Closure in the Unlikeliest of Places
I was recently invited to be the guest of a Mr. Steve Rock, former Co-Host of Metalshop on Seattle’s KISW radio station and current concert merchant for the band Demon Hunter. The trip started with an arduous hour long bus ride across North Portland down to the Hawthorne Theater in the Southeast sector. After being relieved of my THC vaporizer by security and a corroboration of identity on the guest list I walked mistakenly right into the bar. Being free from alcohol for many years now I had no desire to be in the very back of a crowded venue for the sake of smelling like spilled beer. I moved toward general admission, grabbing a drink of water from the graciously placed drinking station the Hawthorne Theater provided. I found myself in a sea of Metal fans big and small covered in mostly black swaying to the rhythms of some Seattle’s finest musicians. I cut horizontally through the crowd towards the far wall where concert t’s were lit up with utility lamps. As I glanced toward the stage I was surprised to see the band dressed quite dapper, presenting their Sunday best to lead this service like a church wherein you could make out with your girl.
I spied the mercantile booth and saw a familiar silhouette selling t-shirts. Steve and I had been acquainted since high school in the late 90’s, shared many Seattle nights laughing and creating absurdities under the influence of THC. I had been to many a show with my friend’s endorsement, he would often be the night’s MC or have to organize events which didn’t often allow time to spend together. I’ve become accustomed to a greeting and a quick bounce back to work, leaving me to experience the concert solo . Tonight would be different, tonight I got to be a little bit helpful.
I leaned onto the table covered in CD’s, sample shirts, Grocery Outlet LED light strings, and fliers promoting the Blessed Resistance (the band’s fan club). I stared directly into Steve’s soul until he spotted me among the awe struck purchasers. His face lit up and his kind eyes shown a sparkle of home that I had grown such a longing for. After a brotherly hug he invited me into a triangle of open floor behind the table so that I may watch the show and he got right back to work slinging Demon Hunter branded collectibles. I saw him searching for a t-shirt size in the darkness with one hand so that he could manage a flashlight as well. I removed the Olight i!R EOS from my pocket and turned it to the dimmer setting to help provide some hands free light to the situation. Steve’s immediate reaction was that my light was too dim at which point I increased the beam much to his satisfaction and began assisting with it whenever he needed to find a specific size on a black t-shirt in a black trunk next to a black wall in a dark room.
I watched passively during their first set designed to evoke their album Peace, which had been released earlier in the year simultaneously with an album called War which would be reflected in their second set of the evening when suits gave way to sleeveless t-shirts and headbanging. There was a thirty minute interlude video during which I would glance at the stage and see random clips accompanied with a voice over; ballerina feet, a lit match, the Earth, the Moon, etc. I spent quite a bit of time aiming my flashlight during this segment and did not really have a chance to enjoy it, perhaps they’ll put it online someday and I’ll finally figure out what was going on. By the end of the interlude the mercantile had settled down. I was asked to stand guard and inform would-be customers that they could purchase precious vittles upon the return of the true steward of all things DH. Steve was to run off and grab a bite and relieve himself.
At that point brutal salvation rang in the air like helicopter blades through live fire. The crowd was fixated on the stage and we had a few moments to share shouted jokes through ear plugs, whilst also enjoying the bashing of eardrums and compression of chest cavities. I sang along to what I knew (approximately 18% of their material) and head bobbed to the rest. The flashing lights matched the blast of music, the sound was apparently the best that venue had ever conjured and I was in sweet Metal induced bliss.
After the show I acquired a ball cap for myself and helped dismantle the displays. We gathered everything up and gave the house their cut. I asked politely for my narcotics back, which after some confusion came back into my possession and we were off to the parking lot to finally have a conversation and smoke from robotic jazz cigarettes. I met some cast and crew members, we talked about eating habits and personal health as those of us over the age of thirty-five are prone to do. I did notice every time I was introduced it was accompanied with “he’s in Portland now, but he’s moving back to Seattle” which lightened my mood with each echo. I struggled to find comrades in the land of American Socialism and here I was reminded quite frankly that not only do I have friendships that span decades that cannot eroded by time, but I was also ushered home with this wonderful statement from Steve himself “Portland, it’s not Seattle”. The bus left at 12:30am sharp, I made my leave before then with a swift goodbye to my new friends and an ample goodbye to my old friend. They were off to Sacramento and on and on.
I got a bus home, the ride was swift while I tried to remember every detail of such a fun night on the town. I am thankful for the touchstones in my life, the people that make me feel at home no matter the situation. I think I found out something about myself on this muggy Portland night, ‘I am a Stone’.