Music

Alive all along

Sandor finds out that Rush never goes away

OK, it's safe to admit it now.

You can post it on Facebook, let people know about it on Twitter.

Rush has moved from music geekdom to being, gulp, hip.

I just finished watching Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the outstanding documentary from filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen. It's still in the "new releases" section at your local shop.
And they've managed to make Rush, who for years have been identified with white-suburban-male nerdiness, come off as iconoclasts.

The documentary is exhaustive in showing us that Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart were anything but enfant terribles. In fact, in the final scene of the doc, with the three members gathered over dinner, Lee tells the camera, in a told-you-so kind of way, that the filmmakers had been warned that their film idea would be ruined by just how boring the three of them were.

But that's the point. That, for never buying into into the fact that a rock star needed to act like a rock star, Rush have done something far more counterculture than trashing hotel rooms and doing lines of coke off the breasts of hookers.

(OK, Lifeson did get arrested in 2004 in Naples, Fla, charged with resisting arrest and intoxicated disorderly conduct, and that's left out of the film.)

Yes, the band got the übergeek tag slapped on it by the critics that bothered to write about them in the 1970s—of course, writing epics about snowbeasts, Ayn Rand novels and mythology just helped that along. So, listening to Rush became the musical equivalent of staying in all weekend to watch a Star Trek marathon.

But there's a deeper subtext in Beyond the Lighted Stage.

A myriad of guests are brought in to wax poetic about Rush. Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan, looking as indie as possible with a scraggly beard and a toque right out of 1975, complains how bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been discussed to death, while no one really talks about Rush's legacy.
Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters talks about how much he loves Rush, but admits that Rush is a guy thing.

Jack Black talks about Peart's dark persona—even though the doc reveals that, away from the stage, he's extremely introverted—and how Rush stands the test of time.

But maybe the most powerful voice of all is Trent Reznor; he doesn't talk about Rush as a guilty pleasure or as any kind of cultural phenomenon. He talks about recording techniques, about how a power trio decided to use keyboards and synths and keyboards to fill the midrange—and how that created a massive shift in music as a whole.

And it hits you. Rush isn't geeky.

Rush is … gulp. Cool.

I grew up with Rush because it was always on my older brother's turntable. I knew 2112 before "Baa Baa Black Sheep." And it stuck with me. My first rock show was Rush, Maple Leaf Gardens. I went down with some friends and we paid $50 each for tickets from a scalper. We got out friend Ron Landry to be the front man because he looked the oldest—he was the first guy in our grade to grow a moustache.

But, as I grew into a little fanboy who started writing about bands because I could get into shows, I leaned towards the underground and Rush went from the front carton of the record collection to being a guilty pleasure, to being something you only talked about with someone you've known for a long time.

I have seen more punk acts in sweaty bars than I can count … I've gone to raves, metal shows, been kicked in the face in mosh pits. But, all the while, the Rush collection was never mothballed. When I went to California, away from those who would judge me, I went and saw Rush play an outdoor amphitheatre in Concord, just outside San Francisco.

I've seen Rush in Toronto and Calgary, too.

And each time I see them, it's a reminder that before I went gaga about the Future of the Left or obsessed over Les Savy Fav, before I ever listened to that Joy Division tape some Polish dude in my high school who dressed all in black made for me, before I'd ever heard of Suicide or Kraftwerk or the Fall, my musical heroes were three guys who came from close to home.

I've written about Rush before, I've interviewed Lee in the past, I've reviewed the band's records. But I've never come clean and told the world that, I'm a fan.

This movie made me really think about what a hypocrite I've been.

It still doesn't mean that I'm not a coward. After all, it's easy for me to write this all now; once Jack Black gives the band his blessing, for me to dive in is all too easy.

But I get the feeling I'm not the only one. V
 

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