[Editor's Note: Longtime concert photographer and fellow Weekling Andrew Youssef found out almost two years ago that he had Stage IV colon cancer. In that time, he has continued to shoot tons of music events for us on top of other freelance work and holding a day job at a hospital, of all places. As he continues to fight for his life, this series allows him to tell his story in his own words.]
I can still remember being at a Tower Records listening station back in 1998 and being blown away by the brutality of Meshuggah's album Chaosphere. It was the heaviest thing I had heard to date and I immediately went to the counter to purchase the album and call my brother to tell him about this new amazing band that I found.
Based in Sweden, Meshuggah is an extreme metal band that features the growling vocal stylings of Jens Kidman, earth-shaking bass of Dick Lovgren, the pulsating drums of Tomas Haake, my eight string guitar heroes Frederik Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom. Releasing albums approximately every three to four years, when Meshuggah tours one must take special note to see them play as they usually tour once in the States per album cycle.
I was fortunate to photograph Meshuggah at the House of Blues Anaheim for OC Weekly back in 2009 and 2012. As I mentioned in my “Chemical Warfare” column, Meshuggah is usually what I play in my headphones when they start the IV in my arm for my chemotherapy. When they announced a stop at the Wiltern theatre this past March, I was determined to attend.
In setting up the credentials to review the show with their publicist Loana who had read my initial Last Shot column, I mentioned that Meshuggah was one of my favorite bands and that I had an Ibanez eight string guitar specifically for my feeble attempts to play Meshuggah songs at home. After a few exchanges, Loana asked if I would like to meet the band after the show. I was immediately floored and overrun with excitement.
After catching their blistering set, My brother and I met with Loana and were escorted backstage to meet the band. While it is a scary proposition to meet your idols, Meshuggah were extremely nice and down to earth guys as they answered all of my nerdy gear questions, signed my guitar and kindly posed for pictures. It still feels like a dream to this day and I'm thankful that these precious memories are preserved in pictorial form as I somehow wisely handed my camera to Loana to take pictures of me with the band.
At the end of the evening as I was walking to my car, I was just shellshocked and overwhelmed with the generosity. I had never met Loana before this initial encounter and what she did for me was beyond what I could have dreamed. It supports the theory that there are some amazing people in this world. I immediately broke down in tears when I hugged her goodbye. It definitely gave me a huge boost to my moral and still kicks me up a notch when I think about it.
When I thought things couldn't get crazier, I saw that Meshuggah was playing in Las Vegas the next night. After a one second conversation with my brother, we booked a last minute flight and hotel to see Meshuggah close out their tour at the House of Blues Las Vegas. I received the same royal treatment and was able to get a mini tour of their guitar setup by their extremely funny and nice guitar tech, Kent Eriksson.
Meshuggah songs mean even more to me now than you can imagine. In fighting cancer, people draw their strength and courage to fight the disease with things that empower them. The memories of meeting Meshuggah and listening to their music is what I draw my energies from to fight my cancer. The bonus fact that I shared this wonderful experience with my brother is something that I know he will never forget as well. I can't thank Loana and Meshuggah enough for their kindness and that they made a cancer patient's dream come true.
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