Evan Dale // June 12, 2018 

“It’s a Catch-22, man.”


“What do you mean?”


“How do we know there’s going to be a snow day tomorrow? And even if there is one, and class is cancelled, should we really be driving an hour through a blizzard to get to a concert downtown?”


“Stop being a pussy.”


Well, that’s the end of that argument. I guess we’re going.


My friend and I slip out of the window well and into the winter. I live in the basement and my friends rarely utilize the front door. My parents would also surely be unsupportive of our decision-making to risk our lives – on a Wednesday night mind you – just for a concert. So, I’d rather not go through the hassle of getting their unobtainable approval.


Unless we die in a car accident, they won’t ever need to know that tonight is happening.


High school is a strange time for a lot of reasons, but a spiritual awakening driven by explorations of musical tastes has to be one of the few positives.


My friends, like all 16-year-old friends, are judgmental ass-hats, but I love them like brothers. And like brothers, we fight continuously about taste without a single attempt at a sound argument. They’re rock kids – talented ones at that – always practicing as a band across a series of their own basements. I respect it. I enjoy watching the process. But I am the lone fan of hip-hop, and for that, they despise me.


We do however, all see eye-to-eye on a handful of particular artists, and with one of those artists performing in Denver tonight, it’s in the best interest of our collective friendship to attend the show. Plus, we’ve already spent $15 each on tickets – and according to the two-and-a-half Chipotle burritos I could buy with it – that’s big money.


We hop the fence, cross a street, and start making our way up the hill to my friend’s house where the rest of the crew is going to meet us. 


Huddled in a dark car with loud music and too few seatbelts are the rest of my ass-hat wearing friends. As we approach, the windows slide down and a series of sideways comments wrapped in cheap pot smoke billow from within.


“What’s up dudes?” My accompanying friend ignores the chatter and greets the mass with his signature slogan and shiver underneath his oversized, plaid coat. “Ready to go?”


With that, three of our friends spill out of the car and walk with us towards another. I score shotgun and subsequently the awesome responsibilities that come with it. AUX cord, directions, temp controls. My friends spring a barrage of predictably hateful comments and uncouth opinions my way with each and every decision on each and every premise. In response, I turn the music up, the heat down, and deflect it all. 


The drive is slick from the get-go. My friend’s 1998 Ford Explorer has probably not seen a tire change in two Winters time and the fine balance required to keep us from sliding off either side of the road could only be so eloquently handled by his practiced hand. 


To ease the tensions and to somehow feel more adult, ditch weed is loaded into someone’s cheap, Asian gift store pipe and passed around in ceremonious tradition. 


As we reach the highway from our secluded mountain nook, the storm slows a little and the roads become clearer. But still, we are the only ones on the road. Good thing too, because the combination of high minds and bad weather has our two-car caravan slowly drifting towards downtown. An insurance of safety and a non-notice of inebriation leaves us but one speed – slow. 


Spirits begin to lift, and excitement starts to brew as we shift the playlist towards the artist of our forthcoming show. His music is rich in reggae roots, upbeat cadence, and an impossible knack for beat-boxing – the music perhaps furthest removed from the isolation of suburban Colorado, but seemingly the styling most often attributed to its lifestyle. 


An hour or more passes by the time we approach the familiar grocery store parking lot where every concert-goer illegally parks. An uneducated eye would think this Safeway daylights as a nightclub.


Cars off, windows up, doors open, and fuckery begins. Not a one of us is sure why adolescent men act the way we do, but no one questions it and instead simply continues to stuff snow down each other’s shirts and hurl deep-rooted insults at each other’s psyches. The effects of it all won’t come into play for years.


Even as 16-year-olds, we understand the meaning behind quality concert clothing, and being Colorado kids and it being December, we also understand the fine balance between staying warm on the way to the show and not overheating once inside. Everyone looks good – as good as the gang of high-schoolers can look being loud and obnoxious while waiting in line for doors to open. Raggedy hoodies and flannels, sagging skinny-fit denim, beanies.


For us, this is an amazing opportunity, but for everyone else, there is a clear underlying opinion that this show would better serve its audience had an 18-and-up restriction been levied. Oh well. We’ll eventually grow up to look down on the youth causing havoc at shows and get the karma coming to us.


In our defense, we’re true fans knowledgeable of a depth of Matisyahu’s music surely surpassing the majority of the fans ahead of us in line. A friend or two in our crew know every lyric to each quick and complicated verse. 


Once we get in, we crack jokes about obtaining drinks from the bar, but deep down none of us have the courage to try. The X’s on our hands serve their propaganda machine purpose and keep a weight of fear on even the most outspoken, adult of us. The left-over ditch weed high and the overwhelming energy of the unfamiliar kind of surroundings serve a purpose more intoxicating than a drink.


Above all else, we’ll soon have the music. 


We secure a space in the frontal deck of the largish venue – not a difficult thing to do for a group of loud, raggedy high schoolers amongst a largely more sophisticated audience. The true adults part like water in an effort to avoid us. After a few shared moments of looking around in peace and success, a vibration in each of our pockets captures our attention and with it, our hope. 


The light from our cellphones illuminates each of our mugs and with them, a look of bliss and elation. 




The lights dim, the crowd roars, and Matisyahu in all of his bearded, Hasidic glory bounces on stage. 


Let’s get this started already. After all, we have all the time in the world.

The sonic approach of Matisyahu is largely indefinable, yet it defined many of our adolescent experiences and continues to be a way to access our memories.