As a freelance sports writer, you have to adjust to the highs and lows that come with the territory of being an independent contractor. There are times when things are great and there are times when things are lean.
During a lean period in my mid-20s, I took a position working security at a concert venue in Philadelphia called the Trocadero. "The Troc," as it is known to locals, has been around since the early 1900s. It has served as a movie theater, a venue for Vaudeville and even a burlesque club.
Right about now you're probably asking, "OK, what does this have to do with MMA?" It's coming, don't worry.
Occupational hazards and crummy pay aside, bouncing at the Troc was a great time. As someone who has been deeply influenced by music, some of my best memories of growing up happened while at the Troc.
Being able to see just about any band I wanted play live at no cost was a great perk. But one downside to being a bouncer is that while you often get to see shows you'd normally pay for anyway, you are forced to work others you otherwise wouldn't be caught dead at.
I was exposed to a lot of new bands over the years, but one of the best I was exposed to was an Orange County, Calif.-based quintet called Atreyu. I was able to watch them perform at a time when they were just being exposed to the national scene.
Before seeing them live, my only exposure to Atreyu was a video for the song Ain't Love Grand that I had seen play frequently on MTV2. It wasn't a bad song, but it didn't blow me away. But I would go on to become a convert after seeing them play live during an abbreviated 20-minute set.
I was impressed with the strong guitar work as well as a unique blend of hardcore screaming from its lead singer that was complemented by a more melodic style of signing by the band's drummer during the chorus of many of their songs. Over the years I have seen them play at least five times as either a mid-level headliner or as a featured player on a package tour.
Needless to say, I was already a fan. But my respect for the band only increased upon hearing from my jiu-jitsu instructor that they were in town and were coming to the gym for a private lesson during an off day. When I was invited to watch the band train for a possible article, I jumped at the chance at what has to rank as one of the coolest assignments I've ever had as a writer.
Music plays a big role in the lifestyle of a fighter. Aside from the obvious association, such as walk-in music before a fight, many fight gyms blast music in order to motivate fighters. And if you ever get a chance to go backstage before an MMA show, chances are good you'll see many fighters listening to an iPod right before combat. But the influence is mutual -- more and more musicians are turning to mixed martial arts and jiu-jitsu as a way to relieve stress between tours.
In the case of Atreyu, three of its members refuse to wait for a tour to end before they get back to their training. In addition to constantly scouting schools around the country that they can train at, the band also loads its tour van with mats so that they can roll with each other before shows.
To be a musical act that can chart in today's current music climate is a challenge in itself. But to chart as a metal/hardcore act? Forget about it. Yet the band, named after a character in the movie The Neverending Story, has managed to become one of the few heavier acts that can not only survive but thrive. And they are doing so in an environment where a generation of consumers have been conditioned to believe that they don't need to buy entire albums and instead just purchase ringtones and a few songs off iTunes.
While you won't find Atreyu on Music Hits Volume 75 or being covered on American Idol, you will find them on major rock tours such as the Ozzfest, Warp Tour, and the current Taste of Chaos, which also features Avenged Sevenfold and Bullet for my Valentine.