Sunday, April 20, 2008

Aaron Chrietzberg - The First Step

This is part of an ongoing piece where we asked various people from bands over the years what they recall as the most memorable show they ever played (or attended, if they were never in a band), and why. What is posted here is only a sliver of what is to come, so be sure to check back. -DCXX

Playing in a HC band can be a real trip, at times it can be a real mind twister. One thing I told myself when people started paying any attention to THE FIRST STEP was "alright – I am not going to let this effect me whether things are good or bad." Well try as I might – I wasn't always successful at that. At one point, it felt like THE FIRST STEP (TFS) could do no wrong. Everywhere we looked were enthusiastic friends looking to us to provide them with straight edge hardcore. A few years later of course things had changed. We were able to see what kind of idiots we were at times, yesterday's "friends" were today's "regrets," and other people had changed and that's just how it goes. The way that happened for us was funny though. I don't think it was the kind of thing where anyone set out to do anyone wrong. On the contrary, I think HC is basically people growing up, learning, making mistakes, following their instincts and doing whatever makes sense at the time.

Anyways, around 2005 I really wasn't too happy about the Hardcore scene around me. I had made a few good friends in the last few years who I was no longer close with. First on the list was our old bass player, Andy Norton. Andy was easily one of the best people I had ever been in a band with. But, as anyone who has been in band can tell you, at times you can easily forget about that kind of stuff and let the silliest things get between you. Basically – TFS had broken up a few years before and Andy and I grew distant during that period and disagreed on getting it going again.

At this time Andy was playing bass for our old friends
CHAMPION. A few years before we had done a tour together, as well as played several shows. We were both somewhat new bands at the time, and I would say that our tour together was one where we grew, experienced a lot of things for the first time and generally had a blast. However, while our bands sounded quite similar, for a few years after we had managed to drift apart. CHAMPION was touring heavily, and we were doing our own thing. This wasn't the kind of thing where there was "shit talking" or bad vibes of course – but it was more of a mutually curious "man I have NO IDEA what's going on with those guys."

THE FIRST STEP and CHAMPION finally played together, after
about 2.5 years, in Florida. I enjoyed their set and I thought "man I miss playing with these guys." The CHAMPION guys were as friendly as I had remembered them and it was great to catch up. But things were definitely not settled with myself and Andy. I hadn't felt good about our falling out for quite awhile. I decided to take this show as an opportunity to confront Andy and apologize for letting things slip. For the uninitiated – Andy has A LOT of love. He is such a friendly and generous guy – but when you are on the wrong side of that – it feels cold. Anyways – after the show I told him "hey man – I really miss our friendship and I acknowledge that I did you wrong. I let you down – and I apologize." It was a hard thing to say – but it was really how I felt. He accepted my apology – but seemed to have an equally awkward time with that interaction.

So that's the backstory! And now onto the show! It was early summer of 05, THE FIRST STEP were doing a weekend of final shows with OUR TURN. Our San Diego show at the CHE CAFE included CHAMPION, and Aram's new band BETRAYED. It was good to see CHAMPION so soon again. They had their first drummer back in the band which meant that it was basically like "reuniting" the bands who had toured together several years before. I still hadn't seen Andy at the show though.

OUR TURN played, and I remember it being the best time I had seen them. They weren't around very long and were already breaking up – so it was nice to see them play in a nice packed venue with a good stage for diving. Where TFS was a band of uniform and solidarity – OUR TURN was a band of diversity. It was clear this weekend that they were beginning to go their different directions. But at this show they were tight. Carl, their singer, really went crazy that night. It showed that he wasn't just posturing as a HC singer doing moves, but that he was really putting all of himself into the set. I mentioned it to him later and he said he was "just aware that this show would probably be their last." He also had this blue San Fransico Wrestling type shirt on. It looked STRONGLY like the JOHN JAY shirts that we knew from investigating BOLD photos. Good look Carl! He confessed later that the shirt was really from a "gay men's clothing line." Best looking guy at the show!

I believe BETRAYED played next. They were new – but quickly had a STRONG following. I remember being really stoked on them as they started. Mainly because they were all friends of mine prior to being a band, and it was obvious that they were going to do some good things. I was excited for Greg because he had recently gone through a rough patch with his bands. I was particularly excited to see my friend Aram sing. Aram was the first member of CHAMPION I met. He is the kind of Hardcore kid who will walk right up to you at a show and start talking and sharing with you. In our tours together he was always having deep talks, or cutting up, making big plans, and he is VERY straight edge. A lot of dudes just end up on the mike – but he was ideal for it and he had A LOT to say. I was glad to see my friend up on stage sharing himself, and not another kid who was playing around to get some attention. Lastly – I had recently made amends with my friend Todd Jones. He could be as hardheaded and stubborn as me – but it felt better to be cool with each other again. I was excited to hear what new riffs he had and how he was always taking his ideas and sound farther – particularly at this time.

Then THE FIRST STEP was up. I remember I was nervous to play after BETRAYED. We hadn't played California in a while and I wasn't sure if kids still had the love. I was wrong. The place was ape for TFS. Something about "the Che" is that they have these rafters that kids could swing on and then kind of dive. I remember our friend Larry Ransom heckling Greg Bacon. Something that Todd Jones initiated at this time was a "GREG BACON" chant. It would start small, but then you'd have a whole show chanting "GREG BACON." This was awesome because Greg can be a bit shy and reserved – but he deserves love. Anyways – the part that this was all building to was yet to come. We always ended our set with our song "THE FIRST STEP." During the "preMOSH break" Greg handed his bass to Andy, who I still hadn't seen that night, and Andy played the rest of the song. I remember him really going off and being happy. While at the FL show it felt like we merely talked – at this show it felt like things were going to be ok afterall! After the song ended – we decided to play WOLFPACK by DYS to the appreciation of the crowd.

Seeing Andy play with us again really blew my mind. A few
months before I felt that was a bridge which I had burnt and would never be able to retrace. It was also similarly nice to be around my old friends in CHAMPION and Todd Jones and feel great vibes instead of silly "uncertain" HC vibes.

There are a lot of great times to be had in HC – but you
can't really enjoy them on your own. The people around you, and what they have to offer are our opportunity to participate and connect with this music. Without your friends you can easily become just an isolated nerd. To me – this show was REALLY good in terms of recent\ HC shows (great line up), great energy from the crowd, great turn out; but what made it memorable to me was reconciling with good friends. I believe in reconciliation and it felt great to be forgiven and to connect with my friends.

Sarva Mangalam,
Aaron Chrietzberg

Karma Jinpa Zangpo


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