“Is it possible for the world to look this way forever?”–10 Years in Transit

The first time I finally saw Jack’s Mannequin perform live, it was 2009 at Rams Head Live and I was a few months shy of 16. I was wearing the same worn-down olive green canvas jacket I wore to every show as a teenager, a water main had flooded part of Baltimore and I was feeling particularly stressed about a paper I had due in American Lit.

I’ve since misplaced the jacket and now have more adult worries contributing to my perpetual anxieties. But, in many ways I felt like the same confused-yet-hopeful adolescent I was then when walking into the 9:30 Club this past Wednesday night. The occasion was a sold-out stop of a 10-year anniversary tour celebrating Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, “Everything in Transit.”

At 22 years of age, ten years feels like an awful long time. But that’s how long the words from “Everything in Transit” have been running through my head.

EiT

I’ve loved so much music in my life, but only a handful of albums have truly stayed with me. “Everything in Transit” tops that list. Unlike the songs I listen to in nostalgia trying to recapture a feeling, there’s something about EiT that makes it feel like the songs have grown up with me.

Maybe it’s because I’m finally the same age as Andrew McMahon when he wrote the album that the songs especially resonate with me today. Or, more likely, it’s a testament to his power as a storyteller that the songs only seem to grow in meaning instead of fading into the background

Ten years later, and Andrew McMahon is still chasing his dreams, sharing his music with the world.  And ten years later, I’m still singing along to every word.

Moments in my life like this give me a thing that tends to get lost amongst the chaos of everyday struggle. That thing is hope. 

“Is it possible for the world to look this way forever?” is a question posed in one of my favorite songs of the album. To answer: I hope it is.

 

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“If this song was about D.C., it would be called Adams Morgan, right?”

That title is a quote from Theo Katzman when introducing his song “Brooklyn” to a sold-out crowd at the Filmore in Silver Spring (ed.- For those of you not from the DMV, Silver Spring is on the outskirts of D.C.).

This past Sunday I saw Theo Katzman at the last stop of the Listen Up Tour, which is musician/actor Darren Criss’ first solo tour.

But let me start from the begininning…

Two months ago my friend approached me about seeing the Darren Criss show in D.C. She is a huge Darren fan and since I knew my sister would be in D.C. this summer, I agreed to go along. Also, I can’t lie,  I’ve been following Darren’s career since he was still a student at the University of Michigan. So yes, I’m also a fan.

The show was absolutely incredible. Theo Katzman opened with a great set that the editor in chief of Mother Jones described as:

theokatzman

Yes, I’m not making that up. The EIC of Mother Jones was at the Darren Criss show with his daughters. This is what he had to say about the main act:

Darren Criss Twwet

Really, what more do I need to write? I could gush about Darren for paragraphs and paragraphs and profess my new love for Theo and talk about how amazing he is live. But instead I will let the tweets of a middle-aged, serious journalist do the talking for me.

In addition to the performances being killer, the show itself was well designed. The lights were amazing. Rarely do I leave a show going, “Wow, those lights were great weren’t they?” But, they really were.

Despite the weather (torrential downpour while waiting in line) and the poor customer service of The Filmore (which opened the doors late despite the aforementioned torrential downpour), the show was worth every penny and every hour I spent traveling to D.C. on the Megabus.

I want to dedicate this blog post to my very wonderful sister for hosting us at her sublet. I’m so glad she was able to enjoy the show with me and my friend.

I’m going to go listen to Theo Katzman’s “Romance without Finance” on repeat now, so here are some  pictures/ evidence I need to get a better camera before I study abroad:

Theo

Listen Up Tour 2013-Silver Spring 008 Listen Up Tour 2013-Silver Spring 012

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Darren Criss playing drums with Theo Katzman

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The Sounds of the City

This is the third and final installment in my series of college essays that I’ve chosen to publish as a blog post. Again: They’re from 2010, but good writing is timeless. I hope this is good writing…

“The sounds of the city, Somehow they comfort me. On lonely mornings like this. Is someone out there like me? Walking their own lonely street?”- “Sounds of the City” by The Bouncing Souls

There it was.

After an eternity waiting inside the Ramshead Live Club of Baltimore, the lights had finally dimmed to signal the start of the show.

And when those lights lowered, there it was.

No, not the skinny-jean clad opening act bouncing onto the stage to start the first mediocre pop-punk song of their set.

Then, what was it that I had found?

I had found freedom.

Usually shy and reserved, I danced next to a sweaty stranger. At any other place, this activity would feel awkward. Yet here, I was perfectly comfortable. Echoing the words of the lead singer, the voice of this nameless stranger melded into the giant sound of the crowd.

A melodious echo, so large it encompassed my voice, engulfed the room in its ghostly presence.

The crowd’s energy, a volt of life shooting through the body, shocked me like nothing ever seen or heard of.

My soul, so long weighed down by loathing of my home surroundings, felt relieved of all burdens. Instead of feeling confined by the open fields of Carroll County, I felt released by the crowd of a packed rock club.

The concert, an escape from home, was so different from the place I had come from that night. That one-stoplight town of Union Bridge, different than me in so many ways, had always made me feel suffocated.

But now I could breathe.

Empowered, I realized I did not have to be a product of that town from which I came.

The night became a soundtrack, a swirling collage of sound and static that swelled all the way to the roof. Those lofty ceilings, so perfectly crafted for acoustics, were as masterful as the Sistine Chapel.

The sound of the concert, loud in volume and overwhelming in emotion, did not have to compete with the cliché sounds of rural life or need to drown out unwanted noise. Instead, the soundtrack of life, now liberated, could represent who I wanted to be.

Life, unlike a Gary Marshall-directed romantic comedy, rarely possesses literal background music. But that night at the concert, it did.

Alternative music, from piano-soaked ballads to gritty, punk anthems, spoke to me. The music’s messages, of love and loathing, isolation and camaraderie, and fear and hope, were true to my life.

Now these songs were not just music blasting from the speakers, they were blood pumping through my veins.

That one-stoplight town, full of conformity and misunderstanding, always made me feel so wrong and out of place.

Well, no more.

The ringing in my ears came from standing too close to speakers not from church bells chiming on Main Street at the change of the hour.

Instead of John Deere tractors holding up traffic, taxis and buses clogged the streets.

The skyline glittered with tall office and apartment complexes, not with the blinking lights of the local cement factory tower.

The city, the concert, and the people surrounding me differed so much from what Union Bridge represented.

Yet, they made no attempt to hide who or what they were, so neither would I.

The stranger, the one dancing beside me, and I had made a pact. An unspoken agreement saying, “It does not matter where we are from, because here we are.”

The concert was where he chose to be. It was where I chose to be. The choices we had made were all that mattered.

*****

Traveling to the concert that night, I expected a great show. Maybe, if I was lucky, I would get an autograph or catch a guitar pick thrown out into the crowd.

No amount of concert videos on Youtube or reading reviews in Alternative Press magazine, however, could have prepared me for what I would really find.

What is your something?

This is the second installment in my series of college essays that I’ve chosen to publish as a blog post. Again: They’re from 2010, but good writing is timeless. I hope this is good writing…

This post talks about the musician Ace Enders. If you were a big early 2000s emo fan like myself you might also be familiar with his band The Early November. Check out their new album “In Currents” out July 3rd.

 

4. According to Henry David Thoreau, “One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something.” What is your something?

Taped above my bed, a tattered piece of notebook paper reads,

“This next song is about knowing you’re meant to do something, you just don’t know what.”

That quotation, sprawling across those evenly spaced blue lines, does not come from Thoreau or any other philosopher. Instead, the words were spoken by a thirty-something musician named Ace Enders during a performance at the Recher Theater.

For an introverted person like me, concerts usually provide a freedom that can only be obtained from the anonymity one possesses while in a crowd.

But that night, listening to Ace Enders introduce the next part of his set, I was not alone. There, in that crowded room, was another person who shared my feelings. The same feeling that haunts me every minute of the day.

That message, the one that introduced Ace’s song, was a description of my life.

Without ever knowing exactly what, I have always felt that I am meant to do something.

What is your something?

This unrelenting question begs me for an answer, yet I still cannot respond.

I do not know what my something is, but I know that there is something.

Although I cannot see it, I know that along the periphery of my conscious a “something” awaits me.

The sensation you get when trying to think of that perfect word, the one just on the tip of your tongue, best describes my burden. Where that word hides also rests my something.

Maybe my something will stem from one of my many hobbies or the things comprising my life’s “to-do” list.

However, for now, those passions are just things.

A something is much more; it is a purpose.

Just like the protagonist of Ace’s song, I am still figuring things out. And, while one might be ready to declare a college major, declaring a life’s purpose might take a few semesters.

 

 

The Lucky One: Piano Pop edition

Everyone has been plagued by earworms at some point in their life. But it’s not quite as disgusting as it sounds.

For those not familiar with the term, an earworm is a catchy song that get’s stuck in your head. Literally. For days, weeks, months, years maybe. According to  Wikipedia, there is even a German song called “Ohrwurm”( Google translate it if you must).

Anyway, after a budget-theatre showing of “The Lucky One,” this track “Count Me In” by Early Winters attained automatic earworm status. But not because it was catchy like this song (Damn you Holy Musical B@tman!).

But because it sounded exactly like this:

Listen to ” The Day I Lost My Voice” by Copeland and then start  “Count Me In’ at 1:26.

Because the only thing worse than an earworm is an earworm that keeps you up all night trying to figure out why it sounds so familiar.

Unfortunately that’s the problem when you have melodies stuck in your head and not lyrics. Google is futile.

Has this happened to you? Have you ever realized the reason you love a song so much is because it sounds exactly another one of your favorite songs?

(Ed.-If you hate Nicolas Sparks, well then you probably will also hate the film. But if you love dogs, adorable precocious kids, killer soundtracks and Zac Effron walking the aforementioned dogs, then you will love it.)