The grey dusk sky was interrupted in intervals of human silhouettes, one after another forced into the negative space. The orange glow of small fire’s illuminated the hillside in an ever changing pattern while the crush of thousands adorned in black moved with the force of a swelling river to the soundtrack of the apocalypse. My 14 year old eyes glazed with fear and amazement at the complete and total chaos as the sky rained sod, funnel cake and pizza toppings.
The row of seating just behind us was torn out and tossed about until it was swallowed whole by the throbbing crowd. As dusk faded to black and the glow of the fires reached higher into the sky, I surrendered myself to this alternate universe of music and violence as they worked in harmony to shed the struggles of the world that existed beyond the gates.
In what took just over an hour, that single performance by the band Ministry severely dictated the path of my life. I was smitten with all of it, the noise, the thundering guitars, the absolute pandemonium of the crowd. It was as if the world stopped dead in it’s tracks and for that brief moment and 20,000 people were given the gift of an anarchic paradise. For a 14 year old that was knee deep in trouble and looking for somewhere to fit, a collection of misfits and freaks who liked to get rowdy seemed all too perfect.
While my interest in music was already established prior to this experience, the days that followed would be a total emersion into rock culture. I would spend more and more time at the record stores, going to shows, learning to play instruments, forming bands with friends, it was everything.
As same as the air went still all those years ago, fans funneled into open space along the steep icy pitches of the course this past Sunday waiting for the chaos to ensue. There is something special about the anticipation of a coming storm, not knowing just how wild and violent it’s going to be. The rumble of the pack of riders hurling themselves at the terrain full throttle to begin a quest of masochism in hopes of glory is amplified by the the constant wave of voices and bells pushing them on. The thunder of the of placards being beaten by fist as photographers push their way against the gates in hopes of stopping time.
The crowd swells around the finish line to great the winners in a roar, a rush of cameras and officials, family and teammates, exhausted and frigid riders continue to stumble into the rising tide. All the while somewhere amongst the frenzy there was likely some 14 year old, overcome with the beauty of what cyclocross can be and what was just a flirting interest has now become salvation. Amongst the costumes and mud, the icy corners and anaerobic efforts the endless hours of playing on two wheels they found something that fits.