Rushing toward maturity

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Like many of my fellow music lovers of the baby boom and just after generations, I’m coming to grips with the fact that I’ve missed my last chance to see one of the great bands of my lifetime perform in concert.

Because I am what some people might call a responsible adult, I had obligations that kept me from a night with college friends, basking in the tunes that filled our days and nights of post-adolescent high jinks. It would have been amazing to enjoy three or so hours of our musical heroes plying their trade as our minds drifted back to simpler times. Back then, mortgages, taxes and getting up early for work the next day were things our parents dealt with while we spent their hard-earned money on White Owl cigars, Black Label beer and, oh yeah, concert tickets.

Hey, I said these were simpler times, not noble times.

Sadly, this summer brings an end to this band’s multidecade legacy of epic live shows, and I was not among the thousands who got to take in one more concert for the ages – or perhaps more appropriately, the aged.

By now, I assume most of you have figured out which band I’m talking about.

The Grateful Dead? What? Are they calling it quits, too? I guess that’s only logical, seeing as how their front man has been among the literal dead for nearly 20 years.

I kid (respectfully, of course).

I’m talking about Rush.

No, not the bloviating windbag from Cape Girardeau County, but the progressive rock trio from Canada.

That Rush.

The same Rush that, after 40-plus years of recording albums, finally appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The same Rush that gained admission to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a mere two years ago despite a longer and more prolific career than earlier inductees Run-DMC, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica…need I go on? 

The same Rush that has undergone exactly one change in personnel since its founding more than 41 years ago, said change taking place 40 years ago, after the band’s first of 20 studio albums.

That Rush.

The Rush of “Fly By Night,” “Closer to the Heart,” “The Spirit of Radio,” “Tom Sawyer.” 

You get my point.

This was a band whose music I liked in junior high (back when it was still called that) and high school. When I arrived in college, my affinity for Rush was taken to another level courtesy of a couple of fraternity brothers. And when I say fraternity brothers, I mean two guys who were, yes, in my fraternity, but who also happened to be born to the same set of parents. For the sake of this story, we’ll call them Scott and Jeff.

Aside from being mechanical wizards – these guys could take a can of Plastic Wood, a roll of duct tape and the flywheel from a 1978 Oldsmobile and build a nuclear reactor in an hour – they were also aficionados of very loud music.

Scott was the more serious audiophile of the two. His Onkyo stereo system and high-end speakers were the envy of the AEPi house, and he played a wide variety of music on it. In addition to Rush, Scott enjoyed a diverse array of artists ranging all the way from KISS to Van Halen.

Jeff’s audio weaponry was less nuanced, some might say brutish: a Panasonic system with a pair of massive Thrusters speakers. And when I say massive, I mean speakers each of which were the size of a Pontiac Fiero (if we want to remain period-specific.) Jeff’s taste in music was slightly narrower than Scott’s.

It was Rush. That’s it.

Whether it was thanks to the virtuosity of the band’s three members – vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and legendary drummer Neil Pear – or the cinder block-permeating volume at which the music was played, or perhaps the gravitational pull of those Thrusters, several of my fraternity brothers and I went all-in for Rush.

During the year Jeff and I shared a room, we hosted many a gathering to enjoy our beloved band’s CDs (still a newfangled technology at the time) as well as the aforementioned White Owls and Black Labels. Have you ever seen cigar smoke pulsate? It’s really quite a thing.

And, of course, we went to concerts. We’d pile into Scott and Jeff’s trusty Dodge van, venturing eastward to St. Louis with an obligatory stop at their parents’ house, where their mom always had a tastefully arranged deli platter for our preshow consumption. After the shows, there were equally obligatory stops at White Castle and Naugles. We’d roll back into Columbia sometime around 3 a.m. with ringing ears, fond memories and bad gas.

Rush made what may very well be their final visit to St. Louis a couple of months ago. For whatever mature and responsible reason, I was unavailable the night of the concert. Several of my fraternity brothers posted pictures from the show on Facebook, and I’m thrilled that they got to enjoy a slice of life from the old days even though I could not.

As I contend with lingering pangs of regret for the next few weeks, I’m comforted that I won’t have to contend with the lingering effects that follow the ingestion of a half-dozen belly bombers and a double beef burrito.

And for that, I assure you, my entire household is – ahem – grateful.