This really isn't that horrible, but because I was 17 and taking the I'm in a band and this is what I love and want to do for the rest of my life and shut up Dad you just don't get it mannnnnnn, it is still forever burned in my brain as horrifying, especially because 1) I was dumb enough to find the footage of it years later and put it up on YouTube and 2) I occasionally watch it and know it's coming.

So, as one does, I was the co-founder/co-lead guitarist/co-lead vocalist in this band that kind of ranged all over the place for what was popular in the overall "rock" genre circa 2004-2005, with the end result being that we didn't fit in to any of the "scenes" (such as they were in a mid-sized Iowa metropolis) - too poppy for the emo/screamo kids, too heavy for the pop-punk bands, not heavy enough for the metal guys, not dumb and bro-y enough for the rock radio listeners, didn't play country at all, had no piercings, didn't listen to enough obscure or currently-popular artists to please anyone, and 3/4 of us were marching band geeks whose only vices were the grips we had on our desperate virgin wangs late at night when hopefully everyone else in the house was soundly asleep enough to not hear the dial-up modem wheezing and shrieking. (Fine, that was just me. The rest of them had broadband. I also wasn't in band. I was a marching band groupie, which is exactly as cool as it sounds.) Anyway, the point is, we simultaneously had a wider-ranging possible audience and still managed to alienate basically anyone who actually "cared" about music enough to come to shows on a regular basis. Rough stuff.

Fast forward to what is, sadly, our largest, broadest audience yet: a battle of the bands in the public library parking lot. (Shut up. I know.) If nothing else, the range of groups performing meant that we'd finally kind of get some exposure that, if not pleasing all who listened, would at least lend us some grudging respect and make it easier to book and trade shows. We hyped the shit out of this show, begging and pleading everyone we knew through our various cliques and school-related associative groups (theater, band, newspaper, yearbook, sports, etc.) to come out and see us. We practiced - the practices did not suck, as far as we could tell. We felt good about it; none of the nervous, bitchy sniping I'd come to expect during load-in and pre-show was happening that night.

Opening song, an uptempo pop-punky number: since it's late May, with that weird Midwest heat wave that seems to come out of nowhere before turning "cold" again as soon as June starts, I - a pale, unmuscular, disturbingly-ectomorphic former cross country runner - decide to grab some water and take my shirt off as we hit the breakdown of the song.

Now, the "breakdown," such as it was, contained two vocal parts: in complete silence, a faux voiceover of a silly "public service announcement" sponsoring said breakdown, followed a couple of measures later by an exhortation for everyone in the crowd to "throw your hands up" for the, uh, dance-y part of it. Did we rehearse these things multiple times, seamlessly, at our practices, to make it seem like it was totally spontaneous and unforced? You're fucking right we did. We thought we were so very clever and were totally going to nail these parts and everyone there would be like, "Damn, these are some talented and clever dudes and perhaps I will finally realize how wrong I've been about Mangini being a total doofus and show him my boobs."


So the shirt comes off. A smattering of boos occurs. Damn, I think. That's a little harsh, whatever, I'll show them.

I step up to the mic for the PSA and immediately refer to us by my former band's name. (With whom I had parted ways quite acrimoniously roughly half a year prior.) Good stuff. I hear groans in the crowd, which, naturally, jacks my nerves up 400%, but I try and correct myself with minimal stuttering. The breakdown continues, and inexplicably, I decide I can still nail the second part. Again, I step up to the mic, the sweat on my sheet-white rib skin damply reflecting back into the night, guitar slung low, hands raised for the pumping and proclaiming for part two:


More groans, and absolutely the wrong kind of giggles from some of the ladies in the crowd.


"He meant library!" cries my co-vocalist/guitarist, eyes rolling possibly as far back as his brainstem, still playing through the breakdown, probably desperately hoping to finish the song and disappear into a parallel universe where his bandmate is not such a loser fucking moron.

Our drummer drops his stick and, in attempting to recover, loses a beat and thereby the groove, even as our guitarist and bassist keep going.


"Your hands! Throw them up!" squeaks our bassist, trying to be helpful.

On the video, you can then see me dancing awkwardly and trying to fist-pump/clap along to the beat and looking just white as hell doing so. Shirtless. Underweight. Sweaty. Humiliating. The song continues. The show continues. All things considered, after that, not a terrible show for 16 and 17 year-old with zero rock star charisma. We got cheers. We didn't win any prizes. I went over to a friend's house afterwards and watched Garden State and was not found to be any more attractive by any of the girls present. I vowed to put it all behind me.


So I usually try and watch this video once or twice a year, because I hate myself.