Since September 11th, musicians have been lining up to play benefit concerts for "those most affected" by the terrorist attacks. Lucky for the performers -- and most of us watching at home -- they were not among the children of World Trade Center workers, fireman, policemen or Pentagon officials.
But musicians and "those most affected" are not mutually exclusive groups. In the northwestern corner of New Jersey, in a town called West Milford, resides a four-piece rock & roll band called Concept Zero, affectionately named for a high school history lesson that singer/bassist Tom Kafafian and drummer Drew DePalma had to endure about how the Incas and Mayas dreamed up the mathematical representation of nothingness.
Drew's mom, Jean, went to work on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center on the morning of the 11th, and -- like more than three thousand others -- was lost in the horrific events that followed.
In addition to being Drew's mom, Jean was Concept Zero's mom: the band -- which also includes fellow high school seniors, guitarists Bob Grusczynski and Brett Steup -- formed two years ago in her basement (prompting many late-night, noise-related visits from the police), and she would drive them to gigs in her van.
A few days after the 11th, Drew made a request of Tom. "He said to me, 'All these people are asking to do things for me, but I really want something from you,' " Tom recalls. " 'I want you to write a song for her, that will remember her -- that will live on forever . . . something that all the guys can sing in twenty years.' "
Tom retreated to his room -- guitar and pen in hand -- and came up with "In Loving Memory," an equally bitter and uplifting ballad built on a nifty "I'm not here, but I'm not gone" vocal hook.
"I was pretty much pissed off," Tom says, "and it came out of me. Mrs. DePalma lived up the block my whole life. She always called me her other son, and I wanted to write a song for her, just to tell her how much I love her and everything."
Drew loved the song, Tom banged it out on his-four-track and the band sent a copy to a local commercial radio station, which began playing it incessantly -- so much that it seemed everyone who attends Pope John Paul parochial school with the boys had to have a copy.
"We must have given away over 300 copies," Drew says. "Even kids I didn't know were coming up to me, saying, 'I heard your song on the radio.' I was like, 'Cool. Who are you again?'"
Concept Zero are more than a one-song wonder, however. On a recent Friday night, they rocked Club Obsession, in nearby Randolph, and did not even include "In Loving Memory" in the their set. Another thing that distinguishes them from many of their hard-rock brethren is the preponderance of female faces pushed up against the stage.
"Oh yeah, we get all the girls," Tom admits shyly.
"We might invite, like, two boys," agrees Drew, laughing.
Yes, like the spirit of mother who inspired and nurtured them, life goes on for Concept Zero.