All I ever wanted to do was just get into the music
And take my body to a show where I could abuse it
And I know that’s reckless and hedonistic
But let’s be realistic, this will all be over soon…
It took a few spins before American Rubicon by Cobra Skulls became one of my favorite punk records of the past few years, but the opening lyrics of the song Back To The Youth instantly rang true with me. These days I’m thinking about them a lot. Next month, I’ll be turning 35 and I’m still not fully recovered from a severe injury I suffered at an All For Nothing show over a year ago. I was up front leaning on the low stage with one foot, when some dude in the pit accidentally stepped on my other ankle and ripped my Achilles tendon. Surgery, six weeks in a cast and months of physical therapy followed. This so far is my worst, but definitely not my first show-related bodily harm. I have somewhat of a history, and not just with the occasional black eye or bloody lip.
My best friend’s older brother got me into hardcore somewhere in the summer of 1994, when I was 16. Until then, my interest in music was merely superficial. It served as background noise to drinking my first sneaky beers and gave me an excuse to act like an idiot in front of girls at parties. Maybe even a reason to actually touch those girls when a slow dance song came on, but that was about it. It held no relevance in my life and I just listened to the same Turn Up The Bass and Move The House cd’s all my class mates did. My friends brother caught me humming a popular Guns n’ Roses tune one day and immediately dragged me into the heavy metal realm he called his bedroom, stuffing me with cd’s and tapes. It was new to me, it was loud, I liked it and my best friend’s brother became my new best friend. He was just getting into hardcore after seeing Sick of it All perform at the Dynamo Open Air earlier that year and I went straight along with him, with Live In A World Full Of Hate and Spreading The Hardcore Reality becoming the soundtrack to my mildly angry adolescence. However, my love for this style of music did not fully form until I first saw a hardcore band perform live. It was just some local band playing in a practically empty venue, but to me it was a ‘life-altering’ experience. The singer was going nuts on stage and was constantly encouraging the crowd to move. And I moved. Oh yes, I moved.
My first proper hardcore show took place a few months later, on Friday the 13th, 1995 (should have taken that as an ill omen, haha). Sick Of It All played the infamous Noorderligt venue in Tilburg (supported by Strife and Ryker’s. Not bad for a first show, huh?) and the moment that bass intro to Clobberin’ Time rolled off the stage, the packed room simply exploded. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. After spending some time up front getting the shit kicked out of me, I decided the time had come. I had to do a stage dive. I got up on stage, aimed for a spot that looked good and crowded, closed my eyes, threw cautiousness to the wind and leaped forward. The next thing I knew I was being thrown back and fort over heads and other bodies. I knew I had to do this again. I got thrown back on stage, got up, Lou pushed the microphone in my face (of course I had not a clue what song they were playing), let out a random scream and was officially over the moon. By this time, the stage had become so crowded that there nearly was a line forming to dive and the stage security started pushing people off. Somehow I managed to avoid them and remained on the stage way too long, bouncing around and air-guitaring like an idiot. Right behind me, none other than Onno Cro-Mag was sitting on the drum riser. Apparently he’d had it with my shenanigans, got up, stuck his truck tire wide, free fighting arms out and pushed me vigorously in the back. There was nothing to do but jump. For a second I thought I was going to make it, but as I saw a big gap in the audience rapidly approaching, followed by the pitch black of the venue floor, I knew I was proper fucked. ‘Nothing but net’, I landed on my right shoulder, severely dislocating it. I missed most of the rest of the show sitting outside on the steps screaming in pain and I remained in pain for weeks to come. But man did I feel alive.
That first show injury plagues me to this day (I never went to a doctor with it and I know now a little piece of shoulder joint is actually missing) and I’ve added quite a few over the years. Between my ankle, two wonky shoulders, one damaged and one severely busted knee, there’s hardly a part of my body that isn’t held together by ducktape, tie-wraps and elastic bands. Over the years, I’ve been punched in the face, kicked in the head, had the wind knocked out of me by spin-kicking pit ninjas, violently made acquaintance with various venue floors and had every inch of my body covered in bruises at one point or another. It’s a miracle I never actually broke any bones and I still have all my original teeth. And still I can’t help myself. In fact, I am currenty somewhat crippled in both legs from throwing my bum knee out at a show for the umpteenth time a few weeks back. There is still almost nothing I like to do more on a weekend than go to some crappy venue to see a band that makes me want to move my rusty bones.
Which brings me back to those Cobra Skulls lyrics. Hardcore has always been about the live-experience for me and when that heavy breakdown hits or that band plays that song I love, my blood starts boiling and I simply have to lay down some mosh. Not because I’m a tuff guy mosh pit warrior or because I feel the need to evoke some bloodshed. I just have to move. It’s a force beyond my control. I can’t imagine myself ever being one of those older guys in the back, enjoying a beer and bopping my head, just watching the show in a civilized manner. Impossible. But I do realize I have to be realistic. This WILL all be over soon. When do I stop being ‘that older guy that still gets off on the music and still has the energy to get the pits going’ and become ‘that kind of pathetic old geezer who’s always making an ass out of himself at the shows’ (and I know a lot of people would argue I crossed that line ages ago).
I’ve told myself I had to hang up my proverbial boots almost after every injury. But I know I can’t. Not yet. Not as long as there’s still some youth left in these rickety limbs.