Whatcha Listening To, Brah?

That’s what some guy said to me last season on a perfect Colorado powder day at the top of Chair 39 in Blue Sky Basin.  I was shaking to a song on my iPod as I cranked down my Technine bindings.  Unless my headphones decide to quit I usually listen to music when I’m on solo missions.

Solo Ride in Blue Sky Basin - Vail, Colorado

I love discovering or re-discovering songs that I KNOW will be killer for the upcoming riding season and start building playlists months before the snow falls.  At the start of every run I repeat the same four steps: tighten boots, strap in, pick a song, adjust my gloves.  Then I’m ready to go.  But sometimes, depending on the song, I might wait to begin the run while the song gets going.  And sometimes I dance a little while I wait.

“Twisted Sister.”

“Wait…whadid you say, brah?”

“Twisted Sister?”

“That’s what I thought you said”

Confused and disappointed the dude headed off on his run.  What can I say, I grew up in the mid-80s in Massachusetts.  Like it or not, my first record was “Thriller” – it was on my Christmas list.  The first tape I bought on my own (from Strawberries: Records and Tapes, of course) was Huey Lewis and the News’ “Fore!” followed shortly after by Van Halen’s “5150”.  Growing up when I did meant I listened to Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, Skid Row, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Poison, and yup, Twisted Sister.

Def Leppard - Providence, RI 1993

1986 was a pivotal year for me.  I was eleven but my 10-speed gave me a small taste of independence.  And even though Jedi had come out three years earlier, Star Wars still consumed half of my preadolescent mind, baseball consumed the other half.  Later that year I’d finally understand what my father and grandfather warned me about when the Red Sox lost to the Mets.  It was also the year the Challenger exploded – an event that forced me to deal with the realities of life that, up until then, my small town had sheltered me from.  It makes sense that 1986 was the year I got into music – my own music.

Wade Boggs Boston Red Sox - 1984

Like most kids I listened to whatever my parents listened to and fortunately my parents were into Elvis, The Beatles and James Taylor.  But in 1986 I broke away and started exploring what else was out there.  There was no iTunes, no Sirius Satellite Radio, no YouTube, no Pandora, no Shazam, no Spotify, hell – no Internets!  So I found new music on the radio stations my older cousins and high school age neighbors listened to.  We were one of the last families in my neighborhood to get cable so although I wanted my MTV, my parents didn’t.  But my friends parents did.

For me music from 1986 means Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, George Harrison, Genesis, Dire Straits, Bruce Hornsby, The Cars, John Mellencamp, Van Halen, Peter Gabriel, Chicago, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Boston, Elvis Costello, The Moody Blues, Phil Collins, U2, Steve Winwood, Journey and Paul Simon.  Legendary bands and solo artists that are all well represented in my iTunes library and are played frequently.

Live Music in the Colorado Sunshine

This musical awakening led to more and more musical discovery and exploration that continued into the next year and the next and then into high school.  Guns n’ Roses, Poison, Kiss, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Ozzy, Warrant, Skid Row, ZZ Top, Rush, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Allman Brothers.

My high school years straddled the late 80s and early 90s so new bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Soundgarden found their place alongside Heart, Nelson (remember Nelson?!) and Mr. Big.  I hung around with an awesome group of friends who were all exploring music together.  A couple days before Christmas 1991 on a freezing cold night my best friends and I piled into a limo that dropped us in front of the Worcester Centrum for my first live concert ever – An Evening with Metallica.  In the years that followed Great Woods, Foxboro Stadium and the Providence Civic Center were the settings for more live music by the likes of Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, the Scorpions, Metallica, Guns n’ Roses and Pink Floyd. The floodgates were now permanently open with no chance of turning back.

Concert Tickets - Massachusetts

Scroll through my iTunes library today and you’ll find John Lee Hooker and The Rolling Stones, Phish and Dr. Dre, Grace Potter and Dexter Gordon, Mary J. Blige and Nickel Creek, Jack Johnson and BB King, Wyclef Jean and Widespread Panic, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Queen, Jay-Z and Taylor Swift, Rob Base and Shiny Toy Guns.

A couple days ago one of my favorite bloggers, shayboarder, tweeted “you know you enjoy a sport when you do it alone”.  It stayed with me the whole day because it’s absolutely real.  I love riding my snowboard whether I’m with a group or by myself.  After a day making turns in December powder or April mashed potatoes, there’s no chance of hiding my stoke.  And since 1986 I’ve been building this unbelievable playlist just for me for days when I’m riding solo.  It’s insane to think that this December 23rd will be 20 years that we saw Metallica in Worcester together.  20.  Even more insane is the power that music has to transport me back in time.  So I might be weaving in and out lodgepole pines by myself, but I’m taking a little piece of all my friends along for the ride.

I guess I could be embarrassed at some of the shit I listen to, but quite honestly – I just don’t care.  If you’re in Vail this winter you might spot me.  I’ll be the guy with the HUGE smile on my face, more than likely listening to “Don’t Treat Me Bad” by Firehouse.  Seriously.