The start of the New Year has been less than ideal. My hours at work have been brutal and physically beating me down with little to no end in sight. Clemson lost the only National Championship in my lifetime in a heartbreaking fashion. I’m confused with the outlook of couple of friendships and where they’re supposed to go. I’m struggling with what I want my next year, two years, five years to really look like and where I want to be – both figuratively and literally.
In times of trouble, some people have a calming place they retreat to until the storm has passed, some get lost in the pages of a book, some have a close friend to confide in.
Music’s always been my go-to comfort.
I have no idea when music transitioned from a passive to an active experience for me. Growing up, my parents weren’t musicians. Other than the occasional piano playing, neither of my parents play an instrument. There weren’t frequent trips to concerts. At best, my childhood memories consist of late 80s/early 90s country music and the soundtracks to Dirty Dancing and Top Gun.
If anything, I was on the outside looking in. I distinctly remember moving to Irmo in elementary school, taking a field trip to Lexington, SC, and feeling completely left out as the entire bus knew the words to Whoomp! (There It Is) by Tag Team as 104.7 WNOK was streamed through the bus speakers. Top 40 music was new to me.
Over the years, music just kept creeping in. I got a pair of rollerblades as a present one year, which bled over into Friday nights being spent at the skating rink and being introduced to 90s dance music. TRL – a crash course in Top 40 music – became a fixture on the living room TV as soon as I got home from school. I’d watch every episode of MTV’s Making the Video, which led me to Blink 182. That would later spiral out of control into the love for pop-punk that still makes me giddy.
My first concert was a Reba McEntire show in Columbia with my family. I vaguely remember it, so I barely count it as a defining experience. But around high school, Columbia’s rock station (93.5 WARQ) began holding an annual music festival in Finlay Park downtown. Wanting to fit in with friends, I’d tag along in my junior and senior year. In what may be my first connection with live music, I can still remember the chills I got from Fuel’s performance of Shimmer the night of September 15, 2000. And the disappointment when Good Charlotte backed out of the 2001 lineup.
To this day, I credit Good Charlotte as being the band that started my music fascination. I still proudly own a copy of their first, self-titled album before they re-released it with The Click, which also makes me sad since I love that song. I loved that the founders were twins and that was unique. I knew where Waldorf, Maryland was. I knew Benji taught himself how to play guitar. I knew Billy Martin had his own clothing line. I saw them in Charlotte at Tremont Music Hall (RIP!) on 11/13/2002 and still count this as my first concert.
Then their The Young and The Hopeless record came out in 2003 and blew my damn mind. The opening track is perfect at building hype. To this day, I can recognize the opening guitar tracks to The Anthem and The Young and The Hopeless in two or three notes, easy. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous blew them up into a huge band. My first college crush at Lander loved My Bloody Valentine. My first college girlfriend’s AIM screen name was a reference to Riot Girl. You could put this album in today and I would know every word to every song.
This led to a college subscription to Alternative Press. Which led to an interest in Warped Tour. Which led to bands like Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, All American Rejects, Yellowcard, and eventually Fall Out Boy. It’s well documented that I claim Fall Out Boy as my favorite band. They were what Good Charlotte was, only during a time in my life when I had the money, time, and freedom to go to any concert I wanted to. To this day, I’m usually one of the older fans (if you’re excluding the parents) in the pit for their shows.
Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across Marianas Trench. They’re a Canadian pop rock band. No one in the United States knows them. Their lead singer co-wrote Call Me Maybe. But no one knows that either. Celebrity Status was my introduction and I couldn’t stop listening. So I downloaded their album Masterpiece Theatre. I wore this album out on my cross country trip in 2010. I’d send lyrics to All To Myself to a girl I liked. Josh Ramsay absolutely kills their songs, vocally. If Fall Out Boy was my Good Charlotte 2.0, Marianas Trench was my Fall Out Boy 2.0.
They released Ever After in 2011. Haven’t Had Enough were the lyrics on this album sent to a girl. Fallout still gives me chills. Desperate Measures is the song that got me hooked – this album’s Celebrity Status. By Now is heartbreaking. The album’s a concept album and all of the music videos follow the story with the band and the same actress. Fortunately, I got to see their Charlotte show on their The Noise tour on June 5, 2013. The recap on that can be found here.
Finally, Astoria, their follow up to Ever After, was released October, 2015. Just a mere four years after the last album. Side note – Let’s not wait that long again guys. Okay? Okay! Yet another concept album with this one being inspired by the 80s. The songs on this album hit me in a much more emotional place than any album I’ve listened to. One Love is the album’s first single. Who Do You Love is full of the band harmonizing gorgeously. Wildfire may be my favorite song. Not just by Marianas Trench. My favorite song ever. It was a song I just got in the first piano notes. Once the drum beat kicked in, I was sold. Josh, again, kills the lyrics on this song. Dearly Departed is amazing for the simple fact that it name-drops lyrics from the previous album. Forget Me Not is absolutely beautiful but crushing about his mom’s battle with Lewy body dementia.
So when they announced they were touring the Southeast again, I jumped at the chance to buy tickets to both the Charleston and Charlotte dates on their Hey You Guys tour.
I can’t even begin to describe the Charleston show. It will probably wind up being the worst-sold show on their tour, as there may have been 200 people there. But it will easily be one of my most cherished, special nights I will ever experience.
Before show even started, I lucked out and got a free tshirt from the merch guy. The shirt I wanted was sold out of XL sizes, so I settled on another design. But they had a lot of old merch from previous tours they were giving away to anyone who stood out or spent a lot of money. Turns out, they had an XL in those, so he threw one in for me. San Diego and I spent about 15 minutes chatting with him about the tour, the fans he sees, how he was filling in for a buddy and how his scene (arena rock) is so different. It was fun to talk that side of a concert with someone.
As soon as the band came out, I could tell something was off. Josh struggled hitting some of the notes and words in Astoria to open up the show. I distinctly remember thinking I would be bummed out if they cancel the Charlotte date the next night because he’s losing his voice. It was that bad. Then he wasn’t drinking water and brought out a red Solo cup. I thought he might be drunk and missing notes because he was a bit out of it. But then during One Love, he lost it. He missed lyrics, was visibly emotional, and started tearing up. It really hit home when he came back out to sing Good To You for the encore.
He stopped the show and told the crowd that he needed to “break character” for a minute because he “was struggling.” He said that sometimes it’s hard to perform in front of a crowd when life isn’t going right. He said he had a challenging day and started to lose it again. Then pulled himself back together to thank the crowd for helping him make it a bit better. It didn’t help that he played Good To You by himself without a band backing him because he was visibly upset trying to sing the song. But it made for an amazing atmosphere towards the end of the song when the crowd was singing back with him.
On one hand, I felt terrible for him, having to put on a show in front of a small room of people after having something clearly emotional happen to him. I can’t imagine how hard that gets when everyone’s expecting you to be this character and you’re struggling through it.
On the other hand, I can’t explain how grateful I am to have gotten to experience that. That’s probably only ever happened at a handful of shows, if ever. It was such a human, humbling moment to see him just be like any other person struggling through a tough day. Something about that just makes me appreciate him, his band, and the music that much more. And in every song he struggled through, I have moments I’ll relive every time I hear that song, knowing how real those lyrics are for him.
If only to drive the point home of how rare it is for him to break his on-stage persona, he sent this tweet out two days later.
I can’t overstate how perfect that show was for me. I will never forget it.
The Charlotte show was the next night (January 27th) and noticeably different. The crowd was massive compared to Charleston’s stop. Josh was back to being his usual, killer performer self, working the crowd and stage. The atmosphere was so much more alive, given Josh’s energy and the larger crowd feeding off of it. The merch guy even recognized me, saying he thought he was having deja vu.
Some funny points about the night were that I had mentioned to San Diego a couple of things while walking to the venue. First, I noted how many more people there were in Charlotte at the show this time than Charleston the night before, as well as the Charlotte stop three years ago the first time I saw them. Second, there was a guy who was easily 6’5 at the Charleston show camped out up front with his wife/girlfriend. I had made mention at the show how that was sort of a jerk move to be front and center, while being the tallest guy there, blocking the best view from everyone. He wasn’t lively or moving around. He didn’t even bob his head to the beat. But he knew every. single. word. to every song being played.
Well, in between songs when Josh was addressing the crowd, he made mention of both of my stories. He said it was only their second time in Charlotte but that the last time they were there, it was the worst selling stop on the tour. Then later in the night, he went on a rant about the tall guy. He said it was terrifying because he was a giant dude, just staring a hole into him all night, but mouthing every word to every song. Just a funny coincidence how he mentioned both stories I had been talking about already.
I’m really glad I got to see the “normal” performance in Charlotte, so I didn’t miss out on the usual expectation of a Marianas Trench show. But seeing the Charleston show makes me feel lucky to experience it at all. It gives me an entirely new perspective on the people, the band, and the songs. Fall Out Boy may have just been bumped from the top spot.
Here’s the set list and my favorite lyric from each song.
- Astoria – “I’ll see whatever doesn’t make me stronger kills me”
- Celebrity Status – “And I pray at the church of asses in the seats”
- Burning Up – “Sometimes a whisper’s just too much”
- All To Myself – “I’ve been blaming myself and I think you know why”
- Who Do You Love – “I hear the words I’ve spoken and everything comes out wrong”
- Fallout – “To fight for you, after this long, I shouldn’t have to”
- Stutter – “So here I am, you can take or leave me. But I won’t ever be anywhere but here.”
- One Love – “And I’ve been broken but I’m better every day”
- This Means War – “I’d rather be a riot than indifferent”
- Desperate Measures – “For a first effort, this feels kind of last ditch”
- Shut Up and Kiss Me – “You can say you’re kind of bored with this, but if you’re young, it’s new, I guess”
- Pop 101 – “Hipster music on cassette but you probably don’t know them yet”
- While We’re Young – “So sing it back if you’re with me, I wanna hear how your heart speaks”
- Cross My Heart – “Take me home, I don’t wanna be alone tonight”
- Good To You – “I’d be good to you and you’d be so good to me”
- Haven’t Had Enough – “But I still need you, need you, don’t mean to tease you”
- End of an Era – “I’m so afraid of trying something new, cause every start begins with saying goodbye to you”
It was a great song lineup. The only thing that would have made it perfect would have been adding Wildfire into the mix somewhere. Selfishly, it’s my favorite song they’ve ever done. But in response to a fan on Saturday, he made it clear he’s just not ready yet.
Take your time, dude. That’ll just make it that much better when you’re ready.
Can’t wait until next time!