A Walk Back Home

Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
Going back in time is just not a thing I spend a lot of time doing. Nor is keeping "current" with everything around me something that I strive for. I have kids, so that naturally keeps a parent's headspace in the here and now. I have had "new" rock bands over the last 15 years, too, and this keeps my striving for a current musical "voice" somewhat relevant, I hope. Or is that it?

Last Friday, I was invited to the opening of the new Nirvana exhibit at the EMP here in Seattle. I am a fan of the band, and understand and totally respect the sheer weight that the band had (duh). But I am one of those guys who has never been into seeing a guitar or drum kit or item of clothing that some historical rock artist played or wore. That kind of stuff just doesn't have much parity to the live rock experience for me. So in saying that, I wasn't quite sure just why in fact I found myself in my car driving down to the EMP during rush hour last week.

Seeing a band live has always been the "thing" for me. When I was young, and music was either on the 12" or 7" vinyl format, finding a new band at the record store was just too damn exciting. Punk rock had a young and small-but-mighty little scene in Seattle. Flyers on telephone poles around town announced whenever and wherever there were gigs. Often times, I would buy a single by some band, and I would see them play a show downtown somewhere within the same month or two. There was no Internet. There were no cell phones. It was all word-of-mouth and what you might read in some rare but hard-won fanzine like Maximum Rock 'n' Roll or Punk or Sniffin' Glue.

I kind of forget about this time. Well, I mean, that era still does everything for me in the most base way. I think of that energy then, and it still pushes me on to this day. In playing live shows, writing songs, being a dad, being a husband. "Punk Rock" to me is just truly about being honest, upstanding, and virtuous. Period.

So I walk in the EMP. In front of me is a stage where various dignitaries and financial backers are speaking about the exhibit. They are about to unveil it at any moment. I'm just kind of standing there, and I suddenly notice that the whole walk-through Nirvana exhibit is to my left. Empty. No one has gone through yet. I make my way over as I feel an odd pull.

On the wall is a display of records that Kurt or Krist or Dave all probably listened to in the early 80s: Black Flag's My War and the Germs' GI, among others. The same records that I listened to. Seeing those record covers on the wall brought back amazing memories.

On another wall was a sort of tapestry made from all of those local punk-rock flyers that I also have in a box somewhere in my attic. If those records were the soundtrack of my youth, then those flyers were the artwork that informed my young visual journey. An absolutely stunning moment there, suddenly, and out of nowhere there at the EMP, I was transported back in time.

I feel so damn fortunate to be playing gigs to this day. Those experiences in my youth still inform my whole being. Every time I get on a stage, I suddenly and instantly turn into a seething and drooling punker. I'm the luckiest man in the world to have had those early imprints that filled my cupeth to overflow.

I came out of that exhibit, and there was Ben Sheppard and Kim Thayil. Two friends that I know share a lot of the same experiences from our youth. Those dudes are still as real as it gets because of it. I was glad to see some guys right then and there who could somehow bring me back to the present . . . without talking about the past.

Have you ever just had one of those days, where you are just plain glad it happened? That was my day last Friday. Punk rock is alive and well on the insides of your author. Long live!

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