Sitting in the Irish bar, watching my friends play their first set, ever. They've been working on this so long and hard, and so often they've almost given up.

But here they are, and the audience is loving it. They're singing along, stamping their feet, whistling and cheering. You can see the reaction lift the band higher and higher -- Josie's fingers dance on the pipe and she tosses her head to get the hair out of her eyes, Michael beats time with his foot as he fiddles and Rona's voice pierces its way right into your soul.

They swing into their last number -- "The Irish Rover", of course -- and the music dazzles my eyes and mind as well as my ears; it's so vital, so alive. I'm singing too -- I couldn't stop myself if I tried, the simple joy of it grabs you by the hand and drags you, whirling, along with it, and as it crashes to a halt, laughter spirals and the applause is deafening.

You can see them there, on the stage, gasping for breath, exhilarated as the clapping and cheering go on and on.

A small triumph maybe. A small bar, in a small town. An easy crowd who came to hear exactly the kind of music they play; but a triumph even so. And you can see that it's got them -- their first performance won't be their last. They'll be back.

Setting: Philadelphia, December, 1999. Mumia Abul Jamal's original execution date. And who's playing in Philly that night? Rage Against the Machine. Of course. The execution has been postponed due to the threat of a riot following the concert. I'm there. Fourth row, just outside the 3,000 member pit. There are 60,000 of us in the stadium. We've seen and heard over an hour and a half of rage, and Zack de la Rocha has just declared that there's one more song in the set. We all know what it is, and you can practically feel static coming off the crowd. Then the lights cut out.

In the pitch black of the stadium comes the beginning pulses of "Killing in the Name". The crowd absolutely roars. The lights remain black until a yellow spot hits the bass as he kicks in with a triplet pattern. A purple spot alights over the drums as they join the pattern on a-go-go bells. Then the lights go back out.

As the chorus riff kicks in, sending the mob into a frenzy, the lights remain out on stage- instead, a strobe hits the pit, which in the flashing beams appears as an ocean of mad, furious bodies. They're not moshing. They're simply jumping up and down, pounding their souls against the floor and the world to the beat of the song. The world suddenly goes insane.

Through five minutes of flashing lights, half-crazed preaching, sweat, and 60,000 voices screaming "FUCK YOU, I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!!" we bellow until our throats burn and our lungs beg us to stop. Then we bellow some more.

After the set is over, the band leaves the stage. Every one of us in the crowd is prepared to kill for the band. I guess this is mob mentality. I keep thinking that the lights crew for the show should get an award. I've never seen music matched as well as this. To this day the thought of that crowd, that show, that song, sends shivers up my spine, and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end.

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