It’s no secret that I love the greatest power trio to ever take a stage, the supremely competent Rush (and, yeah, that includes Cream and The Who, you fuckin’ zeroes). You take three guys that are arguably unparalleled in their technical proficiency, literate, smart, prodigious, and that can keep it up for 35 years, still packing arenas to the roof, and that’s greatness. It proves that rock critics are as worthless as clergymen and politicians (or, as Frank Zappa called them, “..people that can’t write, writing about people that can’t talk, for people that can’t read”). And if you don’t like Geddy’s voice, throw out all your Led Zeppelin CD’s; Bob Plant sings on that higher register, people cum in their ill-fitting Levi 501s.
I first started checking them out because my Uncle Mikey played the shit out of their LPs in the late ’70s. Uncle Mikey has that most stereotypical of American suburban upbringings, described almost perfectly in “Subdivisions,” from Rush’s “Signals” album, his middle class parents living in a modest, mass-built home on a street that was just one of so many exactly like it, lined up one after the other, the occasional ox-bow corner thrown in to make room for maximum density, chain-link fences for miles. Fuck, Neil Peart might’ve been inspired to write the lyrics for that song by driving down my grandparents’ street.
Incidentally, my Uncle, while you might not have described him as amazingly good-looking during his teenage years, was one of the ones that was cool, and definitely not “cast out.” He didn’t play sports, but he always had money, and always had hot chicks. Always, even though he worked part-time for minimum wage washing cars at the Pontiac dealer around the corner. I found out later why…once the statutes of limitations had expired.
Anyhow, the first time I ever heard Rush was sometime around 1979, when I wandered down into his basement bedroom, which was really more like an apartment, and as usual, there were half a dozen of his friends down there, hanging out…amid that smell. That pungent, yet pleasant smell with which I’d become so intimately familiar later on in life, permeated the basement, yet somehow it never made it’s way upstairs. I have no idea how he pulled that off; I wouldn’t have gotten the first particle of that weed into my house without my mom picking up on it (before confiscating it for her own use the next time she had to face her in-laws). So, I wander downstairs to see what Uncle Mikey, Orca, Bozo, Zippermouth, and Ottomatic were doing, and there was not a word being exchanged between any of them. They were just hanging out on the dozen or so bean bag chairs he had down there, and I remember the song was “Rivendell” from “Fly By Night.”
“Hey Uncle Mike, what are you guys doing down here?” I asked.
While “Rivendell” was never one of my favorites, that was the start of my love affair with Rush. I’ve seen them better than 10 times live, and never miss the opportunity to do so now. I’ve had seats as close as 3rd row, and usually am never much further from the stage. I was looking forward to this last show at Nationwide Arena (even though that place has shit acoustics for such a new place), but it ended up being more than me wetting my pants along with the other geeky Rush devotees. Through a business connection, I got my buddy and I a Meet and Greet with Geddy and Alex.
I was in Florida, on vacation with my family, when I went back in to the condo by myself to take a few phone calls, watch some TV, and whack off. You know, to actually relax while I was on vacation. I was on the phone with a customer, trying to focus on what he was saying while simultaneously zeroing in on the MILF action directly below our balcony, when I heard him mention that he’s be in my town doing a 3D audio (however that works) production for the Rush concert at the end of the month. My mind snapped back into focus, and catching just the hint of a whiff of some kind of hook up, I went on a mini Rush rant, how much I loved them, how I’d be there as I always am, when he said “Oh, well, I’ll call Liam and set up a Meet ‘n Greet.”
Any Rush fan knows who Liam (Birt, the Stage Manager), I got a chubb on the spot. Probably a singular moment in my life, when the name Liam would get me that excited, but it meant that my customer was totally serious. And, as it turns out, he was! Two months later, I’m with my pal at the Will Call window, ready to grab our passes. It’s the night of the big show, and we’re both giddy for Geddy and Alex, though I’m sure something’s going to go wrong, I know it will go just fine, and I’m thinking about what I’ll say to those guys when I get in there, and I open up the envelope, and instead of two Meet ‘n Greet passes…there are two tickets to the show. Granted, they were great tickets, but I already had great tickets. I asked further, I dropped names, I gave a plaintive wail, but the nice lady that was in charge of the passes just couldn’t do anything. I tried to call and text my contact, but it was a Sunday evening, so I figured he was busy with his family, or something similarly unimportant. We retreated to the back of the entryway, out of options, nothing to but wait. Refugees.
I looked at my pal. Clutching his now-forever-unautographed Rush biography, lip quivering, eyes downcast, like a teenage girl kicked off the tour bus. He was pathetic. He managed to turn his head 1/4 of the way towards me, and uttered, in a voice softened to, “well, then…let’s just go drink.” I got mad. I got my pal’s back, I’ll tell ya. Mess with me, Cruel Fate, but don’t make my friends look like even bigger assholes than they already are.
OK, I said, but let me call my guy one more time. He picked up. He picked up, and assured me that something got loused up. We clicked off so that he could call the Front Of House Engineer, which, in spite of my renewed hopes, left me dubious. Like THAT guy wouldn’t be busy an hour before the show. My guy called me back, and gave me the FOH Engineer’s number. I scrawled it on my arm with the Sharpie that was in my pocket in big, Amityville Horror numbers, and dialed the guy that would surely be too busy to pick up his mobile. “Hello? Hello? Is this Chris?!,” said Brad the Engineer, after only one friggin’ ring. He told me something indeed got loused up, and that Mike The Security Guy would be down to get us. Mike showed up, and stuck our laminates right on our chests.
I don’t know if that’s a Canadian thing, calling backstage passes “laminates” or not. I’d like to think it is, and for that reason, I’ll not Google it. For some reason, it made the experience of meeting my favorite Canadians just that much more authentic. I mean, would you sit in a bar on Sydney Harbor and drink a Miller Lite?
As we followed Mike into the bowels of the arena, we thanked him profusely for coming to get us. I started talking about how I got the passes, and the harrowing experience we just went through, and he turned around just enough as we were walking so that I could see the front of his shirt. He wasn’t with the band or the tour; he was just a local security guy. “Hey, sorry man, you really don’t give a fuck, do you?” I asked. Mike the Security Guard acknowledged that indeed, he did not give a fuck.
We ended up in the bar/club that sits underneath the seating sections at center ice/field/court, and saw that there were about 30 other folks down there waiting as well, all of them nearly our age or older, mostly male, mostly nerdish. Typical Rush crowd. Remember when you went to prom, and there was that paper background, with maybe some cheap flowers that you’d stand in front of for pictures? There was one of those central to the gathering, with the Rush Time Machine Tour livery on it, and some crew member was standing there telling everyone there what the deal was. No autographs (thanks, eBay assholes), no cameras (no shit), and that the pictures that would be taken would be online for anyone to download. “Now, here are the guys.”
Sure as shit in a sewer, Geddy and Alex walked right in through the door just to our right, and took their positions in front of the prom paper background thing.
The whole process, which they repeat in every city, was pretty mechanical and orderly. You waited in line, and when it was your turn, you walked up, gushed how awesome it was to meet them, you shook hands (if you’re a guy; if you’re a chick, you rub your big middle-aged titties all over them), posed in between them, and got a couple of snaps taken.
Usually, I’m the first one to say something irreverent, or make an inane observation in such a situation. This was not one of those times. I was in awe of other humans, probably for the first time in my adult life. Well, I did tell Alex that I wanted to have his babies, to which he put his arm around me and said to everyone still waiting in line, “We’re dating.” But that was it.
We probably spent, in total, 20 seconds up there with those guys. Grown men, with lives, jobs, children, wives, standing in our respective communities, acting like schoolgirls full of peach schnapps and their first hit of X at a Jonas Brothers concert.
It was fucking great.