Sunday, January 30, 2022

Now That We're Old

Holy shit! I didn’t expect all of the tickets to get sold out so quickly. My wife pointed out though, that they did have an option for a down payment and layaway. Twenty bucks up front instead of $250. I’m sure the scalpers have taken advantage of the situation. I really do want to see some of the artists on the list, but I know that the songs that they would play would not be the songs that I would be excited for. I’m too old. I’m nitpicking and thinking back to their most popular releases. The top hits and the hidden gems. Honestly though, My Chemical Romance and The Used only have one REALLY GOOD album… Three Cheers and In Love and Death are top tier. The rest of their music is not all that appealing to me, and to see them nearly 20 years later, I don’t know that it’ll be a good show. I can appreciate the music they put out after 2004, but those aren’t the albums that I listen to. Paramore is the other major headliner with MCR. They have a couple of good albums, but I have no idea if they’re any good live. I know that Hayley Williams has a great voice, well, she HAD an amazing voice but Paramore haven’t released an album in nearly a decade at this point. So I don't know what they sound like anymore. 

Oh, so, if you aren’t following along, or you have been living under a rock, and haven’t had someone on social media tell you about this show happening in Vegas in October: Live Nation is putting on a show called When We Were Young. It’s effectively a who's who of emo bands from the mid-2000s. In fact, the list of bands reads a bit like some of the mix CDs I burned when I was in high school, which is exactly why I’ve put together a Spotify playlist to share with everyone that has my favorite tracks.

There are, without a doubt, several bands on the list that I would love to see. The thing is though, would they be bands that I want to see today? I don’t think they would be (with some exceptions, such as Bayside and Hawthorne Heights). Herein lies the irony, it's a concert about “When We Were Young,” sure, but that isn’t how those bands sound now. Because there are many bands on the list that I don’t want to hear from today, I want to hear the music that they made 20 years ago. AFI is the perfect example, anything after “Sing the Sorrow” is just garbage. Here's my version of what the concert CD could look like:

If I had the money to throw away on something stupid like a concert that I probably won’t have a good time at, I totally would have bought tickets! Whoops, they were sold out while I was trying to figure out if it was going to be a good concert. Then again, that brings up all kinds of other issues, like the fact that it’s taking place during the day from 11am until 1am or some crazy schedule like that. Originally it was only set to be a one day thing. Warped Tour was one thing… I never got to to go, but I can imagine if I had, I would have been stoned out of my mind and probably wouldn’t have cared what the bands sounded like, it would have been more about the experience, and that’s the thing about getting old, because it seems like that’s what they’re trying to do with the show is to recreate the magic of Warped Tour from the late 90s and early aughts. It's impossible, I have to keep the medicine cabinet stocked with ibuprofen. If I were still 14 years old, I wouldn't mind spending 14 hours at a concert, but that's just not realistic these days.

However, they may have gotten me if I were single, but now that I’m married combined with the fact that my wife doesn’t necessarily like all these bands. Well, there’s your answer. I won't be attending, but I won't let that stop me from reminiscing and this playlist is pretty killer. I’ve always been acutely aware of good music. This is something that I very much pride myself on. I was a master at creating mixtapes or CDs for all of my friends during the height of MP3s. I was one of the only kids in the classroom that had a CD burner, or that knew how to make CDs that would actually work on a CD player. Granted, you could only get so many songs onto the CD because it was based on the total minutes of record time, rather than the number of megabytes available—it was almost the same problem that was around in the days of vinyl, physical space limitations—though, no one I knew at the time had a CD player or walkman that could play discs with MP3 files on them… In fact, it wasn’t until I graduated highschool and got my first car that the stereo system had a CD player that could recognize MP3 data discs. In the spirit of days long gone, and trapped in foggy and faded memories, I decided that I would pick one song from each of the bands… Similar to the way they used to do with the tour albums of those days; Warped Tour, Family Values, Woodstock 99, etc. Though, this playlist is a bit like an extended box set. There are far too many songs than what would have normally fit on the traditional 80-90 minute music CD.

Anyway, let me take some time to break down each band on the list and let you in on my own internal monologue regarding these bands.

Paramore had a big hit with Misery Business, but musically they didn’t hit their apex until Brand New Eyes, which was 2008-09. I actually chose the song “Now” because despite how perfect Brand New Eyes is in defining the “Paramore” sound, I feel like the self-titled album is actually much more mature musically, and the song “Now” really shows them branching out as a band, and showcases Hayley’s vocals in a way that songs like “The Only Exception” don’t… She does have a classically interesting and beautiful range, but the self-titled album showcases some interesting uses for that voice, and “Now” might be a song that you’re familiar with from the radio.

Mentioned above, My Chemical Romance only has one good album. Three Cheers is almost a perfect album even. From beginning to end it’s a monument of songwriting, and perfectly captures everything about all of those bands at that time that embodied the “emo” genre. I chose “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison” as the song to be on this playlist because of how perfectly the title goes with the intro lyrics; “Like a bullet through a flock of doves, to wage this war against your faith[.]”

AFI is a tough one… Most of their early stuff is good, but as soon as their audience started shifting from punk and scene kids to a bunch of rabid teenage girls, their sound evolved to cater to that demographic. I’ve seen interviews with Davey Havok where he talks about how he can’t even listen to their older music because of how much the band has grown musically… I think it’s really just a load of shit. AFI is the greatest Misfits cover album to never cover a Misfits song (maybe at a live show, but nothing on a recorded album that I’m aware of.) Seriously though, good for him… The “Son of Sam” album is actually really good, and as far as I know it’s the only album that Glen Danzig has played guitar on for another vocalist. So, selling out worked. 2003’s Sing the Sorrow is by far their best album, but I chose “Days of the Phoenix” from “The Art of Drowning” because it’s a song about the shows they played coming up, and a venue that supported them in their endeavors. I also feel that it’s partially the emotions behind songs like Phoenix that are missing from their more recent endeavors.

Bert McCracken made a name for himself among the kids I used to hang out with after word got around that he strained his voice so much at concerts that he uncontrollably vomited during sets. I’m not entirely sure how true that rumor is… I vaguely have a memory of seeing some grainy video clip downloaded from a random website or through Kazaa that was from a concert where he looks to be vomiting. In any case, “In Love And Death” was a turning point for me personally, it was the first “emo” album that I decided to sit down in earnest and listen to from start to finish. This probably had to do with a girl that I liked who was into their music, but by the time I got to the end of the album, “I’m A Fake” hit differently. The poetic-like intro really spoke to the whole demographic. Some of my friends and I used to joke about emo kids wanting to slit their wrists, but here was a song that spoke honestly to the stereotype. Definitely worth the listen.

Early 90s nostalgia had already started to take hold by the time I was graduating high school, and Taking Back Sunday unashamedly stole the naked baby motif for the cover of their second album. I think it worked too, they had two major hits that year with videos that had major airplay on MuchMusic… Not everything cool was on MTV, in fact, MTV had really started to lose steam by the mid-2000s. “A Decade Under The Influence” and “This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know)” were both really popular, despite the slow death of music video television in general. I chose the second most popular song of theirs from the sophomore release just based on personal preference, and because I got really sick of seeing the video for “A Decade Under The Influence.” To be fair, the album released in 2006, “Louder Now,” is probably a better overall album, but it really has less standout songs. There’s a general tone that sort of blankets all the songs on that album, and the tracks kind of bleed together without feeling all that distinct, hence the reason I chose the song that I did for this playlist.

I don’t really have much to say about Dashboard Confessional’s “Vindicated.” Oftentimes Dashboard is cited as the band that started the emo genre with their debut album “The Swiss Army Romance.” I decided to go with “Vindicated” merely because they were sort of lifted up by the wave they started. “Screaming Infidelities” and the title track from their first album aren’t really that good… Subjectively speaking, of course. They’re stripped down and raw songs, they have all the elements there, but it isn’t polished to any respectable degree. Swiss Army Romance is more of a proof of concept.

By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, there was a bit of a second wave of emo emerging… This second emergence was labeled as “Post-Hardcore” and that definition has often times replaced the genre definition for prior bands like MCR, Dance Gavin Dance, Underoath, AFI, etc. I don’t necessarily agree with this re-labeling of emo to post-hardcore, but I do agree that Pierce the Veil came out the gate swinging with a pretty badass first album. The songs lose some momentum after “Besitos” though, Selfish Machines is somewhat of a love letter to Three Cheers; a lot of the same lyrical themes pop up, and the various songs on the album have similar musical phrasings, and even the vocal stylings (albeit with more of a whiny timber) mimic what Gerard did, the crowning achievement is that Pierce the Veil played around with their instrumentation a bit.

Spray Paint It Black” sounds like it should be a Rolling Stones song… Surely the title is probably inspired by the classic rock anthem, but it’s also a relatively new song from Hawthorne Heights. These guys are the dark horses, the surprising band that has just been lurking in the shadows, hiding in strange obscurity and refining their sound. In all seriousness, I found out about their new album “The Rain Just Follows Me” quite by accident. Something popped up on Facebook or it was a random radio suggestion from Spotify which led me to listen to “Nikki FM” only to climb the ladder of their discography and discover that they were releasing new material. Hawthorne Heights is one of the few bands that will be at this show that will probably fucking kill their set with both old and new tracks, and do an amazing job at it. I’m really impressed with last year’s album. I have officially converted to becoming a Hawthorne Heights fan.

Honestly, I haven’t really listened to any of A Day To Remember’s music. This track came up on a Pandora radio list I had curated. Turns out “If It Means A Lot To You” is probably their most popular track. I’m also apparently in the minority for having not listened to much of their music, their album “Homesick” has hundreds of millions of listens on Spotify, but 176 million listens is nothing to scoff at.

Story Of The Year is a one hit wonder… I only included “Anthem of Our Dying Day” because it’s a strange auditory sense memory. Just like eating something and tasting a flavor that you haven’t experienced in a really long time, and the way that transports you back to the first time you ate that thing, OR, when a random smell transports you back in time—that’s pretty much exactly what this song is. It just takes me back to a good time in my life.

After I started working out of college, I went through a weird music period. There was no reason why I should have been listening to emo bands, but I discovered Mayday Parade around the same time that I found Pierce the Veil, and I’ve enjoyed listening to their album “Anywhere But Here.” Unfortunately they aren’t the greatest band around, and “The Silence” (which was the single from the album) is probably the best they have to offer.. This may have changed, I just haven’t bothered to really dig into their discography.

Everyone knew this song. I don’t even know how often it was on rotation for radio stations, but something about Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ “Face Down” just captured the alt/college rock scene in 2006. Apparently they have seven albums, but I haven’t listened to any of their music except for this one song. Another one-hit wonder band like Story of the Year.

Senses Fail is a unique band. They definitely have emo and post-hardcore leanings or influences, but they’re also much closer to a metal-meets-pop-punk aesthetic with their musical textures. Admittedly they’re a good band that I haven’t spent enough time with. I’ve only pursued their catalog, and at the time when I was listening to them I was more interested in bands like Pierce The Veil and A Skylit Drive. Just based on the amount that I’ve listened to the album “Let It Enfold You” versus all of their other albums, I went with the track “You’re Cute When You Scream,” also because I feel that it showcases the range of their music from this album. “Lady in a Blue Dress” and “Buried a Lie” are probably more popular tracks overall, but I think that is partially due to the fact that they were pigeon-holed into being a post-hardcore or emo band because those are the genres that those songs were most like.

Anberlin sort of represents the overly produced and studio-created version of the emo and post-hardcore music genres. Not that they’re a bad band, but they’re pretty much another one-hit wonder. “Feel Good Drag” is probably going to be the only song that most people remember by them.

Alright, now here is a proper band. It actually kind of annoys me that Bayside aren’t higher on the marque, they should really be one of the headlining bands. They’ve been a solid act since day one and they’ve only continued to hone their craft and develop their sound, all the while taking all their fans along for the ride. It’s actually kind of rare for bands to be able to build and keep a fanbase over time and mature musically at the same time. Anthony Raneri is just a sold songwriter, and it genuinely sounds like the band is having fun and enjoying the music that they’re playing. I wouldn’t really consider Bayside to be emo, post-hardcore, or even “scene.” To me, they’re just a solid rock band doing their own thing, much in the same way that the Deftones aren’t really nu metal even though they got lumped into that genre. Bayside hit in the mid-2000s with most of these other bands, but they’re in a class all their own. “Choice Hops And Bottled Self Esteem” was the song I chose because it’s not one of the their more popular tracks, but there’s something special about it; the drums are unapologetically a tribute to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the guitars are classic rock through and through, while the lyrics speak to modern sensibilities and mature themes and the song has something honest to say in every aspect of its construction.

As much as I didn’t like them back in the day, I’ve actually listened more to Alkaline Trio in recent years. Their album “Crimson” is a great album from beginning to end, there are only a few standout tracks, but the album has a great vibe throughout. It’s a bit mod, and like the cover of the album, it’s 80s in the same way that Clockwork Orange was—yes, yes, I know that movie came out in 71, but I don’t think it really gained much of a cult following until the punks of the 80s adopted it. Consequently, the punks of the late 90s and early 00s also latched on to the aesthetic and suddenly something like Crimson has an audience. The opening track “Time To Waste” seemed like the best track to include at this point in the playlist.

I desperately wanted to go with “Dirty Little Secret” for the All-American Rejects song on this playlist, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it… It’s not a bad song, but it was just played SO FUCKING MUCH on the radio and in video rotation when it came out. That one song probably encompasses their energy more than any other song that they released. Interestingly enough, if you’re into pop-punk, you could actually do much worse than AAR. I decided to go with the acoustic version of “Night Drive” off of their most popular album “Move Along.” It’s the least obnoxious song that I’ve heard from them, and features some really good vocal harmonies.

Much of the 00s was trying to recreate the 90s, or maybe the 90s just cast a dark shadow of inescapable influence… Thursday is not a band I’ve spent much time with. The lead singer sounds like Robert Smith doing an impression of Billy Corgan. Not a bad band, they had a few decent songs off of this album and one other, but not a band I was all too impressed with or spent much time listening to.

So there you have it. You could probably just listen to this hour-long playlist and not have to worry about attending the concert, unless of course you're a die-hard fan of any one of those bands. There are other bands performing, I probably should have thrown a Saosin track on the playlist, but I also wanted the playlist to be reflective of what the concert experience might be like; 30 bands and two stages, you're bound to miss one of your favorite bands performing, or miss your favorite song as you inevitably wait in line for an hour to use a port-o-potty. Anyway, I could go on, but I've taken a look at the word count and realized this should probably be like three separate posts. Since I haven't been posting at least once a week as I had initially intended though, I'm just going to leave this post as-is. Enjoy!

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