Growing up with Linkin Park

Linkin Park

I was not a Linkin Park fan, but my sister was.

I don’t really know how it happened. We shared a bedroom but never really got into each other’s business. This was around 2003, around the time the band released their second album, Meteora. All of a sudden, she was into the band.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s my cousin who got her into it. I’m not really sure. They were born a year apart – for perspective, I’m a year older than my sister – and they dove into being Linkin Park fans together. We had one of those cheap VCD players, the one with an obvious rip-off name (think “Somy”) and a lot of blinking lights. They often played the VCD that accompanied Meteora there, a behind the scenes look at the production of the album. I would end up watching it over and over, too, because I was the guy who knew how to set up the player – and it being a time where smartphones were just an expensive dream, I had nothing else to do.

It’s been fourteen years. I don’t remember much anymore. I just remember the girls giggling at particular moments, particularly when the members somehow make fools of themselves. Or maybe they were swooning. My sister had a crush on Mike Shinoda, while my cousin was into Joe Hahn. There was Rob Bourdon and Brad Delson fooling around. There was Phoenix, who my sister called “Fifi” – or maybe it was off the VCD? And then there was Chester Bennington, who as vocalist had to keep the band together somehow, as a straight man, although of course we all know Mike played the same role as its lead MC. He was not the straight man, at all.

I would never call myself a Linkin Park fan. I liked their songs, but I never had that level of investment my sister and cousin had. I could never stand here, fourteen years later, and say the songs spoke to me. I’m not at all qualified to write this, even. I can only say that Linkin Park was my first window into being a fan of any musician. I saw my sister collect any and every photo of the band she would come across. She bought the albums – at least the first few ones, until she moved on to other things. The passion was enough to compel my father to buy us tickets to their first concert here in Manila, back in 2004, I think.

This was somewhere at the Mall of Asia, but before it was even completed. It was just an empty lot, or a construction site. My memory is hazy. I remember being excited.  It was my first ever concert. It was her first ever concert. We got the cheapest tickets, sure – P500 a pop; we were really far away – but it didn’t matter. It felt momentous. We were watching a band, a foreign band. It was big enough that we had to fake our excuses for not going to school that day. (I somehow told my teachers that, yes, we’re actually watching a concert. One of them – Sir Ronald, how are you? – told me that I should amend the excuse slip and actually mention the concert. “You did it with your family,” he argued. “I don’t have a problem with that.”) We can’t sing the songs the way Chester does – I don’t even know all the words – but that scratched-up VCD, all the songs on there, we will finally, sort of, listen to them performed live, see the band perform live. It felt momentous. It is momentous.

It’s been fourteen years. My sister has clearly moved on. My cousin – her again – introduced her to more pop-punk artists; they went with my younger brother to the first ever Bazooka Rocks. (Or was it the second?) And then my cousin got her into the Korean variety show Running Man, and now they’re both into Korean pop culture, a trail that paralleled, but rarely intersected, my own. Still, we occasionally talk about Linkin Park, especially when something new comes up. It’s why I still listen to their albums. We had one of those pseudo-intellectual conversations around their last album, the badly-received One More Light. We both shared bewilderment at how people were shocked at the band going pop. “They’ve long flirted with that,” she reckoned. We would know. Despite the change of favorites, we still know the band had an electronic streak, an experimental streak. We still somehow kept track.

Come to think of it, Linkin Park – with all their songs about being alone and wanting to be some place they can feel accepted and loved – was just a thread in the strong bond between the two girls. They were always very close. They were into Blue (the boy band, yes) together; they were into Harry Potter together. It was definitely a sad moment when my cousin moved to the United States – while her parents are both Filipino, she was born in Chicago, and thus has an American passport – to try her luck there.

My sister has long moved out. I still sleep in the bedroom we used to share, on the same double-deck bed, now creaky but still standing. I sleep on the top bunk, while she slept in the bottom one. On the wall next to her bed are two Linkin Park posters, their edges taped so it wouldn’t tear. Her commitment to the band was such that she actually glued those posters to the wall.

“How I wish this was all fake news,” my cousin tweeted me from Long Beach, just a drive away from Los Angeles, the city we watched over and over again in that VCD, which is now sitting somewhere at my sister’s place. Moving there made her a bit more political. She certainly was invested in the last election.

I then proceeded to send my sister a message on Viber. It was just half past four in the morning. She wouldn’t get up until around eight.

“Chester Bennington is dead.” [NB]

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