I’ve Created the Sound of Madness

There’s this moment at a concert where you, as a singular being, basically cease to exist.

The bass takes over your heartbeat — it may  have all together replaced it for all you can tell. You’re screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs, but you may as well be shouting into a black hole because the instant your words leave your mouth, they’re sucked into the beautiful cacophony around you.

Lights assault your eyes, and fog-machine fog (or smoke of both the legal and illegal varieties; it’s always a guessing game as to what you’re actually inhaling) impairs your vision. Moving on your own? Forget it. You link arms with your friends as you, and the hundreds of other sweaty unknowns to whom you’ve surrendered your personal space, jump up and down at the band’s request.

Your body temperature rises exponentially, as does the temperature of the entire room. You’re breathless and sore from standing for three hours, and singing along will most certainly leave you speechless by necessity the next day, but you can’t stop — you won’t stop.

You can’t actually feel that drunk guy standing next to you ramming into your shoulder as he jumps around, and it doesn’t really cross your mind that you should really stop and catch your breath or get a drink of water immediately. I mean, you feel it, but it doesn’t actually matter. And it doesn’t hurt because what you’re experiencing is better and more important than that.

In such a moment — when it’s done right — the music trumps you. It reminds you that what you’re standing in the middle of is universal. It’s bigger than you. And it’s so brilliant.

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I had one of those moments last night at a Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd and Skillet concert in Rochester.

I feel like I got hit by a bus this morning. I have basically no voice, and I just realized my ears are still ringing — but was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s becoming rare that a concert is as epic as I hoped it would be, and it makes me infinitely happy that last night was everything I was hoping for.

When I listen to a band, I like to imagine how a song would sound live. Shinedown is one of those bands that has seriously hard-rock tracks but can slow it down and still make an impact. Lead singer Brent Smith (who, I just have to say, looked older than I expected) has serious pipes, and I figured the guitars and drums in a lot of their songs would sound absolutely ridiculous in person.

A lot of bands just get up there and play; they don’t say much, they don’t really interact. Others stick to a script night after night, and it shows, because nothing really connects (Nickelback, I’m looking at you; judge me all you want, but I had high hopes for their live show, and it wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted).

Shinedown is one of those rare bands that absolutely electrifies a room.  There wasn’t a moment where things seemed to lag or where the audience got bored. They started out right away with “The Sound of Madness,” which was one of those songs I often imagined hearing live. Even slower songs like “If You Only Knew” and “What A Shame” kept the energy up.

While the whole show was great, there was one song I just had to hear, the song that, if they played, I could die happy then and there — “Simple Man.” It’s, in my opinion, a hard song to cover because you can’t make it too elaborate since the beauty of the song is in how, well, simple it is.

But Shinedown’s cover does it perfectly, just Smith and guitarist Zach Myers (who, by the way, is wicked talented. He also helped out on a quick cover of “Dock of the Bay” and made his guitar sound perfectly like a violin at one point) on an acoustic guitar. The audience was shouting for it all night — ironic since it’s usually “Freebird” that people shout for — so they saved it for the encore…and it was everything I imagined it would be.

I closed my eyes and sang along, and it was absolutely perfect.

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In case you were curious, the rest of the show was pretty good, too. I could gush for hours about Shinedown, but I’ll just close with this: I listen to, and like, a lot of music, so it’s hard for me to actually pick a solid “favorite” band (after the Goo Goo Dolls, that is, who will always be at the top of the list), but these guys have been in my top ten for a while now. I legitimately enjoy nearly every song on their albums, their lyrics have real meaning, they’re a talented group, and the fact that they are so wonderful live only makes me like them more.

Now, on to the rest:

I actually enjoyed Puddle of Mudd more when I saw them at the casino a couple years ago. I think that was because I’d once again built them up in my head — I figured their new song “Spaceship” would sound really awesome live and have everyone going crazy. It was just all right. Maybe I was in the wrong part of the crowd. Still, their songs create some fun sing-a-longs — especially “She Hates Me,” because everyone just screams the words.

(By the way, if you ever see them, stick around ’til the lights go up — there’s an ingenious jazzy rat-pack version of “She Hates Me” that cracks me up every time.)

“Opener” Skillet surprised me. Then again, I didn’t have high hopes for a group named after a frying pan.

To begin with, the group I was with all thought Skillet was the band that was playing when we walked in. Turns out, that band was actually Like A Storm (don’t bother, they’re forgettable). So when we moved up for the next set, expecting it to be Puddle of Mudd, and had two girls walk on stage, we were sufficiently confused.

If you like “new rock,” you’ll probably enjoy these guys. Their singer sounds a bit like Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier, which is appropriate, because the first time I heard their song “Monster” on the radio, I definitely thought it was 3DG. The one slower song they played (I wanna say the name was something like “Believe”) was more the style of Hinder — think “Lips of an Angel,” and you’ve got this song.

They weren’t anything out-of-the-ordinary or totally special, but I could see myself listening to their music. The female dummer and guitarist/keyboard player probably didn’t hurt, either. I have a soft spot for female rockers.

Strangest fact of all, though: I just looked them up on Wikipedia, and their page claims they are a “Christian hard rock” band — go figure.

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