In 1994 I was a freshman in high school. My brother, 3 years older, would’ve been a senior had he not left early for college, along with his girlfriend, who was a year older. As a result of his early departure, we never roamed the hallways of Cedarburg High School together – something I’d looked forward to with equal parts dread and anticipation. The distance his decision put between us also fostered the development of our relationship from frantic sibling rivalry, to one of mutual respect and admiration. With more than our bedroom doors separating us, it turned out we really liked and enjoyed one another’s company. Actually, we missed one another, and when put together in the same room, made a great team.
1994 was also the year the Beastie Boys released “Ill Communication” – an album that launched some of the coolest music videos of the nineties, catapulting Spike Jonze (AKA Adam Speigl – heir to the Speigl catalog fortune) into the public consciousness, making it somehow doubly significant in my mind. It was undoubtedly the influence of the Beastie Boys that led my brother and his friends at school to adopt monikers such as K-Rock and NezCube. And it was the arc of their tour schedule that pulled me from my coddled suburban nest, to the dormitory hallways of Marquette University, to the mean aisles of the of the Mecca Arena in downtown Milwaukee in the company of my brother and some of his new friends. It was my first “real” concert experience, and it was life altering.
The Beastie Boys performed with a live band and a DJ, and as I remember it, occasionally played instruments themselves. The show consisted of mostly material off of Ill Communication and Paul’s Boutique… sometimes it was a rap show, sometimes it was a punk show, some times it was quasi-psychedelia, sometimes it almost sounded like jazz. It was always impressive. For close to three hours the trio blended genres, defied convention, and spewed positivity. Somehow, they balanced street tough and cocky with thoughtful sensitivity. And they were funny – completely unafraid to make fun of themselves. They were heroes, alive and in the flesh — a group of three friends who had forged their livings from a passion for creating.
Three months later I was in my first band.