By Tim Hayes
Oh, the things we do for love, as the ‘70s pop band 10cc once sang.
If only this story were about 10cc. Alas, it is not. This particular tale revolves around another band from that same era, Molly Hatchet.
The mere mention of that name still sends shivers. Allow me to explain.
While a sophomore in college, I still felt the strong mission to impress my girlfriend’s parents. Having been together since the first week as freshmen, she and I were in wonderful shape, relationship wise (and still are, nearly 40 years later), but winning over her family remained an imperative goal in my brain.
While spending time with her family during one of their weekend visits to campus, I heard her younger brother talking excitedly about this concert he wanted to go to, in the worst way.
This group was so cool, he really loved this song they played on the radio all the time – and the concert would be held at the university in another month or so. The only problem was, because it would be at a venue not near their home, he couldn’t get a friend to go with him.
A-ha! The wheels in my cranium began to turn. I saw an opening, a chance to bank some valuable “What a nice guy” points with the ‘rents.
“Well, I’ll go with you, if you want to see this concert so bad,” came the soon-to-be-proven fateful utterance from my lips. And the deed had been put into motion.
Now, please understand, I didn’t know a Molly Hatchet from a Bowie Knife. My then-teenage future brother-in-law liked this band, I had volunteered to save the day, and no one truly knew what lay in store. But had I known…
So the big day arrived. I picked up Little Brother at his grandmother’s house, which served as Family Central during visits, as she lived in the same town as our university. He climbed into my little orange VW Beetle and talked my ear off the whole way back to campus, he was so excited to be seeing Molly Hatchet. I played along, feigning interest every bit as elevated as my young concert-going partner.
But here’s where things got interesting. Back in 1980, an event that drew as many ticket buyers as this concert could only take place at one venue on campus – the Memorial Field House. The basketball arena, in other words. A space built to accommodate the sound of dribbling rubber balls and cheering sports fans. Not a hard-driving, ear-splitting, amps-set-to-diamond-crushing-decibels, Southern metal rock band playing loud enough to be heard in the next time zone.
Yet, that is what indeed transpired.
We took our seats on the wooden bleachers, packed into the Field House amid about 3,000 sweaty, inebriated, stoned, and otherwise jacked-up college students. The whooping and hollering echoed around that gymnasium, the reverberations making my bone marrow quiver. And that was BEFORE the band came out.
Once good old Molly and her Hatcheters dug in, it felt like my hairs stood on end, my eye sockets got pummeled, and my ear drums seceded from the rest of my body, shriveling up into the fetal position and seeking shelter somewhere deeper inside my skull.
I never knew noise could reach such stratospheric heights. Blend in the effects of sound bouncing off walls not built to handle anything approaching the acoustics being assaulted that night, rebounding off multiple smooth surfaces, sound waves crisscrossing from a hundred different directions, seeming only to gain in intensity and never quite dissipating – and you have a night at the theater I’d never forget. Try as I may.
At the same time, I had to tip my hat to Molly and the boys. They played set after set after set, never stopping between songs, an awesomely impressive three-hour, three-chord barrage. I couldn’t exactly figure out where one song ended and the next one started. Each one sounded just like the one before and after. So very very loud, fuzz guitars screeching, the alleged melody whipsawing around wildly like one of those balloon guys in front of a car dealer.
The band won, of course, having obliterated its audience into submission through sheer endurance, unstoppable, unrelenting, a tour de force of punishing sonic force.
At last, it ended and the Hatchets ran off the stage, sound waves still careening off the walls for another two minutes. Thank God, I thought. We can finally get out of here. But no, here they came again for the encore, and we got treated to another 30 minutes of aural intensity.
Just at the point when I felt my front teeth begin to shake loose, the whole thing was over. Truly and finally over. The huddled masses yearning to drink more beer and smoke more weed began shuffling down off the bleachers and out into the cool autumn night.
All around me, I saw people talking, laughing, singing some of their favorite Molly songs. Looking over at my girlfriend’s little brother, I could see he started jabbering again about something or other as we walked back to my Beetle and all the way out to his Grandma’s house. We walked into the house and I saw everyone starting to say things, asking questions, as far as I could tell. I wasn’t sure, though, for one simple reason.
I never mastered the art of lip reading. And I couldn’t hear a thing. Not really. Not until I woke up the next morning, anyway. Thanks, Molly. Oh, the things we do for love.
Copyright 2019 Timothy P. Hayes