For awhile in the early 90s, back in Ohio, I was the lead singer in a band with some friends of mine. It should be pointed out that I can’t sing, and I was clearly the least talented member of the group, but they had a falling out with their original lead singer a few days before a big battle-of-the-bands, and I got roped into taking over on vocals. In any event, we played together for a couple of years, and had a lot of fun, and I like to think I added some decent creative input to our projects, whatever I might have been lacking in musical talent.

One summer while we were playing, the local rock radio station set aside two hours to showcase the local music scene, so we sent them our demo, four songs we’d recorded in the basement of our bass player’s mom’s house.

I can only assume that the showcase was probably meant to be for all the big local bar bands, and since, at the time, I don’t know if we had played out more than once, we weren’t expecting to make the cut. In our little rock & roll pond, 104.7 WIOT was the undisputed king of FM. They were the ones playing the Guns n Roses version of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” when it was still a bootleg.

But then one day we were riding around, and they played a promo for the showcase, and right there, at the end of the commercial, they mentioned us.

They said our name — OUR NAME — on the radio! The same DJs who’d turned us on to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had said OUR NAME!!!

We told all of our friends to tune in and we spent the next few weeks listening at all hours, just to hear them mention us again.

What an unbelievable high!

On the big night, we all gathered around the stereo to listen to the program. You would’ve thought our lives depended on it. It was a two hour show, and we listened and listened and listened, as they rolled through the very best of the Toledo, Ohio music scene. But then the show ended, and they never played us.

They never played us. And that sucked.

Somehow, all the hours we’d put in and the work we’d done, and all of our big ideas were finally going to be validated in those three minutes of air time. People were going to hear our song. It meant everything to us. And it came to nothing.

I mention it now because, twenty years later, I’m thinking of all of the artistic rejection I’ve dealt with since, all of the harsh criticism I’ve gotten, all of the film festivals who politely declined me because admissions were so competitive that year, all of the pain and heartbreak that’ve come with it, and it’s just an extension of the hurt we felt that night, sitting by the radio and not knowing why our song wasn’t good enough to get played. I know now that it’s always going to feel just as lousy as it did that night. That disappointment never changes.

But I can tell you this: driving around those country roads that summer with the windows down and the volume cranked up, hearing our name on the radio—that was pretty f-cking cool.

That’s got to be worth something.