I was a metalhead starting in Junior High. My mom had been sending me to summer camp most summers. The last summer I went to camp Takatoka, I met a boy there who was into metal. His name escapes me at the moment, but I do know his name. Matt Whitehead? No, that’s not it. I might get back to that. My mom hated my metal. She made fun of it every chance she got. How can you listen to that? It sounds like noise. They all sound alike. She is not wrong in a general sense. I can totally see how you could hear it that way from a distance.
Oh yeah that kids name is Matt Whitaker.
I told my mom she might like some of it if she gave it a chance. I gave her Iron Maiden Piece of Mind and the booklet with the lyrics. At the time she was a high school history teacher. She was blown away by that album. It was as much of a gamer changer for her as it was for me.
She took it to her classroom and played a couple of songs for her students. She then gave them an assignment. Take the current history lesson they were being taught and apply it to an art form of their choosing. They could write a play, a rap song, a metal song, a poem, a short story and so on and they had a choice to even perform it in front of the class if they were up to it.
The students embraced that assignment and many performed them in front of the class. This helped her win a free trip that year from the school board , which was a 2 month trip to Egypt over the summer.
From there I turned her on to a few more Iron Maiden albums, Number of the Beast, Power Slave. She found stuff she liked on each album. I then decided it was time to turn her on to Queensryche. Queensryche did not have much in the way of lyrics about history, but dealt a lot with global issues/moral issues. It was smarter and deeper than most metal. Most metal consisted of lines like “touch my gun but don’t pull my trigger”, which by the way is the worst sexual request of all time.
She absolutely loved Queensryche. With each album that would come out, we would sit and listen to them together. After I’d be out of high school for a few years, Queensryche came out with an album called, “Promised Land”. Promised land dealt a lot with characters trying to make the best of a bad situation, dependency, struggling to find happiness. The album closes with a song called, “Someone Else?” The song is a piano ballad and in my opinion one of the greatest vocal performances recorded by a metal singer. She was obsessed with that song. She thought it was the greatest song to ever exist. At this stage in her career she was a student counselor at the same high school and had me design her a poster with the some lyrics from the song. I do not recall which lyric lines she requested from the song. I have looked through the lyrics and I have a pretty good idea, but not sure. She framed it in her office to help convey to kids that they still have plenty of chapters left to write in their life and not to be defined by their current or past situation.
I had since moved to Dallas. One night I was on the phone with my mom and I told her Quensryche was coming to Dallas. She asked me if I would take her to the concert. I said, “Absolutely”. She said, “You sure you won’t be embarrassed taking your mother to a metal show?” and I said, “Are you kidding, taking my mom to a metal show is the most metal thing ever”. So I bought us tickets and we went when the time came. We were about 16 rows back, a little right of center.
They closed the night with her favorite song. That was such a great night.
About six years later she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She fought it for six years, which is longer than most get to stick around after being diagnosed with that cancer. She died 8 years ago and I’ve dealt a lot with the loss outwardly, but have not dealt with it inwardly. Every time it crosses my mind, I just swallow it down. I know better, but that’s what I’ve done.
Last Saturday morning before mothers day I walked on to my back porch, lit up a cigar and began writing. Mostly writing my to do list for the weekend. I then texted my fellow cigar smoking friends a pic of the cigar I was smoking and jokingly asked one of the friends, who lives six hours away to come pick me up for the Queensryche concert he was going to that night. He had mentioned they were playing about an hour from his house and that he was going.
I then asked the other friend on the text who lives in Dallas to come pick me up and we would all go to Queensryche together. I knew neither plan was going to happen, but the more I thought about it, the more I really hoped we could pull it off. All three of us had lost our mothers to cancer around the same time. It started to really make sense that the three of us be together on mothers day. After both of those plans fell through, it started to really make sense to me that I should see Queensryche for my mom the night before Mothers Day.
The friend in Dallas could not come, because he had a gig. I decided to just get in my car and drive the five and a half hours to meet up with my friend so we could go to the show together.
I was not betting on it giving me any feeling of connection with my mom, but I also was hoping it would. The band has undergone some changes, even a new singer, but the new additions have been sounding great and I have enjoyed the new work they have been putting out.
The show was at a Casino in Coushatta, Louisiana. Coushatta is about 30 minutes northeast of Lake Charles Louisiana. My friend and I met in Lake Charles at a cigar bar. Bought some, smoked one and went on to the show.
It was a great show. On any given night at any given gig I feel like there is almost always someone in the audience that has something emotionally riding on the performance. The band could not know some dude drove five and a half hours to see their show at a casino in honor of his mother. To them it was just another gig and a solid one.
Thanks for everything Queensryche. My mom would have enjoyed that show.