streetlight serenade (to no one) (orig. published August 19, 2010)

29Jun11

I spent much of the summer of 2010 following the Warped Tour in my car.  I kept a blog about it, certain entries of which I’m going to migrate over here.  This entry is from July 29th, after the Bouncing Souls departed from the tour (they only played the first half of the tour).

When I was fifteen or so, I bought the first Warped Tour comp because it had a Bosstones track on it. I don’t think I’d ever been to a Warped Tour yet, or if I had, I’d only been to one. Regardless, I found A Compilation of Warped Music in a bin at Sam Goody for $7 and bought it. I think I might’ve bought the Bosstones’ Video Stew VHS that same day. Say what you want about big box and chain stores, and I’ve said it all, but for awhile there–until I turned sixteen, got a driver’s license, and learned about the existence of Wax Trax Records–when the only record stores I had access to were Sam Goody at Southglenn Mall or Tower Records down in Cherry Creek, and if they hadn’t stocked the Bouncing Souls and the Specials, I don’t know what would have become of me.

That comp was and remains one of my all-time favorite compliations. The first ten or so tracks are bands that are, in retrospect, some of the best punk bands that the mid-1990s had to offer.

1. Morkovian Process–Bad Religion

2. Observatory–Swingin’ Utters

3. Wake Up Call–Mighty Mighty Bosstones

4. It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite–NOFX

5. I’ll Get There–All

6. Broken–Pennywise

7. King Alvarez–Strung Out

8. All Mine–Dance Hall Crashers

9. Sky–22 Jacks

10. Zip Gun 98–Royal Crown Revue

Other bands on the comp include the Mad Caddies, the Bouncing Souls, No Use For A Name, Sick Of It All, Hepcat, the Descendents, Lagwagon, Tilt, and more.

The Bouncing Souls track on the comp is “Cracked,” which led to me either buying or requesting for Christmas their self-titled album, which led me slowly and steadily further down the road of Soullywood.

No place I can go to leave this behind
This fucked up world is all in my mind
This is how it how it had to be
Something’s changed inside of me
–Cracked

The band-fan relationship that I have with the Bouncing Souls isn’t like any other band in my collection. I don’t recall becoming immediately hooked and running out to buy their whole back catalog in one go, or even making sure I got a new release on the day it dropped, the way I’ve made sure to do with bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I picked up Maniacal Laughter at a store in DC because it was used for $6. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Bouncing Souls interview in any form. Somehow, I managed to make a space for them in my head that feels kinda Buddhist: when they cross my orbit, it’s amazing and unique, but I don’t crave more of it. The Bouncing Souls can say what I think and feel in a way that no other band can. I can’t think of a better way to spend a night than at a Souls show (well, maybe a Bosstones show). The happiness that they give my heart is something that defies explanation. Between songs about being a lonely kid, songs about soccer, songs about staying true to yourself, and songs about drinking, songs about love, songs about breakups, and songs about the power of music, what more do you need? I love that they write these deep and powerful–yet simple–songs and then record them right next to a song about throwing a toilet off a roof. Maybe that’s why I never clamor for more Bouncing Souls the way I do for more Bosstones or more H2O. They’ve already given me everything I need. They validated me, they gave me me in a lot of ways. I spent hours and hours as a teenager driving around with the Bouncing Souls in the stereo, feeling messed up and feeling, or rather suspecting, that maybe that was okay.

You’re a good kid, you’ve still got the fire in you
Hanging around, you don’t know what to do. Don’t think too much, just let it loose
Get up, now’s your chance
We are here and we make you dance,
You are not alone, this is our home.
–“Kid”

 

Hey where have you gone?
I used to be the one looking for a hero
In some far off place
Blindly ever forward, never knowing all along
The truth was right here in my own song.
–Kids & Heroes

This is all a roundabout way of saying that when I started following the tour, which the Souls played the first three weeks of, I discovered that I have a deep and abiding fear of meeting any of the band members in person. I’ve done a pretty good job of exorcising my idolatry of rock stars (punk makes them accessible enough that you never really construct any rock star-ness in your head to begin with, and musicians may become role models, but they never become idols) (punk also doesn’t suffer rock stars gladly to begin with), but this one stuck around. I think I mostly fear that I will break into an enormous shit-eating grin and squeal, “OH MY GOD I AM YOUR BIGGEST FAN,” because really, who needs that sort of happiness?

This entry doesn’t have a happy ending. I did not meet any of them and my fear remains unchallenged. I don’t need to be told that they’re nice guys and my fear is unfounded; I know that they are and that it is. They would not be so respected in the punk scene–by fans, by other bands, by crew members–if they were not stand-up guys. They gave three minutes of their 35-min set to a British punk band (The Exposed, I believe their name is, find them on the internet, they’re worth it) who’s working in the catering tent all summer and let them play. Their set in Camden–their last on the tour–would not have had quite so many Warped crew and band members standing around the edge of the stage, watching them for one last time, if they weren’t sincere in what they do.

These days, listening to the Bouncing Souls is apt to make me cry a little, which is odd because they never really did before, even when I was a confused and messed up kid who was in a lot of pain that I didn’t know how to get out of except by listening to music. Maybe because, ten years ago when I was in the middle of it, I almost didn’t realize how unhappy I was. It’s only looking back after the fact, now that I’m more or less happy and stable and feel like I know myself, that I realize how confused I was then. The contrast between now and then makes it plain. Back then, I knew I relied on the Bouncing Souls to stay sane, but it’s only now that I realize just how much.

It was a cloudy night, or so it looked to me
I felt so lost, I couldn’t say why
I needed strength to change my mind, 
But these ghosts stick to me like glue
Hating life, believing I was no good.

 

It was a darkness all my own
A song played on the radio
It went straight to my heart
I carried it with me until the darkness was gone.

 

It was a cloudy night, or so it looked to me
I felt so lost, I couldn’t say why
I built this clouded image
It was a bunch of lies in my mind
The world wants me to believe it
So I had to change my mind

 

I built this cloud, I can break it
The world can’t change how I feel
Because I know it’s a lie
My heart is real.

I know that none of the Bouncing Souls will read this blog, but on the off chance that they do: Thanks. I’m one of your biggest fans. And I don’t know where I would be without your music.

Here’s to the memories.

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