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How to Go Back in Time

Black Happy - black happy reunion showHow often do you get to go back in time? I don’t mean spending a weekend with a friend from college– I mean really feeling like 15 years hasn’t actually flown by? Well, I lived it last Saturday night. I went back in time to a place where I didn’t have kids, a mortgage, the Internet didn’t exist and I had no idea who I was going to be.

If you went to college in the northwest during the early 90’s then you know who Black Happy is. You also know how important they were to people during that time. The music was like nothing you’d ever heard before. Was it metal? Jazz? Rock? Funk? Country? Yes. It was all that. And they weren’t just a college band, they were something else.

The band broke up after making a huge impact on the Northwest music scene, but just before hitting it big in 1995. They vanished from the scene and the rest of us got on with our lives and eventually migrated into the workforce. We had three of their CD’s to listen to (which I still do) and the occasional discussion would pop-up about a possible reunion show. We were almost oblivious to the fact that almost 15 years had gone by — and who gets back together after 15 years? Especially with just regional success … this wasn’t Van Halen. It was different.

Well, the band got back together this past weekend. Our 1% chance actually came through. Fifteen years had gone by, and while their fans had put on weight, lost hair and had families — you couldn’t tell when the music started.

Back when the band was big, most of us were finishing college. It was a time in our lives where we partied like hell, seemed pretty shallow and didn’t have a clue of what we were going to do. On the outside it looked pretty sweet, but on the inside no one really knew what was going to happen. For the first time, that next step in our lives wasn’t so clear. It was a defining moment. We were officially on our own.

When you have a defining moment in your life you remember something as special as music. Music isn’t TV, it isn’t a movie and it isn’t a painting on the wall. It’s more. While it means something different to everyone, the music you experienced at an important time in your life has added importance. Especially when the band doesn’t sound like anything else you’ve ever heard before.

Most people at the show last weekend had become parents, and damn, it would have been cool for their kids to see them. Not only were they having a blast — they were alive. They sang every word, made every “inside chant” that only Black Happy fans know and bounced up and down for over two and a half hours. For the first time in a decade I saw stage diving and crowd surfing. And the stage-divers went from weighing 170 lbs. in 1993 to 220+ lbs. in 2010. It was a little scary. Like a hammered Doug Heffernan coming at you after 7 vodka and Red Bulls.

While all were enjoying the music they never thought they’d hear live again, they couldn’t help but think back to a simpler time when they had their whole life ahead of them. They had a career to tackle, a soul mate to meet, and mistakes to make.

I tempered my expectations. The band would be older, with less energy and I decided I could live with a show that was good, but not great. I just wanted to be taken back in time and hear those timeless songs again.

The band had aged. Instead of long hair and skinny guys jumping all over the place, the hair was short, receding and they were a little thicker. But all be damned if the music wasn’t better. They just didn’t rehearse a couple of times and pick up a check. These guys had really worked out the kinks. They were tight, excited and produced a wall of sound. Like they got that one last shot in front of an insane crowd that they never thought they’d see again.

The funny thing is that I’m sure there are bands like this all across the country. Bands who have touched an entire region, but never broke big. Guys in their 40’s from California to Boston still talk about them and listen to old CD’s while on their way to work, thinking about a different time. Not necessarily better, but different.

Black Happy 2010 at the Croc in Seattle

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