We're Only Immortal...For A Limited Time - Neil Peart - 1952-2020
Since hearing the news of Neil Peart's passing a few days ago, I've been thinking a lot, listening to a lot of Rush albums, and trying to piece together some words...how do I even begin? I guess I'll start with a preface:
I LOVE RUSH
Since the news broke a few days ago, there have been thousands of tributes, remembrances, entries, eulogies etc. to Neil, and here is mine, straight from the heart.
I have loved Rush my entire life. For reference, Rush is my Dad's favorite band, so naturally growing up, I heard Rush...a lot. I can identify different periods and memories of my childhood based upon seeing different Rush album covers, because they were in constant rotation at our house. Dad played other stuff too, but c'mon, there's nothing quite like Rush.
Here's a couple of examples:
1987 - Dad was painting our house. All the windows were open and the stereo was cranked. Rush album: Hold Your Fire.
1991 - We moved into our new house. Set up the stereo so we can have tunes while we unload the truck. I'm getting my own room (the house we moved out of had my brother and I sharing a room). Set it up, and the stereo was cranked.
Rush album: Roll the Bones
1993 - Dad gets off work, goes to the music store and comes home with a cassette of something that came out that day. "We need to play this right now." Put it in, and the stereo was cranked.
Rush album: Counterparts
1996 - Dad would take me to get my braces adjusted on Saturday mornings, appointments were early (for me), but I went, oh, and the stereo was cranked.
Rush album: Test For Echo.
As I myself started to get more and more into music in my teenage years, I discovered all sorts of bands like Megadeth, Pantera, The Offspring, Reel Big Fish, Goldfinger, Candlebox, Local H, Sevendust (hey! it was the 90s) but always in that mix, was Rush.
I remember in the late 90s when I started going to concerts regularly, seeing everyone I could, but one band I wanted to see was Rush. This was during Neil's Ghost Rider period, so I understood why Rush wasn't touring or even making new music, but I was always hoping they'd reconvene, come back and DESTROY stages again. (Side note: get Ghost Rider and read it, it's quite a story)
In 2002, my hopes came true! Rush was putting out a new album (Vapor Trails) and going on tour!!! That July I was finally going to get my chance. I went, with my Dad, my Mom and my brother. We made a family outing of it. And therein lies another awesome, just...magic component of Rush. Their music is generational. I remember thinking how cool it was that I was there, seeing my Dad's favorite band with my Dad. He'd been going to Rush shows since the 70s, but you could tell, this is what happiness looks like.
A Rush show is electric. You can feel it in the air. By this point, the shows were the "An Evening With" shows, so it was just them. An hour and 45, then a break, then another 90 minutes or two hours, two full sets, full production, video, lights, fire, are those dryers? It was amazing. Plus, in every conceivable direction is someone else who feels exactly the same way you do "THIS. IS. THE. BEST." All the fans know all the songs, word-for-word, and sing along, air guitar, air slappin' da bassssss, air drumming, air keyboards, you get the idea. It was incredible. I left that night changed. Knowing I'd seen one of the best bands to ever exist in the history of the world. And it was extra special, because I'd shared this night with my family.
I got to see Rush five additional times:
- October 2002 at the United Center (Vapor Trails tour)
- June 2004 at the Tweeter Center (R30 tour)
- September 2007 at the FMBA (Snakes & Arrows tour)
- June 2008 at the United Center (Snakes & Arrows tour)
- July 2010 at the Charter One Pavilion (Time Machine tour) [Rained Out]
- August 2010 at the Charter One Pavilion (Time Machine tour) [Makeup Date]
The entry for 2010 was especially interesting, because the tickets were our Father's Day gift to my Dad. Rush was playing Moving Pictures front to back and it was going to be awesome. We got there, it was a beautiful day on Lake Michigan, and I'm seeing Rush. Who do I see walking around outside the venue? Robb Rivera from Nonpoint. I go up to him "hey man, what are you doing here?" I thought he lived in Florida and Nonpoint wasn't touring at the time, so it was unexpected to see him in Chicago. He told me he had moved to Chicago because he was going to get married, he introduced me to his future wife, who was there too.
The doors open, we all go in, and suddenly, almost as if a switch was flipped, storm clouds rolled in and rain started just POURING on us. The gear on the stage was soaked, the sky was all black (keep in mind, this was 7pm in the summer) and then we saw three tour buses leaving. An announcement was made "Sorry folks, this performance has been cancelled, we will try to reschedule a make up date" and with that, we leave. We were walking back to the car, rain still pouring, and I say to Dad "well...Happy Father's Day!" I learned later via blog post that Neil had spent the afternoon at the Chicago Art Institute, which is a short walk from where this show was, walking the halls, looking at the paintings and sculptures and taking great pride in not being recognized.
The make up date was set for about a month and half later. It was awesome because the show would happen, but in another way a bummer, because Robb now couldn't go. Nonpoint was out on tour. I had started talking to him a little here and there, and I told him of the makeup date and he was upset that he would miss the make up show.
Rush, being awesome, had a special piece of merch made for the occasion, a baseball hat, complete with stitching that read "The Rain Date" and gave them out for free as we exited the show. Several were on eBay the next morning (because some people suck). I still have mine, and I will never let it go.
Rush put out one more album, 2012's "Clockwork Angels" and toured on it, and a 40th anniversary tour, but I missed out on both...then the news that Neil was retiring hit. I can't say I blamed him. He was pushing 60, had a new wife and a young daughter and wanted to spend time at home with them, completely understandable. By that point, Rush had been writing, recording, touring and everything else for 40+ years, so yeah...slow it down. We will always have the memories.
Still though, Rush has never left my listening rotation. I have a turntable now, and I buy and play vinyl at home with my kids. My son Daniel loves "Fly By Night" probably because of the owl on the cover, but he loves the song, he'll sing it to me. We can watch the Time Machine DVD, when The Spirit of Radio comes on, both my boys clap clap clap clap clap... they love it, and I love that. Another generation of Rush fans. My Dad sees it too. It makes him happy to see his grandsons way into something he was into when he was younger.
On another level all together is my friendship with the aforementioned Robb Rivera. I still love me some Nonpoint, and I do a lot of work for them, so much so that I consider them family. Robb is my brother, and one thing that bonds us is that love of Rush. Some of my best memories in recent history are of hanging with him and listening to Rush. Either in a car, road tripping to a gig or just hanging out and playing records, Rush are always played.
Rush fans everywhere were shocked, saddened, devastated, crushed, gutted, heartbroken and whatever other descriptive words you can think to put here when they heard the news, I know I was. I found out from Robb. He texted me "I have some bad news" and then he laid it on me.
I had never met Neil Peart, but this profound sense of sadness just washed over me. This guy, without knowing it, had been such a part of my life, of my family's life for so many years, and now he's gone. It hurts. But it's ok to hurt for someone while, you don't know them personally, you know through the legacy which they leave behind.
So to you, the Professor... I thank you. For everything. For your music, for your words, for helping me bond with my Dad, my Mom, my brother, my kids and one of my best friends, and being such an important part of my life.
--From the point of ignition, to the final drive. The point of the journey is not to arrive.
9.12.52 - 1.7.2020
Exit the warrior. Gone, but never forgotten.