If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m an early 90s girl through and through. Think flannel, think Bill Clinton buttons, think impassioned arguments about Pearl Jam vs. Nirvana (Just kidding. I don’t talk about Nirvana, ever.)
“Grunge” to me never meant a movement, never meant ONLY dirty, disheveled, disenchanted. Grunge was an evolution of rock and roll, a transition away from the glam and excess of the 80s and into a culture of DIY—homemade mixed tapes, friends designing posters for other friends in bands, garage punk, guitars around campfires with people you love. Basically, love itself, plus creativity and a healthy dose of cynicism. A reincarnation of hippie culture, with a world-wise edge. A consciousness, and a conscience, about being a good citizen, making art, helping others, and, you know, stickin it to the man. Beyond the music and the ripped jeans, those ideals are still my ideals, even if they got warped into marketing tools. Grunge 4eva.
A lot of people ask me why I listen to the same music over and over again. I mean, A LOT. Ride in my car for an hour and I guarantee you’ll hear at least one Pearl Jam song, and I’ll probably get you to listen to a track off a Chris Cornell solo album, or hold on you’ve never heard of Mother Love Bone? Last weekend, a friend and I blasted Ani DiFranco and Sleater-Kinney and talked about feminist theory. I can steering-wheel-drum the entire Superunknown album. I’ll talk about how funny and genius Dave Grohl is, the side projects of all the PJ dudes, how the new singer for Alice in Chains sounds great but I still miss Layne, and what my Monkeywrench Records sticker means. I’ll shut up and turn the volume way up. I’ll sing words I’ve sung thousands of times.
I realized the other day that this is some kind of meditation. Who says you can’t meditate to effect pedals and distortion?
Think about it. Music distracts me, makes me feel good. The beat helps regulate my breathing; if you’ve ever experienced shortness of breath during a panic attack, you feel me. The guitar solos or second verses I know are coming make me feel safe, able to predict or control something. The swell of the crowd noise between tracks from a live show makes me feel less alone. The feels are the feels they’ve always been.
That music comes from a time before I…well, you know. Or you don’t, and I’m good with that, too. Let me try again. That music takes me back to a time when I was not necessarily happier or more sure of myself, but to a time untouched by most of the shittiest shit I’ve experienced in my life.
I remain open to new music, and I actually have quite an eclectic collection and Spotify playlist. I listen to reggae in the office, crush on Maroon 5, and discovered Songza a few months ago (thanks, younger friends!). But like a favorite flannel, I know what I like, what keeps me warm, what smells like home. Just spinning a certain black circle for a minute or two can recreate those feelings for me. Maybe that’s cheesy to you, but my mindfulness doesn’t need your approval. I’ll do this one myself, aight? I have trouble sitting quietly and attempting to still my mind without being bombarded by intrusive thoughts. I have trouble thinking of nothing. Sometimes, I have trouble breathing and need a kind of metronome. Pearl Jam can get me there by the crashing close of side one, track one. This music reminds me that all is not lost, and there are others who think like me.
There are more and better things I want to say on this topic. Someday.
How do you calm down, focus, breathe, stay present? Or, what music do you return to again and again?