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The White Stripes

I looked down at what I was wearing. I had on the red t-shirt that I borrowed from my brother with the pop-art panel on the front and my favorite jeans. As I walked across the sidewalk leading from my front door to the driveway, I saw Zack sitting in the front seat of his Blazer. I could hear music pulsing from inside his car. Zack was sitting there waving, a huge dopey grin and pink sunglasses on his face, and he was wearing a white Nirvana t-shirt.

I got in on the passenger side, slipped on my aviator sunglasses, and said to Zack, "Let’s ride."

It was Thursday, July 11th, and the entire first half of the summer had been leading up to this very date. With no school, no summer school, the fact that I quit my job as a lifeguard, and generally having nothing to do, July eleventh began to take the shape of the climax of my summer. Everything was leading up to the day that Zack and I would drive down to the Metro in Wrigleyville and witness the White Stripes performing live.

Driving on the highway, we both felt like two five-year-olds going to Disneyland. I had hardly ever been so excited. I think we listened to the Beatles 1 album because I remember singing horrendously loud all the way there. Not that I approve of greatest hits CDs, but no one can resist singing along to "Can’t Buy Me Love."

Searching the other cars, I kept seeing a station wagon with two teenage girls in the front. One was wearing a seemingly unusual amount of red clothing. I had the opportunity to ask them if they were headed to the same place as us, but I decided not to. I was feeling extreme, but not quite that outgoing.

We were surprised as how simply and quickly we arrived at the Metro. As we drove down the familiar street, I saw Strange Cargo, the thrift store, on my left. On our right, in its immediate greatness, was Wrigley Field. I snapped back to reality as I realized we had to face the problem of parking.

A man was standing in front of us, waving us into a small portion of pavement a little ways past Wrigley Field. Zack and I exchanged quick concerns about the validity of the parking space, but ultimately indicated to each other that it seemed like a decent choice. I thought about my friend’s story of going to see the String Cheese Incident and how his van full of friends got waved into a parking lot. The man turned out to be a rebelling hippie who had previously taken down whatever warning was telling people not to park in that lot, or face being towed. But the guy in front of Zack and I didn’t look like a hippie, and it seemed legal enough to park there, so Zack handed him a ten dollar bill and spent 2 minutes aligning his truck as close as he could to the car next to us.

We stepped down from the truck and crossed the street. There were people walking on the street, as usual, but they were noticeably moving towards the Metro. This was not necessarily because so many people were going to the show. Rather, there were a large amount of people dressed in red and white. It is hard to describe the tingling excitement I felt in my arms and legs and stomach as I thought about how all of these fans, all of these people with musical tastes and mindsets similar to mine, were all gathering together to witness this concert.

Zack and I got to the front door and there was almost no line. A huge black bouncer took my ticket from me, ripped off the stub without using the perforation, and handed it back to me with a memorably cold stare. Unphased, I rushed up the small set of stairs. Zack and I walked into the main room, and a surge of exhilaration ran through me. We had just entered the room and we were only about twenty-five feet away from the stage.

"I didn’t know it was so small!" I yelled to Zack.

"Yep, this is the Metro," he knowingly replied.

We found our place in the growing crowd, a little left to the center of the stage and still really close to it. I looked behind me and saw a digital clock with red numbers hanging on the wall behind the closed bar. In less than two hours, Jack and Meg White would be tearing up the stage no more than a few yards away from me. I could not believe it.

After twenty minutes, the opening band took the stage. The Clone Defects were fronted by a balding man in the most ridiculous coat I had ever seen. The jacket had duct tape holding it together and random patches sewn on. The drummer was dressed in blatantly anti-rock and roll clothing, wearing a large, patterned, button up shirt. The bassist looked like a big kid I had seen at school before, and the guitarist looked like a shaggy-haired hipster who played in a band when he wasn’t at his local record store. They kicked off with loud and explosive guitar and drums. Their show was pretty well summed up when someone in the back sarcastically yelled "MC5!" loud enough for the band to hear. The tired and true Detroit loud-and-fast blues-rock formula was entertaining but got old fast.

When the Clone Defects left the stage, the crowd was growing bigger and I was growing insane with anticipation. A few cheers came out of the audience, myself included, when a group of men wearing black suits, ties, and bowler hats with red shirts took the stage. I would later read about how Jack White took his crew to get these suits because he wanted them to have more of an air of professionalism. They laid out a red and white carpet on stage. I watched them set up Meg’s drum set on the left side of the stage with her electric fan from the 50’s next to it. They put up Jack’s two microphones, one at the front of the stage and one with an echo effect next to the drum set. But I knew that all of this was really happening when I saw Jack’s 1960s Res-O-Glass Airline red and white electric guitar sitting up on that stage. I was about to be subjected to something I would remember for the rest of my life.

We waited for what seemed like the time that passes between one birthday and the next. In reality, it took almost an hour for them to set up. From the left corner of the stage, I saw Jack and Meg emerge. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Jack wore a red t-shirt and red pants. Meg had on a white tank top and red pants. She sat at the drum set, receiving cheers from the male portion of the audience, while Jack went and picked up his guitar. My idols, the people I read about and looked at in magazines and on the Internet, the duo I had seen perform on my computer and television screens so many times, were actually standing no more than twenty feet in front of me. Jack seemed a little shorter and skinnier than I thought he would be, but the intensity on his face and in his eyes could never be represented in any picture. And while Meg appeared a little robust on TV and album covers, pictures do not do her justice. She was more beautiful than she could ever seem from a photograph.

All of this went through my mind in about thirty seconds. Immediately, Meg started banging quarter notes on the drums and Jack started yelling into the microphone, "When you’re in your little room, and you’re workin’ on somethin’ good…" I quickly remembered that I should have known that they would begin the show like this. Jack finished his thirty-second chant and slammed on the fuzz distortion to break into "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground."

The rest of the show, I must admit, is a blur to me. I remember a crazed electric version of "Hotel Yorba." The entire crowd sang along to "I Think We’re Going to be Friends," including a man who looked to be in his 40s. When Jack played his minute long blues guitar break introduction to Son House’s "Death Letter," I screamed at the top of my lungs as he broke into the main riff. And I witnessed the multi-song blues medleys that go for minutes without stopping and make the White Stripes one of the best live bands on the face of the Earth. But most of all, during an especially raw and sporadic piece, I remember Jack flinging his guitar onto his back, putting his foot up on the monitor in front of him, grabbing the microphone and staring out into the audience. He was riding at full throttle, and he was ranting to the audience as if the fate of the world depended on the cryptic messages he was delivering. We hung on every word, and he knew it. As he scanned the audience, his eyes locked onto mine. I was scared to move, and for what seemed like minutes, he stared into me during his proclamation. I know that it’s a typical fan story that a favorite rock star stares at a fan for an entire concert, but this really happened. I could feel him delving into my soul for those few seconds, and the feeling lasted the rest of the night.

The White Stripes came back for a one-song encore. Jack led the audience in a sing-along to his new song and ended the show by having the entire crowd sing repeatedly, "He’s just lookin’ for a home." The White Stripes left the stage as immediately as they took it, taking the music that was purged from their souls and the extraordinary intensity that emanated from their mere presence with them. Few people seemed to care that they failed to play or even mention their chart topping single "Fell in Love with a Girl."

As Zack and I exited the metro, free tickets and advertisements being flung at our faces, all we could utter to each other was, "Holy crap." We both had experienced something beyond anything we could have imagined, and we knew it. On the way home, from our car ride that began, due to my request, without music, all the way to lying in my bed before I went to sleep, my mind was filled only with only one thought. Whatever I do, I absolutely must see the White Stripes again.