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10/10/10 = X/X/X = XXX

When I was in sixth grade I made a vow to myself that I would live as healthy a lifestyle as I possibly could. I was going through some major health problems at that point in my life (which I’m sure will all be explained within my art at some point in my existence) and made a conscious choice to not do anything else to harm my body.

Two years down the line a lot had changed in my life. My family had moved from Hillcrest, NY to Chittenango, NY, I was attending a new school where I was slowly learning how to socialize, hospital treatments were few and far between, and I was introduced to a variety of underground subcultures. Eighth grade was the year in which personalities and long term life choices were starting to solidify for most of my peers. The stoners began to explore the difference between hookah and bong hits, the theater gurus started to have wet dreams about their debut in the Justin Beiber musical (which translates to Britney Spears LIVE in the year 2000), JNCO kids started to peruse the clearance racks at Sears for oversize bell-bottoms, there was a hormone race for all, but a select few chose to see how far they really could take their sexual lives without concern for the aftermath, exercise and around the clock nutritional intake journals filled the book bags of a variety of students that spent their weekends pricing whey powder, economics took on a whole new meaning to those pinching pennies for a just out of reach of a Playstation 2, and a small group of us began to explore the underground culture of the local, national, and international Punk and Hardcore movements.

Punk and Hardcore was more than to music to me, even then. Going to the mall to buy CDs of The Vandals, MXPX, The Queers, Strife, The Bruisers, and the like was more than just a shopping experience, it was a quest for a new life philosophy. My quest had started in a hospital bed a few years earlier but I needed to find a soundtrack to match it. I instantly latched onto pop-punk but started to dabble into the faster and angrier music. I was exposed to bands like Earth Crisis and Strife that sang about their devotion to drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyles but their musical presentation and lyrical style didn’t hold my attention as it felt more like a performance than someone laying their beliefs on the line. With that said the record stores never opened me up to the philosophy that I could sing along to but I always loved the search.

Flash forward another 4 years. I was a senior in high school, still a lost soul but finally starting to figure it all out. I learned how to communicate properly without stumbling over my words, I had a steady job that I really enjoyed, my green Honda Accord (may it Rest In Peace) was a ticket to sanity, I had a group of friends that always made me laugh, college (my theoretical saving grace) was only a few months away, and I played bass and sang in a band whose best shows were in my basement with the three members jamming and jumping around. It was during one of these band practices that my guitarist, Phill, suggested we take my car to a local show that was happening within the next few hours. Without any hesitation the three of us packed into my car and drove on down to the Westcott Community Center.

The Westcott was a venue that I had frequented on numerous occasions for a variety of shows but always felt a bit alienated from. I knew people there, always socialized, and sang along to the bands but I never was one of the locals. I was more-so a stranger who wondered into the wrong house and stayed for a while once every month of so. When we arrived this time things were a bit different. Mohawks, multicolored hair, and a variety of facial piercings were not in style while awkward kids with oversize t-shirts, camouflage shorts, and intellectual conversations were hip. Phill had rushed us there to see one of the first shows by a band called Black Sheep Squadron who were a band that a measly thirty kids had apparently come out to see. We stood in the center of the room and watched this group of four crazy individuals scream their lungs out, bleed on their instruments, and speak words that finally made sense to me.

“This song is about how, even in my mid twenties, some morons feel the need to question me when I tell them that I choose not to drink” rang out of the vocalist’s mouth which prompted a surge of endorphins to my seventeen year old brain. I had finally found a philosophy and a place to explore my spiritual beliefs.

Black Sheep Squadron wore their Straight Edge philosophies on their sleeves and it was as straight forward as possible. This is what we believe, we take pride in our beliefs, if you don’t agree with it we don’t care, and if you partake in an alcohol-free and drug-free lifestyle come on and scream your lungs out. I can proudly say that I have lost my voice many times to this philosophy and that I look forward to many more.

If you have not been able to determine the definition of Straight Edge through context I will simplify it for you. Straight Edge is a life choice in which an individual chooses to abstain from drug and alcohol use for the duration of their life (the choice to abstain from promiscuous sex is often a belief in many Straight Edge individuals but differs from individual to individual). The term Straight Edge and the beliefs that go along with it were originally coined by Washington D.C. based Hardcore-Punk band Minor Threat who wrote a song entitled “Straight Edge” (to be more specific Ian MacKaye, the vocalist for Minor Threat, wrote the song). Later in the band’s existence Brian Baker developed a logo for the Straight Edge movement which consisted of three solid X’s (like so: XXX). The correlation between Straight Edge beliefs and the X’s started after a realization that kids who went to shows under the legal drinking age would often have big black X’s drawn on their hands by the club’s bouncers to inform the bartender that these kids were not to be served alcoholic beverages. Rather than viewing this as a negative moment in a child’s life Brian Baker embraced the symbol of the X and developed his XXX logo (each X corresponding with on of the Straight Edge beliefs; no drinking, no drugs, no sex).

As time went on the Straight Edge movement exploded as youth all over the world began to live the lifestyle. Major Straight Edge population spikes have occurred in cycles throughout the years (at its inception, the youth crew movement, the straight edge vegan metalcore movement, etc.). Unfortunately a large percentage of individuals who claim the Straight Edge lifestyle fail to stick with it and end up partaking in drinking and drug using at some point in their life.

At some point in the history of Straight Edge October the 10th (10/10 = X/X in Roman Numerals) became an unofficial National Straight Edge Day around the world. Many bands, promoters, and show-goers celebrate National Straight Edge Day by going to shows featuring Straight Edge bands. Today marks a fairly significant National Straight Edge Day as the complete date is October 10, 2010 which translates to X/X/X in Roman Numerals (unfortunately that only happens once per century).

Today the guys who helped me realize the power of Straight Edge (Black Sheep Squadron) are playing their first show in Chicago for the first time in many years which features a variety of other Straight Edge bands from around the United States and I hope that some random show-goer has the same experience I did when I first saw them. The ability to come to a self-realization and turn the negative energy we often times feel into something positive that forever alter the course of our lives can be a very powerful tool. I realized my beliefs about thirteen years ago, solidified these beliefs seven years ago, and am proud to say that even after all of that time my ethics have not changed. Choosing a drug-free and alcohol-free lifestyle has allowed me to understand the world in a way that only a sober individual can. I have no beer goggles, I have no lame excuse as to why I took specific actions I later regretted, I learn from every experience I have, and I can see my future glowing bright in the distance. I am proud to be a Straight Edge individual.

Happy National Stage Edge Day! I suggest drinking a root beer, laughing with friends, and giving yourself a pat on the back for being who you are.

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