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Cory Pedersen


Photo of reading at celebrationThe Entry

In any journey, there is always a first step. There is something supernatural about making the impossible, possible; the unreal, real; and turning dreams into reality. I can remember sitting in the office of the elementary school my 3rd grade year, and I was interviewed by a local radio station. This was part of a weekly segment the station had as part of its programming. The radio announcer asked me several questions that day, but only one has remained with me.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Two things immediately came to mind and spewed from my lips. The first was, “I want to be an archaeologist.” I had recently discovered the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Dr. Jones made digging in the dirt for artifacts look really cool and exciting. My second answer was, “Or, I want to be a Rock Star.”

Hanging out under the 7th Street Entry stage was nothing new for me. I had been there a multitude of times before throughout the years when I would come down to the cities to see my favorite bands play. Chilling in the basement was part of the pre-show routine where loading-in the gear took place like 5 hours before the actual show and was done in 20 minutes, so there was a lot of time to kill getting wasted downstairs before the bands performed. It’s weird how much the space under the stage stayed the same after all this time. It still smelled of stale beer and booze with a mixture of cigarette and weed smoke haunting the air. The walls always black. On them, silver ink messages and graffiti read like hieroglyphics, when pieced together, gave the history of the underground music scene. Exposed black pipes hung from the ceiling wore the paper armor of decades of band stickers. The old van seat that was used as a couch had been down there so long that it had worn thin and in some spots there remained no fabric at all, just the yellow foam blackened with dirt, smoke and the grunge of countless musicians, fans, dealers, hipsters, and friends. Black marker messages scribbled across the seat were faded and worn thin as the couch. Yes, looking around everything seemed familiar, comfortable, just as it had looked since the club opened (or at least since I had been allowed into the fold), but standing there, in the middle of all those nameless musicians, fans and hipsters, this time was different. This time it was my turn to walk those steps and perform on the stage I had only ever stood in front of praying to have my chance to be in the spotlight.

There were so many that had played that stage and left me with mouth agape and unable to sleep. The list of performers reads like a “who’s who” and is so long it fills volumes of the City Pages or silver stars on the black exterior of an old bus depot. The memories of those divine performances stayed fresh in my mind as though they were happening live in front of me and stayed for weeks before fading into the recesses of memory.

Even though this was to be the first time I was performing in front of an audience for all to see, hear, and judge, I was never really nervous, at least not like I was when I was kid. I can remember in high school while doing plays, I was so nervous that I was standing backstage asking myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” My stomach in knots, my skin wet and clammy, and my head so light I felt faint. To be fair, I do know the reason; it was a girl.

This time was different. The nerves I had were faint butterflies that tickled my stomach and gave me energy. I’m sure I was grinning like a thief who remained undiscovered as he strolled past a cop and turned a corner never to be found out. I felt a certain power and focus, and as the night went on, those feelings intensified to where I felt as though I owned the room and the people in it. If they didn’t know that when we started playing, they would sure as hell know it by the time we finished.

I must not have been projecting my newfound confidence since Hollywood felt the need to pull me aside and give me a pep talk before the show. He was a good coach, a real motivator, but by the time he had completed his monologue, I was not sure if the talk was for him or me. Even though the other members of the band, Hollywood, Roscoe, and The Captain had been together since childhood, they too were taking a huge risk. They were taking a new path by leaving behind a successful instrumental surf-rock band. Some were trying out new roles, and they were doing it with me, a guy who was nearly a complete stranger, who had never gone public with his dream, standing center stage, oh, and Dave the drummer. Yeah, I can see why Hollywood needed to talk. It is good he had a chance to speak his mind because as he finished the call came to complete the orchestrated ballet known as setting the stage.

Bringing your gear to the stage for the first time is always a little awkward especially when you are the lead singer. I can remember as a kid standing in the audience watching bands set up equipment while the lead singer was standing at the bar flirting with the heavily tattooed goth/punk bartender in ripped fishnet stockings and a short skirt, thinking that he was a slacker. What I realized is that after lifting the speaker cabs and amps to the stage, there is really not that much for a lead singer to do until sound check.

I stood on stage trying to help the guys set up, but since they had done this a million times before, it was evident that I was in the way. I hopped off the stage and stood in front watching the quiet work the others were doing. Before it even seemed possible, the first notes were coming from Hollywood’s half stack amp and soon after the rumbling of the bass through The Captain’s full stack. On one side of the stage, Roscoe had already set up and was running through chords for his first shot at playing rhythm guitar. Dave was on the rear of the stage fumbling with his drum kit. There was something about this guy that made him appear terminally confused. This should have come as no surprise since he was always fumbling about.

Since the band was tuning, I had time to get a glass of water from the bar and head back downstairs. I could tell the activities of the basement were in full effect before I reached the platform where the stairs turned to make their final descent into the abyss. Plumes of smoke hung midair and stung my nostrils. The scent of hard liquor, sweet and familiar, permeated the space, but none for me on this momentous evening. Shaggy haired men with bearded faces wore brand new “vintage” t-shirts and pre ripped and tattered jeans, happily passing around a bowl. Pass me by sticky sweet temptation, pass me by.

This evening was too important for that kind of pre-game warm-up. There is no greater drug in the world than pure emotion and raw feelings. When playing a show, the stage is a dealer and I am a powerless junkie. On this night, I did not know how powerful it would be, or that I would become an instant addict, but when the feelings are so intense, you have no choice but to surrender to the moment.

After making small talk with stoned, red-eyed reef heads, I made my way back upstairs since it was nearing the time for sound check. The band was able to assemble rather quickly, except for Dave. Somehow, between setting his gear and sound check, he went missing, just wandered off to some dark corner and was not easily found. Although we had thoroughly searched the club, Dave somehow appeared through a doorway that had been searched no more than 90 seconds earlier. It is said that ghosts haunt First Avenue. Maybe he was just visiting some old friends.

Having assembled all the members of our 5 piece, we worked our way to the stage. We were all sort of looking at one another with an uncertain gaze. We all knew that the gig had been booked and spent several months practicing at the rehearsal space, so we knew what we were supposed to do, but the formidable setting gave us pause.

“Alright, can I get some lead guitar?” came blaring through the P.A. system from a shadowed figured in the back of the club.

Hollywood hit a power G chord, he hit it again, and then out of nowhere he had summoned the power of the Metal Gods and began ferociously tearing into a brutal assault of notes and scales that could have brought Goliath to his knees. His display of raw talent and years of dedication to his craft were so impressive that I had lost a sense of where I was. In that moment, I was an awestruck 14-year-old fan. Being so mesmerized by Hollywood’s sound check, I had not heard the tech’s frustrated voice.

“Hey, center vocals, CENTER VOCALS!”

In an instant, I snapped out of the fog and realized where I was.


“Oh, ah, check?” came through my microphone, not quite sure what to say. I realized that I had never mic checked before this night. At the practice space, we just goofed off to check the P.A. by playing ballads of our favorite hair metal bands, or by making fun of 80’s pop music by performing it as a Vegas lounge act. There were times our goofing around sounded pretty good, almost better than the original in my opinion. 80’s pop was pretty horrible.

I continued to sound check the mic and it must have been good enough since the next thing I heard was the disembodied voice ringing through the empty club. “Background vocals left, then right,” pierced through the monitors. We continued this game of call and respond until all of the mics and instruments were culminated into a buttery mix. Then I heard from the darkened booth in the back of the club, “Alright, everything looks and sounds good, play a song.”

Now I know this was still only sound check, but my inner voice was thinking, “You mean like right now? Just start playing a song on this majestic stage in front of you and the bartender?” I looked to the left and Hollywood just looked back and shrugged his shoulders. I looked to my right and Roscoe’s nonverbal posture connoted the question: “Now what?” I looked back to Dave and The Captain, the same. The questioning gaze came full circle back to Hollywood and his sage-like voice suggested, “Let’s do ‘Voices.’”

Thus we began, the bass, drums, and rhythm guitar laid down the foundation, then Hollywood came in with a mighty power chord, then another, and another until the intro riff reached the eerie pre-chorus riff. The farther Hollywood went into the riff, the closer it came to when I would have to open my mouth and sing, making myself vulnerable to the strangers in the room, naked to the world. Alright, coming to the last measure, deep breath and ....

In any journey, there is always a first step. There is something supernatural about making the impossible, possible; the unreal, real; and turning dreams into reality. All I know is on that cold January night, a little boy’s dreams were fulfilled. Well, I never traveled the globe brandishing a bullwhip trying to outsmart Nazis in pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant, but for one night, up on that stage where the filth of Rancid, the sweat of the Evils, the blood of GG, the torn flannel fibers of Hüsker Dü, and the sequins of the Rev were still imbedded in the stage, I was a Rock Star.