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The girl with pink hair is in the opening band. Later, she will sing and writhe on the stage. Her red microphone cord will be wrapped around her head and neck so tight that it will leave marks. But right now the couple working the door don’t know who she is. The are taking tickets and checking identification. They either don’t recognize her or don’t believe her when she tells them she’s performing. “I can show you my ID,” she says, “If I have to.” They tell her that, yes, that would be good. The girl with pink hair opens her pocket book and the couple at the door check a sheet of paper and wave her through. The couple at the door are with the company that is promoting the show.

On August 9, 2012, the legendary Iron Maiden were playing in Irvine, and as a rock journalist, I sort of had to go. I mean, it was Iron Maiden and this wasn’t just any ordinary tour; the band were dusting off a handful of rare gems, scattering them across a setlist of classics that inspired metal fans across the US to hail this tour as their best yet. Moreover, they were playing at a sprawling outdoor amphitheater in the belly button of Southern California on a warm summer evening—an ineffably inviting backdrop for live music.

And yet, I didn’t go.  Agalloch, the mysterious psychedelic black metal outfit from Portland, Oregon, were playing The Casbah here in San Diego, and in the remote but statistically viable chance that I passed away on August 10, I wanted to ensure that my blink of an existence did not pass without experiencing this preponderant act in a rare and intimate live setting.

I can feel your anxiety from here.

Christmas is just over two weeks away and you’ve still got shopping to do.  You opted for the “lots of little presents” route, instead of the “one big enchilada” route, and now you find yourself a few gifts short of a stocking.  Worse, you’ve got one or more rockers on your list, and they’re such ungrateful snobs that you’re afraid to get them anything having to do with music for fear of the inevitable snarky comment ending with the word “lame.”

What’s an elf to do?

Relax- I’ve got you covered.

Humping Gear

By Tyler McMahon

Music

The secret to rock and roll resides in the nose hairs. Years ago, a veteran bassist taught us to pluck them in order to stay awake during all-night drives. I remind Josh of this, as the sign for the last Truckee exit glows green and white in the van’s headlights then disappears into the darkness.

Eli snores from the back seat, wedged between amps, instrument cases, and the world’s heaviest Hammond organ.

“Maybe we should stop,” I say.

“Too late,” Josh says. “We passed all our crash pads.”

For the last few months, everything obscure that has popped into my mind has found its way into reality.A conversation about an old neighbor from twenty five years ago led to an unsolicited email in my Inbox from that neighbor’s son a few days later.When I couldn’t remember my third grade teacher’s name, I asked my Mom, who promptly ran into her in a mall parking lot a week after our conversation.I think of things, and they happen.

Before I got on the plane for the Middle East this past week, Joe Daly sent me a playlist for my iPod – a playlist that included Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules (my absolute favorite track from the Dio-era Sabbath).In the spirit of the song I started a Facebook conversation taking pot shots at the singer on another friend’s page.I’ve never disliked Dio, but it is hard to deny that he is easy to make fun of.And so we did.As a few of us took turns skewing his lyrics, I had to listen to more and more of his music for research, and as I did so, I found myself singing it in my head.Holy Diver, Man on the Silver Mountain, Rainbow in the Dark… it was the soundtrack as I trekked through the desert all week.

De gustibus non est disputandum.

Even before I became a Latin major in college (another in a long and colorful string of jackass moves by yours truly), I knew what this sentence meant.  It basically means “there’s no accounting for taste.”

From my earliest age, music has been manna for my soul.  It has been one of the primary platforms where I relate to the world (and to myself).  From my first album (Glen Campbell, “Wichita Lineman”), to my first concert (Aerosmith, 1984, Worcester, MA), through tens of thousands of LPs, cassettes, cds, MP3s, concerts, shows, festivals, mix tapes, radio stations, etc., right up to the last time I played guitar (twenty minutes ago), music has accompanied me in virtually all endeavors, big and small.  As I compose this article, I am listening to the album “Wrecking Ball,” by Dead Confederate.

For every trip I’ve taken, there has been a corresponding mix.  Every relationship, an artist. I have go-to albums for every mood, and to this day few things excite me more than making a mix for a friend.  My tastes, like Tiger Woods’ girlfriends, are all over the place.

I don’t know if Mark was the Paul to my John or if maybe I was the Keith to his Mick.  We got along far better than Glenn Frey and Don Henley, dressed more casually than Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, and didn’t carry handguns like Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.  We were just a couple guys on Chicago’s North Side that loved rock and roll.

Mark and I had known each other for some time before we discovered our shared passion for rock.  But when the day came that we finally got around to discussing music, two things were revealed: 1) we loved The Rolling Stones; and 2) our favorite hobby was playing guitar.   You may reasonably assume that the reason we each viewed playing our instruments as a hobby rather than a career was largely a function of our musical abilities.