Memoirs of a High School Rockstar
Stories that I wish were from a parallel universe
Standing on the stage, the heat almost unbearable. The red-colored lights were shining down on us, causing a mix of blindness and heat stroke. In front of me, the amplifiers were screeching back at me so loudly; they were causing ringing in my ears. I wondered if this would be the last time I’d ever be able to hear anything again. Through squinting eyes, I could see the crowd — surprisingly large in number — dispersed across the gym floor, several groups performing ‘mosh pits,’ and one group running around in a circle, appropriately named a ‘circle pit.’
I looked to my left, and appreciated my fellow bandmates doing their thing; the vocalist was down on his knees, head to the sky, screaming his lungs out. To the side of him, the lead guitarist was headbanging while riffing out the solo. The bassist, always calm and collected, was standing further back from the stage front, taking it all in. Behind me, the drummer, tongue sticking out the side of his mouth like that of a dog, was deep in concentration, focused on keeping the beat we were all synched to in time.
In that moment, we felt like rockstars.
Hell, we were rockstars.
We were on course to win our high-schools ‘prestigious’ battle of the bands’ award, in what was our final year of school. We were going out with a bang.
As we finished our second last song, we let the feedback from the amplifiers ring out to build ambiance and set the mood for our final number. All of a sudden, the lead guitarist walked up to the microphone, and it was immediately apparent he was up to no good. He had that glimmer in his eye and a smirk on his face.
He went straight for the jugular. “I’d like to tell a joke. What’s the difference between a pizza and a baby?”
Oh no. Everyone in the room knew where this was going, and it was going bad. Surely, he wouldn’t follow through with it? I tried to move towards him, but there were too many wires, cables, amps, and people blocking my way.
“Don’t…” I started before he delivered the punchline.
“You don’t have sex with a pizza before you eat it.”
Talk about a mic drop.
The audience went deathly silent. At the foot of the stage, a couple of my friends stood motionless, head-in-hand. I could see the very unimpressed faces of teachers and parents alike, standing at the back of the hall. We still had a final song to play, but suddenly that seemed irrelevant.
I felt sick to my stomach, but not from the nerves anymore — this was anxiousness. Surely, we were in for some form of repercussions for that show of ‘humor?’ Regardless, we got through our final song before thanking the crowd and heading backstage.
The joke was the talk of the moment. Everyone couldn’t believe he had said it on stage. Many of our friends couldn’t stop laughing. Others were not sure what to say. I didn’t want to think about it anymore — I just wanted to know who had won.
Eventually, the ‘judges’ (our music teachers) walked in, results in hand.
Our name got called out in 2nd place, followed by the news I was dreading. “…who would have come in first place, had it not been for that inappropriate moment.” The teacher’s faces told the story: they were less than impressed.
And so was I. My dreams, crushed in an instant.
I know Kurt Cobain said it was better to burn out than fade away, and boy, we’d certainly gone out in flames, but it would have nice to have conformed with the rules for a little bit longer and taken home the trophy.
The community hall was tucked away amongst some country roads and fields in a tiny town outside our city. Our older lead vocalist, and all-round well-organized man, acted as the required adult and booked the hall as the venue for a Halloween gig.
As the day of the event arrived, everything was set in motion for a good night; the out of sight, out of mind location, outrageous Halloween customs, underage drinking, and only one ‘responsible’ adult was going to be present.
A lot of my memory of that night is blurred by a combination of vodka and energy juice (shudders), but I remember when we finally stepped onto the stage — that was just the back of the hall, and on the same level as the audience — it must have been some scene. I was dressed like Angus Young of AC/DC, right down to the short shorts. The lead guitarist had gone for Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit, including full body and face paint. Most memorably, the vocalist had dressed up as Papa Lazarou, from a program called The League of Gentlemen, right down to the quite probably inappropriate ‘blackface.’
As we played through our set, three of our vocalist’s female friends came onto the stage and danced on us as we played. As a super horny teenager fuelled with alcohol and red bull, I can safely say this was — and still is — one of the highlights of my life.
In that moment, we felt like rockstars.
Hell, we were rockstars.
As we continued rocking out and simultaneously being used as strip dance poles, someone ran through the stage area to a door behind us that led to a backstage toilet area. Confused, I turned back to the crowd to see another person running past me, looking very concerned. Before we could play another note, the entire stage was swamped by a stampede of panicked crowd members all heading towards this toilet area.
What the fuck was going on?
We put down our instruments and waited to find out.
It transpired that someone had locked themselves in the bathroom and had attempted to overdose on paracetamol. After someone kicked the door down, the person was carried past us and out to the fresh air of a cold Scottish October night, the cavalry of concerned friends following.
Safe to safe, we had to abandon the rest of the gig.
But the unfortunate events didn’t end there.
The ambulance and police were called and promptly arrived to find a scene of teenagers in a mix of slutty and questionable Halloween costumes scattering away in the nearby fields in fear of getting caught drunk. Others, like myself, stayed put and tried their best to play it cool. While the ambulance whisked away with the casualty, the police were directed to the ‘responsible’ adult on site. The person who was not only intoxicated due to the straight absinthe he enjoyed sipping but was entirely black-faced, wearing a top hat and a long curly hair wig.
It was an excruciatingly awkward, amazing, incredible moment for everyone involved — except him.
Slash once said that “Being a rockstar is the intersection of who you are and who you want to be.” That statement couldn’t be more accurate. I played in several bands throughout my life, and I loved everything about it, from the friendships I made with bandmates, the practices, the laughs, the antics, the admiration, to the feeling of accomplishment.
Though I’m glad that I mellowed out a little as I got older, I wouldn’t change these experiences for anyone. I do think ‘what could have been,’ now and then, and I will always have the nagging feeling that being in a ‘successful band’ will forever remain an unticked item on the bucket list.
But in those moments, I felt like a rockstar.
Hell, I was a rockstar.
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