Can’t Keep ‘Em Separated

In order to attend the Camillus Middle School or CMS (and not to be confused with content management system) dances, from 1994 to 1997, students were required to use the farthest door located, while facing the school, on the left side of the building. Students entering would be greeted by one of the teachers standing guard. This detail is fuzzy, but there is some certainty we students had to sign in.

Briefly cut back to the 1993-1994 school year, fifth grade, I can remember school bus conversations regarding the dances. A school dance in itself felt like a big unknown but was as predictable and as basic as various pop culture mediums made them out to be.  Still, there was uncertainty as to how these were going to play out. But my temporary 1-UPped hubris allowed me to confidently boast: “I probably wasn’t going to go.” Come eighth grade, the percentage of my attending dances was on par with my mid-90s/high honor roll GPA.

Dances were held in the cafeteria, which, at the time, seemed much larger than it actually is. It was a spectacle with kids standing around, listening to a variety — Grateful Dead to Dave Mathews Band, group dances (a.k.a. “time killers”) from “The Electric Slide” to “La Macarena,” hip-hop rump shakers like 69 Boyz’s “Tootsee Roll” to the groove-heavy like Warren G and Nate Dogg’s “Regulators.”

Then there were the rest, those songs we didn’t know what to do with, from artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, The Offspring and so on. Regardless, it was great to hear the songs in person and louder than the car stereo or of a boombox projecting from a garage.


The Offspring at Lakeview Amphitheater, Syracuse [Photo by C. Malone]
Seeing 311 and The Offspring this past weekend was a treat. The bands have significantly contributed to the soundtrack of my life. The former and headliner last Sunday evening at Lakeview Amphitheater, I hadn’t seen since — I think — junior or senior year of high school. The Omaha-based hip-hop-infused alt-rock band performed at Syracuse University.

The Offspring I had yet to see. The Offspring exceeded expectations. The band with three of the members in their mid-50s still boasted their punk roots. Frontman Dexter Holland still had the chops to get those vocals out. Noodles and Greg K. positioned themselves at the front of the stage as well, providing background vocals and humorous commentary.

Then there’s 311, a band I’ve enjoyed since single “Down” hit the airwaves in the mid-’90s. They were a band I was teased about, because of the supposed controversial band name reflecting the KKK; it’s not, 311 being an Omaha police code for indecent exposure.

Kids, we did have the internet in those days.

Despite the funk and reggae tones of 311, it’s still kind of difficult to dance to. Unless you’re attending the music function as a Peanuts character. Most of the time there was a lot of standing around, nodding heads, and tapping feet. There was plenty of that during the show — a mass of Peanuts characters bouncing and occasionally turning 180 degrees and continuing the same moves.

Or there’s the option of mosh pit antics, but the pit wasn’t too crazy. We’re getting too old? Maybe. But there were kids in there, which is great. The aforementioned bands are no Black Sabbath, The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, but it’s nice to be at the age where my generation is passing down music. And Pearl Jam among others can be heard on classic rock stations.

Geneva’s Gym Class Heroes opened up for the notables. The hip-hop alt-rock group from the Finger Lakes Region, a band that took off in the early 2000s, rose to fame with their notable “Cupid’s Chokehold” off of their 2005 release The Papercut Chronicles. The melody of the song is a Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America.” They sounded OK.


311 at Lakeview Amphitheater, Syracuse [Photo by C. Malone]
In high school, my dance attendance, aside from the upcoming formal kinds junior and senior years, came to a screeching halt freshman year. My friends and I enjoyed the football games and then a trip to the nearby Denny’s afterward.

To further grow the male population, CMS would open the gym. Like many of the pubescent boys, I wanted to shoot hoops, play knock-out, get sweaty and then leave after the two-hour event was over. My mom would then roll her eyes and question why a coat wasn’t covering my torso and then preach the inevitable cold. At the same time, I wanted to enjoy music.

I didn’t care too much for dancing.

My anxiety, timidness, and cowardliness teamed up to plague my body, mind, and self-esteem. Such dances weren’t momentous occasions, and, when the cafeteria was to be avoided, there were those other passages to greener — err, or wooden floors. Yep, the gym, and another to the kitchen area, the land of snacks and beverages.

By the time I worked my way up to asking a crush to dance, it was the end of the night. And if they asked me to dance, I’d say I was needed to the gym to play some basketball. It was more satisfying to eat a Snickers instead.



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