'Post Traumatic' Relief with Mike Shinoda
(I put my heart and soul into this post, I hope the people I've met and friends I've made over the last week really enjoy it. --RS)
Let me start this off by simply stating a band name synonymous in music history from my generation: Linkin Park. The band I had been following since the very beginning provided me with an escape from the daily struggles I put up with on a constant basis at a much younger age than I am now. However, those things don't just disappear. In fact, they might change and become something different but that's okay. Bullying became grief for me as the years went on and you learn to adapt and adjust to the way you handle those things. The only thing that didn't change? The support I received from six guys and the music they provided. Emotionally charged, forever embraced.
I had made a ton of friends over the years too because of this band. They connected me with so many fans on a world stage locally (and digitally too.) through their own fan club called 'Linkin Park Underground', I even became a moderator for a short time. It was and still is amazing to think about. I even forged relationships through fan forums such as LPAssociation. I'm still grateful for those that I'm still friends with many of those today.
Things tragically changed for all of us, for every fan of Linkin Park back in July of 2017. I will say this and only this, losing Chester Bennington was extremely difficult. Everything compounded and the magnitude of the situation on top of everything me or you or anyone else may have felt was as if the world stopped. We lost a friend, some lost a brother, father, bandmate, etc. We had lost an incredible soul that could reach out to you in a way like no other could, even if you hadn't met him, you knew about how beautiful that soul was and still is. I try not to think of the negative, it's really hard not to. To me, between that day and the four plus months or so after were some of the hardest days I ever faced and I wasn't in a good spot mentally, but there is a positive in all of it.
I gained more friends that I ever though I would. Only July 28th, which would have been the day of the 'Blinkin Park' show of the One More Light North American tour at Citi Field, instead of going to a show I and many other fans in the New York area got together and attended a vigil in remembrance of Chester right outside the field by the big apple. With my left-handed acoustic Fender in hand, I traveled via train all the way out to Citi Field not sure what to expect. I had practiced songs and the closer I got to the field, I wasn't sure if I was even going to play at the thing. Something within me told me to do it, just do it. On 'Post Traumatic', Mike has a song called 'Holding It Together', the lyrics of that song could literally describe how I felt as I mustered up the courage to open the case, slide on the guitar and got over two-hundred fans I didn't even know to sing 'Shadow of The Day' and 'Leave Out All the Rest'. In fact, that was a highlight of mine, even Corey Taylor watched a clip of me on Instagram. Another guitarist showed up, we even had a ukulele, surrounding the apple jamming to songs over a portable speaker.
The only thing I wanted everyone to do though was just sing. I think what settled in my mind and why I decided to play was we weren't going to get that opportunity to sing with Chester. So by doing that, it was my way of letting everyone know, "It's going to be okay." That's become my daily passage a friend told me and things have been better since then.
But I knew there was a single thing that I needed to come full circle. The Hollywood Bowl show was so hard to watch. I couldn't go, I was an emotional wreck from that night on despite just how beautiful that show truly was. I had seen Linkin Park a little more than a half dozen times. I gave up my own presale codes to those at Citi Field that really wanted to go to that show and I wanted them to experience what I had. It was cathartic to do that but wasn't quite enough, I needed to know that things were truly going to be okay. I really wasn't. I needed a voice, beats, sounds. I needed music. Something to 'speak' to me. The songs I played at Citi Field are memorable songs for sure, but they'll have that connection to the past despite the love I have for them. Then a little while later Mike let us all know, "I'm working on something new, new songs."
Not knowing where it was going to go, I was in full support and I was excited. Finally, maybe, I could get the closure I needed. The second the album went up for pre-sale order I was sitting on the side of the road in Manhattan by the Javitz Center doing work and immediately ordered the Post Traumatic art book. Fans were getting into it, big time. Requests for a tour started world wide and the fans could request their city through a web site called "wedemand.com". Shortly after a few shows in the Los Angeles area, Camden was announced as a venue for the Post Traumatic tour, then a meet and greet at Looney Tunes CD in West Babylon and the LP|NYC 7.28 family that got together at Citi Field was all fingers crossed for a performance in New York City.
I was down in Tennessee just recently when the meet and greet was announced, I knew West Babylon was a bit of a trip. After thinking about it, I wasn't going to go, it was just far and traffic sucks out there. Sunday, on the way back home from Tennessee, Judy who started our Facebook group wasn't going to hear it, I couldn't pass on it over messenger, "You're going! No butts! I ordered an extra wristband!" I was going! So after getting home from the week I had spent down south, I couldn't believe how fast one thing led to another. "I'm going to perform at Gramercy Theater June 20th, be there." As soon as Mike posted that on Instagram with a doodle, that was it. Tickets had to be had and I don't think we really knew the severity of the whole thing. The tri-state area was just as ready and excited as we were.
Through a collective effort, we managed to score about ten tickets between myself, Judy and Colleen for ourselves and some in our group that weren't able to get them the morning of the sale. Tickets to the show were practically gone before they even reached the general sale. We made plans real quick. Buy cheap folding chairs, bring food, meet at Gramercy for noon because there was no way we were going to be in the back.
First, the meet and greet. That was wonderful! Twenty-two of us made the trip and got together at Looney Tunes to meet Mike. The girls were...fangirling and I thought I was pretty cool about it. I thought, yeah it's cool, I've talked to him on the phone before, been featured on his blog (If you guys remember Amazing Aggregators, my ATS Best Buy show video was on there.) I should be fine. We had a portable speaker, sang along and wore plenty of flannel. Lorenzo of Linkin Park Underground took a bunch of pictures and video of us being complete nerds in line but it was great. I loved it! When it came time to go inside I was preparing a few things to say in my head but suddenly I froze up, I thought, "Honestly what was there for me to say that Mike already hasn't heard before? Especially with so many people in front of me." So when it came to my turn the conversation went like...
"Hey Mike, I'm Schen."
"Hey Schen! Nice to meet you! Let's get a photo!"
"Thanks man, I really appreciate it. I'll be at the show on Wednesday."
"Great, awesome man! I can't wait either!"
"Okay Mike, see you later!"
Yep. I kept it short for sure, I could have said so much more but I guess I'm making up for that now. The next day following the meet and greet, I was working in Manhattan again and once again by the Javitz Center. I found Sal on Facebook and took a shot, sent him a message, just to see if I would get a response. I did! And for the first time too. We just talked about the band and our lives for a good two, maybe three hours. For those that don't know who Sal is, he's been to fifty-two Linkin Park shows across the country, essentially known as Linkin Park's biggest fan, but the way our conversation went was as if we knew each other for years. I knew I found yet another person I could have a connection with and call friend.
The album release show of 'Post Traumatic' at Gramercy was getting better and more exciting by the second.
Myself and Colleen took an early train into the city with our foldable chairs and a bag of chips just before noon. As we walked out of Penn Station, the line was packed for cabs so we decided to hike it a bit then get a cab the rest of the way over to Gramercy. Once there, we met with our friend Rahat and about eight people were in line. Over the next seven hours, friends came pouring in from all over. We made plenty of new ones too. Jim Digby came by and talked with us for a little while, the folks at Gramercy brought out two big cases of water for us. Each of us took breaks every now and then, swapping seats, taking walks, one of us got two boxes of donuts and then we ordered three pizzas for delivery. Judy went missing for a little bit before she came back with ANOTHER portable speaker to play music. This was absolutely amazing. About thirty of us made a city street corner outside of the venue a small pit party. Sal told me he used to wait outside venues for up to twelve hours. I was pretty content with seven. The second longest I've waited was the second Madison Square Garden performance. That was six hours but it was also 34 degrees.
Finally, after hours of waiting in line, the doors open and we get in. Our group huddled to the right of center. Even then it felt like an eternity before the show actually started, so me, Chivon, and John attempted to get the crowd hyped up. "YO MIKEEEE!", "MIKE! MIKE! MIKE! MIKE! MIKE!", "SAL! SAL! SAL!", "HEY TECH GUY!" The crowd would cheer every now and then when tech guy would walk out on stage and Chivon would say out loud, "THAT'S. NOT. MIKE." We were laughing so much and just enjoying each others company. I got a tap on my right should, John says someone wants to talk to you and I look over at a guy my age with a phone showing me one of my photos I shot at the Garden in 2008. "Are you Ron? I'm Phil! You took this photo of me reaching over the railing for Chester." I'm like blown away this is even happening. I took that ten years ago, somehow that kid in that photo is standing next to me at this show. Speaking of the show...
The lights go dim, there's more Mike chants and music starts to play. Mike's voice is heard and the crowd screams. The set starts off with "Welcome" and everyone from the front to the back is into it. Next, we are treated to some new songs from the album, "Place to Start" and "Watching As I Fall". Just wow, nobody missed a word or beat of those first three songs. A short break takes place and Mike asks if were having a good time. "I'm so excited." he says and talks about some of the recent shows he says before a fan shouts out "Come to Sao Paulo!" which is also an inside joke within LPU, "Come to Brazil!" He mentions the set list is going to be a mix of everything before going into "Castle of Glass" and a shortened version of "When They Come For Me". I'm still waiting to try the ketchup.
Mike takes a minute with us to talk about what we see today on social media. About how bad it is to open an app on your phone and be exposed to the things that make us uncomfortable, stressed or discouraged. He asks if anyone can relate and many do.
A familiar guitar riff plays an it's "Kenji", an amazing song that's actually a powerful story about Mike's family and many Japanese natives facing the days of nuclear bombs and internment camps stateside and in Japan. He follows up by performing "Roads Untraveled". Earlier I mentioned the Hollywood Bowl show and many of those in our group attended that show too. It stirred some strong emotions and we consoled each other. At this point for the remainder of the song I was facing the crowd singing. Some had the lights on their phones on. Chester was with us. I personally love Roads Untraveled, everyone sings together. Chester would get the crowd into the chorus on "Hands Held High" like we were in "Church on Sunday." We actually did do the first verse too, completely accapella and it was amazing.
"Ghosts" begins to play and before you know it, there are hands in the air dressed in Boris and Mrs. Oatmeal sock puppets. We took things a step further and our socks were red flannel. Mike is all smiles, I was kinda hoping he would crack and start laughing but for what he was doing for us, it was cool to send the support right back. He tells us a story about "QWERTY", about how the song was written on the way to Japan, how fans were so excited for the next album and that song was the complete opposite. After that story, it's mashup time. "Waiting for the End/Where'd You Go" and the crowd is really into it. I heard one guy behind me mention how awesome this was. "Sorry for Now" follows up and Mike asks if we would like to hear a demo verse that didn't make it onto the album. He finishes up with "Crossing A Line".
The tone is quieter now. "In The End" begins to play, piano only. Of all the songs I heard Mike perform at previous venues over streams that were going to be performed, I felt confident enough to make it through this one. About the second verse in though, I lost it. I couldn't sing. My eyes teared up, I sang that hook on the second verse with Chester at the first Garden show. He stopped right in front of me and we shook hands, the image wouldn't leave my head. Even now it's difficult writing this. I was cool enough to come back in on the end of the breakdown.
"I want you to know, that, when we do that, some people get really sad and I want you to know, that for me, I know that you're feeling that and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that and as I've gone on and done that song more and more, it turns it into for me, a celebration." Mike said. I felt better after that.
Now we jump into a three song mashup of "About You", "Over Again" and " Papercut". The crowd goes nuts as Mike jumps down to the barricade to sing with the fans. The pit is moving and I'm like, "Woah, this is new." I've never felt a pit move the way it did, ever. I wasn't caught off guard, I expected it but on a scale of 1-10, most pits I've been have been a solid 4. This was a 7 and the show wasn't over yet. It was time for another new song debut, "Make It Up As I Go" begins and Mike asks the females in the audience to sing K. Flay's chorus for him. That song goes over really well with the crowd. We reach the final mashup in the setlist, "Good Goodbye/Bleed It Out" and he does something that takes us all by surprise and crowd surfs. To say the least I think he's just as excited as we are.
Heading into the encore, we get hyped up by "Remember the Name" and everyone is bouncing. There's one more album debut, "I.O.U.", were all shouting the chorus and the bass line hits hard. Finally, to wrap up the show Mike thanks everyone for coming out and we jump into "Running From My Shadow". This is where things get really chaotic. The floor is moving, not the floor itself but the crowd. I'm not at any of the previous Linkin Park shows I've been to anymore. No, this crowd is going right back to 2001 guys. This is a Hybrid Theory crowd and here comes Mike to our side of the barricade. I'm holding my ground with Anja and Zhenya in front of me, making sure the girls stay safe, but it's getting really crazy.
I'm now standing there, I look up and Mike is now about 3-4 feet above me and everyone else on the break down that Grandson does. "Running from my shadow, now my shadow is my only friend!" and Mike is in full flight mode and I'm like, laughing at myself going "well crap, this should be good". Me and about three rows behind me go down to the floor. Zhenya lost her shoe and I'm taking knees to the ribs to make sure she's okay for what felt like an eternity before John reaches down and pulls me up. "PICK THEM UP! PICK THEM UP!" I can hear vaguely over the audio before the song ends. I turn up finally and look back at Mike asking "You okay? Are you okay?", we all okay back.
The show is over, but for at least another half hour he takes his time to sign things, take selfies and videos with fans. Mike signed a cassette tape copy of Hybrid Theory for me, probably the oldest Linkin Park thing I have. I do have to say, I loved every. Single. Second of that show. That show last night was everything that I wanted to experience when I was younger and never could. At the same time this was the show that sealed it for me, that everything was going to be okay because I had spent hours with amazing friends outside and inside the venue. It was so worth it to be sitting out there, having fun and enjoying each others company for hours. I'll remember this show for years. I've never experienced anything like it and when you do with with a group of people you love, it doesn't get much better than that.
Last but not least, thank You Mike Shinoda for putting on an amazing performance. For meeting all of us at your meet and greet at Looney Tunes and taking the time to talk to each and every one of us. I personally feel better, I'm much more relieved than I was months and years ago and it wasn't just you, but the people I had surrounding me on this journey that have given me the strength, love and passion back way more than I ever thought I could get. From that very first album till now, every song has struck an emotion at some point to some degree, but it was my escape from daily struggles I faced and I hope others feel the same way as I do. It's been an absolutely amazing week to do what I did, singing, traveling, and so much more with so many people that I once didn't know, that I can now call friends. I'm sorry if I might be repeating myself, but I hope this little piece gives you guys a little perspective in what I experienced. Will see you at BB&T. :)
Every one, every single person there last night at Gramercy shared a single common thread and just being there, it was the best thing we ever did.
aka "Schen The Genius"