Talking Freddie Gray Blues

https://soundcloud.com/devinyl-records-ny/talking-freddie-gray-blues

I can’t get this song out of my head.

It’s beautifully written and constructed in classic Kevin Devine fashion, Elliott Smith influence ever so subtle.

I haven’t been very vocal about this because I feel as though no matter what I say, I cannot change the situation or the larger problems surrounding it; Only shoot hypotheticals and what-ifs and could-bes. But KD did such a wonderful job here. 99% of the words are things I wish I could say or construct into such a beautiful, succinct statement.

I don’t watch the news as much anymore as I believe it is mainly a vehicle for entertainment and bias. But I see the headlines and tune in every once in awhile. Because I have the luxury of not becoming emotionally involved. I’m a white female living in the suburbs and I can just turn it off whenever I want.

This is not my reality / I’m afforded the luxury / Of shaking my head / I shut the screen, go to bed / I can turn off what you never can / And watch it happen again and again

Truth is, I feel so deeply for my black brothers and sisters. And days come and go where I wish I could take away all of their pain.

Truth is, as a nation, we’re nowhere where we need to be. And this won’t go away overnight. Change is necessary. Justice and Equality are necessary.

But with each passing day I just feel helpless and unsure. And I’m so sorry and I wish I could paint the world over.

The system’s broken / Not breaking / It’s done

Because how many more times must this happen, how many more young black lives must be lost before we wake up as a country and ignite the human compassion seemingly dormant within us all?

I hope not too long.

Day 3: What’s On Your Mind?

I should’ve done this post yesterday, but after an eventful day in the city and a visit from my uncle who recently moved to Florida I was quite exhausted at the end of the day. Needless to say, I’m making up for it now.

What’s On Your Mind? – Write the post that was on your mind when you first started a blog OR draft a post you’ve been holding back.

Well, I think I already wrote the former as I broke down my crisis in Post-Grad Psychotherapy. I started blogging a month after graduation and really just needed a place to spill my guts, a place that didn’t have to stay secret in my notebook so people could read and connect with my words. Since then I’ve written about other things, but I still keep a keen eye observing everything and everyone around me, trying to figure out how to live in the world, how to get started, how to make my mark.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been “holding back” a post, but I would like to recount and reflect on my first Saves The Day concert. It’s a story I don’t think I’ve fully told before.

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My first Saves The Day concert was Friday, October 24th, 2008 at Highline Ballroom in New York. I had just turned 18-years-old 20 days before and I was not a constant show-goer so this was a big deal for me. I would even go as far as to say it was probably my first concert in New York. (If any friends wish to correct me, please do!)

I had really gotten into Saves The Day about a year prior. It was probably around the peak of Frostwire, Limewire, Mediafire, and all other means of illegal downloading. I had a method every time I was searching for new music and back then I did it all the time. My iPod couldn’t even hold all the songs I had in my iTunes, and I eventally had so many songs I went as far as deleting applications off my computer so I could hold on to them all because I was always on the brink of running out of memory. But anyway, my method went a little like this: If I knew the name of a band but wasn’t familiar with their music, or if a festival’s lineup was announced regardless whether I was going to it or not I would go through the list, rack my brains for that name I had heard, and download everything I could find. (For the record, I don’t do this anymore. I stream now. Downloaded music is a thing in the past to me.) Saves The Day was one of these bands, but I discovered 100s of new bands this way and ended up seeing quite a few of them in concert, which led me to buying merch, tickets, and music legally. (The upsides to illegal downloading IMO, the record companies just don’t seem to see it that way. I may blog about this conundrum in the future.)

After downloading these songs, I’d put my iPod on shuffle and wait for one to grab me. (This method worked really great, by the way.) In 2007, I had downloaded a bunch of Saves The Day songs and was listening to my iPod on shuffle when suddenly one of them did grab me. That song was “Anywhere With You“. Little did I know that song was the first track off Saves’ arguably most controversial album, ‘In Reverie‘; Compared to their last three albums IR was awash with a kind of dream-pop feel, chord complexities, multi-part harmonies, and exquisite melody lines previously unheard in their punk/pop-punk/emo releases. Frontman Chris Conley’s voice had changed and his songwriting had reached a new level entirely – and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. From that one song I became ravenous, searching for their albums, making sure no audio file went unturned so I could complete my collection. I became aware of my friends who were listening to them, and I asked a million questions about their fluctuating lineup, voice changes, and their discography in general. Who was this band? When were they touring? Where could I find their guitar tabs so I can play their songs?

So in 2008 I found their tour schedule, begged a friend to come with me, begged my parents to go by ourselves, and embarked on my first of many Saves The Day shows. I drove us to the bus stop and we took the bus into Port Authority. We had dinner in Times Square and took a cab to Highline. I still remember the line out the door and the dark, dingy look of the buildings within the Meatpacking District. I would later learn not only was the show a part of a CMJ Showcase, but it was in fact sold out. We shuffled inside as the opening band, Moneen started to play. I remember striking up an awkward conversation with the merch guy. I think I asked him how long he’d been selling merch for or something really weird like that and proceeded to tell him I was thinking about studying the music business in college. He politely conversed with me before I put him out of his misery and bought a Saves The Day shirt and went inside. I remember feeling incredibly young and out of place in a 20-something crowd. Everyone was drinking beer in bottles and I tried to act tough, saying to my friend I’d pay someone to buy me one if I didn’t have the ACTs the next day. Oh yes, I felt like a total badass because I had be up at 8 AM the next day to take a silly standardized test and here I am in the city seeing my favorite band without a care in the world.

The crowd started to fill in as Kevin Devine took the stage. This show was a real treat because this was the first time I saw Kevin and he knocked my socks off, not knowning it was the first step in making me a fan for life. I distinctly remember him screaming his lungs out to “Brother’s Blood” and just staring transfixed at his outpouring emotion. All I remember of Saves The Day that night was a happy blur. Just being so excited and in disbelief that there they were right in front of me and Chris was singing right in front of me. Half-aware that the crowd had grown to a sea of people shouting lyrics back and forth as we swayed to the natural ebb and flow of the push and pull, typical of a Saves The Day crowd. I didn’t take any pictures or video but just watched, as I do today. I’d only been a fan for about a year and had only memorized the words to a handful of songs but my eyes were wide just taking in the lights and music. What I do specifically remember is Chris introducing a new song, which I realized later was “Daybreak“, no one knowing that song and album would not be released until about 3 years later due to frequent lineup changes. My friend and I might’ve left a little early to take our bus back. I don’t remember exactly. But it was a wonderful night that I will remember forever. I would not see them again until May 2010 at the Bamboozle Festival 2 years later, miraculously getting into meet and greet line without a pass before I saw their incredible set.

What’s so interesting about the whole ACT bit is that the score I ended up getting (24) ended up being two points shy of getting into my first choice school – Drexel University. I was refused acceptance to Drexel because of this sole reason. Ramapo College was my second choice and therefore bumped up to first to my then-dismay. I begrudgingly agreed to go to Ramapo and enroll in their Music Industry and Production programs. A year later, Saves The Day was announced as our fall concert and I somehow managed to be assigned Assistant Stage Manager with a friend of mine. (If you care to read my “fangirl” recollection written a day or two after the show, you may do so here…Don’t judge…) That night, that show, and that day went down in Roe history as I not only got some one-on-one time with the band but also got a birthday shoutout. Thinking life could not possibly get better, I later went on to be awarded a scholarship after writing about Chris Conley and how he was one of my main musical influences and why. A year later, I would play and sing “Here, There And Everywhere” with Chris in the Starland Ballroom parking lot after a show in December, the day before Christmas Eve. Two years after that, I would make a daydream come true by accompanying Chris and playing “The Way His Collar Falls” at a secret show at the Warehouse Motor Club in Middlesex, NJ bringing the B-Side song out of retirement from the usual Saves The Day setlist.

One could argue Saves The Day was the reason I got a 24 on my ACTs, the reason why I didn’t get into Drexel. But had I got in, would I be telling you the same story now? That Ramapo show was a springboard that led to so many wonderful things in my life. Saves The Day is the reason I am who I am today. Since 2008, I have seen Saves The Day 14 times and have no plans to stop. Each show is a transcendent experience that I cherish and can be equated with nothing else I know to be of this world. There is a magic that goes on in the crowd and on stage, energy and emotions always at peak levels. Saves The Day has been the soundtrack to my life for 7 years…and I couldn’t have asked for more fitting accompaniment. 

How I Got Into Into It. Over It.

It’s wild how an album can grow on you. When you first stream it on your laptop, you don’t really get it; It passes through you. Damn those shitty speakers. But then maybe you give it another try, with headphones, in another headspace, in different mood entirely, at the end of the day when your thoughts seem the loudest. and holy shit. That album can change you; It slowly starts to steep into the fibers of your being and you find riffs and choice selections of words caught up in your daily thoughts.  It starts to embed itself into the soundtrack of your life, you start relating to it in a ridiculous number of ways whether it’s musically, literally, and/or thematically.

This could be any album, for you or for me.  I’ve had these feelings towards albums before but I can’t remember the last time I legitimately felt this way.  Currently, I’m talking about Into It. Over It.‘s ‘Intersections’. The album is stellar. It takes a couple a listens but you finally reach nothing short of an epiphany that Evan Weiss’ is nothing less than a humble genius. He is a brilliant songwriter, musician, performer, and storyteller – So much so that if you don’t look at him with some sort of admiration, respect, and/or envy I’m not sure you’re fully human.

January 2011, I went to the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn with my dad to see another yearly installment of the ‘Where’s the Band?’ tour featuring Chris Conley, Anthony Raneri, Matt Pryor, Ace Enders, and Evan Weiss.  I knew of the former four but not the latter.  He was a mystery.  Watching him open was one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  His singing and lyrics so sincere, that FINGERPICKING, and what tuning was he playing in? Surely that wasn’t Standard E…And it wasn’t.  I’d never seen anything like it. Evan is very well known for using many alternate tunings. And that factor is one of the reasons why I think he stands out so much – He goes beyond the norm. And I like that. He caught my ear and made me a fan for life.

I tell people this doesn’t happen to me often; I don’t usually get blown away by opening acts, in fact I usually come in with very low expectations for the openers as shitty as it sounds. But I think we’ve all been conditioned to feel that way because how many shows have we been to where we’re impatiently drinking our drinks, having run out of things to talk about in between because the opener is taking FOREVER and preventing us from seeing who we really came to see! But when that sort of thing happens – when I am wowed, goosebumped, easily attentive, and feel that static electricity inside my body sparking with excitement I don’t take it lightly.  It’s only happened to me three times before: Once with Evan, once with Kevin Devine, and the other time with Balance and Composure.

That first night in Brooklyn after his set, I awkwardly went up to him at the merch table and bought a CD of his then latest record, Proper.  I then proceeded to half-drunkenly ask him questions about his guitar and the like.  He was the sweetest and answered all my questions with a smile.  I saw him again at a Chuck E. Cheese-esque venue in Montclair three months later where he played to no more than 25 of us as we gathered around and listened to him play, some of us singing along. Six months later, I saw him headline and play full band for the first time at Santos Party House in Manhattan a week before Hurricane Sandy with Hostage Calm, Cheap Girls, and The Front Bottoms.

This past Thursday, I revisited the place where I first discovered him – the Music Hall of Williamsburg – to see him play full band again, this time better than ever. I went to the show by myself, which I’ve never done before…EVER. It was slightly nerve-wracking to travel all the way to Brooklyn via train and subway but I did it. I’m actually pretty proud that I did it. When I finally got on the 12:40 AM train to go home, I put in my headphones and queued up ‘Intersections’ for the ride back.  It was a completely different experience than when I had streamed it on my laptop a few days before.  Something was different. Something had changed.  And I realized, it was me that was different, me who had changed. Maybe it was my tired brain finally relaxing after an exhaustive afternoon of transportation and an evening of the finest rock n’ roll.  Maybe it was the vodka cranberry I had, combined with the comfort of sitting down for one of the first times that night.  Maybe it was the curtained sadness in my heart as I looked up admiringly at the bands I saw that night and reflecting on what I was doing with my life.  ‘Intersections’ quenched my thirst, it opened my eyes, it kept me awake, and my mind racing.  When I saw Evan again on Saturday, I bought the ‘Intersections’ vinyl.

Like anything I say, I can only tell you what I know to be true based off my experience.  If this sort of thing has never happened to you, you may not understand. But to those who this has happened to, you know what I mean.  It’s some sort of calling.  Some sort of affirmation of the life and energy that exists within you.  When a song resonates, you feel it in your soul; that central core in the center of your torso. And you feel the electric sparks spread throughout your body.

Evan is a huge vinyl junkie. And because of that, I think he understands what makes a good record. He doesn’t live in or even associate with the Top40 concept of “singles” or sticking with the mainstream “sound”. All of that’s irrelevant and I think he knows it. And I’m glad he’s a musician who stays true to himself and his talents. His music really reflects his authenticity and as a listener, that’s all I can ever hope to ask for.  Keep it up, Evan.  ‘Intersections’ has unexpectedly found a way into my heart. All your hard work was/is worth it and I will probably support you and your musical endeavors indefinitely.

‘Til next tour –