Rob Pennington with Endpoint at The Wetland's, NYC, 2/13/1994, Photo: Angela Boatwright
I still remember the first time I heard these lyrics:
“Standing alone, feeling the dark, screaming so loud my throat goes dry. Clawing the dirt, pawing the door, the path so hard to find. Feel the fire burning inside of me. Taste the pure desire of the need to be free.”
“Remember” by Endpoint somehow described every ounce of my very being as a teen. My glasses were a little too big, my clothes a little too baggy, my personality a little too awkward. I had recently graduated from high school but was completely uncertain about my future. I had moved to my town in Illinois from North Dakota a couple years previous and missed my childhood friends. I had no one to confide in, no one to take advice from. I felt utterly alone.
I took some college classes, worked at a local ice cream store, and went to see as many bands as possible at our area coffeehouses and VFW Halls. I was staying afloat, but was directionless. And I didn’t want to keep going.
I never went as far as trying to end my life. I certainly thought about it, but I was just as afraid of death as I was of life.
In 1994 I met a group of friends who were to become like family. They embraced me for who I was – with all of my insecurities and frailties. We were brought together by hardcore and it was the most exciting thing in the world. I started playing in a band with some of them. I suddenly had a social life. We did everything together – went to shows, practiced, helped each other deliver newspapers, watched videos of old-school pro wrestling pay-per-views. We were inseparable, and I was starting to feel like I belonged.
The oldest guy in the group of friends was sort of our “hardcore mentor.” He made us this (now classic) mix tape that we all dubbed from one another. We all had sought out hardcore on our own and had already heard many amazing bands, but this guy (Greg Thompson) was like the hardcore Quentin Tarantino. He had every record, knew seemingly every word to every song (no matter how cliché or inane). His record collection was like a gold mine!
Duncan and Chad hair it up with Endpoint, Photo: Chris Bennett
One band I remember hearing on this important mix-tape was Endpoint. I remember asking Greg, “Hey, what’s with the singing?” I guess I had become used to hardcore vocalists who just screamed. He just smiled and passed me a copy of their album, Catharsis.
“Give it a chance,” he said.
I took it home and put on my headphones. I was riveted. Those surging, rapid-fire opening chords to “Caste” and Rob Pennington’s vocals were like an alarm clock inside my brain. It awakened something inside of me.
Then came “Remember,” the song quoted above. As I followed along I noticed feelings I’d never felt building inside of me. It was strange. Normally I kept everything bottled up inside. Suddenly, I felt a tear roll down my cheek. I could completely identify with the lyrics.
Looking back, a lot of my misery was my own fault. I allowed life to happen to me instead of making life happen for me. For whatever reason I felt helpless and hopeless. But as I heard this song, something inside of me changed.
Someone out there understood, and things were going to be okay.
I played the rest of the record and was enthralled. The music was really unique: a blend of emotionally raw punk rock, melodic, Dischord-style post-hardcore, and a multitude of other musical influences, many of them stemming from their experiences in the extremely diverse Louisville music scene. What came out of their amps was as inspiring as it was abrasive. The emotion was practically dripping off the sleeve of the record.
Rob with Endpoint at The Wetlands, NYC, Photo: Angela Boatwright
Many talk about the times they saw people cry at Endpoint shows. Perhaps this has been a bit exaggerated over the years? Only those who were there know the truth. Whatever the case, I can understand why these feelings were evoked. They played music with their hearts and spirits torn wide open. When you reveal that much of yourself to others, you’re bound to inspire empathy – especially when you have such genuinely kind people playing the music.
Greg mentioned that Endpoint was from Louisville, KY. I’ll be honest, my first thought was, “Wow, these hillbillies can play some really great hardcore.” I know, I know. What’s a guy from North Dakota got on Kentucky, right? Admittedly it was a stereotype. But it was one I was ecstatic to have shattered.
As I continued to listen I noticed that song after song addressed social and political issues, but they did it in such a compassionate way. These weren’t diatribes - they were creating a personal dialogue. Some of the more militantly political bands of the time did such a great job of awakening people to so many important issues. But sometimes these bands failed to do one thing: You have to recognize the humanity in people before expecting them to change. Endpoint spoke about these important personal and political issues, but they measured the anger, sadness, and frustration with a healing salve of understanding and serenity.
Maybe most importantly, Endpoint showed me (and many others) that it was okay to hurt, but that we should take that pain and learn from it, grow, improve, and forgive (both others and ourselves). I hadn’t learned to do that yet, but perhaps Catharsis was my first lesson.
What sealed the deal for me was hearing “Maturity.” I’d already run the gamut of emotions listening to the record, but the following lyrics triggered something else:
“Deep inside is a soul, you haven’t felt for years. Open up and feel the warmth that dries away all the tears. Don’t be scared of growing old, just grow towards the sky. Don’t waste time lost in yourself or life will pass you by.”
Endpoint at Club Pandemonium, Newtown PA, Photo: Adam Tanner
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was as if someone pulled me up by the back of my shirt, gave me a big hug, and pointed me in a new direction.
It was time to put my life together.
From that point on I still wrestled with lots of ups and downs, as anyone does. But I finally realized I had the power to not allow life’s occasional pitfalls bring me down. I also now had a second family to lean on when the times got tough, which they surely did (and still do) over and over again. But I was now somehow stronger, braver, more aware of myself.
As the song says, I matured.
Fast-forward about 15 years…
My life, again, took a strange twist. The woman I loved for the past decade told me she doesn’t love me anymore.
Rob with an Endpoint sing along, Photo: Dave Mandel
The day she told me her feelings I went for a walk. The cold winter breeze chilled me to the bone. Freezing, I went to my car to take a break for a moment. I instinctually turned on the ignition and “Strings” from The Last Record burst out of my stereo. Tears formed when I heard these words:
“Nothing’s simple when you’re broken, strings are twisted, eyes are stolen and when I feel like dancing, there’s nothing left of me today. Nothing matters when you’re voiceless And nothing gets through this hardwood skin. And when I feel like dancing, there’s nothing left of me today. And it’s so hard to pick myself up, and it’s oh so hard when your strings are twisted And I sit here waiting to be untied. I sit here waiting...”
This has been the hardest experience I’ve ever gone through. But I know I’m strong enough to move on. I know that I have the choice: either lie down passively and wallow in sadness and fear or pick myself up and, tenderly, take some steps forward day-by-day.
How am I so sure I can make it? I’m reminded of “Inside” and suddenly feel like I’m soaring:
“Melt the ice that has so long bound you, for your life has just begun Youth for you was oh so hard; I wore a mask to hide the scars. It took so long for me too see. I don’t want you to hurt like me. The truth is so damn hard to find. I spent my days lost in my mind, but now I reach toward the sky. So soar little boy, soar so high. Spread your wings, learn to fly, set your soul free before you die.”
Music has been like school for me. It has helped change my personal and political outlook; it’s caused me to empathize, learn, progress, reflect, and grow. It’s helped me realize who I am and who I aspire to be.
Rob, Duncan, Chad, Kyle, Lee, Pat, Jason, Rusty, and anyone else who played in Endpoint: Thank you for allowing me to take your class. I never would have graduated without you.
Endpoint is playing reunion shows to benefit their good friend Jason Noble (Rodan, Rachel’s, Shipping News) on May 14th and May 15th at Headliner’s Music Hall in Louisville, KY.
Duncan with Endpoint, Photo: Dave Mandel
Monday, May 3, 2010
Posted by DOUBLE CROSS at 10:05 PM