The second concert I ever attended was Soundgarden at the Palace of Auburn Hills, just north of Detroit. It was ’96, and they were out in support of Down on the Upside. My parents had split up about a year earlier, and I was living with my dad in a run down house. Much of my time outside of school was spent helping him fix it up. I don’t even know how many days I spent painting the old chipped siding and the garage, but I’d always have the radio on, just waiting for “Pretty Noose” to play. The music was a much needed respite during an otherwise hopeless time.
One afternoon, the DJ said that Soundgarden was coming to town, and I finally got the nerve to ask my dad to buy us tickets. We had a very distant relationship, but I figured it was worth a shot. In an effort to bring us closer, he picked up the tickets from a local record store and two weeks later we were there. Rocket from Crypt opened, and then Soundgarden came out. There was an enormous mosh pit, but you could only see the commotion when the bright red lights would flash during songs like “Ty Cobb” and “Blow Up the Outside World.” I left the concert changed, and decided that I wanted to play guitar in a rock band like Kim Thayil.
I’m 34 now, about to be a dad, too, and I still play guitar in a band. I still have the ticket stub from when I saw my heroes when I was 12, and I still think about waiting to hear their songs on the radio when I was outside painting. After that show, those songs became a kind of shorthand, a language I could use to describe all the mixed emotions of my adolescence. There was great pain interspersed with great beauty. And through it all, there was inevitable growth.
Like most of the millions of fans who had a chance to enjoy Chris’ music, I never had the chance to thank him for his work, for articulating what so many people feel yet cannot name. There is a noble beauty in that gift even if it comes at such a great cost. I wish him the greatest peace, and I hope for peace and healing for his family and loved ones. He helped me to better understand myself and my relation to the world around me. I don’t know of a greater gift anyone could give. Much love from Michigan.