Ode to Chester Bennington

Because I go to so many concerts of different style artists, in different genres, at different venues, etc., I find it impossible to name or even have a short list of favorite shows. What I have, instead, are special memories of concert “moments”, times of unforgettable surprise and awe. One such moment was given to me by Chester Bennington.

Paramore4It was October 23, 2009 at the televised MTV Ulalume Music Festival[1] at Merriweather Post Pavilion. My Daughter Diandra[2] insisted we go see Paramore[3] and that we stand in the pit. But we were also genuinely curious about Chester Bennington’s side project Dead by Sunrise – a rather chilling band name now – that he created for songs he considered too dark and moody for Linkin Park. (If you know Linkin Park’s music, try wrapping your brain around that.) We also hoped that we might get on TV when the video cameras did shots of the crowd in front of the stage. Alas, that didn’t happen.

Photo by Diandra Linder

As expected, the Dead by Sunrise set opened with four big, intense rockers. And then came the fifth song – the moment. It was the song Let Down. I can’t do justice to the feelings of that moment with words. I just remember a crowd of thousands simply . . . hushed. Nobody seemed to move or even breathe. All of us were completely transfixed in awe – “what is happening here?” I’m sure being outside on a beautiful early fall D.C. night had something to do with it. I’m sure the surprisingly somber beginning of the song got everybody’s attention, too. But clearly there was something about that song and Chester’s beautifully tender vocal that created this instantaneous sacred feeling of awe that everybody shared and nobody saw coming.

Every time I’ve listened to this song since then, I get transported back to this moment. And now, it’s a moment I’ll hold onto with special – and sad – fondness.

R.I.P. Chester Bennington.


[1] Ulalume is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe and the festival had a Halloween theme.

[2] In costume as Slash.

[3] It was the first of many times seeing Paramore.

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