2003 was probably the year in my life where the most change happened. I'm going to write about it in great detail. In 3 parts. God help you.
Part 1: The end.
That winter, instead of wrestling, I took up some new hobbies. I started doing Yoga super early in the morning at the local gym. I had a brief period where I was trying to learn how to have lucid dreams. I portrayed an Irish police captain in the high school play of Arsenic and Old Lace.
And then after about 8 months, my first real relationship ended. I think we both saw it coming- I was about to head off to college and she had two years of high school left. She happened to have seen it coming sooner than I did, which led to me being pretty overly emotional about it, but music was there for me.
I sank myself deep into it, and at this point, this meant a lot of Alkaline Trio. It helped / didn't help that most songs are about self loathing, death, and failed relationships, which fit my mood a lot of the time in here. It was kind of satisfying to wallow in darkness for a little bit. Here's a gem:
On a complete opposite spectrum, that spring I also randomly went and saw the Wailers with some friends, and of course Bob Marley's "Legend" entered my world and didn't leave for a few years. This and Cat Stevens were sort of the tide turners in me mellowing out a bit as a person. As spring rolled around, I was starting to turn in to more of a hippie than a punk. I got really into Buddhism after reading Siddartha in English class. Nathan and I experimented with fasting, meditation, and generally became weirdos. I started growing my hair out. It was a good time to focus on impermanence, because nothing from this point on was really the same again. My band and relationship were over. I was starting to not care about sports anymore, and preparing to end high school and move away to college. I was looking for a summer job, my FIRST work experience ever at 18 years old. And America was going to war.
The punk movement was pretty decidedly against the Iraq war and Bush's re-election campaign, and I was caught up in the fervor. I made a shirt that said "Make shirts not war" and wore it to school a number of days. I constantly sought out anti-war publications that bands were writing and sharing- music was my only real connection to politics- and hung the american flag upside down in my room. Right around this time, the Mock Trial team took a trip to Portland for the state championships, and it happened to coincide with the big anti-war rally of that spring. We got to walk down with the masses and hold signs, and it felt important. I still listened to a lot of the same music, always adding new random little things in. This spring it was back to some early Sublime, Common Rider (from former Operation Ivy singer Jesse Michaels), Atom and His Package, and Against Me!. Against Me! is going to get mostly their own post in 2004, so I'll push that along for now.
I was still playing music off and on. As part of my fledgling ideology, I got excited about the anti-racism movement, and had a hat and a shirt expressing as much. There were a couple of shows performed by "S.A.R.S" (students against a racist society) at school events, of which I ended up semi-fronting with some other guys. We played a cover of "What I Like About You", and a slightly cleaned up version of Alkaline Trio's "Radio".
Late one night, Matt J and I also put together a one off single as "Mattastica", which we wrote and recorded together. There is a video, but it is lost forever somewhere. The audio lives on.
And then school was over and I graduated. I was a long haired dude with a hemp necklace. I got an acoustic guitar for graduation, and prepared myself to set out on the road to fame and glory
Part 2: Limbo
The first few weeks of summer I was a roamer. I spent a lot of time camping, and not really looking for that job I said I'd get to help pay for college. I was getting nervous about leaving my hometown- afraid I'd be homesick and overwhelmed by the SIZE of Corvallis and college life. I also really did not want to get a job or work at all.
Eventually what happened is I took a fallback job- a month or two doing some maintenance and gardening for my uncle in Halfway, about an hour away from Baker. In order to make it worth it, commute wise, I ended up living in my Grandma's two bedroom apartment during the week while I worked. I'd go home each Friday, have as much fun as I could with my friends, and then spend my weeks in solitude in a field or a truck or my grandmas house, listening to music and pondering my life to come.
The weeks there were hard on me. I sometimes would go full days without saying a word to anyone. I wasn't clear on my job task, and spent a lot of time trying to look like I was working and watching the time very slowly pass by. It was sort of the start of a long repeating pattern of sporadic work anxiety. Each night I would go back to my grandmas and eat a frozen pizza, and then sit in my bedroom with my guitar. I listened to books on tape. I took secret naps in a toolshed. I learned to put together drip lines for sprinkler systems, and clean cars, and move rocks. My hair got longer. And I listened to a ton of music.
My walkman and I were inseperable. Both at work and on the weekends riding my rad yellow bmx bike around town alone, I had my headphones on. I'm listening to Matt's Rockin Bike Mix right now on that same walkman. Track listing:
- Andrew WK - I Get Wet
- Dixie Cups- Iko Iko
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes- Walking on Sunshine (cover)
- Suicide Machines- It's the End of the World As We Know It (cover)
- Mad Caddies- Rockupation
- Rage Against The Machine- Renegades of Funk
- Suicide Machines- Permanent Holiday
- Bouncing Souls- Manthem
- Dropkick Murphys- Amazing Grace (cover)
- Operation Ivy- Soundsystem
- Andrew WK- She Is Beautiful
- Brave Saint Saturn - The Sun Also Rises
- Rancid- Radio
- Less Than Jake- Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin
- Reel Big Fish- Steel Train (cover, live)
- Lagwagon - Brown Eyed Girl (cover)
- Mad Caddies- We'll start to worry when the cynics start believing.
- Hippos- Better Watch Your Back
- Alkaline Trio- Take Lots With Alcohol
- Andrew WK- Party Hard
- Spitvalves- Skaboobitibitiska
The work week was simultaneously full of boredom and anxiety, but the weekends were my own. And I filled them with a lot of great things.
Early in the summer, I went and saw Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, continuing my fairly recent trend of mellow acoustic goodness. I went to TWO warped tours this year- the first in Boise, and the second in the Gorge. The Gorge trip was the most eventful- we drove there and back in the same day, and I think we got home at 3:30 in the morning. And also, there I saw Andrew WK for the first time.
I didn't really know what was happening and was just killing time up on the grass when "Its Time To Party" started. My ears perked up, and then my eyes, and then I was running down to the stage area to join in the fun. It was a short set, but so memorable. As he was wont to do, he did numerous songs with people from the crowd on stage, including people riding around on his shoulders as he fist pumped and headbanged his way through the crowd. I was blown away by the sheer positive sound and force he was putting off, and I could not get enough. This was before I knew anything about what it was- just earwormy party songs that got my heart racing and gave me goosebumps. I burned myself a copy of I Get Wet, and it soundtracked my drives home. I would largely save it for myself for the 45 minute drive home from my grandmas at the end of each work week, and no doubt this has created an inseparable bond between the music and the feeling of freedom you have after a long week of work. I have so much love for this album and everything Andrew WK brings to the table, and he'll show up again in future posts. Here's a video of him on a previous stop on that same tour.
Mid summer, however, another album came out that sort of dominated my life for the next year. I'm speaking of the monumental, earth-shattering, most anticipated and loved release of all time, Rx Bandits - The Resignation.
I don't know how to talk about this album without boring everyone or gushing too much. I can't say it's still my favorite album at this current moment, but it's in my top 5 and nothing ever had such a broad hold on me as this did, instantly and for at least another full year from when it came out.
I already loved the political experimental ska of Progress, but this took the best parts of that to another level. The horns remained but it became significantly more rock oriented. Almost prog-gy in nature, with huge pinnacles of shredding and dynamic shifts and some of the most intricate drumming and guitar playing that I had heard to date. As a piece of art, it was untouchable in execution or in message and that message really helped to define my ideology. Screeds against plastic surgery and objectification of women, war, uniformity and commercialism of art, the media, and the disconnection of humanity in general, it had me hook, line, and sinker. It was so deadly serious in a way that I had not been exposed to before.
From the liner notes:
"Let’s burn while we still have the nerves, love while we still have hearts, need while we still can break, and sing while we still have breath. This is The Resignation."
Every piece of art I made in the next year was an expansion of the concepts of this album, and to an extent a lot of my vague personal beliefs about life were heavily molded by this album. And the music still destroys.
We spent the rest of the summer listening to it. I don't know what else to say, but if you've ever had something move you like this, probably also around this age, I don't need to say anything. It was that album.
The summer finally drew to a close, and to celebrate the end of this era of our lives, Nathan and I booked ourselves a train trip to San Francisco for a week. I'd never done anything like that- never stayed alone in a real city before, never been to San Francisco (or anywhere else really), and it was a thrilling concept to me.It was scheduled so that we went away to college the day after we got back, which meant we had to say goodbyes to those who were going to other schools than us. Kyle was going to be nearby at Western, but I dropped in on him to say hey before going and he gave me a couple of burned cds. I think Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was one of them (we had listened to Zaireeka at his house earlier that summer), and I know for certain that he gave me Mare Vitalis and Low Level Owl (vol 1) by the Appleseed Cast.
If you asked me right now, Low Level Owl actually IS my favorite album of all time, but that's after giving it time to breathe and go with me where I've gone since. But my first experience was on a train to San Francisco in the middle of the night, on a life-expanding trip to a scary new place one week before moving away forever from the small town I grew up in. I listened to it every night in the hostel with my headphones on to fall asleep. I listen to it every time I travel anywhere at night and need comfort or want to be at peace. I couldn't sleep 3 nights ago, and I went downstairs and listened to the album on my headphones. It instantly relaxes me and takes me to that place- a place of contemplative excitement about life and embracing whatever is about to come.
Again- not a travel blog, so cutting it off there. Lots to get to still. I'll set a little scene by mentioning that we met a girl named Kathryn at our hostel who was taking the train up to Eugene to start her first year at U of O, and we hung out and played cards with her on the train ride home and promised to keep in touch.
Part 3- The Beginning
The day after Nathan and I got back, we went away to college.
Matt (who would be my roomate) had been in the dorms already due to being in the marching band, so he sort of felt out the lay of the land ahead of time for me. The one thing he mentioned was that our next door neighbors liked punk music and were cool. And he was right! Dane and Jonathan shared a lot in common with us, and we relished in passing music back and forth. They taught us about Rancid, we taught them about Rx Bandits. We met in the middle on NOFX. As all this punkness exploded around me, I also pushed myself farther away and continued exploring down the indie / experimental path that Kyle had set me on.
While if asked, people probably would have still pegged me as the RX Bandits / Andrew WK guy, I was finding a lot of new stuff and getting into some stuff that I'd experimented with that hadn't taken to me yet. The Flaming Lips, Jets to Brazil, Elliot Smith, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and Death Cab for Cutie were all starting to find their way into my heart, and I think I was also trying to turn myself into sort of the weirder arty music guy as one might do their first year of college around a lot of new people. I created a lot of art about hating robots, wrote poems, and played guitar in the fire escape when I could. My hair kept getting longer.
That fall I went up to Portland to see the RX Bandits live- one of the greatest shows in memory, and went up again a week later to see the Alkaline Trio. Someone brought the Postal Service album on a road trip down to the redwoods. And the music played on. The Fall term of that first year was one of the most exciting and great times of my life- the thrill of all of the new people and energy of the dorms was palpable, and we were reveling in it. 2003 was such a dramatic year that coming home for Christmas break I barely recognized myself from the previous January. The only way I could remember back through it all is via the music that accompanied me along the way.
Up Next- I burn down the system and meet a girl.