When time passes, things change. It's inevitable. Our minds shift from teenage indolence to adult rage. We see things falling apart all around us. The cracks in infallible things start to show. The innocence we experience in our early years of life is too good to be appreciated at the time.
10 years ago, I was a 13 year old ingrate with a chip on my shoulder and a complete disregard for the people around me. I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. I had no idea who the hell I was. I think we were all like that at that age, whether we knew it or not.
10 years is a long time. Accepting that can be difficult.
2015 marks the 10 year anniversary of an album that changed my life forever: Almost Here by Chicago based band The Academy Is...
Earlier this year, my very best friends from Cleveland offered me a ticket to their hometown show in Chicago, as my best friend moved there for college, and has found her home. It's a one off tour celebrating the passing of a decade, marked the end of their time as a band, and the end of our time as kids. It was sure to be an amazing time. I was so excited.
Then life happened to me, plane tickets too expensive due to holiday greed. Work. Long hours and sleepless nights, the youth fleeing from my body with each step. Bones become older and creekier, the will to get up early is fading. Nothing makes sense.
I couldn't go. Not enough money, not enough time. I'd never see one of my favorite bands of all time play live, ever again.
That sort of finality punches you in the gut. When bands break up, it doesn't seem like a big deal to the outside world. Yeah, okay, a few musicians decided to call it quits, but to the fan who eat, sleep and breathe music, who hang on every lyric as if it were their own, it's earth shattering.
The concept of never hearing those songs live again? It's something akin to mortality.
I was sitting alone in my new bedroom in Northern California. My life shaping up to be a filing cabinet for all the hopes and dreams I wish I'd accomplished by this point. Pushing further and further each day, trying to become something a little more than ordinary. I was exhausted. Just ready to collapse into a deep sleep, I saw something on my computer...a tour date.
A concert near me.
Concerts always breathe life back into me, and for some reason, things just ended up working out.
The second to last date of the "Almost Here: 10th Anneversary Tour" would fall on a Tuesday evening at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. A place that was exactly 35 minutes from where I was sitting.
I raced out to the car to grab my wallet, punched in those little numbers that stand guard over my money and spent it. I would be there. I would go to that concert. The concert I had been waiting for 10 years to see.
When The Academy Is...called it quits I was getting ready to start my life. I was 16 in the photo above. lead singer William Beckett was 25ish, bassist Adam Siska, 23? I'm not sure. We were all so young. And we look it too. You never realize how young you really look until you get older, I guess that's a good thing.
College was ahead of me, my young twenties were ahead of me. I could have been anything.
But as we get older, our options get more limited. We stop searching for what we want. We get tired, we take the table near the door and forget friendship. We are afraid of what we can't control. We're afraid of what we're going to lose.
Money becomes a problem, we are motivated by different things. We are made up of action plans and spreadsheets, our passion leaves us.
In the faint moments when we can control our doomed youth and look to the future with open eyes, we are fully actualized.
I walked into the Regency and it felt like nothing had changed. The same types of people who, at 15, used to flood concert halls around noon camping all day, clamoring for a spot in the front row were wearing 40 dollar distressed T shirts from Urban Outfitters, sipping 10 dollar beers from the ballroom bar. Their faces older, their bodies more plump. You can recognize the signs of aging, an era beaten down by life, taxes, imminent doom.
The early 2000's were a hopeful time for this generation. We were just entering high school. Nothing could have stopped us from becoming exactly who we wanted to be, that, and money, time, energy, talent. But we didn't know that. We were idealists. We were riding a beautiful wave of optimism, and right behind that was the music.
Taking my place in the crowd made it feel like I had gone back in time. Some people, at the ripe age of 23 would have sat in the balcony, overlooking the crowd below, but I wanted to be in the thick of it. There's nothing like feeling the sweat of your brothers in arms at a concert. Bopping back and forth, the floor vibrating underneath you. It's home.
The lights go down, and just with every concert, my heart starts to race. Whether I was fortunate enough to be on stage myself, or merely in the crowd, there is no feeling like it.
When you find your true calling in life, it can be heartbreaking, because somewhere deep down, you knew it was never practical. But what does practicality matter anyway?
Practicality is what lead singer William Beckett said before playing the last song on Almost Here: "You may never hear this song live again, but don't be sad. We'll make it memorable."
Such is life, you never know if you're going to be doing something for the last time, seeing someone for the last time.
You never know when your last breath will be. It might as well be with a crowd of sweaty, emotional twenty-somethings as they lay their youth to rest in the middle of San Francisco.
We swayed and sang, screamed and mosh, and like yesterday hitting you in the back of the head, it was over.
Usually, bands will say, "See you next fall, we'll be on tour with Fall Out Boy, or we'll be headlining..."
This time, both the band and the crowd looked at each other for a long time, reverant, respectful. We thanked each other for the good times, for the past 15 years of incredible music and love, laughter and life. We turned a page together. It was heartbreaking, emotional and completely justified. Nothing indulgent, nothing undeserving. It was perfect.
[Press Play before continuing]
The last song played was "After The Last Midtown Show" an ode to one of The Academy Is...favorite acts breaking up. It was befitting. A slow burner that you could cry to almost instantly if you weren't paying attention, and that's exactly what I did.
The music will live forever, it's eternal, but these moments aren't. It's important to celebrate. To live fully through each note, each moment. We must give ourselves these things.
The lead singer, William Beckett, bounded into the crowd like it was 2005, drawing in the people who had been hanging on the sides looking and feeling too cool to get emotional. We descended, creating a big circle around each other. It felt like home.
Unlike other concerts, toward the end, this one felt like a memorial. Not only for us, but for the band. We had long goodbyes, waving and smiling, laughing and some even cried, myself included.
The final words of the chorus rang out and filled the giant Regency Ballroom with echos. Ghostly, like a forgotten call over a lost battlefield, "The best days of our lives."
We chanted, over and over, for the last time we sang, as if to commemorate what can never be again: "The best days of our lives."
If you'd like to hear more about The Academy Is... you can read this article: "Bargaining With Lost Youth: Remembering The Academy Is..."