The golden rays of dusk had grudgingly given way to the darkness and Joe Perry's guitar began to wail and Steven Tyler screeched and Aerosmith came to life last weekend in Colorado. I glanced to my left and my old friend smiled. And then we went back. Way back.
"Those guys came to my house," he said, nodding toward the stage at the Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre in Englewood where Tyler and guitar god Perry and Aerosmith disturbed the night. "They needed an extension cord. Johnny gave them the green one he used for our Christmas lights."
Here you might be thinking my friend is a nut. And frankly, you'd be right.
His name is Rob Bresciani, and he and I have laughed and behaved like idiots for 40 years now.
His father — that would be Johnny — regularly referred to us as "goddamn fools" and "stupid bastards" and neither of us has any doubt whatsoever that Johnny was right. (Last Saturday night, when I couldn't figure out how to use the cellphone camera I've had for two years, my friend looked at me for a moment and said, "You're just stupid!" and I blew a $9.50 beer out of my nose.)
Rob has lived in Boulder for three decades, but a long time ago we grew up — OK, we lived — in the tiny Massachusetts town of Hopedale, southwest of Boston. There were about 62 people in our high school graduating classes of 1972 and 1973. (Rob is a year older than me but, to be honest, he doesn't look it. He looks about 10 years older than me.)
In 1970 we'd climb the creaky oak stairs to the second-floor meeting room in the Hopedale Town Hall, and we would pay 50 cents each and for two hours we'd listen to a new band called Aerosmith. No kidding.
Perry is a few years older than Rob and me. Perry's sister, Anne-Marie, was in Rob's class and was a good friend. My sister, Linda, was Joe's classmate. She tells of the day in our Catholic church when Joe burst from the confessional booth with the priest yelling and chasing him. No one ever found out what that was all about. I think that's a shame.
And maybe I forgot to mention that Joe Perry's mother, Mary, who now lives in a big house in Florida, was our gym teacher. I swear I am not kidding about any of this. You can look it up. We had Joe Perry and Steven Tyler and the rest of the band.
We had Aerosmith!
They played together for the first time ever in November 1970, just up the road from Hopedale in the high school gymnasium of the adjoining and equally cosmopolitan town of Mendon (motto: "Mooooo!").
That winter they played in Hopedale a lot in the old granite Town Hall, just above the town clerk's office where I'd buy my fishing license each spring. At Aerosmith's first Hopedale appearance, in January 1971, Rob (16) and I (15) leaned against the stage, looking cool in our enormous bell-bottom trousers. During the second song Rob turned and above the roar shouted, "These guys are pretty good."
We still laugh about that.
A few months later there'd be a high school dance in Hopedale. Rob was in charge and asked Anne-Marie Perry if she had any, uh, ideas about entertainment. She sighed and said she'd ask her brother and, well, Aerosmith agreed to play at our dance. For $200.
On the morning of the big event, Tyler and Perry knocked on Rob's door at the end of Pierce Street.
"They were setting up the speakers in the gym and needed an extension cord," Rob said. His dad handed it over and that night Aerosmith made the gymnasium shake — with the Bresciani family's Christmas light connector snaked across the makeshift stage.
So last Saturday, some 38 years later, we stood with our wives — both named Susie, and how weird is that? — as Aerosmith pounded the night. The best friend I've ever had stood for three hours with a big grin on his face, pausing occasionally to insult me.
His dad, Johnny, died several years ago. Rob thought about that, too. Near the end of the concert he turned and shouted to me above the madness.
"Until he died, whenever anyone would mention Joe Perry or Aerosmith," Rob said, "Johnny would say, 'Those bastards. They still owe me an extension cord.'"