I’m from Spanish Fork, Utah. 84660.
On September 11, 1996, Rage Against the Machine played a sold-out show at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.
The band was booked by accident. City officials didn’t know who Rage Against the Machine was or the type of music they played when they signed a contract to perform in my hometown.
The weeks leading up to the concert were the most controversial in Spanish Fork history. It was as though Satan himself had been invited to give a presentation to the teenagers of our community on why he should be worshipped and parents should be disobeyed.
The Sunday before the concert, a letter was read from the pulpit of my church warning parents to keep their children indoors during the show. Blinds should be shuttered; ear muffs should be worn; doors should be locked.
These types of warnings were given from my church’s pulpit from time to time. Even as an 11-year-old, I was used to being told to avoid things that brought others joy:
- Don’t watch the Simpsons. It’s animated.
- The movie Titanic shows a nipple.
- Stop shooting your brother with a BB gun.
The local news reports leading up to the concert were wild. The fine people of Spanish Fork were worried and scared. A band that actively raged against the machine was coming to our peaceful town. We were expecting riots and a teenage frenzy. In one news report, a woman said, “I got a brother coming down with some dogs, and hopefully that’ll scare ‘em away if they decide to do anything.”
My family didn’t have a dog. I felt vulnerable.
The fairgrounds weren’t too far from our house. When the night of the concert arrived, the typically blue sky turned gray. The moon was blood red. There were rumors of locusts roaming the abandoned streets.
It was freaky as heck.
As the concert began, I was with my brother in the bedroom we shared. He’s two years older and, for some reason, didn’t seem all that worried about a hedonistic band performing just down the road.
“I bet there’s a sick mosh pit going on right now,” he said, as we heard the faint, distant sound of an electric guitar. I didn’t know what a mosh pit was, and I wasn’t about to ask. I crawled underneath my bed and began to pray.
As I sought safety from a higher power, my brother placed a CD in our little boombox, and a song I’d never heard began playing. I was used to listening to Garth Brooks. The music I was hearing blew my 11-year-old mind. Crawling out from underneath my bed, I asked my brother, “What is this? It’s amazing!”
My brother looked at me like I was an idiot. “This is Rage Against the Machine. They’re awesome, right?”
The concert went off without incident. Of course.
Everyone made it to school and work the next day. The sky was again blue; the moon was again silvery—or whatever its normal color is. And soon after, the city of Spanish Fork banned any concert from ever being performed at the fairgrounds again.
It was the first time I realized adults don’t know anything. It was an important night.
It was a night of rage.