Summer before my junior year in high school. I'm psyched to finally join the ranks of upperclassmen. My comfort level has actually settled in and I'm enjoying myself. The strange underground world of punk rock has started to become a real force in my life. Being a soccer player and good student makes me something of an outsider in the punk world but my Chuck Taylor hi-tops and 7 Seconds t-shirts let the in-crowd know that I'm not that IN.
This has started to cause some tension in my life, but it is an exciting kind, knowing that I am starting to define myself in ways that might threaten other people. Just what a teenage boy could want. And it was sincere! I truly loved this music, how completely unconcerned with mainstream success they were, how they lived their dreams.
The glamour band of the scene was definitely Reno, Nevada's 7 Seconds. We'd been listening to their 'Walk Together, Rock Together' album nonstop. It was chock full of one and a half minute epic anthems of unity and disenfranchisement.
The singer was a broodingly handsome guy named Kevin Seconds. His brother played bass and they'd started their own record label. They had made this band their entire life. They were teenagers and yet they ran a mini corporation. The whole punk teen population had man-crushes on Kevin Seconds, firstly because of his talent, and then because he was doing what we all dreamed of.
When I heard that 7 Seconds was coming to The Living Room that summer, it instantly became the focus of my every thought. I was too young to drive but I knew a couple of punks who were going to the show. 7 Seconds were part of the straight edge movement, which meant that drinking and drug taking were NOT done. I knew if I drove with John Smith he wouldn't get wasted and strand me in Providence.
A whole crew of us piled into his car and we took off. It was an all-ages show, as many of the punk shows were, so we weren't worried about getting in. John and his girlfriend Kristin were sort of the glamourous punk couple of the town. They were both really good looking so their strange haircuts were more like fashion statements than political ones. I never went in for the extreme punk look so I always faced a good amount of scorn from the TRUE punks who thought I was a poser. That word was like the kiss of death in the punk world, it called into question your authenticity as a fan and a person.
7 Seconds took the stage and it was like a peace rally. Tom and I remarked that we'd thought Kevin Seconds would be taller. But he was still an amazing presence, all positive energy and openness. They barely paused between songs and barreled along, sweeping us up with their energy.
I was in a small crowd with John, Kristin, and their circle, a circle I wasn't too familiar with. In front of me stood a girl with a shirt on that clasped at her neck and draped down in two sheaths of fabric. Her back was bared but from the front you would not be able to tell. My attention was split away from the music as I stared at this brazen fashion choice. I couldn't see her face but her back sure looked great.
At some point during the show we were introduced. Her name was Maria and she was spending the summer in Rhode Island. She was from Ireland. She responded favorably to my Irish name and she was unfazed by this crazy American punk music. And, come on, she was wearing a shirt that didn't have a back.
Through no fault of my own, we began to make out. Now, up to this point in my life, I had kissed exactly one girl. So the quick moving kiss was certainly not my initiation and I'll always be grateful to her for her bravery. 7 Seconds roared away on stage and my hands had nowhere to go but her bare back.
One doesn't often think of romance when listening to hardcore punk music. But all across this great country of ours there are legions of middle aged men and women who first bridged the puberty gap with other horny misfits at dirty all ages shows.
Maria went back to Ireland, Junior year began, and before you know it, here I am.
Don't let anyone ever tell you that youth is wasted on the young.