[This is not going to be articulate, and I don’t care because I’m crying.]
When Henry and I first started dating, my favorite band was Cold. And by favorite, I mean that I would sob through their sets and be an emotional wreck for days after. The first road trip Henry and I ever took together was to Wisconsin, where they were performing a 30 minute set at a radio festival. It took us two days to get there and it was worth every fucking second, even when I cried for an hour on the way home and fought with Henry because he wouldn’t take me to Wisconsin Dells (this is totally one of those stories that will get passed on from generation to generation). We also saw them in Norfolk, Virginia and a million times here in Pittsburgh. And before Henry, there was my best guy-friend Wonka, and together we saw them together in Hershey, Columbus OH, and Buffalo. I still have the orange Starburst that Scooter Ward gave me before the show in Hershey, where we bonded over Robert Smith and I cried in his face. I keep it in the freezer every summer to keep it from melting.
The last time I had the chance to see them was April of 2004, and I was in a very bad place emotionally. I had written Scooter a letter, thanking him for his words and for always being there for his fans. Cold shows were one of the only times I felt I belonged somewhere, and I needed him to know that. But I couldn’t find the nerve to give him the letter. He was standing a few feet away from me before that show and I panicked. Henry, supportive boyfriend that he is, was so angry with me.
“Just give him the fucking letter! He’s right over there! No one’s even bothering him!” Henry doesn’t get it, that it’s not just some petty star-struck syndrome. It’s something more than that, something greater. It’s about being in the presence of someone who I know gets it, someone who I feel a connection with, even if I don’t know them personally. Someone who, in a strange and inexplicable way, was the only one there for me.
I remember wanting to go home. Doors hadn’t even opened yet and I was ready to surrender and just walk away. I knew that I was going to walk inside that venue, the now-defunct Rock Jungle, and lose my shit like I always did when they took the stage. But Henry convinced me to stay, and once inside, he swiped the letter from me and hand-delivered it to Sam, the drummer. Henry wasn’t happy about it, because it made him feel lame, like he was passing notes in high school. But it made me feel like a weight had been lifted.
The next time they went on tour, I was pregnant and knew it would be a bad idea, so I didn’t go to any of the shows.
Unfortunately, they broke up soon after that, and I had always regretted that I missed what could have been my last chance to see them. I knew that Scooter was going through some shit, and I was worried that he wouldn’t bounce back, that the scene would take away another underrated, amazingly talented and inspirational man.
In October, my friend Jenny texted me, alerting me that they had reunited. I will never forget where I was — in line for Cheeseman’s Haunted Hayride. It was one of the best nights ever.
And that’s how Henry and I ended up in Cleveland last night, watching them live at the House of Blues. For the first time in five years. FIVE YEARS and they still rip my heart right through my fucking ribcage.
I think my favorite part of the night, and the only part where my face wasn’t wet, was when Henry lost his cell phone. We were sitting upstairs, and had switched seats three times because Henry is a fucking retard and kept choosing inappropriate seats. (He was happy to be seeing a band with an older fanbase, where sitting down didn’t call forth the Old Person spotlight.) So in our last seat switch, he reached down and noticed his cell phone was missing. “That’s what you get for clipping it on your belt like an asshole,” I scoffed. Within seconds, people around us noticed that something was amiss, and a small search party had spontaneously formed. I couldn’t call his phone, because I had no service (I found out a few minutes later that it was only in the exact spot I was sitting, and that if I moved my arm to the left, it worked, but owellz0rz Henry), so some dude was all, “Hey bud, I am old too like you so I want to come to your aid. Here, please use my phone to locate your own!” And Henry was all, “OMG thank you, Hot Older Guy!” and then tried in vain to tuck in his Fellow Oldie boner.
Anyway, the man two seats down from me had been sitting on it, so he handed it over and everyone had a good chuckle. I continued sitting there as I had been all along, rolling my eyes. Seriously, there were at least seven to nine people scrambling around, looking under seats, and scratching their temples, but I was not one of them.
Girlfriend of the year!
I know, right – where’s the climax to THAT story?
The opening band -Drama Club – came on around 8. I was a little ambivalent about them. The singer sounded like he was trying to come across way more glam than he was, but then some of the band members looked like they were on the cusp of being scene yet stuck in a decidedly non-scene band. I didn’t mind them, but I wasn’t riveted. It made me miss the energy of younger crowds at post-hardcore shows and this is no joke, there was a fleeting moment when I imagined I was in the middle of a scene kid group hug. I made the mistake of telling Henry after Drama Club’s set and he of course was annoyed.
[Music geek side note: there were several moments when the singer of Drama Club sounded vaguely familiar to me, and then he mentioned that they’re from Wilkes-Barre, PA. I thought to myself, “Huh. I wonder if that’s the dude from Lifer” because how many bands are actually from Wilkes-Barre, and it totally is; he just dyed his hair black and became fey. The whole way home, I kept bragging to Henry about being a music genius and I think he wanted to dickslap me. Now I’m nostalgic for Lifer.]
The next band was the Killer and the Star, Scooter’s side project which currently features Rocky Gray (ex-Evanescence) and Michael Harris (Idiot Pilot). Scooter sat down at his piano and by the time the second word was sung, my cheeks were salty. I didn’t even try to stop it, I know a thing or two about futility. But sitting there, listening to these beautiful songs, it made me angry that he doesn’t get more respect, that some people think “Just Got Wicked” or “Stupid Girl” is the extent of what he has to offer, when his songwriting weaves the perfect blend of melancholy, angst, and aggression, the resulting product something I can’t even put a label on. Call Cold nu-metal if you want, but there’s depth there in the music and the lyrics. A lot of it. And this new project is the perfect vessel for him to scream “LOOK AT WHAT I CAN DO!” Killer and the Star is still slightly heavy but Scooter’s piano-playing and soulful vocals (he sings differently with this band) bring a bluesy element to the plate, making it impossible to compare it to anything else.
“Hallelujah” was my favorite song, and Michael Harris was amazing to watch on stage. The vocals he provided melted with Scooter’s and I kind of couldn’t handle it. I imagine it’s what church-y people feel like on Sundays – goosebumps, tear-stung eyeballs, and involuntary shudders. The hairs on my arms were erect. (ERECT.)
I really was so unsure that I would ever get to hear this man sing live again, and to have him there, mere feet away, it made me appreciate him so much more. After that set, I looked at Henry and whispered, “I’m not so sure I can handle this.”
“Yes you can,” he said, and gave me a patronizing back-pat. My man.
I distracted myself by hating the Southern drawlers behind me, one of which was wearing some nasty patchouli/ash concoction that buffeted me every time she came back from getting a beer. Then I noticed one of the stage guys propping a bust of Michael Myers on top of one of the speakers and I felt giddy. Terry Balsamo used to come out on stage wearing a Michael Myers mask, but he quit doing that sometime after they stopped touring for 13 Ways To Bleed On Stage. And then he left to play for Evanescence, but that’s all I’ll say about that, otherwise I’ll get angry.
Before Scooter came back out with Cold, there was a little tribute video that was played on the big screen in front of the stage, recapping Cold’s journey to get where they are now, starting in the early nineties when they were Grundig. And even that proved to be a test for my tear ducts.
This is the first time the original 5-man lineup has been back together in something like five years. In fact, the last time I saw them live, it was the new lineup and it felt so strange and unfamiliar, like the first holiday after a family member dies.
I would love to go through every song they played, giving you objective thoughts and reviews based on technical merit and sound quality, but the truth is, I’m still an emotional wreck. Today, I was still crying as I recounted the show to a friend on the phone. I still got choked up when I said, “Scooter seems happier now,” because while I don’t know him personally, I care about him very hard. To see him on stage, in his glory, in his element – it was fantastic. And he is so humble, pausing to thank his fans after every song. A middle-aged woman with spiky red hair and clothes too tight for her age, yelled, “No, thank YOU!” and I thought to myself, “Hey old broad, you might be too old to get away with wearing that studded belt that I know you think you’re rocking, but Amen.” But then I secretly wished she’d fall over the balcony, because fuck, she was annoying.
The show was like being home again.
I didn’t talk.
I didn’t scream.
I didn’t move, apart from a few feeble attempts at applause.
I just sat there, motionless, and, with a few friendly reminders to breathe, I let my heart melt. It is agony at times, running this psychotic gamut of emotions, like swishing hot tea over a toothache – painful but it feels so fucking good.
On the way to the car, I looked at Henry and tried to talk but all that came out was audible sobs (Henry’s instinct was to ignore me and ask aloud, “I wonder which way I should go to get out of here” as he left the parking garage, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a greater scope to that question). I felt emotionally exhausted, drained, numb, but 100% willing to do it again, like, right now.
You can make fun of me for crying. You can tell me that Cold is so 2002. You can tell me to get a life. But the one thing I know for sure is that, no matter how much it hurts, I would rather feel this than nothing at all. And if, someday, music stops making me feel that way? Well, why bother.