In Other Words...

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, July 26, 2017
There are certain moments when words can go unsaid, when just the act of being there is enough. They are special moments that don’t occur too often, otherwise they probably wouldn’t be that special.

I had one such moment during the Muscatine County Fair this past week.

I’m sure many readers heard about Chester Bennington. The 41-year-old lead singer of Linkin Park was found dead Thursday morning, Jul 20. It was later discovered that the father of six committed suicide in his residence in Palos Verdes Estates in the Los Angeles area.

While many may have read the news, they probably didn’t understand the singer’s impact. Linkin Park (Yes, Linkin, not Lincoln) was an angry, coming-of-age, American rock band that managed to fuse nu-metal and rap into a screamo radio-friendly format during the 1990s and 2000s. They were an outlet for frustration, a screaming sanctuary for angsty teenagers. They aired out the dirty laundry of a young generation.

To put simply, Linkin Park was the voice of a decade, at least to many young men like me that were only boys at the time they were at their prime. We were coping with high school, coping with love, coping with the norm and trying to be cool.

Chester was the leader of the band and somehow he knew how we felt. He knew that many of us just didn’t belong. Take the lyrics “Crawling,” one of Linkin Park’s biggest hits. “Crawling in my skin/These wounds, they will not heal /Fear is how I fall/Confusing what is real.” At an age where adults push you aside because they have ‘real’ problems, when society demands you to be the best of the best and everyday is about preparing for your bright sunny future, Chester made it okay to be a failure.

Unfortunately Chester had issues. Like many artists from any time in history there was a war going for his mind, a war that never stopped. When he was younger he said he was sexually abused. As a teenager he became addicted to marijuana, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine, and LSD. Meanwhile, his parents divorced, and he was physically bullied in school. After breaking into stardom he struggled with alcohol. The list goes on and on…

“I don’t know if anyone out there can relate, but I have a hard time with life,” he said in one of his last interviews that occurred in February 2017 for 102.7 KIISFM.

He went on to say: “No matter how I’m feeling I always find myself struggling with certain patterns of behavior, I find myself stuck in the same thing that keeps repeating over and over again and I’m like, how am I in this? It’s that moment where you’re in it, and you kind of separate yourself from the situation and you look at it for what it is. You’re able to then do something about it.”

However in May 2017 Chester’s good friend Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, hung himself at the age of 51. It’s believed that this led to Chester finally taking his own life a few months later.

That being said, his influence on my generation will probably go unheard of to the older generation. I think every age has its musical prodigies and tortured artists. Linkin Park was one from mine. As we all do I eventually moved on from my teenage years, and while the band continued to exist, the role it played in my life died down.

But, as I worked the Muscatine County Fair this last week I realized just how much of an impact it had. I realized just how big of an impact anything can have on us when we’re not paying attention. That’s when I heard the news about Chester Bennington. While I wasn’t a “mess” as many internet folks claimed to be, I was saddened.

Just think, a man who helped a generation to cope wasn’t able to cope himself. That’s tough news to take in, it’s like watching your hero fall in the midst of combat. So, as I worked the fair I listened to Linkin Park during my off moments, my own little tribute to the band and its frontman.

Fast forward to Friday, July 21, William Michael Morgan was scheduled as the headline musical act in the grandstands of the Muscatine County Fair. The country music artist and his crew showed up early in the morning in their tour bus; immediately the crew got to work setting up their elaborate sound system.

As I walked around taking photos on that steamy hot afternoon, I thought I heard something in the distance. I thought I heard screaming. I listen a little more closely and, sure enough, it was Linkin Park playing in the background. As I followed the sound I soon found myself in the grandstands, which have a seating capacity of several hundred. While the music blared I looked across the dirt track and there was the set up crew for William Michael Morgan. They were playing Linkin Park in order to sound check the equipment for the concert that night.

So, I took a seat in the grandstands and put my camera away. At the moment I was all alone among hundreds of benches, arms spread out and legs crossed. I thought I’d take a break. I mean, it was as good a time as any to sit in the shade.

But as I sat there something interesting happened.

Another guy, around my age, walked up the stairs I had. He looked at me, looked back, then took a seat himself a few rows to my right. “Every step that I take is another mistake to you,” sang Chester over the loud speaker. A few minutes later two more young dudes my age silently made their way to the grandstands. Probably friends, they grabbed a couple of seats closer to the sound stage and sat down. In fact, within 10 minutes there were six of us, around the same age, scattered across the seats, listening to Chester Bennington lay his heart out during that sound check.

It was, to put it simply, an impromptu memorial for a tortured soul that influenced us all.

There was no talking, a silent acknowledgment of why we had gathered lingered in the air. One of the guys played an air guitar along with the song. However, none of as had ever met before and none of us will probably meet again. But we were connected by one band, by one man. We sat there for about 15 minutes listening to the music, during so, each song seemed more familiar than the last. It was a moment without words, though we probably couldn’t have understood each other with how loud the music was anyway.

Eventually we dispersed. I left first because I had to get back to work covering the fair. As I walked down the steps to exit the grandstand I couldn’t help but marvel at what just happened.

It’s amazing how we human beings, different in so many ways, are so fundamentally the same. We separate ourselves by class, gender, race, age, upbringing, hobbies, beliefs, rock and roll and every other possible thing under the sun. And yet, we all yearn for the same things. We all yearn for love and acceptance. We all find it in different ways, if we find it at all. For some of us it was in a 2000’s rock band called Linkin Park. We’re all trying to find somewhere we belong.

I also think of the Muscatine County Fair.

For one week our diverse community comes together. We use the fair as an excuse to gather, to talk, to catch up with each other. Whether we deem the fair to be overly crowded or stuggling to sustain any visitors WE, the people of West Liberty, are out there.

I guess that we too, as a community, as community members, are trying to belong. For us the Muscatine County Fair is that chance.
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