You go home, ears ringing from your proximity to the six-foot speakers, forever a little bit different -- better -- from having experienced three hours of being enveloped by something greater than you.
The nostalgic show? You go because you remember...you remember a moment from your past when you lived and breathed that band, those moments when you felt that song or that album defined you. You go to the nostalgic rock show to reclaim and relive. You don't go to come home different; you go to remember once having felt different.
Last night, I went to the Old Rock House to reclaim a little piece of my long-gone 18-year-old-overalls-and-maroon-patent-leather-Airwalks-wearing self, who traversed my college campus with hand flat out, palm up, carefully cradling my Discman so as not to jostle the defining album of those days -- When I Woke.
Why Rusted Root was the soundtrack for my first year of college, when my hours were spent in the painting studio, pushing the boundaries of my still-life-with-marbles-and-blue-rag creativity, I am not sure. Rusted Root did not survive that first year of college; I haven't dug that old CD out of my storage unit since. But for those first months of college, "Beautiful People" and "Cruel Sun" were unmatched musical masterpieces. They said what I could not -- those songs expressed my true adolescent angst in the most accurate of terms.
So I went to see Rusted Root last night not to rock out, not to have the sweaty, life-changing experience of a true rock show (like Fitz and the Tantrums last February at the Duck Room, or King Khan and the Shrines last year in Brooklyn, or even Maximo Park, the Double Door, Chicago, 2007 -- awesome, awesome, awesome shows), but more like when I went to see Phish at the Fox a few years ago, leaving not better or different, not having noodled or even let loose, but only having remembered a moment of youthfulness and innocence, of Marlboro Reds and dorm-room hanging.
Last night, I did not wear my boyfriend's Calvins or hook on my chain wallet, I did not wrinkle up my face into one of cool distance, but I went as adult me, to see if I could feel again what it felt like to be an aspiring-artist-psych-major-maybe-pre-med who as yet knew nothing of student loans, mortgages, heartbreak, changing careers, and, well, other music.
I didn't expect much. I don't mean that as a slam on Rusted Root; on the contrary, I respect them and the love I had for them. (The nostalgic rock show is not to be confused with the ironic rock show -- going to see NKOTB or Ace of Base ten or twenty years later for a laugh.) But RR needed only to deliver those recognizable songs in recognizable ways. They did more than that. I had no idea they released an album and were selling cars on TV ads presently; in fact, for all I knew, they were born and dead within the span of 1995 and When I Woke was their singular accomplishment. Had I bothered to find out otherwise, I might have opened myself to the possibly of rocking out. As it was, I was surprised.
The band opened with a few songs from its latest 2011 release. I stayed in my chair, far away from the stage, actually watching the musicians on one of the numerous video screens the Old Rock House provides for those who are averse to standing. I marveled at the patchwork bell-bottom wearing -- and yes, glow-in-the-dark hula hooping hippies around me. But then RR covered Elvis' "Suspicious Minds." That alone was enough to draw me down to the floor. And then followed the old classics -- "Back to the Earth," "Martyr," "Send Me on My Way" -- fantastic. We danced, we pushed closer, we had our eardrums blasted in the most permanent damage sort of way.
Rusted Root played for a solid two hours. Despite the fact that most of the attendees were obviously products of the ‘90s (and a few even wore their ‘90s-era Rusted Root t-shirts), the nostalgia gave way. Indeed, Rusted Root rocked us. A funny thing, really, because throughout the show, my friend and I noted those distinct ‘90s-era sounds (a little Blind Melon here, a little Santana there, oh is that lament a la Jeff Buckley?), yet RR somehow managed to make those bygone sounds and days and feelings and fashion relevant.
I don't know if RR's latest, Stereo Rodeo, will capture today's adolescence or whether they will ever have fans younger than 30-something (but "you know what they say about the young"). What I can say, however, is that on my drive home I OK'd my way through four screens of iTunes licensing agreements for the immediate pleasure of playing a few RR songs at $1.29 apiece, just to extend the evening. And in fact, this morning I dug out my old, scratched copy of When I Woke so I could round out the collection I started on my iPhone last night. I think that's something. "Hey yo momma free my soul/hey yo momma/back to the earth I feel it/back to the earth I'm fallin'.../many divisions of you/many divisions of me/we are so young." Will "I get so lost when you leave my world"?
Probably not. "But I'll laugh as the sun/when the bright morning comes...."