Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"No, Jared, It's Because Of You!"

I'm here to be a bit sappy, really. Sorry about that.
I have mentioned that I am taking my mother to see The Maine's acoustic tour; I feel like this is going to be something incredibly special, and, going on a hunch, I assumed she would like their music, so I bought her a ticket during pre-sale. As far as I know, she hadn't ever heard a full song of theirs before I forcefully told her "I am taking you to this, because it's going to be freaking awesome". I don't think I gave her a choice to decline, actually. I have a philosophy that the right things come into your life at the right time, and there are three artists/performers that were sent to me when I needed them the most: the entity that is Paul McCartney; words fail me in describing Tom Higgenson and the Plain White T's; and John O'Callaghan and The Maine give me words when I have none. There are people and bands you like, and people and bands you love, and those are my three. If it weren't for them, I would, quite literally, have none of the things that I love in my life: my friends, boundless inspiration, triggers for memories, quiet moments of introspection and self examination. Maybe that's sappy, but it's a fact. I met my best friend on the coattails of Paul's 2005 tour, in a moment of panic, and we've been thick as thieves ever since; he will be there when we queue up for early entry next week, along with some of our other friends, and we're all going to experience something special. For me, it will be additionally special because I will have been able to take my mother to see the three artists that I hold in high regard; she didn't know it before this post, but I guess she does now.

Before I took her to see the Plain White T's, I played her Big Bad World, and Wonders of the Younger, hoping they wouldn't rely too heavily on their back catalog for material; I didn't figure she would like the younger, angrier, pop-punkier material, so I didn't expose her to it. As far as I know, she hadn't even seen an interview with them before I dragged her through the doors of the House of Blues for a rockin' evening. I wanted her to have a more immersive experience with The Maine. I put all of their records in a playlist, and have been playing it non-stop for her since Christmas; I've been telling her other people's tour stories, as well as my own; I've lent her my album art so she can read the lyrics in the booklets; I built a blanket fort so we could watch Anthem for a Dying Breed in the best way; I have deluged her email with more videos than I should probably admit to (over three hundred, don't judge me); I have given her that band's story in chronological order, and completely disregarded the fact that she may not even be interested. Honestly, I don't think she knew what she was in for when I told her I was going to introduce her to this band. Just the other day, she burst through my room and said, "I'm worried about Kennedy, he's too thin". Congratulations, Mama, I've bent your mind. Apparently, the fact that I have imprinted The Maine onto her eyeballs (her words, not mine) is paying off; I talked to her on the phone today, and she told me she was getting excited for next Thursday. Success!

I have told her small anecdotes from my experience on the Dallas 8123 Tour date, but I figured she would like to hear the whole story. When I noticed that not only is today the seven year anniversary of the formation of The Maine, but exactly six months since my show, I knew today was a good day to talk about it. And that's why this post is sappy.

I arrived at the venue at three o'clock to reserve a good spot in line for my friends and I. All I took with me was a thirty-three ounce bottle of water, three B-12 pills, an umbrella, my copy of Forever Halloween, and a pair of sun glasses that could be destroyed if that were to happen. I was kicked out of the air conditioned back seat of the car to swelter in the heat in the heart of Deep Ellum. Naturally, the sun was out, and, since it was July in Dallas, the temperature was over 100, and the humidity was near that number, too. This was nineteen days before my spine surgery, so I knew I wouldn't be able to stand up for four hours before doors opened; fortunately, the band's bus was parked at the right place in line for me to lean against it for the majority of the time.
 photo IMG_0027_zpse33b8e48.jpg
I sat under Jared for about three or four hours before they made us move.

The downside to this, of course, is that it left a huge stain where the hump on my back used to be, and I was wearing my favorite gig shirt...
 photo WarIsOverShirt_zpsba1d11db.jpg
You would be surprised how this shirt is a conversation starter in lines; The Maine's crew loved it, and one of them asked if they could photograph it. I knew I was in a good crowd that day.

Since my friends wouldn't be there for a while, I spent some time texting my mother. Going back and looking at some of those messages confirms the fact that I was, indeed, suffering from heat stroke; they make no sense whatsoever. I had to ration the water, and came up with a plan for in case I went face-first into the pavement. It wouldn't have been too far of a fall, since I was sitting on the sidewalk. By the third hour in that oppressive heat, my preventative Aleve had worn completely off, and I realized I was sitting on a heap of rocks the entire time.
 photo IMG_0026_zps36920536.jpg
I'm brilliant. Also, heat stroke.

I swear, I don't think I have ever sweat so much in my entire life. My B-12 pills are fast melts, and they dissolved in my pocket; my white shirt was very off-white, mixed with wet patches, and yellow spots from where my sunscreen had dripped. It was insanity. By the time the sun went behind the buildings, they had started checking IDs, and handing out wristbands to the twenty-one and over crowd; they were also scanning tickets at the same time.
"Over or under?" the bearded man asked me.
"Over," I replied, reaching for my wallet. "I guess you want proof, huh?"
Remember, heat stroke.
He examined my ID as though he were looking for some blatant forgery, or that he was determined to prove that I was fourteen.
 photo IAm21_zpsde1ecc92.jpg
I know I look like I'm twelve, sir, please give me a band to prove my total legality.

He held it up to the light, almost like he was checking a hundred dollar bill. After about ten seconds, he seemed satisfied, turned to the ticket scanning lady, and said, "give her a band". As she wrapped the band around my wrist twice (those things are huge), she asked for my ticket. Here's the thing: when I go to a show, I keep the ticket in my bra. I figure that it's an area that isn't going to be disturbed, and I would know immediately if something were to happen to it. Remember, though, how I said I had never sweat so much in my life? Well, my ticket was actually dripping wet. The girl next to me in line had the gall to exclaim how grossed out she was by it, and the lady checking tickets tore at the perforation with as little contact as possible, which, considering the paper was desegregating, couldn't have been that hard.
 photo IMG_0028_zps4ba510f2.jpg
Honestly, I was just glad that the torn bit didn't affect the bit they needed to let me in.

Finally, after about twenty-seven years in the heat, they let us into the dark little club to find places on the floor. I had an ideal spot planned in my head for where I wanted to be, and I damn near got there: right in front of Jared Monaco, as close to stage as possible to accommodate for my crooked spine and short stature. By jove, would you believe I got there, too? Second row! What a bargain for five hours in the heat. Did I mention it was hot out there? I ran out of water, and maybe even sweat as much as I drank -- possibly more. It was too hot for a girl that wants to move to freaking Idaho.

As I identified the perfect spot in the crowd, a nice youngster came straight up to me and introduced herself and her friend, who was in the first row, pressed against the stage. I'm terrible with names, but I know the friend's name was Reagan, because, well, we all know my love for President Reagan. I told her she had a lovely name, and we chatted a little bit before Brighten came out and played a few songs. I will never understand the fascination with smartphones, and discovered that while Justin Richards was singing his songs; there stands a lovely human, playing and singing ideas that he came up with in some poorly lit room somewhere, and kids were literally on Facebook while he was doing it. Facebook will be there in a few hours, but the magic of concept transfer through art won't be; I don't get where the disconnect is for people, but put down the damn phone when pretty boys are playing you songs.

Seriously? Something similar to this was going on (this wasn't the Dallas date), and kids were on Facebook. Also, if you want this exact version of "We Are Birds" for keeps, go download the 8123 Tour EP.

I could lie and say that This Century's set was memorable, but I think that would be highly inaccurate. I did like their live version of "Hopeful Romantic", though, so go get that on the 8123 EP.

A Rocket to the Moon's set was oodles of fun; maybe it was because 8123 was their last tour, but they made a connection with the audience, and everyone had a great time.

Eric Halvorson forced his band to play the chorus of 3 Doors Down's "Kryptonite", much to their chagrin; I think Nick Santino's words were "I can't believe we just did that". Honestly, only about half of the room knew it, which made me feel rather old -- my sister and I would sing this song when it came on the radio when it was new, and these kids either had no idea what a cool song it was/is, or didn't care to participate. That, and the crowd was much younger than I had anticipated it being. There was an audience participation part, though, and they were willing to do that. Right before "A Whole Lotta You", Mr. Santino went through a little spiel about how the next song was about making friends, so we should turn to the person next to us and make a new friend; I turned to the girl who introduced herself to me, and we waved. When he prompted us to kiss our new friends, I just looked at her and said "no" while she nodded in agreement.

As their set came to a close, there was a small kerfuffle with the two new girls I had met. The crowd was buzzing so loudly that I couldn't actually hear what they were saying until Reagan turned to me and semi-screamed, "we're gonna move, do you want my spot?"
Do I what, now?
"Are you sure you wanna do that?" I shouted back at her as the girl behind me frantically exclaimed that she would take it.
"Yeah, we're moving," and with that, I squeezed into the small space she had occupied. As I thanked her, I couldn't believe my luck. I had been happy to be on the second row behind two girls that were shorter than me, and had somehow ended up being smushed against the stage, half hanging onto its floorboards.

When The Maine actually came out, I was standing right in front of Jared Monaco; I could have changed the settings on his stomp board I was so close. In fact, I was so close, I kept being sweated on; by then, I had been drenched all day, and I figured it was better to embrace it and move on, rather than go with my gut reaction of being thoroughly freaked out. Hell, my hand almost got stepped on. There was no possible way to get closer to that performance; the band probably wasn't even that close to each other.
Fun things happened...

I was two people to the left of this guy; he caught the pick that Mr. O'Callaghan threw in the air at the end of the video, and it was the cutest thing when he got it.

Probably everyone cried (look, if you didn't cry while Mr. O'Callaghan was playing "These Four Words" [honestly, he was really into that song that night, and you could feel it], you cried when you realized the next song on the setlist was "Whoever She Is"), and the concert was over...

As we were all being ushered out of the venue, ears still ringing, I contemplated my next move. Everyone knows the band comes out after every gig to sign for fans purely out of the goodness of their hearts (or something). My problem, of course, is that I am a cripplingly awkward human being. I'm not proud of it, but we all have to acknowledge the good and bad parts of our personalities. As I was having war flashbacks to when I met Alex Gaskarth, I figured it wouldn't do any harm just to hang out by the bus, and soak up the atmosphere; after all, I love to do that, and it's part of why I go to gigs early (you can see all sorts of people weaving in and out of a venue when you get there hours early, in addition to sometimes being able to hear soundchecks [for this gig, you could hear them playing "White Walls", and, when they came out, they decided to do an impromptu photoshoot with fans]). I found a decent spot, and leaned up against the barricade that had been set up while the show was going.

Behind me, I heard my name being called; Reagan and her friend had found me, and we all decided to wait together. I was quite grateful when they acknowledged my I-can-drink wristband, and took my reply of "I'm twenty-one" without even blinking; actually, they asked me all sorts of questions about college, "growing up", and creative writing. Though the friend who's name I cannot remember (sorry, just in case you ever find this) didn't stay long, Reagan was glad to have me there, as she said she wouldn't have stayed otherwise. She wanted to meet as many members of Rocket as she could, and get the drumstick she had caught signed by as many people as possible. As for me, I didn't feel the same panic I had done when I met the Plain White T's, or All Time Low. There was no sense of "what-do-I-say-I'm-going-to-make-such-a-fool-of-myself-oh-my-God", no illusion that the Universe and Everything was going to implode upon itself. I tried to force myself to feel it, but it honestly wasn't that kind of an atmosphere; everything and everyone was laid back, nothing was urgent, and I didn't feel like I was going to die. I questioned if it was because I was "older" than most everyone else there, or maybe that I was older in myself, generally; I think it's just the kind of people that the band is, and the kind of people they attract.

First, we met Pat, who was quite lovely. I thanked him for coming out, because he didn't actually have to; Reagan made some sort of comment on how she was glad to have met someone who was polite because of his band, to which Pat replied "music is magic" before being accosted by someone who hadn't experienced the same wave of calm I did.

No matter what band you meet, there will always be one member with whom you will have an awkward moment, wave of calm or not. With the Plain White T's, it was Mike Retondo; with All Time Low... well, we all know that story; and, for The Maine, it was Kennedy Brock. Perhaps it's simply that two quiet people were in an odd situation, I don't know. I also thanked him for coming out when he didn't have to, to which he replied very softly, "no problem", and just stared at me. I stared back. We stared at each other for about three years. It was weird. He moved to the frantic girl slowly, breaking eye contact about half-way to her. I still don't actually know what that was about.

Though I was not nervous, I was thoroughly excited to meet Jared Monaco -- bouncy up and down excited. I can't help it; anyone who knows me knows I pay attention to guitar, and, well, he's really good at it. He was a pleasure to watch live, and such a treat to speak to for a minute. The girl that talked to him before hand -- and I use the word "talk" loosely -- had taken her photograph with him, and he was bothered by the flash on the camera. I understand light sensitivity, man, I get it -- I've worn sunglasses since I was seven, and a sleeping mask since I was nine. He had to stop and rub his eyes, then blinked quickly a few times to shake it off.
"Are you OK?" I asked him, knowing he was probably seeing the world in shades of black, red, and green about then. He confirmed he was OK, and thanked me for asking.
"Well, thank you for coming out here. I know you guys don't have to do it, but it's nice that you do," I said as he signed my record.
"It's because of you guys that we can do this! Thank you," he said with incredible sincerity.
"No, it's because of you --" I started.
"No, it's because of you!" he said as he was accosted by freaking-out-girl.
"I still think it's all you," I told him as the crowd around him "awwwww-ed" at our exchange.
I don't care what he says, I really think it's because of them. They do what they do, and if they didn't do that, how would I even know those humans were in existence? See, it's all them. He's such a little sweetheart, though, and I'm glad to have had that moment with him.

Things were quiet for a moment while we took in what was going on elsewhere: Garrett was spending a great deal of time with another group of people; Mr. O'Callaghan was flocked by more freaking-out-girls, stuck in a web about seven humans deep; and the other bands were starting to head back to their respective vehicles. Reagan turned to me and said, "we aren't going to get to meet them, can we go meet Nick Santino?"
It was as if I was possessed by a force greater than myself, because it is not in my character to say the words I said: "sure, lead the way".
What? What. What did I just say? Did I just give up my chance to meet John O'Callaghan? As she beckoned for me to follow her, it dawned on me that I had. My inner voice started to protest, "but, but, but, I don't want to meet Nick Santino. I want to meet John O'Callaghan. What the frick are you doing, get back over to where you just left. Be active! Speak, child, speak!" As we approached him, she asked if I would take her photograph with him, to which I agreed. As she accomplished her goal, Mr. Santino turned to me, implying "what do you want from me, I would like to go back to my bed and sleep for two weeks, can I go home yet?" Well, truth be told, I didn't want anything from him. I, quite literally, was just in proximity. I had no plan, nothing to say, and I was being prompted. Life said "cue!", and I was wilting like a parched daisy. Having just observed a small throng of girls asking him for hugs, I said the first, and, unfortunately, unfiltered, thing I could think to say: "well, I guess I'll take a hug, too, then", I chirped in my awful Texas accent -- it sounded like Minnie Mouse's hick cousin had said it. We awkwardly patted each other on the back of the shoulder, neither of us really sure what the other was doing. Even the kids looked at me like I had some kind of issue. Afterward, Reagan decided she had gotten all she was going to get from the experience, and, with a friendly hug and well wishes, she went her way, and I went to observe the end of the meet and greet. I knew I had done everything that was going to be done, so I enjoyed just watching as both boys were pulled away from people trying to get that one last piece of them they could get.

Honestly, I was just glad to have been there. It didn't end up mattering to me if I did or did not meet any one person, but it did matter to the girl I met that night, and I hope it was wonderful for her. I also hope she can go to this acoustic tour, because it will be magical.

By the time I got back to the hotel, I was covered in ink: I had blue and black boobs on my left side, red handstamps had migrated from the back of my hand to both arms and my favorite gig shirt, and black smudges all along my lower back from keeping my record tucked into my jeans all day. It. Was. Hot.
 photo DSC01950_zps649d83ff.jpg
My ticket is almost completely faded, and my record looks like it was soaked in the sea, booklet and all.

Can I just say, though, that I am so glad I did not make a total ass of myself in front of Jared Monaco? If I had to make an ass of myself, I'm glad it was with Nick Santino.

Maybe I just shouldn't be allowed to meet bands.
 photo DontJudgeMe_zps5b357fe6.gif

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Day My Niece Discovered The Rolling Stones

So, people finally got around to doing the whole Christmas thing in my family; last night, my sister and her family visited our tiny town to exchange possessions. Before they arrived, my mother eagerly searched my grandfather's satellite radio stations for a lingering Christmas channel, and, in a late Christmas miracle, there were none left; she instead settled on a 60s station, for which I was grateful.

We all gathered in the living room, and dug into our semi-Christmas meal of Frito pie, and Happy Meals for the wee ones. I sat in the floor -- the unofficial Buford kid's table -- with my niece, and encouraged her to eat her McNuggets. We happened to be sitting in front of the television, which was still tuned into the 60s station, facing away from the screen. The grown-ups were discussing Chris Christie and the political arena in 2014, which are all incredibly boring things for a four year old to listen to; her brain was miles away.
Somewhere between the bike that Santa brought her, and her desperate attempts to pawn her dog off on everyone in the room, her attention was drawn to the radio she was sitting right in front of. Her face changed as she turned to the television.
 photo ICanUseThisGIF_zps0ba94e04.gif

The station was playing "Get Off of My Cloud" by The Rolling Stones...

As she listened, she looked back at me with a mixture of excitement, trepidation, and disgust.
 photo CreepyKitty_zpsd7af71ca.jpg

She turned back to the television, touching it with her sticky little girl hand, leaving a mark on the glass over the bouncing ribbon that told what song was playing. With her hand still on the screen, she looked at me again.
 photo CreepyKitty2_zps4f4de03f.jpg

"I've never heard this song before," she told me in a barely audible tone -- not quite a whisper, but almost like she didn't want the tall people to know that she was hearing this for the first time that she could remember -- as she pulled her hand from the television.
"That's The Rolling Stones," I told her, quietly, "they're pretty cool. Do you like the song?"
She continued looking at me as she pensively chewed a french fry.
 photo Fries2_zps34f73445.jpg

"Maybe she's just taking in the song," I thought to myself. If you've never heard something before, you need time to process it. "I'll wait a few seconds before I ask again."
 photo KermitIsWaiting_zpsaa90b525.jpg

With her fry gone, she turned back to the television and touched the screen again, leaving another hand-shaped print on a different spot on the glass. A few seconds passed before she looked at me again.
 photo CreepyKitty3_zps96884b2c.jpg

"The song," I said as she picked up another fry, "do you like the song?"
All she would do is look at me with wide eyes, chewing the fry.
 photo ThisIsHowIFeelAboutFrenchFriesToo_zpsf4fe9d8c.gif

"Is it a good song?" I asked her a final time, and was met with silence as the song changed.
 photo 1905_zps29848c77.jpg
"Come on, kid, do I look like Benjamin Button to you?"

After this episode, I have three questions: the first is "how did this happen?" The child's mother loves The Stones; one of the few songs she'll sing is "Paint It Black"...

...and musical discussions between the sisters usually boils down to the age old argument.
 photo BeatlesAndStones_zpse904aea6.jpg

The second question I asked myself was if I happened to be present at the exact moment my niece discovered rock and roll.

And, the final question: "DID YOU LIKE THE BLOODY SONG, LITTLE GIRL?" The looks on her face suggested there was some kind of experience happening within her. The sub-question now, however, is what kind of reaction did she have? Was it a Greatest Generation kind of response...
 photo VintageSnowGIF_zps4ece6822.gif

...or a Gavin Cavenaugh kind of response?

One of the greatest movies on God's Earth.

And the most annoying part of this third question is that I will never know if the child liked the song, because she was too busy using french fries as a defense mechanism to answer Aunt B.
 photo Fries_zps20b7afb7.png

 photo Youths_zps0715ca8f.gif

Is It A Subscription Box, Or Something More Sinister? (It's A Subscription Box. Maybe.)