On May 15, he came out in jeans and a black leather jacket and giant black sunglasses, all lens, that made him look like a wasp-man. We had been waiting—I don’t really know how to calculate how long we’d been waiting. It was the third of the four comeback shows in New York, at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The doors had opened at seven o’clock. The opening act had been off by eight thirty. It was now after eleven o’clock. There’d already been fights on the floor, and it didn’t feel like the room could get any tenser without some type of event. I was next to a really nice woman from New Jersey, a hairdresser, who told me her husband “did pyro” for Bon Jovi. She kept text-messaging one of her husband’s friends, who was “doing pyro” for this show, and asking him, “When’s it gonna start?” And he’d text-message back, “We haven’t even gone inside.” I said to her at one point, “Have you ever seen a crowd this pumped up before a show?” She goes, “Yeah, they get this pumped up every night before Bon Jovi.” I didn’t want to report that last part, but in the post-James Frey era, you have to watch your topknot.
To celebrate his forthcoming essay collection, Pulphead,here’s a hardy Essayist perrenial from John Jeremiah Sullivan.
On the morning of April 21, 1995, my elder brother, Worth (short for Elsworth), put his mouth to a microphone in a garage in Lexington, Kentucky, and was—in the strict sense of having been “shocked to death”—electrocuted. He and his band, the Moviegoers, had stopped for a day to rehearse on their way from Chicago to a concert in Tennessee, where I was in school at the time. Just a couple of days earlier, he had called to ask if there were any songs I wanted to hear at the show. I requested something new, a song that he’d written and played for me the last time I’d seen him, on Christmas Day. Our holidays always end the same way, with my brother and me up late, drinking, trying out our new “tunes” on each other. There is something almost biologically satisfying about harmonizing with a sibling. We’ve gotten to where we communicate through music, using guitars the way fathers and sons use baseball: as a kind of emotional code. Worth is seven years older than I am, an age difference that can make brothers strangers, and I’m fairly sure the first time he ever felt we had anything to talk about was the day he caught me in his basement bedroom at our old house in Indiana, trying to teach myself how to play “Radio Free Europe” on a black Telecaster he’d forbidden me to touch.