Julie and I were crossing Main Street in Niagara Falls when we saw a guy pop out from behind Rapids Theatre. He was shirtless, wearing only short white 1970’s-style basketball shorts and white tube socks up to his knees. He was also carrying a trombone.
When he got to the front of the place he turned and walked right through the front door. That’s cool, I thought to myself. That guy is totally comfortable walking around like that, just doing his thing.
We entered Rapids Theatre right after him. And a few minutes later there he was, up on stage, playing that trombone like a madman. He was in Lucky Chops, the band that was opening for Gogol Bordello, and they were awesome. Funky horns and beautiful, unrestrained energy. Julie and I liked their vibe so much that when their set was over we bought a CD. I even got a t-shirt, too.
But we were there for Gogol Bordello, a band that we had seen by chance in a small club in Cambridge, Massachusetts about fifteen years ago. They were young back then, as was I, and they were on the verge of breaking through. I was absolutely mesmerized by their ecstatic and fiery gypsy punk, and it felt like fate to just happen upon them that evening.
And now, all these years later, here we were at Rapids Theatre, just a few minutes from our house. A real punk rock crowd had come out for the show, and it all felt so pure and raw and simple. Everyone was there to have a good time, and everyone was united by the music. The whole scene reminded me of my younger days when I would go out and see shows all the time.
But I also felt out of place. My younger self would’ve fit right in, I thought. But I was 40 years old now and balding and the father of a young boy. And it was Monday night. And I had a real job with a lot of responsibility, and I had to get up early for work the next morning!
When Gogol Bordello took the stage they played with high flying energy and positivity, and I was once again swept away by the sounds and their passion. I could feel it in my bones.
Julie danced right in front of me as I stood there, holding her hips. She was so rhythmic and sensuous and fierce. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to look like an old fool, so I just stayed still and in place.
And then a mosh pit started in the middle of the floor. We were on the far side, a good ways away from the action, but I kept looking over. I wanted to join in so unbelievably bad. I hadn’t been in a mosh pit in a decade or more.
But I just couldn’t do it. I felt so self-conscious and unwilling to let go.
Julie leaned over and said, “Why don’t you just go in the mosh pit? I know you want to.”
“That’s okay,” I replied. “I don’t. I really don’t.”
But of course I did want to. With every fiber of my being! But I was afraid.
“C’mon,” she said. “Get in there.”
“No, I can’t. I don’t want to.”
I felt like such a loser. Julie was encouraging me to do exactly what I wanted to do, but I was scared and too ashamed to admit it. And that’s all I was thinking about right then. I was hardly even focusing on the show anymore.
I stood there, feeling pathetic and sorry for myself, for probably 10 minutes. 10 long minutes as the band played on.
Slowly, I began to realize that I’d felt like this so many times before in my life. When I was afraid to dance because people might see my arms flailing freakishly or my feet missing the beat. When I was afraid to just be me, because I feared that people wouldn’t like what they saw, and maybe they wouldn’t like me because of it.
And those were some of the times in my life that I most regretted.
And now I had an opportunity to be courageous and true to myself right then and there by heading over and jumping in the mosh pit.
I leaned over to Julie. “I’m going in.”
“Go!” she said.
I made my way across the floor and threw myself into the mosh pit. And I totally lost myself in there, thrashing to the music, joyously banging up against the other moshers, fully present in the moment. There was no thought of anything else. No work deadlines or pressures at home. No fear. No shame. Just a glorious and frenetic energy that was pouring out of me and everyone else.
At the end of the show, almost an hour after I’d entered, I finally emerged from the mosh pit. I stood there in the middle of the floor absolutely drenched in sweat. My shirt was completely soaked through and stuck to my chest and back.
I felt liberated. I had honored my true self. I had left everything out there. And I was absolutely exhausted.
I walked back over to Julie and asked for the Lucky Chops t-shirt that I’d bought earlier. I took my soaked shirt off and put the new one on.
I felt so happy to be alive as Julie and I walked out of Rapids Theatre into the late-summer night.