One More Light

I listened to Linkin Park in middle school.

A lot of people are saying that today, and I love them all. I am one of them. But I also listened to Linkin Park yesterday. When I was thirteen, they were my favorite band. More to the point, I am twenty-six years old at time of writing, and they are still my favorite band.

I own an iPod that contains nothing but Linkin Park; Fort Minor; and the bluegrass covers of Linkin Park by Cornbread Red. (Yes, that’s a real thing.) The only band with its own playlist on my iTunes–a library I’ve nurtured since 2003–is Linkin Park. And when I was thirteen, they were my introduction to music that was all my own. (I’d previously owned the soundtrack to the first Pokemon movie, various animated film scores, and The Best of Simon and Garfunkel–a gift from my father that I enjoy to this day.)

But Linkin Park–they weren’t handed down, or introduced by virtue of some other medium. They were music that I’d found beyond my family. Music that I’d found as music.

I remember the friend who gave me Hybrid Theory (2000) and Meteora (2003) on burned CDs–and the other friend who burned me a copy of Minutes to Midnight (2007) when that came out, too, because trading burned CDs was a thing that happened then.

I remember reading The Nichi Bei Times, a Japanese American newspaper–because my Buddhist church had a subscription, and because it had a good crossword, and because occasionally they would interview Linkin Park, because Mike Shinoda is Japanese American.

I remember buying my first concert ticket, which was for Linkin Park’s A Thousand Suns tour in San Diego (2011). I was a sophomore in college, and I went with two of the best friends I will ever have. I know that going to a concert in college doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but something I think you need to understand how much this concert meant is that we are nerds. We are really, really, really big nerds who study a lot and this was an Event. A countdown-on-the-calendar, weird-whiteboard-messages, in-jokes-we-can’t-even-remember kind of event. We had a ticket stub displayed on the house whiteboard until the way we moved out of that apartment. Linkin Park offered a download of the audio from that night, and sometimes I still listen to it instead of the studio albums because we were there and because yes, we are really nerdy, and the composition of that concert set, the stage direction, the accompanying visuals, the historical referents and intertexts–I’d never seen anything like it.

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Linkin Park performing in San Diego in 2011. Chester Bennington is displayed on-screen.

I spent the summer of 2012 wishing for the Living Things singles on the radio, as I commuted two hours through Silicon Valley traffic every weekday and traversed the entire Bay Area refereeing soccer on the weekends.

By 2014, I was in graduate school, and I’d moved cross-country from San Diego to metro Detroit Michigan. My best friend came to visit me, and we did all of the things our friendship is built on: roadtrips, camping, wilderness, kayaking, eating too much food, Vin Diesel movie marathons–and Linkin Park. Specifically, their tour for The Hunting Party (2014). I rented a Zipcar just to get us to the concert venue, because I didn’t own a car.

It was worth it: The concert was, again, unlike anything I’d ever seen–including the San Diego concert we’d attended a few years prior. The moment Linkin Park finished their encore song, the summer thunderstorm that had threatened all evening let loose, in one great and magical Midwestern finale. (The cover photo for this piece is what the sky looked like at dusk, when the concert began.) Between the storm and the chaos of concert parking lots, it took us the better part of Linkin Park’s discography to get us back home.

I’m also probably the only person on this planet that has taught Linkin Park in an upper-division college course on Contemporary Muslim Literature. But yeah, I did that (2015). I did that, and I’m putting that in my teaching portfolio.

I know that these memories are about Linkin Park in its entirety, and not Chester Bennington. I tend not to pry into the personal lives of the professionals I admire, because “personal” is not the relationship we have. Ergo, I don’t know that much about Chester Bennington, outside of what any casual fan might glean from his Wikipedia page; Linkin Park’s vlog series, “Linkin Logs”; the full gamut of One More Light press and publicity that graced this green earth to lead up to the album’s release in May 2017; and the blog/listserve/etc. that Linkin Park maintains for its fan club. You know, casual stuff like that.

But at the end of the day, my relationship to Chester Bennington is personal after all. Because Linkin Park is personal, because music is personal. Because music is something you grow up with; it’s something that grows you. It’s something you share with your friends. It’s what gets you through when your friends can’t be there.

Linkin Park is in the middle of a tour right now. A tour that I desperately wanted to be part of, because I love and will always love Linkin Park, but particularly because I love One More Light (2017). I looped it in my car nonstop–and given LP’s notoriously short album runtimes, that’s a lot of musical exposure right there. But then I’d come home and loop the album there, too. I’ve probably had every song on that album stuck in my head at some point–even the ones I decided weren’t for me. But back to the business of this tour: I wanted to go, even though to do so would necessitate me buying a cross-country plane ticket. Yes, for a rock concert. Maybe that ain’t no thing for some, but if you remember that part about me being in graduate school and teaching literature, you likely have some idea of the dire nature of both my finances and my free time. What it came down to was two things: 1) How badly did I want to be able to spend time with my best friend, and 2) how much did I really love Linkin Park?

Lest you doubt, I’ll say it outright: Oh, I was gonna do it. In a heartbeat.

Of course I’d fly across the country to see her. And I mean, she established in 2014 that we’d fly across the country for Linkin Park. Precedent set. Besides, at some level, I’m not sure what those two things are mutually exclusive of one another–how much I love Linkin Park, and the value I put in being able to have that experience with my bff. Because my and my best friend’s friendship has been laced with Linkin Park for half our lifespan. We’re not friends because of Linkin Park or anything like that; but our mutual love of Linkin Park is one of the things that I value about us. It’s hard to find that in a world where the Top 40 rotates weekly, especially for a band that’s been around since I was ten. Age isn’t kind in the music industry. But Linkin Park’s discography is like a stratigraphy of the tastes, moments, and experiences that make us the dorks that we are. Linkin Park will always be an inextricable part of that. Which means Chester Bennington will.

Because even if I did not know him, never met him, never even Internet-stalked him–I’ve gotten into my car, cranked the volume, and screamed my heart out as Meteora looped and looped and I beat all of my upset, my frustrations, and my existential crises out of my throat and into, probably, the traumatic nightmares of my car’s sound system. I’d get to my intended destination hoarse but at peace.

I’ve bounced around my apartment during finals study sessions rocking out with wild abandon. I’ve run miles and miles and miles to Linkin Park, Linkin Park, and nothing but Linkin Park. I’ve sat in my car at a stoplight and cried to Linkin Park. I’ve shamelessly karaoke’d Linkin Park on three different continents.

With seven studio albums and a veritable trove of collaborations, remixes, covers, and other related projects, Linkin Park is an all-weather kind of band. And they have been there to soothe, empower, commiserate, rock out and cry with. They have been there to delight. They have been there to match my rage in ways that nothing else could ever hope to. They have been there to be the most adorable thing on the Internet. (I mentioned that their vlogs are called “Linkin Logs,” right?)

It makes me sad that Chester Bennington could be a part of something that gave me–and will continue to give me–so, so much, only for Chester to find that this world could not be what he needed from it.

Thank you, Linkin Park. Thank you, Chester. And thank you to his bandmates, his friends, his family, and especially his children, for giving what I cannot doubt was an ocean of deep, vast love–for giving as much as this world could ever hope to.

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