So he listened, and the story of the lyrics and Geddy Lee's emotional delivery hooked him. He's been a RUSH fan ever since. The defining moment of his fandom was when RUSH played the entirety of "2112" in 1996 at Cleveland's Gund Arena.
The RUSH fandom has many social divisions. As Dunn and McFadyen showed in their documentary, some people -- especially musicians -- are fans of the ideals RUSH stands for: virtuosic musicianship, fearless exploration as artists and certainly stamina and longevity..
Most easily recognized is their level of musical ability. Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Kirk Hammett and Les Claypool appreciate the complexity of the music and the skill it takes to execute something like the guitar solo from "La Villa Strangiato."
"They're like musical superheroes," McFadyen said. "They do things on their instruments that mere mortals can't do."
Ask any drummer, Stenger said, and they'll tell you Neil Peart is one of the best in the world. His drum kit is a virtual fortress of percussion, dwarfing any other professional drummer's setup, McDonald said.
Peart's drum solos, which can last upwards of 10 minutes, are far from a good excuse to use the restroom during a concert. "There's people who come specifically to see his solo," Stenger said.
"He's able to make sounds and you can't even see him make them," said Dunn of Peart's legendary drumming.
Fans also appreciate the artistic integrity of the band, who has historically ignored concerns and direction from their record company -- and won autonomy.
Suburban youth especially appreciate the appeal of RUSH. McDonald discovered that the experience of the band spoke deeply to many others who dreamed of escaping their bedroom communities. Songs like "Subdivisions" and "Middletown Dreams," from the album "Power Windows" became anthems for them, he said.
But the albums themselves can also mark divisions in the fandom. When Geddy Lee introduced dominant synthesizers into the band's until-then heavy guitar sound, many fans stopped listening, Stenger said.
"There's a cutoff at (the album) "Moving Pictures," Stenger said. RUSH's next album, "Signals" put the group solidly into synth-pop territory, "and a lot of people did not like that at all." But even so, he said, the group of RUSH fans who grew up with the band's music from the 1970s is still the largest group in the fandom.
"Then you have the fans who grew up with their music from the 1990s. Their favorite albums are 'Presto,' 'Roll the Bones,' and 'Counterparts,' " he said. "I tell them my favorite album is 'Caress of Steel' and they say, 'what?' "
"Counterparts" is another one of those divisions, McDonald said. "That was the exact moment when Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit and the alternative '90s really started to go," he said. "In some ways, the world RUSH had inhabited to great success in the '80s was ending. I think 'Roll the Bones' in '91 was their last million-seller," he said.
Even specific songs in the RUSH repertoire divide the fandom. The aforementioned rap on the song "Roll the Bones" makes fans either roll their eyes or chuckle at the band's sense of humor. The song "The Trees" off the album "Hemispheres" either induces an "icky feeling," as Dunn puts it, or evokes a passionate speech about the epic qualities of the guitar-driven composition and political analysis of Peart's fable-like lyrics.
RUSH probably won't play "Roll the Bones" or "The Trees" during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, but it's a safe bet there won't be a single unlit Zippo in the group's fanbase when Peart breaks into his solo.