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Alex's Story: Weezer

Alex recalls a teenage dream- seeing Weezer in NYC.


School had been out for about a week on the night of the Weezer concert. Summer camp didn’t begin until the following Monday. Even though it was a random Wednesday night, I had no obligations the following day, and my parents consented to let me take the train into Manhattan with a bunch of friends. We had just finished freshman year of high school, but as we rode New Jersey Transit into the city, and then took the C train uptown (just two stops from Penn Station, to Roseland Ballroom), we couldn’t have felt any more sophisticated.

My friend Shawn and I held hands with our respective girlfriends (who were also best friends and whom we had been dating for about a month), while our friend Michael was content to tag along as the fifth wheel. With great effort, we attempted to give the impression (in case anyone was paying attention) that, yeah, we did this kind of thing all the time.

Like any ‘90s rock kid, we were raised on Nirvana and Pearl Jam – but we were too late to really consider them our own. Michael had copied his cassette of Nevermind for me, but I had only listened to it three or four times, when I heard the news on Z100 about Kurt Cobain. .

The guys in Weezer, on the other hand, were my people. It was the way they looked out from the cover of The Blue Album-  so innocuous and so free of the posturing or the cryptic symbolism that were characteristic of many of their predecessors. And it was their lyrics, often marked by a sense of insecurity or romantic longing, which I just got.

Pinkerton had been out for the entire school year, which had given me more than enough time to learn every word; every inflection in Rivers Cuomo’s voice, every bit of feedback. I had been to a few concerts in New York before – at Roseland and at Irving Plaza – but never without adult supervision, and never to see a band that I adored quite so much.

***

The shoving started almost immediately after the lights went down. Our group was scattered to all corners and, by a stroke of luck, my girlfriend and I were pushed in the best possible direction: further and further forward until our progress was finally impeded by a large, plastic barrier two feet from the stage. The band took the stage to the theme from The Price is Right (such an audaciously uncool opening), and they smiled, introduced themselves, and looked genuinely thrilled to be there. Were rockers even allowed to do that?

Weezer’s music could be fun and silly and proudly nerdy. This was the band who, after all, frankly proclaimed: “I've got a Dungeon Master's Guide / I've got a twelve-sided die.” But at the same time, their songs had enough sweet harmony and enough of a sense of yearning to break my fourteen-year-old heart. This duality was embodied in the dynamic between Rivers Cuomo and bassist Matt Sharp. While Rivers crooned his heart out, often looking visibly uncomfortable (which, in truth, was part of his charm), Matt, who wore a vintage Mickey Mouse t-shirt, joked and mugged his way through the show. He introduced songs, engaged in banter with the crowd – unusual for a bassist – and at one key moment during the encore, poured half a bottle of water into the audience, catching the sleeve of my t-shirt with a few drops in the process. I was glad for any mild relief from the stifling heat of the crowd, but, truthfully, I may have been equally proud to boast that Matt Sharp had scalded me with boiling oil.

As of June 1997, Weezer had only released two full-length albums with only ten songs apiece. They played almost every one of them that night, and there was barely a lyric I didn’t belt along with them: from the big chorus in Say it Ain’t So, to that weird pseudo-rap line in El Scorcho about bringing home the turkey. During that slow build-up leading to the guitar solo at the end of Only in Dreams, I silently let the goosebumps form on my arms and, for the first and last time as a teenager, allowed myself to unabashedly shed a tear.

***

We caught the second to last train home and the girls fell asleep on our shoulders. Michael, Shawn, and I stayed awake, occasionally sharing our reflections from earlier in the evening, but we were mostly happy to remain silent in sweaty, exhausted contentment. We already knew that of the handful of concerts we had seen in our fourteen years, this one was the best- an instant classic. And we still had more than two months of summer ahead of us.

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