Today, I achieved one of my most prized bucket list items: I photographed a RUSH concert.
RUSH has been my favorite band for 20 years. I am slightly hesitant to put it that way, because it forces me to admit to myself that I’m not still 19… it may suffice to say that RUSH has been one of the biggest musical, aesthetic, and philosophical influences in my life. I My editor at SLUG Magazine was able to secure a photo pass for me to shoot the show and write a review. You can see the full set of photos of the RUSH concert here; you can read my full review of the show here.
I’m going to nerd out for a minute about why RUSH is my favorite band. This is the stuff I didn’t share in the concert review for SLUG Magazine. During my middle school years, I was that kid who dressed in black constantly. Everywhere I went, I wore headphones attached to a Walkman, with a pocket full of Metallica albums on cassette. I lived in a blase small town, got blase grades, thought blase thoughts of myself. I was getting old enough to realize what the possibilities of life were, and sophisticated enough to be depressed over the difference between potential and reality. Beyond that, the constant onslaught of dark metal created a somewhat permanent weather system of dreary weather in my soul.
In July of 1990, two things happened: The radio station I listened to started playing a few RUSH songs from their latest record, PRESTO. ‘Superconductor’ and ‘Show Don’t Tell’ fascinated me… who was this new band? Who made this immaculate, fresh, energetic music, so full of vitality and positive vibes? I wasn’t sure who the artist was at the time, but every time the songs played, I dropped everything and listened. It was like a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Clearly, who ever was making this music understood some things about life that I desperately wanted to know.
Around that same time, my uncle Tim gave me a mix tape (yeah kids… mix tapes used to be a real thing. Actual cassette tapes with custom recorded songs via dual cassette deck). It featured things like Yes, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Led Zeppelin, and RUSH. A couple of RUSH songs, Limelight and Vital Signs, caught my attention. Not long after that, I put two and two together and figured out that it was RUSH on the radio, the same band my uncle has just introduced me to.
Around this same time, I had saved up my lawn mowing money and bought my first CD player. PRESTO was the first RUSH CD I bought. I spent countless nights listening to the pristine production, the crisp performance, and lyrics like[quote]” How many times do you hear it? / It goes on all day long / Everyone knows everything / And no one’s ever wrong / Until later… / Who can you believe? It’s hard to play it safe / But apart from a few good friends / We don’t take anything on faith / Until later… “[/quote]
and[quote]”Packaged like a rebel or a hero / Target mass appeal / To make an audience feel He really means it / Package the illusion of persona / Careful to conceal the fact that she’s only too real / She’s got to screen it / Hit you in a soft place / melody so sweet / A strong and simple beat that you can dance to / Watch his every move / Orchestrate illusions / Hoping you’ll believe , designing to deceive / That’s entertainment” [/quote]
Lyrics like this were like the purest pharmaceutical grade heroin to Keith Richard’s brain… One hit and I was hooked. They spoke to my budding curious intellect that had been steeped in the culture of Mormonism, a tradition that so adamantly knew ‘all the answers’. I recognized there was truth being spoken in their songs, and yet it was curiously, ever so slightly, at odds with the paradigm of unquestioning belief that I had been pre-programmed with. The music was amazing, the lyrics intriguing. Nobody makes music like this… except for RUSH. A love affair had begun.
RUSH stands for a few things: They carry on their career with utmost integrity to their artistic visions. Early in their career they took steps to make it clear to their record company and management that they would do things their way, or no way at all. They wrote songs of social commentary that called bluffs as the saw them. They deal with the most serious of issues, and at the same time, have the most absurd, silly sense of humor – and are always first in line to make fun of themselves. With every passing album, I find myself mystified at how they manage to re-imagine their sound and present fresh sounds that trump their prior achievements. Their latest record, Clockwork Angels, is the best thing they’ve done in 20 years. This album finds them pushing the envelope, playig the heaviest music they’ve ever created, and also the most simple, vulnerable, ethereal, beautiful song they’ve ever penned. RUSH exemplifies the tradition of constant progress. Geddy, Alex, and Neil make getting older look like a pretty good proposition.
For a few years, I’ve had a photo of a RUSH photo pass on my vision board. It was supremely gratifying to actually be handed MY photo pass:
…. as I put it on, I contemplated the countless times I’ve looked up from my desk to see the facsimile of what would eventually become a physical reality. Our seats were wonderfully close:
The show itself was a brilliant production: