Smile

It is so hard to put my emotions into words which will convey the deepest levels of pain I have experienced in losing people I love through the years. It is equally difficult to describe the numb that comes along with masking these emotions for so long. I don’t think there is any true or proper way of grieving in all honesty, but I also think I have avoided grieving many people because I really never allowed myself to slow down and process these things.

One part of me holds on to the faith that every person I have lost (living or not) is still with me when I need them to be there, and- not only that- as the person I need them to be. A situation may arise when I’m excited and want to tell Person A as I did years ago. Another situation may cause me confusion and I need to ask for guidance from Person B. There are times I feel lost. In these moments, I think of my papa giving me step by step directions, complete with landmarks and doodles. This type of coping is applicable for many situations and feelings, whether I be completely alone in my room or at work or in a crowd of people. I always hold my people- when I knew them at their best- near to my heart.

Another part of me is so angry, and it is in this scenario when I isolate. I get so angry that I tremble and cry. I feel helpless. Life seems so unfair sometimes. It legitimately feels as though there is a curse and the reckoning began as I entered puberty. Isn’t that painful enough? No? You want me to lie in the ditch for twenty more years? Okay, then.

When you watch people you love die, leave, fall into depression, fall into drugs, fall into despair, fall into hopelessness, the most difficult thing to do is smile. But, it’s what he would have wanted.

The World I Know

One of the first bands I was into as a kid was Collective Soul. I can remember being at a Vacation Bible School (VBS) with some of my close school friends, and we sang along with the song Shine during the final singin’ and praisin’ of that week. Do I have vivid memories as early as age five but can’t tell you what I ate for lunch yesterday?

Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyes!

Collective Soul was one of those bands that became very popular in our area (they originate in our sister state, Georgia), but (at least I felt) especially popular in our home (my mom, grandparents, and other family are from Atlanta). But, taking it to the extreme measure, as per usual, they were E S P E C I A L L Y popular in my bedroom.

I listened to CS for hours. My grandma is the one who bought me my very first cd’s for my tenth birthday- Glenn Miller’s classics, and Collective Soul’s self titled album. I listened to both albums for hours on end (like ya do), and still to this day, I can reflect on this piece of self owned history that no government or corporation can ever take away from me and grin like a fool, or cry like a baby. (By the way, these are interchangeable.)

Collective Soul is a unique band with a unique sound with a unique front-man who has a unique voice. Nobody on earth sings like Mr. Ed Roland. I love to sing along with Ed almost as much as any other vocalist- including Tool’s Maynard J.K. (I’m not kidding.)

Ed’s song writing talents and ability to lift my spirits were incredibly important to me, for a number of reasons, and for a number of years. I could be down on my luck, then feel down in the dumps, and go to my room and listen to The World I Know and a) have a good cry, b) sing my heart out, and/or c) become inspired to take the headphones off and go play outside instead.

Isn’t this the world we all want to know?

Don’t we, as human bee-ings, have the power within us to extract the power around us and implement that power for positive change? Isn’t that what the music video for The World I Know is kinda about through one lens? We have the power to see our world in new, intelligent ways which can inspire us to (I hate to say this, but) peacefully coexist. I’ve been writing about this topic for years and years, basically ever since I blossomed out of my emo teenager poetry phase.

We can wash our faces and live in the light. Better things are possible.

This is the world I want to know.

Lisa’s Turtles

One of my longest running friendships is with my pal Lisa. I’ve mentioned her a couple of times here, because her presence has been so relevant to my own for just over thirty years. We grew up together as neighbors and classmates, and have worked together numerous times- whether for a common boss as baristas or as bosses of our own as photographers and designers.

Lisa is a fashion designer at heart. She was always visually creative- holding a degree in Visual Communications- and very conscious of her clothing choices. In school, she was voted Most Fashionable, and this characteristic spilled over into her many professional ventures as an adult, with her latest pursuit being metalsmithing and jewelry design.

She came up with an idea recently and, knowing my passion for creative writing, asked if I would be interested in helping her market her new lines for her jewelry business. I agreed without hesitation, and we immediately began swapping ideas. This is where thirty years of friendship conquer the sixty miles currently between us.

About a week prior to our conversation, I bought and had been reading an Encyclopedia of Spirits. There is no real rhyme or reason, other than just general intrigue of the subject. It is certainly an interesting book. Lisa was unaware of this, but her initial idea for my writing project would be to write about spirit folklore and various characters which would be representative of each unique collection.

She showed me her newest collection, and the pieces accidentally resemble beautiful turtles. When you create things from nature, they tend to resemble other things in nature, so it makes sense. I pondered for a quick moment and turned to my Encyclopedia of Spirits and checked the index for turtles. There, I found Chelone. What I read was absolutely perfect.

I sent her the description of the spirit and asked if she would like to use it, and she agreed that it was a perfect fit. Within a very busy week (work, band practice, football game, Fair Parade, band exhibition… *gasps for air*), I sat down, and I wrote. It took me all of thirty minutes to write the following:

When I sent this to Lisa, she said- and I quote- “I freakin’ love it!”

When I write, I draw inspiration from anything and everything I possibly can. It is very personal. All I want is to share, learn, grow, and share some more. That is why I write.

Sometimes, I wish I could be more fashion conscious rather than seeing through that lens that tends to focus more on problems. But, this project helped reiterate the importance of speaking your mind as well as remaining silent. There are always times when either is the appropriate choice. There are also healthier methods of implementing each practice.

What do you want to say?

How do you know when to hush?

These are the things I am pondering.

Dreamers

It is my personal core belief that every human born into this world has the privilege of knowing the same level of joy on any given sunshiny day as a blonde, teenaged girl wearing an American flag bikini, riding on a jet ski at beautiful, man-made Lewis Smith Lake.

Until then, may you prosper and take care of each other inside the makeshift gates surrounding your perfect lines of mildewed trailers.

May your churches and buildings of faith not rot down because the only land you could afford sits beside our water treatment plants.

I pray we all know a common ground, in that (surely by now), we all personally know and love a meth head.

When will it end? Nobody knows, that is the truth. Anybody saying otherwise is a damned liar.

He Loves me Not

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me

The Bible tells me so

Written by Anna Bartlett Warner in the year 1859, Jesus Loves Me is a song memorized and sung by children and adults all around the world. This is one of the first church songs we learned in Sunday school, and it remained a classic in church during our singing nights.
My church sang a’ Capella, meaning, the piano was forbidden. There were no instruments. Your drum set? Might as well light it on fire, you demon child. This ain’t your stage.

But even despite having a musically talented family, I never gave our old church custom a second thought. I love, love, love to sing. My voice was my only instrument I ever mastered. Clarinet, drums, guitar, piano, harmonica, steel guitar, banjo, etc. were all instruments I played around with throughout my life, but never mastered.

Singing came very naturally to me. My mom sings and hums all the time. My dad enjoys singing, and sings back up any time he plays drums at a gig. He leads singing for his congregation still to this day. I think I’ve mentioned my love of singing before, but if you’re new here…

Hi. I like to sing.

Besides Jesus Loves Me, I also learned songs outside the church building. A lot of them were written by Eddie Vedder or Geddy Lee or Bono or Annie Lennox or Freddie Mercury, and so on. Most of the songs we sang as children had real truth and meaning in the poetry, religious or not.

There is an adhesive layer that sticks to your soul and makes you feel warm and secure. You are definitely a part of this collective mass, and you belong. Until someone brakes the pedal and plucks the petal and you find the pain underneath.

He loves me not.

The word “love” is only mentioned 13 times in red text printed within the Bible. Thirteen is my favorite number, for seemingly no reason other than it just always has been and it is often seen as an unlucky number, and I seem to be an unlucky person.

When you’re unlucky and things usually feel as though they don’t go your way- or for one reason or another, you feel that no matter how hard you try, you can’t get through the wall- sometimes it can make you feel as though there is no hope. No love.

No point.

A lot of people feel this way. Whether you have lost something or someone you hold dear to you, your relationships have failed, people have stabbed you in the back, people have lied to you (and about you), your friends have moved away, you’ve been abandoned by people who you look up to, you watch your heroes fall, you witness people you love destroying themselves, you’ve been picked on, harassed, assaulted, manipulated, whatever. Yeah, it’s a lot to overcome. It’s tough.

There is a t-shirt I used to print for hours on end for Zulily and the like while working for a company owned by very greedy, perverted assholes. The shirt said, “Life is tough darling, but so are you”. I’d examined the letters and the print for days. Inhaling toxic fumes, sweating in 110 degree heat. No ventilation. No break. My spine bending ’til it broke, over and over, arms raising up and down, for hours on end. Loading the tee, pushing the buttons, carefully transferring the tee to the heater’s conveyer belt. Repeat fourteen hundred times.

It’s tough. But so are you.

One of my good friends worked for these assholes who mistreat, abuse, con, and manipulate people on a regular basis, and he eventually took his own life. He was only 26 years old. He was a good person. He told me I had beautiful eyes.

Today, I had an experience that made me question humanity.

Tonight, I had my windows rolled down, and a song I love to sing randomly began playing. Light Up Ahead by Further Seems Forever. Jon Bunch wrote this beautiful song, so full of hope and love. Google Jon Bunch.

Dear God, can you hear me?

I was raised believing that some kind of Almighty, all knowing, all loving Creator had my back, always and forever. This may still be the case. There are days I feel it. There are days I don’t. Like plucking the petals… he loves me, he loves me not.

Why does it always have to feel hot or cold? Why can’t I just enjoy a mild moment in and outside of my mind for once?

Jesus Loves Me, this I know.
I am weak, He is strong.

What do I believe?

Ed Vedder wrote a poem, (or five billion), that goes:

Hold on to the thread
The currents will shift, glide me towards
You know something’s left
And we’re all allowed to dream of the next
The next, time we touch
You don’t have to stray the oceans away
Waves roll in my thoughts
Hold tight the ring
The sea will rise
Please stand by the shore
Oh, I will be
I will be there once more

Sometimes in my mind and body, I feel like I’ve been fighting against waves for so long. I’ve been floating on the currents to try to just relax or catch my breath, only to drift further out to sea. Sometimes I feel I’ve isolated so much and for so long, I have forgotten where home is. Did I even have one in the first place?

Am I loved always and forever, Almighty God? Where are you? I can’t see you in this place.

They’re just plucking petals all day, saying he loves me, he loves me not.

I just want to sing with the ocean. His eyes are like the ocean.

FURTHER reading:

https://www.washedupemo.com/jonbunchforever

The Wonder Years

Joe Cocker starts singing in the distance…

Alright, I’ll try not to ramble in this post, but I have some things to say, and they mostly revolve around a television series called The Wonder Years.

If you were alive in the early 90’s, chances are, you have heard of this show, and probably seen it at least a handful of times. Fred Savage played the protagonist, Kevin Arnold, and it was set during the Vietnam days. Everyone I know has seen this show at some point. I have seen it from beginning to end more than once. It was my favorite series when it originally aired, and then it became available on Netflix (with a stupid knock off version of the theme song), and I revisited the series in its entirety, feeling all of these intense emotions all over again. And so, it became my favorite all over again.

Now, imagine that you are me, and you learn a decade after revisiting the series that Fred Savage is a full grown adult and (wearing baseball caps) directing a new adaptation of the show, also called The Wonder Years. Now imagine that you learn it is set to take place in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1960’s, in a very racially and socially divided population, during the MLK assassination.

Then, you learn the family is Black.

I am sure it will be endearing, heavy, tragic, heartbreaking, hilarious, and all the other rollercoaster emotions. It just aired on ABC, but I have yet to watch it. But I do look forward to whenever I do get around to watching it. I am very excited to see how this project turns out, and how the story develops, and I hope to God that it portrays Montgomery at its worst, but also, perhaps at its best.

During Taking Back Sunday’s set, the singer Adam talked a bit about his upbringing in Florence, Alabama, and how his family also lived in Montgomery. I then heard some guy behind me yell, “Montgomery’s trying!”

I don’t know how or why, but I had zero control over my body when I turned around to him and sarcastically and casually replied, “Are they, though?”

He must get high with a little help from his friends.

Montgomery is trying? I think the only reason this guy felt the need to say this was because the elected recently passed the medical marijuana bill (which was basically only slightly better than not with all the insane stipulations attached to it).

The only reason I caved and joined Twitter earlier this year was to closely monitor and harass the state legislators into using wiser/fairer judgement and remind them how incorrect their stupid, outdated opinions are, and that Alabama education scores rank 46th in the entire nation.

I eventually left Twitter (because it is utter insanity), and it wasn’t long after that, The Wonder Years reboot was being announced and I found myself feeling 12 years old right along with Kevin Arnold and, now, Dean Williams.

Obviously, there are major issues all around the globe, and it still seems especially true for the southeastern United States- namely, Alabama. Why else would Fred Savage bother? Hell, when Black Lives openly Mattered to the entire country, my neighbors felt compelled to break out their rebel flags and fly them within the city limits again. It was only in the past thirty fucking years that a racist sign next to the main interstate exit of my hometown (which read “Don’t let the sun set on your black ass”) was finally removed, just before we moved to this historically slave owning, KKK infested town.

So, okay, maybe a handful of people have been working hard to remove the pit stains, but that doesn’t eliminate sweating profusely in the first place. I still encounter the stupid, ugly confederate flag. I see it on a daily basis. I see Don’t Tread on Me and God, Guns, Trump, and have seen local reports of grown men yelling White power, and whatever the fuck else these very illiterate and nonsensible folks feel the need to vomit in our pothole laden streets. For me, someone who feels the polar opposite about humans and civil rights and just basic decency, it’s incredibly difficult.

There are so many moments in my mind- and sometimes out loud- when I am far away or expressing my desire to be far away. I have always had dreams of leaving this place. And while I have lived elsewhere, for one reason or another (mostly family/friends/income), I always came back.

I have seen many trends come and go here. One that never seems to die off, sadly, is pride. Specifically, the pride of being super white and super into guns and, if you’re a man with a small penis- which is very likely, super misogynistic.

Where does that leave me?

Getting by with a little help from my friends…

in Alabama…

in the year 2021.

So, yes, I am grateful that The Wonder Years has been reboot and the story is being told from the African American perspective in a time and place that still has a reckoning coming.

Wonder what’s next.

Further reading:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Joe Cocker

https://www.shondaland.com/inspire/books/a35786577/john-archibald-shaking-the-gates-of-hell/

https://medium.com/herbie-js-house/the-wonder-of-the-wonder-years-40e4f05dc0a1

Further entertainment:

Further Seems Forever Ago

This is a post about Furnace Fest 2021, and other things that go along with it, and me.

Where the hell to begin? I suppose the beginning is a good start. How many people have introduced things they write about this way?

Probably a lot.
A lot is how many people attended Furnace Fest back in its infancy and toddler stages in the early 2000’s. It was definitely a scene, and I was literally into it. I was in high school, digging into music and sharing various bands with friends, most of whom were in bands themselves. I had lived in south Florida, Pembroke Pines specifically, and met even more musicians (Into the Moat, Freemartin, Hate Eternal), and had so many good times. So many fond memories and relationships built during this time. Even after I had my daughter, I was still using any of my free time while she was visiting with her dad to make time to connect to the music communities, where ever I roamed.

Further Seems Forever, Thursday, Hopesfall, Every Time I Die, Taking Back Sunday, Minus the Bear, Evergreen Terrace, Anberlin, Copeland, Anthony Green, Mastodon, Hum, Silverstein, Glassjaw, Isis, Haste, Stretch Arm Strong, From Autumn to Ashes, A Static Lullaby, Hatebreed, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Finch, Norma Jean, Between the Buried and Me, mewithoutYou, Underoath, The Bled… all of these incredible bands have played a Furnace Fest stage at some point.
Furnace Fest was sort of like the underground sewer kids congregating together to attend church in one of the unholiest places you could ever imagine, Sloss Furnaces (known to locals as the Furnace) in Birmingham, Alabama. The place is definitely haunted, and with a history and subsequent demise like its own, it would be incredibly dumb to not take advantage of the opportunities to host such festivals, as well as a haunted house each Halloween. It is equally dumb to not go to these festivals, because in doing so, you meet some of the coolest and friendliest and most talented and interesting people on earth.

North Dakota is a state just below the Canadian border, but that is how far one guy traveled to see Furnace Fest 2021. Imagine that guy and a chick from Alabama singing and moshing side by side during Taking Back Sunday after twenty years of not seeing Taking Back Sunday live in person. This festival was a big deal to a lot of people. But it was a really, really big deal to me. So I’m writing everything I can down now, the following morning, a morning that required two cups of coffee, the morning after indulging in the best concert experience of my entire fucking life.

Furnace Fest 2021 was supposed to be Furnace Fest 2020. It was initially this:

Not at all bad

And then, a year later, after the pandemic was over (just kidding, it’s still here)…

Anyway, after a year had passed, and requirements for entry (vaccination/neg Covid test) were added, so, too, increased the number of bands. So it evolved into this:

A good, face melting time


When underground bands become more mainstream, the rates go up. Entry pricing was spiked, like everything else, so rather than spending no more than $200 for an entire weekend of moshing, now, you are looking at closer to $500. I’m still not very well off, so rather than experiencing an entire weekend of live music, I had to pick one day. Several of my favorite bands were playing each day, and I had to also take into account our schedules and stuff. Saturday it is.

Birmingham is about a forty-five minute drive from my house. The gates were set to open at 11, so we had plenty of time to get ready without rushing, which is the ideal situation. I also knew I would have a day to recover before getting back to work, which (obviously) is ideal because I’ve coasted through this morning flawlessly and after having two cups of coffee, doing a few chores and eating some Pigs in a Dreamboat (Pigs in a Blanket on steroids), I’m ready to write and share. It is another beautiful day, so I am sitting outside, listening to the birds while I gather my thoughts. I have so many… so again, I’ll start from the beginning.

Saturday started out nice and easy. I got up, did my usual morning coffee and face washing rituals, listened to music, and prepared for the day. I had gathered all of the things I knew we would need the night before, so my fest prepping only involved getting some breakfast, and getting to the show. My outfit is usually the same when attending shows, so that was no sweat. My American Football tee, some jeans, and my ratty Converse. I showered after coffee and got dressed, and by then, my daughter was in the final stages of getting ready, too.
The weather was incredible. I didn’t see one cloud, and the skies were blue and it was sunny, at 70 degrees. There was a nice breeze and making my way to the car, I smiled, thinking, “This is going to be such an amazing day.” I felt excited for my daughter, who had never before been to see a live concert. Every concert ticket I had purchased since 2020 only became null and void up to this point, and in retrospect, I feel grateful that this was, and forever will be, her first live music experience.

So we get to the Furnace and spend $40 to park, but it is a fantastic space, convenient to the entrance and to the exit, and a small lot, so access was easy. The gentlemen at the lot entrance taking money and a Birmingham Police Officer were listening to groovy funk music and in pleasant moods, and were more than accommodating, friendly, and helpful. I always appreciate a sense of humor and they had it. (I also imagine the weather and atmosphere had a lot to do with it.) So our entry was smooth and fun and the experience definitely got off to a great start, which only got better from there.
As we approached the One Day Pass entry gate, I noticed the line was incredibly short, and everyone around me looked like friends I’ve known since high school. I felt totally at ease as I approached the gate keepers, handing them my vaccination card and ticket. The lady noticed my t-shirt and said, “Hey cool shirt! That’s the first American Football shirt we’ve seen so far.” Which was surprising to me, so I responded, “Really? That’s crazy! But, cool… and thank you!” I got my hand stamped and a purple band was secured around my wrist and then I proceeded to the Security Guard with the metal detecting wand, looking back as my daughter was entering. They noticed her leather jacket that she decorated and painted herself, her pins, her spikes, and her boots. “Wow, you look awesome. Love the jacket!” She replied, “Thanks.” Then she said, “This isn’t really my scene”.
I smiled. Little did she know, it actually is.

My daughter is on another level when it comes to music taste. She is unashamedly into the heaviest/ most gravity defying punk you can imagine. She likes the classic, respectable bands who have undoubtedly earned their stripes. These bands on this Level X ticket are lightweight losers compared to the shit she listens to. We will be watching Bad Religion next month. That is more her scene. This was all she wanted to desperately get across to these softies.

We walked through the main isle, with cool venders along either side. I browsed through the stuff, hesitant to stop in fear I would spend enough money to diminish my pride and result in questioning why I didn’t just go ahead and get three day passes in the first place… so, moving along…

We get to the main stage, which is set up in the yard. We sit down in the grass, and hang out for a while, allowing our food to digest and look through the line-ups for all three stages to determine which stage to make our way to, and when. I see some bands at the Plug Your Holes stage that I never had a chance to see in high school, so we walked across the property towards the furnace. We maneuvered through the light crowd towards the front of the stage to see Better Off and Evergreen Terrace. These bands were amazing live. There wasn’t a whole lot of moshing for Better Off, but their set was definitely a nice warm-up for Evergreen Terrace.

Evergreen Terrace is fucking insane. (Side note- It is so amazing to see how these people have aged. You can tell they have definitely dealt with some shit, and over time, owned it all. They persevered and kept grinding and doing what they love, what they’re good at, despite any differences between themselves and society. I respect that.) The band is named after the street in The Simpsons, and their singer, Andrew Carey, is one of the best hype men I’ve ever seen. He surfed the crowd, stood on the bars reaching for us (I could have hugged him at one point), and totally engaged with the fans. It was just like the scene I had viewed on dvd’s from their small venue days. It was as though nothing had really changed. There was still love, anger, emotion, and plenty of reasons for letting it all out.

After that performance, we made our way to the potties and then bought a water. I wanted to pace myself as I had been awake since 7 am, and my back, knees, and feet aren’t in tip top condition. We walked back to the same stage, with major anticipation to see Hopesfall.

Bloodjinn was up next, and we landed halfway to the stage before I ran into two old friends. One, Lyle, is a musician, and the other, Brian, a photographer. They are both incredibly talented guys, and their creative works have taken them far elsewhere, allowing them to grow in their talents and both have really made a name and respectable reputation for themselves. I am very proud to know them both. Lyle informed me three other friends of ours were there, and I hoped we would eventually run into them. My friend Peter, another incredibly talented writer, musician, and hair stylist, was among them. He had lost his mother, an Asian immigrant, to Covid last year, and had just gotten married, so I was especially grateful to see him given all the heavy circumstances. I discovered he had moved back home to his family farm recently, and we exchanged numbers. He was also blown away with how long it had been since he last saw my daughter. Social media allowed us to keep tabs on each other through the years, but it wasn’t the same. The day was not only turning out to be a great day full of amazing music, but also a reunion of close friends I had not seen since before the pandemic, friends that I’ve been missing for years, who I feel confident I will now see more of in the future.

Enter Hopesfall.

Hopesfall is a band that I have loved since the release of The Satellite Years in 2002. This band is purely hard. Screaming vocals, poetic lyrics, melodic guitar, crashing drums- ugh, devastating. I had never gotten the opportunity to see them live in our primes, but they were a band I knew I would eventually see if the opportunity presented itself. I didn’t know that it would take nearly two decades for this to happen, so this raised anticipation was now old enough to birth a baby. Luckily, mine had grown old enough to experience them live while in her high school stage. It is something she’ll never forget.

One song they performed was Waitress. Waitress is one those songs that I could put on repeat and listen to for literally two hours straight. The Satellite Years as a whole album is gorgeous. It begins with Andromeda, a spacey instrumental featuring repetitive tones and intricate beats which I absolutely adore. As much as I love this song, I would usually skip straight to Waitress. The lyrics are:

These faces have fallen here before
Tired and blue
A light that bleeds unforgiving shadows

Her olive eyes repeat failure in every glare
A failure that mirrors itself with a foreign stare
Hold it together you’ll find your peace
But the pieces are burnt shells that frame regret on every wall
Reflections of olive eyes pierce holes through her haunted heart
She hates that stare
Her smiling face defense to the world
A world filled with olive eyes that frame regret on every face

This reads like every page in my high school poetry notebook, so you can imagine me in 2002 during that phase, screaming these lyrics right along with Jay Forrest. Hopesfall was incredible then, and they’re incredible now. And I feel so happy and thankful my daughter and I were able to share that experience together, with it being the first time for us both.

After Hopesfall wrapped, we made our way to the LevelX Stage and were able to catch Cartel, Mae, and The Bled. All bands were super good. I exited the front of the stage crowd, leaving my daughter there to experience The Bled as one should (moshing very hard), as I sat on the sidelines with my friend Peter. We did more catching up and then it was time for him to go back to Plug Your Holes (he wanted to see Beloved, Stretch Arm Strong and Glassjaw), while I was pumped to see Anberlin, Mayday Parade, and Further Seems Forev- er, uh… Taking Back Sunday. (We’ll get to this later in the day.)

Anberlin is another band I have loved for years. I discovered them in 2003, when Blueprints for the Black Market was released. They are one of those bands that are hit and miss for me, meaning, I don’t love every song, but the ones I do love, I really, really love. The Unwinding Cable Car (my personal favorite), Cadence, Ready Fuels, Change the World, Glass to the Arson, etc. They are definitely talented guys, and not only that, superb humans. The day before Furnace Fest, they released a new track called Two Graves, which I think is brilliant and beautiful. They played this song as well as other crowd favorites, wrapping up their very short three week tour. My daughter and I were in the very front of the stage, dancing about, having a great time. Mayday Parade performed next and put on a nice show. I don’t have too many personal experiences involving Mayday Parade, but I do like them and was glad to see them play. The next- and final- band to take the stage, however, is a band that, I am proud to say, I was the first to Tell All My Friends about.

The year was 2002 and I was singing in a rock band. My rhythm guitarist and I were big into the emo scene at the time, and Taking Back Sunday was among that scene. Not many people around us had heard of them at the time, but when you dig into certain bands, you might also dig into their labels, discovering similar bands you will probably enjoy. Thursday, Silverstein, Hawthorne Heights, Atreyu, Bad Brains, etc. have all worked with Victory Records, and Taking Back Sunday fit the bill. Did I tell all my friends about TBS?

Yes.

I love this band. Tell All Your Friends was one of my favorite albums to listen to at the time. It was so fun. I remember driving back from Tennessee with a group of my friends (Braver by the 2nd) after they performed (I photographed) and while heading home, we all scream-sang this album together. These are the moments that stick with you. These are the moments that matter.

However, I had many more moments like this involving the band Further Seems Forever. Further Seems Forever was my all time favorite band when I was in high school. When The Moon is Down was released in 2001, I fell in love with Chris Carrabba (who later broke away to form Dashboard Confessional). I wasn’t mad because I also loved DC, and the second singer for FSF wasn’t too shabby, either. In fact, when How to Start a Fire was released, Further Seems Forever became a band that means more to me than I could ever describe.

Further Seems Forever had a message board on their website, and being such a huge fan, I participated in this board. I had just moved to south Florida, where the band originates, and my mom (who I was living with at the time) suggested I might meet up with some of the local FSF fans from the message board so I could make some friends. That is how I met my friend Shaun, and later, my SoFla crew. I won’t get into all of this now because that would take Forever, but for now, just know that this was a special crew who I still keep in contact with and love to this day. My friends were mutual friends with Further (as we called them), but I never got the opportunity to see them perform. I was working and going to art school, and then it wasn’t long after that, I moved back to Alabama and not long after that, became pregnant. Once again, it would be nearly twenty years into the future before I would see them play in Atlanta for their damn near perfect reunion tour, where they performed songs from How to Start a Fire, as well as a tribute to Jon Bunch (the third and final lead singer, who later killed himself).

Further was due to perform at the Heartsupport Stage from 9:25 to 10:15, while TBS was scheduled to play from 9:55 to 10:55. I had an incredibly personal and difficult decision to make. I began looking at and weighing the pros and cons as early as Anberlin’s stage breakdown. “Would I have time to catch Further and then make it back to wiggle through the crowd to get back to the front and see TBS?” was my first internal question. After deciding, hell no- that’s crazy, I thought things like, “Your kid wants to see TBS more, and you know you would rather see the show with your kid than leave her here to watch them without you,” and then followed it with, “you know Further put on a hell of a show, but you’ve seen them before and you haven’t seen TBS.” In between this form of rational thinking, I also thought things like, “But it’s Further!” and “But you would probably enjoy their set over TBS’s set!”, etc. I dismissed the thoughts and stayed in the front and center of the LevelX Stage, beside my child. And we watched the lights go completely down. When they came back up, the music started. Taking Back Sunday kicked right into it.

Aside from Adam’s bleach blonde hair, there was nothing about Taking Back Sunday that didn’t appear any differently than what I had known throughout the releases of seven studio albums. Adam talked about his upbringing in Florence, Alabama, and interacted with the crowd. Someone who had dressed as Waldo was among us, popping up in various locations in the crowd, the band announcing his location after wrapping up a song or two. It was a fun show. It was a great performance. Everybody moshed, danced, surfed, sang. I felt like my daughter and I experienced this together and it was amazing.

Yesterday, I got kicked in the head, shoved, had my hair pulled, had my feet stomped on, had beer splashed on me, fell down on hay and gravel among a sea of people being physical, didn’t buy any merch, and missed my favorite band performing live.

On the other hand, I had people screaming to help me back up, people reaching down to me to pick me up and support me until I was stable again, I laughed my ass off, I cried happy tears, I moshed (it’s been a while), I screamed, I reunited with dear old friends, I sang my heart out, I danced, and I had the best concert experience of my life… with my kid.

Adam said TBS had to wake up at 4 am to make it to the show on time, and then he went on to say “Totally worth it.”

To my old friends from Alabama to my new friend from North Dakota, I whole heartedly agree.