Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stories

Here is the story I promised you that I wrote about my buddy Michael and his musical endeavors. Enjoy...

Raucous background music emanates from the overhead speakers and permeates the airwaves as I navigate my way through the sea of people, hoping to find a spot near the stage. It is not exactly elevator music, but it certainly sets the mood. Other spectators meander here and there, most of them wearing black t-shirts graced with the name of their favorite band, and many of them sporting interesting tattoos or piercings; the unofficial uniform of the “alternative” crowd.
I settle in as the band takes the stage, launching into an aggressive, driven breakdown, setting the crowd of onlookers into whirlwind of motion. Some jump, some flail their fists, some push and shove; others nod their head. Feeding on this energy, the band’s vocalist enters from stage left, letting out a loud scream that excites the crowd even more. As the song continues, the singer alternates between piercing screams and melodic tones, a fascinating duality that keeps the listener guessing. As the band members drive on, banging their heads, and as the mosh pit grows, my eyes remain focused on the band’s bassist, a powerfully-built, light-skinned black guy. His name is Michael Harold. He is 19 years old, and from Webster, NY. Seeing him in the context is very strange for me.
“A couple of years ago he was just the quiet kid who wore shorts to school every single day,” says long-time friend Ryan Simpson, 21, also of Webster.
“Mike is really in a metal band? Wow, I would not have expected that,” says Trevor Miller, 22, a fellow Webster resident.
I will admit that when news first reached me of Michael’s participation in a metal band, I was surprised as well. Having run with him for two years of high school on the cross country and track teams, I got to know him quite well. Michael is one of the most easy-going, polite, gentle, and relaxed individuals I have ever met. As a result, it is almost ironic to see him drawn to a genre of music stereotypically associated with anger, hate, and violence.
He is quick to disassociate himself and his band from such negativity. He considers his band, called 31Goings, to be “driven by passion rather than anger.” He acknowledges that many individuals who are drawn to metal music have suffered pain in the past and use the music as an emotional outlet. “There are a lot of bands that sing about violence and bring in violent crowds. I’m not into the throwing and punching the air that triggers a social stigma against the genre, but I'm not against it. I have mixed emotions on it, but I also feel like it would be arrogant to have people moving to my music and then stand still on stage as though I am better than them in some way.”
Anger is not the driving force behind the sound of 31Goings. To risk sounding completely cliché, they do it for the love of music. As Michael puts it, “we are all classically trained and motivated by music for the sake of music and I think that gives us what is, in my opinion, a more original sound.”
How does one go from playing classical music to playing metal music? For Michael, it was a gradual process. He admits that “previously I was guilty of all the stereotyping that metal and screamo is stupid music being an orchestra member (a cellist).” However, after being introduced to his now-favorite musical genre, he gained an appreciation for the technical nature that characterizes many metal songs. He also enjoys the greater demands of playing with 31Goings over playing with an orchestra. As he puts it, “we are responsible to write the music, book and promote the shows, and then perform the music with constant motion and aggressive stage presence all the while not missing notes. Not to put anyone down, but I enjoy this challenge more than sitting among 50 people, sitting still, playing music that someone else wrote.” Although he does not play classical music too often anymore, he does gain inspiration from classical songs, and his classical training has better prepared him to tackle the complicated riffs demanded by the high-octane attack 31Goings delivers in every song.
As for the apparent mismatch between his personality and his favorite music, he does admit that it might surprise some people. However, he enjoys the incredible energy of the music he plays and listens to. Using a running metaphor to explain it to me, (a fellow runner), he likens it to the energy released during the final kick at the end of race. There is power in the music that has the ability to inspire, although some simply write it off as music for delinquents and social deviants. I assure you, Michael Harold, and most of those who listen to his band and other bands like it are far from these.
As I stand watching Michael rock out on the stage with his buddies, his fingers dancing across the strings, banging his head in unison with the other band members, I can not help but smile. He is not just some angry kid who wants to be in a band to express his inner anguish; he is simply a passionate, driven young man, inspired to create intricate, technical music, and share it with the world. The crowd moves, a churning sea of energy; the band drives on. I just watch my buddy. I am proud of him.

P.S.- The website for 31Goings is http://www.myspace.com/31Goings
Even if you do not like their style of music, please support them... they are chasing their dreams just like I am.

P.P.S- Mom and Dad: You will not like the music. :)

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