In high school I went to spend a weekend with my sister in college. While I was there some of the college kids took an interest in me, the impressionable high school kid who was trying to play it cool. While at a party one of the girls asked me who my favorite author was and I replied quickly, instead of thoughtfully, Christopher Pike.
I knew this girl when she was in high school and I knew she was asking me this question with the sole purpose of judging my response. At the time I was pretty well-read (thanks to my mom and dad) and knew a fair amount about music (thanks to my cool, older sister). Because I’ve never been great at answering “what’s your favorite” questions on the spot, I was pretty proud of myself for actually coming up with something - especially something so evocative of college life. If you’re not familiar with them, Christopher Pike novels are slutty and murderous. I’d say they’re Sookie Stackhouse novels (True Blood) for middle and high school kids. They were *way* more sophisticated than the other the book series I grew up reading (ahem, Sweet Valley High) and they weren’t required reading.
She scoffed at my childish response and left me wondering if maybe I wasn’t as college cool as I thought I was.
When I went to college a couple of years later I went to the same college my sister went to. My parents convinced my sister to live in the dorm one more year so she could be my roommate. We had matching Laura Ashley bedspreads and I had my collection of cool things which weren’t *quite* cool; a love of Louis Armstrong, cat figurines, sunflowers and Doc Martens. Like a good Charlottean, I was a fan of classic rock and alternative music like Led Zeppelin and Blind Melon.
I counted seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Pearl Jam at Lollapalooza and the Spin Doctors, Screaming Trees and Soul Asylum at Carowinds high on my list of high school victories. I skipped school to see one of those shows and at the other show someone asked me where they could score drugs because I was wearing a psychedelic santa hat and a cat shirt.
In Greensboro in 1994, you learned pretty quickly that nothing from or about Charlotte was cool. Chapel Hill and Raleigh bred cool kids. Charlotte bred lame kids that liked alternative music instead of indie music (i.e., kids just like me). With the exception of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and Sugar, I shunned all of my high school music and transformed into an indie rocker. Part of the transformation was to fit in, part of it was because I realized there was a whole world of music these Triangle kids knew that I knew nothing about. Polvo. The Archers of Loaf. Tortoise. The Sea and Cake.
Like every person getting used to the middle part of life, I now find myself drawn to the music from my late teens and early 20s. Though I don’t know that I’ll ever become a Red Hot Chili Peppers or Spin Doctor’s fan again, I can wholeheartedly admit that I was wrong to shun Soundgarden. Soundgarden from the early 1990s rocks.
I leave you with a few of my favorites.