We were being lectured on psychological disorders in class when they announced it:
“We are proud to announce that Linkin Park will be playing a very intimate show for LP Underground members at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA on Friday, May 18.”
The earliest I could remember such an intimate announcement, was March 2003 when Linkin Park was at The Wiltern, Meteora the excitement of our days at the time. It had only been about two years since I had gone to school one morning a Britney Spears and Nsync fan, suddenly coming back home that day ready to explore the new world of “rock” after our teacher allowed a classmate to play “Crawling” in class; so, my mother still being in a bit of denial, refused to let me, just a seventh grader, go see them- “un monton de changos locos! Como crees que te voy a dejar ir!” I was bitter and angry and angsty as the times were for a teenager, so sad she made me miss out with Linkin Park just thirty minutes away.
Then there was the Collision Course performance at The Roxy in 2004, during which my ride bailed out on me the day of. There was still no way my mother would take any part in my “devil music” antics, so I was stuck at home, holed up and playing “A Place for My Head” damn loud, over and over again. The most recent intimate venue to wave at me as it passed me by was the Secret Show for Japan last year; being the most harshest year on my bank account, all I could do was afford the charity t-shirt Mike designed, and mope around to “Shadow of the Day” instead.
I’ve been to countless shows packed to the brim in huge amphitheaters, was at the epic VMA performance at the Griffith Observatory- but none were with the most dedicated of the dedicated fans, in a venue so closed in and feeling like home as you waited in the pit, barely having to look up onto that stage ready for them to step out on. I knew this was my intimate venue to be at, with no mother to tug at my ear and call me a wild, rebel child, with my own hard earned money. The House of Blues could be my fifty-first show with Linkin Park- my first show in a in-yo-face venue.
Friday, May 18, 2012, came after seventeen slow, brutal, stressful days through midterms, finals, and three jobs with one involving me helping other stressing students- but it came, and it was one of the most anxious countdown to the hours. I myself could not get in line at five o’clock in the morning as I was willing to do, with my last and most important final at eight o’clock that very morning; so I bribed my mother to drive my best friend at seven-thirty in the morning over to West Hollywood, and to drive right back to Northridge to pick me up after my final and take me right away. Because of my mom, my closest friend was fourth in line, only eight ahead of us by the time doors opened and everyone met up with their groups. We were pretty excited.
The wait was no deal-breaker at all, one of the shortest my friend and I had gone through together, met up later by our other friends to our group; it was the first to have the kind convenience of a restroom just across the street (thank you Mondrian Hotel!), a chilly shade cast over our particular spot since morning, also the first to simply be surrounded by such… familiar strangers. Fans of Linkin Park can easily become friends, but there is something as great as our boys about knowing every person in line with you is a Street Solider, a Linkin Park Underground member- and that made eight hours seem like nothing. The legendary Adam chatted with a few, watching him and the rest of the crew set up the Music for Relief and Power the World stages outside, later watching Mike and Chester unveil the Honda Civic and motorcyle they customized with Stryker. Before we knew it, it was 7:30pm according to all sorts of cell phones, and the line started moving through check-in.
Because having a charity show exclusively for the Underground wasn’t enough, our tickets were of a holographic material, LIVING THINGS’ artwork in center, the background either red or a grey-silver, depending on how you held your ticket. Its fit in the hand reminded me of the iPhone, just a little longer in length, the corners rounded in. It read LINKIN PARK beneath the cover art, symbols for the band, Music for Relief and Power the World finishing its amazing look along the bottom. I’ve always strived to have the physical tickets themselves for every show and event; but this was beyond expectations, and a great surprise. Come Saturday evening, it was already framed and hung on my wall.
Past the wooden doors worn from years of fans rushing through, I’m sure, we entered the usual dim welcome to the House of Blues, the stage under blue calming lights, already set up. VIP were already along the rail or up on the second floor, drinks in hand like many others; I had been separated from my friends, and couldn’t spot them with all the excitement and building anxiousness though they were practically in my face. Deciding one row of people between me and the rail, just off center, was perfectly fine, I settled amongst ‘strangers’- ended up being the best decision I could have made that night; around me were the very people I had been in line with towards the front, all easily picking up each other’s excitement, easy to talk to them. In front of me were an older VIP couple, the man much taller than me but in the one spot were I could see either mic set-up, a simple sway to either side allowing me to see around him for the center in between. I planted my feet shoulder-width, right behind him. All around, we started counting down the minutes until 9:00pm.
Only a few minutes behind schedule, the lights dropped and the neon light bulb for Power the World glowed even brighter. Joe and Rob stepped out, and after that it was all an exciting blur as the rest of the boys stepped out to a cheering crowd, “Tinfoil” like a lighted match slowly being moved towards a strip of magnesium (excuse my inner chemist). That strip was ignited as we recognized “Faint” build from the introduction, many around me whispering their gasping surprise at such a start, others already screaming, “F**k yeah!” spilling from my own mouth. They meant business, and just like that- we were already building a sweat.
The stream of drums and singing and guitar riffs and scratches were flawless, the crowd immediately taken into “Papercut.” We went wild over “With You,” a song that simply does not get enough credit. Throughout the night, they came to bring back the classics in a surprising and excellent amount: Runaway, Given Up, Somewhere I Belong, Points of Authority, Breaking the Habit, What I’ve Done, Crawling, One Step Closer. They laced in the music that shocked us to our core just some two years ago, with “Blackout” (a song I can personally cross off my ‘Must See LP Perform Live Before They and I Die’ list), “Waiting for the End” that had us swaying together in a slight calm for the night, started off with “Until It Breaks” from the new album; “New Divide” a favorite with such intensity outside of their albums. Their ‘ballads’ “Leave Out All the Rest,” “Shadow of the Day,”and “Iridescent”were laced into a single song that night, sung so beautifully by Chester and his fans that it felt as if we sang every word to each of them. “Burn It Down” was after the encore, a whole different experience seeing and hearing it live for myself, one single performance surpassing the 467 play count I have on iTunes for it. The energy in the crowd and the band themselves was surreal, so exhausted from jumping and dancing and singing but we just couldn’t stop. Mike joined us in the crowd with “In the End,” trusting us to hold him up along the rail and not drag him in, holding the mic out to us singing up at him, hugging us and meeting our hands; ruffling my hair that just made me feel like that kid listening to Hybrid Theory again, instead of the college student taking a day’s break from worries. “Numb” was ‘saved toward the end’ for us, lungs burning so amazingly as we sang our hearts out. It was the one song to brim my eyes with tears as I remembered the times that song saved me from my confused, immature feelings. Do they realize many of us were there that night, because of them?
They ended the night with what has become a favorite ending- “Bleed It Out.” Though I had counted down the days with excitement to hopefully hear this song fused with “A Place for My Head,” as it was for their concert in Madrid, now A Thousand Suns +; I was impressed and honored, instead, to have witnessed what was probably especially for a night so close to the hurting heart.
Fourteen days before, the Beastie Boys lost Adam “MCA” Yauch to cancer at just forty-seven years young. It was no secret they were an inspiration and love for our boys in Linkin Park, especially Mike. He had shared a picture of a childhood notebook, Beastie Boys scrawled on it as we have scrawled Linkin Park all over our own. He had mentioned how the Beastie Boys were his first record. That night, in the House of Blues, as the bridge they usually dove into with change came, Mike strode over to the stage’s left, a hand making to raise a finger to his lips, the crowd already silent for that split second. It may not have lasted any more than two seconds, it may not have had a speech by Mike- but for that small, precious moment, we somehow knew it was for MCA. They tore into “Sabotage,” Chester taking the vocals. It was almost hard not to hear MCA instead of Chester, the crowd finishing strong with them, as “Bleed It Out” had been inspired to be by the Beasties, itself.
I may not have grown up with the Beastie Boys, and I may not have ever been able to call them a usual to my listening… but we felt the love and respect they had for that man. I couldn’t help but feel like I also held their record as my first, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. I hope you were there that night, MCA, to see how much they wanted you to have stayed.
We realized the end to the night in a daze, the kind man I had clutched onto the whole set having let me take his place at the rail beside his wife as “Bleed It Out” had started, the guys coming together at center stage and waving good night, passing out guitar pics and drum sticks, reaching to us and heading out. I myself managed to get Phoenix’s attention and asked for the set list, watching him carefully tear it off the floor and making sure I got it. I’ve tweeted him and posted on Linkin Park’s Facebook, but I hope to have the chance to personally thank him.
A surprise we had given the band was a tribute to their inner children at heart, their real smiles behind the work they do. A group of us in the LPU decided to extend one person’s hope for a ‘flash mob’ into an actual reenactment of “Balloonia” – a LPTV episode that revealed the studio Linkin Park filled with thousands of balloons. Some of us volunteered to buy balloons, and throughout the wait outside, we passed them out along the line, planning it for the encore before “Burn It Down.” It was a success, balloons filling the intimate ‘pit’ inside. I remember Brad, Phoenix and Chester playing with them on stage, Mike having pressed his hands together and bowed his head in a quick, quiet thanks. Complete strangers came together for a plan revealed at the last minute- something I like to smugly think to be best pulled off by the LPU. I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.
We are still in awe from such a night, a night only a select few were able to experience. It was many of shows I’ve been to, but I know in my heart, it is one that will stand out for years to come, something we’ll think back on and lose our breath every time. You do so much for us, Linkin Park; for strangers, for fellow musicians, for states and countries and families. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for such a night, for doing everything you do, for working towards a better world.
Until the next time, Linkin Park and Underground- I truly, honestly find myself blessed to be a part of the passion and love we share.
-Natasha Lopez de Arenosa
19 May 2012 // Porter Ranch, CA