In 1996 and I was fighting my way through an identity crisis. I was a college junior with an indie rock obsession and a penchant for cheap whiskey and even cheaper beer. I dubbed one of my favorite beverages “iced tea”. This concoction was one part Canadian whiskey, two parts water, and a few teaspoons of sugar over ice. I’d follow this up with a few cans of Milwaukee’s Best (The Beast).
During the semester in which this story takes place, I was edging toward a blue collar, faux-rockabilly sort of look. I wore jeans, a long-sleeve plaid flannel over a white t-shirt, with oxblood red low-top Doc Martens. My hair was getting long, and I had gotten into the habit of slicking it back behind my ears with a generous slathering of Vitalis.
I headed to the Hardback Cafe in Gainesville to see an old friend play in his band Hot Water Music. It was a little weird for me – going to see a hardcore show. I was heavily into that scene in high school, but during college I had mellowed out a lot. I spent far more time listening to the likes of Sebadoh, Pavement, and The Mountain Goats than I did listening to hardcore bands. And it had been years since I last spent any time in a mosh pit. But this was a special occasion. Old friends, awesome music, and a gullet full of alcohol – I was ready to throw down.
The band started up and I made my way toward the front of the crowd. I knew the music, and I had memorized the lyrics. I was fucking psyched. I consciously decided to forget all inhibitions so I could rock the fuck out. I longed for the early 90’s when I spent every weekend checking out hardcore shows and Saturday nights ended with me dripping in sweat (and sometimes blood).
Lost in the moment, I jumped and threw fists into the air, banging around with a couple of other die hards. It was so nostalgic for me – feeling like I was to be back in the scene.
Three or four songs into the set, they played one of my favorites. I started screaming along with the chorus and I jumped back with passion. I felt bodies hit against mine and I turned around to brace myself for the physical reaction from the other guys in the pit. But no one was pushing back. Instead, there was a girl laying on the floor. I immediately bent down to help her up. Her friend grabbed one hand and I took the other as we guided her out of the crowd toward a nearby barstool.
She sat down on the stool and gathered herself. She was bawling. Completely sobbing. And her lip was bleeding. It didn’t look like the kind of bleeding that would lead to stitches – more like she got punched in the face. And it was all my fault. I was embarrassed and apologetic. I offered to do anything I could to help or. Water? Damp towel? Anything? Just thinking about it now, a dozen years later, still gives me douche chills.
She seemed to accept my apology – but I was certain she and everyone else who witnessed the event thought I was a fucking jackass. Paranoia set in immediately (is it paranoia if it’s true?). I stuck around for another song or two, standing way behind the crowd in the back of the room. Then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was red-faced and sweating from embarrassment. I had to get the fuck out of there.
After that, I couldn’t bear to hear that song anymore. Every time I tried to listen to it, I pictured that horrible moment when I smashed a girl’s face. I never saw that girl again. And I stayed far away from the hardcore/punk scene. I felt like I clearly didn’t belong. I stuck strictly to indie rock and lo-fi.
I still have that 7″ single in my basement. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a listen. I’m a glutton for punishment.