My right calf is killing me. It's a reminder that you're never too old to try something stupid. As the years stack up growing a wider ditch between your youthful innocence and your currently held older, pessimistic thought - you always have a tiny itch for "how it was" to some extent. Well, a couple of beers over a couple of hours led me to stage dive during The Chariot's insane set Friday night in Austin. Never too old to fly, but old enough to hurt the next couple of days from hitting the runway with no support. That great leap (the second actually, the first and third time worked out) only set up the nostalgic past that was my weekend seeing old friends both on and off the stage.
Fast forward to the next night. I'm standing behind Cody Bonnette's amp. I can see a sea of a couple of thousand kids. I remember this scene, yet it took place six years prior as I stood on top of a stage back home - the band performing Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest from front to back. A lot has happened in those six years. I watched as my friends' band evolved, was scoffed at in the process of progressing by fans and broke up before their last album even surfaced. I played their "pre-CD release" for Come Now Sleep, and was there the next night for the official release show. I was on stage taking pictures at their unannounced final show back in Baton Rouge. I was at one of their weddings. I've seen them start families and enter some sort of "real world" status. For the most part, As Cities Burn did what a large percentage of bands do - they came in, left a mark, broke-up and some of us still sit around and yearn for what we either witnessed at its most special of moments or missed it all together. (side note: A friend and I were talking this weekend about how we never saw The Bled live on the final tour - or ever.)
It's strange to hear bands talk about an album like Son, I Loved You At Your Darkest now. A lot of us knew it was something special then, and still I see it as one of the last greats in the post-hardcore scene before a lot of the muck we've seen boil over during the second half of the last decade. Some of that muck still thrives. Take the festival for which As Cities Burn had come to play. One stage consisted of watery pop the likes of Tiger Beat with a teen-angst while the other had me hear "Get the fuck up!" well over an unsatisfying limit throughout the day before every breakdown - if you've seen the line-up - that's a lot of breakdowns. Drinking games not worth chasing. Then there was the kid in the neon band shirt mocking As Cities Burn waiting in line to get in. At that moment, I wanted to be that guy, to walk up and go, "Hey man, my bands didn't wear make-up and choreograph their moves - they just did it. So when you grow out of your little phase and discover you've always loved Bjork, but secretly hid it because it wasn't cool enough, you'll think twice about your mockery."
Honestly, how would it fair out years later? TJ Bonnette had not screamed in five years. Cody and Aaron Lunsford were working on other projects, continuing to hone their own skills. Lunsford even commented to me about how hard it was for him to relearn some of his drum parts because his style of playing had grown over the years. Still, even as the first lines of "The Widow" rang out, the crowd embraced whatever was coming off the stage as they loudly sang back the words towards the singular vocal and guitar accompaniment. As the show went on, you could tell that sometimes a line didn't stack up, or a vocal part was missed - that's okay. It's been a while. For a couple of days of practice in a room together, I'd count it up to be quite a success when all was said and done. You could see it in the smiles of the guy's faces. After pacing all day, I could feel the anxiety, that anxious feeling of just getting through it build throughout the day in their body language. As the performance was unfolding in front of me - we (friends, family, longtime fans - some who traveled very far) all embraced it. I screamed a lot of those words - that nostalgia that was rushing back through me. It's the reason I jumped a third time during "Back to Back" Friday night. Sure, I hurt my leg and back, but why not embrace the moment? That's what As Cities Burn did, they embraced the moment they had for one album, and attempted to relive it for what we will say to be the last time in the books.
As much as I can sit here and bash the line-up, the events center filled with Hot Topic trending teens that will more than likely grow out of it once they "get it all out of their system" and especially the amount of bad music my yearly quota met on Saturday - it was all worth it to see something special to me one more time. It was something I witnessed countless times for a number of years with the very people for whom I witnessed it with originally, now standing on stage watching the crowd pump their fist in unison. Again, it goes back to a lot of what I've been talking about this year. As a kid, music is way more fun than when you grow up and become a shell of your former music discovering self. There's no bar set as to "what's good" or the innocent "I like this, will I like this?" running your thoughts and leading to open arms. Back then, you were mostly consuming without a lot of over-thinking and little to no guidance based on your past knowledge - you thrived on ignorant bliss. What's fun to do is to sit down and sift through all of that consumption years later. Like a good friend of mine wrote in his blog a couple of weeks back, "Punk isn't broken. We just get to old to recognize it." Maybe breakdowns-a-dozen are revolutionary, and I just don't see that. Maybe there's a new movement that I'm overlooking because I'm too caught up in the past and wrapped up in what I think I know instead of what I should just simply enjoy. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm right (mostly wrong) like I've always been and just delusional to the fact - that's yet to be determined.
It's not easy to make it in this business. You have two options. You can either jump into the new mix, sell a couple of thousand records and prepare to get back to the grind like the rest of us blokes a couple of years after the dream dies, or you can at least attempt to make a mark so endearing that your initial longevity as a band means less than the value that your mark left behind which holds strong generation to generation. Rites of Spring had one record. Refused had only two proper. Further Seems Forever's first record is the only one a lot of people even care about. (ed. note: I like How to Start a Fire pretty equally.) The point is that those records made an impact felt for some time now, and many didn't even get it the first time or the moment wasn't around long enough, so we all sit and whine about making it happen again. As music consumers and enthusiasts, we sometimes miss the boat and piss and moan about it later. Know why we missed the boat, because we weren't open to it to begin with. There are probably more people who want to see Jawbreaker's Dear You performed in its entirety than 24 Hour Revenge Therapy - but I could be wrong.
Not only as a friend, as a fan, I was there every moment I could to support the guys. I even sacrificed writing something for the band in the journalism department to work on their final bio for Tooth and Nail for Hell or High Water. While many of you won't be able to do that for your favorite bands on that kind of level - there's so much more you can do: buy a record, t-shirt and most importantly - go to a show and go as far as bringing a friend with you. I'm not saying your heroes will live forever though. I thought As Cities Burn would live for longer than they did, but they didn't. While reunions have been popping up all across the board these past couple of years, it doesn't mean it'll happen for every band, or in such a way that you can even make the travel to see them.
When that moment happens, and it brings together a part of your life that you'll never forget and is always tucked somewhere special - enjoy it. Don't overly think of how good a song or album may be or can be, just enjoy it. It's not going to be perfect (maybe it will for some, who knows) and it surely won't be exactly how you remember it. As long as that moment is as fun and as close to the past memory as possible, that's what counts. One day you kids will wake up like me, trying to survive this real world thing, limping around at your part-time job because you decided to relive the moment a little too long after you should have done it to begin with. Music is a universal attachment mechanism many of us use to package memories for better or for worse. Just like your favorite artists should make their mark when they can, you should also do your part in handing down its moment of ancestry. Sometimes we can relive it, but it'll never be as genuinely close to its first occurrence. The best we can hope for with reunions is that it comes close. Saturday night came pretty damn close to the mark, and I'm more than grateful I got to witness it.