor to make life less bland, meet some new people and get wild.
Standing on the start line under a canopy of trees I look down at my new shoes and then forward to all the riders in front of me as my heart raced. I tried to breathe but it made little difference, I gripped my handlebars and remembered stepping up onto the stage at the Electric Banana and gripping the neck of my guitar, terrified.
I looked down at the effects pedals on the floor and as the drums ticked off a furious pace I smashed the first loud chords through nervous hands. As the whistle blew and the sound of dozens of pedals engaging rattled off, I smashed into the first few heavy pedal strokes and like that the nerves were gone.
Much like the rush of that first show the adrenaline from that first cyclocross racing experience stuck, weekend after weekend, year after year I keep finding myself with a racing heart, waiting for the signal to launch off into another session of dust and elbows, mud and stairs.
It’s no longer Friday nights in suburban basements, but Sunday mornings in fields all over the country, but what remains the same is energy, the commitment to throwing yourself at something full on until exhaustion is all that is left.