An open letter to Alice in Chains: Thank you

21 Apr

OK. So I know a snowball has a chance of lasting in Hell before there’s a chance any member of Alice in Chains reads this. But there are just some things you have to get off your chest. Oh yeah, all lyrics used are property of Alice in Chains and properly cited. So don’t sue me.

Dear Jerry, William, Mike and Sean,

More than 10 years ago, there was a girl just days away from turning 15 and wannabe guitar virtuoso watching Alice in Chains on “MTV Unplugged”. She was thinking, “Wow. This guy is beyond amazing. I’m going to be Jerry Cantrell when I grow up! I’m going to play like him!”

That girl is just a few days shy of turning 29, and she saw you guys in-person in Huntington, W.Va., Monday night. It’s just that the pre-thirty-something was not just in awe of how you all handled instruments like surgeons or how your harmonies were airtight. Your words and your music made me confront every emotion and every experience from the past and present and just throw them all into the wind.

I wish I could give you more detail, so you’d really, really know how your music has struck me like a sledgehammer. It’s just that so much of it is so deeply personal that I still don’t have the strength to be 100 percent open about it all. Publicly, anyway. But so many songs, particularly “Check My Brain”, “Grind”, “Man in the Box” and so many more that I’d be here all night mentioning are basically my autobiography. It’s like every emotion, every personal experience — everything — was spelled out for me. This applies to words AND music. The bends in “Check My Brain” quite frankly remind me of the constant rollercoaster I’m on. It’s like my personal rollercoaster is operated by someone on a serious crack high and running at 100 mph. It’s this dizzying, up-and-down feeling that leaves you trying to kick and punch your way out of the car, so you can jump off the tracks in desperation!

For me, it’s like someone is saying, “Yeah, I get it.” When you’re at some of the lowest points, you need someone who TRULY gets it — not someone who only provides lip service. It also seems like Alice in Chains’ form of “therapy” hits harder and is easier to swallow simultaneously because it’s set to music. I’m sure just about everyone has seen these “experts” on talk shows and the like try to tell everyone their one-size-fits-all methods of getting shit together. I usually spout off just a little bit of profanity and change the channel. But amazing music is magnetic. It’s almost like it’s hypnotizing, making you forget everything around you but that music. Once you’re drawn in, you can really process a song and see how it tells your “story” — whether it be your past, present or future. Keep in mind that emotions, not just events, are part of people’s stories. That’s how I see it, anyway.

These songs give you the chance to just cast off whatever horrible experiences, negative emotions or worries about the future and just throw them into the wind. See, just the thought of telling someone those things is traumatic for a lot of people. But sometimes, singing along — mentally or out loud — is like you can let it out without the entire world knowing. You get the release you often desperately need, and it’s emotionally safer. It’s a win-win situation at it’s best. Sometimes, it’s safer in other aspects. I’ve often been forced to be around a lot of people I truly despise. I’ve listened to some sort of angry, slamming song and whisper the tune if I’m feeling a little more daring. It was like I stuck a middle finger in their faces and without fear of retribution. Now that was beyond awesome 🙂

Music doesn’t only deal with problems. It presents solutions. I know lots of people, myself included, often roll their eyes in digust when someone tries to give a damn lecture. But once again, that music draws you in. So many of those songs get you pumped up and moving in the right direction. Maybe they’ll show you the error of your ways and make you realize you have to get off your ass and change things. For me, “Grind” became my personal anthem when I basically had to deal with multiple people trying to end a career and life I had worked so hard to build. They should have been “well advised not to plan my funeral for the body dies”.

I have to devote extra space to “Your Decision”. To me, the song is about how fear can consume you and how you can give in to the ones who are trying to take advantage of it. Maybe these opportunistic people are the ones causing the fear in the first place. People often watch their “fears become their Gods” and become “overwhelmed” and “choose to run”. And “Yes, it hurts to know you’re bought.” But here’s the deal: It’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not YOU let that fear eat you alive. Yes, sometimes circumstances out of your control drag you into horrible situations. But it’s YOUR DECISION as to whether or not you fight to get out of it. The words, “No one plans to take the path that brings you lower. And here you stand before us all and say it’s over,” perfectly illustrate how so many people just choose to wallow after life’s shit hits the fan.

By the way, to say a lot of Alice in Chains’ songs have been inspired by serious heartbreak is beyond understatement. Putting those songs out there and performing them in front of thousands of people takes some serious guts. Just know that what you’ve done has been a serious lifesaver for me and so many others. Given how the economy has gone to hell, I’m sure there were many, many, many people in that arena who are also on sickening rollercoaster rides from Hell. Some are probably scared to death, too. I do believe you gave them the escape they needed, like you did for me. I’m sure you all do that at any place you visit.

I walked out of the concert practically walking on air. It wasn’t just the fact that I saw Alice in Chains. It wasn’t just the fact that I was in the room with the guitarist I’ve wanted to be for the past 14 years (Geez. I AM getting old!). I left there with all of my fear, hang-ups, bad memories — whatever — gone. I left there with a much stronger belief that I’m the mistress of my own fate. Even if roads I may have to take are miles beyond the beaten path, no situation is escape-proof!

By the way, I just thought I’d let you know that my friends and I are fully and totally supportive of William DuVall. He has stepped into a position most people would be too scared to take and worked like a hellcat — one hell of a singer. He’s also one serious showman, really working crowds into a frenzy and moving all over the stage to make sure no fan is left behind! Oh yeah, and we all really felt the love from you guys. You all really seemed to love us all as much as we loved you! When you all said you loved us in West Virginia, we truly believed you weren’t just saying that to be nice. I know Jerry, and I believe Mike and William, were saying you all had to get back to Huntington soon. We’re going to hold you to that 🙂

I did leave with one negative feeling, though. My guitar playing fell by the wayside years ago. It was just life in general and all the time it seemed to demand got in the way as I got older. I’ve tried picking it up again so many, many times, but I have found myself really discouraged because I now suck or being once again consumed by “life in general”. Jerry was on my side of the stage most of the time. I’d watch him and be in awe 99 percent of that time. The other one percent? It was my feeling like I let him down by not living up to my promise to be just like him. I know. It was my “decision”. But I do have two guitars I could get out of the closet. 😉

I also had my cell phone in my face the one moment when Jerry was looking in my direction!! I really hope I didn’t piss him off! I was fighting with my cell phone camera to take a decent picture because my digital camera’s batteries died in the middle of the show. The one time I forgot spare batteries… For that matter, I always hope I get the chance to possibly make eye contact with someone in the band. That way, I can wave, blow kisses, or do something cute and crazy just to show my love!

I’ll be awake with the chickens and mow grass if that’s what I have to do to get tickets to your next show! Thank you so much for giving me one of the greatest nights of my entire life!

With the utmost respect and all the love in the world,

The Flat Broke Diva

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3 Responses to “An open letter to Alice in Chains: Thank you”

  1. Anna April 21, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Well said, Mil :).

  2. larry May 6, 2010 at 6:30 pm #

    great review!
    huge aic and jerry fan….i didn’t even know about this show ’till after. i gotta know: did jer do “cut you in”?

    nice bloggin’ too. this hard-working yet somehow poor person think it’s a fun read.

    • flatbrokegirl May 10, 2010 at 12:07 am #

      Wow! Thanks!

      No, they didn’t do any of Jerry’s solo work 😦 I had read some reviews before going that they didn’t play “Grind”, one of my all-time favorites and a personal anthem. But several people were screaming for it, and I guess they did it because they loved us that much!

      I’ve always been a fan of Jerry solo, but I had never listened to a lot of the B-sides, etc. Plus, I lost a bunch of CDs (including AIC “Unplugged!) in a move to Florida a few years ago. I found some used copies of “Boggy Depot” and “Degredation Trip” when I got back home, and I haven’t stopped listening. It has taken a few listens, for me, to get used to some of the solo material because Jerry often goes in a direction quite opposite from AIC in it. But the more I listen to it, the more I can’t stop. I totally adore “Castaway”, “Jesus Hands” and “Between”.

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