Monday, May 4, 2009

Why I still miss Paul Hester.

A little over 4 years ago, Crowded House drummer Paul Hester committed suicide in his native Melbourne, Australia.

I've been playing some Crowded House of late. They're probably my favorite band, after the Police. Have all of their CD's, plus the DVD of their farewell show in 1996. They have since reformed, with Matt Sherrod replacing Paul in the lineup. They've released a new album, and I saw them tour in 2007.

I've seen them several times since their debut in 1986. I saw every tour that came thru LA. A Crowded House show was unlike any other; the bandmates would switch instruments, or run into the crowd while performing, or just act silly on stage. The audience also had a role at a Crowdies show; certain songs were to be sung along to. To be in a crowd of thousands, singing the chorus to "Don't Dream It's Over" or "Better Be Home Soon" was always a moment that stirred one's soul; all of us in the audience were connected in those moments. Such is the power of music.

For those of us that love music, our lives have a soundtrack. Certain songs remind you of certain things. For me, Crowded House was such an integral part of my life that those songs bring me back to where I was in life; the debut album takes me back to college; "Together Alone" reminds me of law school and a new relationship with a woman who would later become my fiancee. And the new album, "Time on Earth", brings me to the present, when I could take my wife to see the band of my youth, the band that I love.

And seeing them on stage, 2 years ago, minus Paul, who was the humorist, the crazy drummer who could beat the crap out of a drum kit with his sticks, or play so softly with the brushes, only served to remind me that I wasn't a young, impetuous student anymore. I was 40. And seeing Neil Finn's graying hair, Mark Hart in glasses, and Nick Seymour's wrinkles reminded me that I was closer to 50 than to 20. That, from here on out, I will go to more funerals than weddings. That this part of life is about loss, and how you react and deal with it. I still wake up every morning, and my mind feels so young and vibrant. But when I hop out of bed, my body reminds me of the passage of time.

That's why I love my music as much as ever; its power to restore, its power to bring back memory, and most importantly, its power to heal. When I read that Paul died, my first reaction was that Crowded House could never reform. And yet, they have, and they can still move my soul. And when I listen to "Better Be Home Soon", it becomes an elegy for Paul. At the Greek Theatre 2 years ago, singing

"and I know I'm right,
for the first time in my life"
that's why I tell you,
you better be home soon"

with 10,000 others, along with Neil, Mark, Nick, and Matt, we were all mourning Paul's loss, and believing in the future. Since I discovered Crowded House 23 years ago, I've found other musicians whose music touches my heart in so many ways, Neko Case, Peter Gabriel, E, and others. But none like those guys from New Zealand and Australia. All of us have a band of our youth. Crowded House was mine. And I thank Paul Hester from the bottom of my heart. RIP, man, and I hope you're still drumming.

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