lunes, abril 03, 2017

Bottoms up tonight: Yellowcard’s (second to) last show

I wrote the first half of this while I queued outside The Novo, on March 24th, for Yellowcard's second to last show. The rest I wrote on my way to Minneapolis, on March 25th, the day of their final show.

It’s been 4 years and a day since one of my fondest dreams came true. On March 23rd, 2013, I met Yellowcard. They were playing El Plaza in Mexico City and I got to interview Ryan Key for work and took part in a meet and greet with the whole band for their Mexican Street Team. They played an acoustic version of “Ocean Avenue” right there on the sidewalk and turned one of the best experiences ever into an official music video on their YouTube channel. It was one of the best days of my life.

Fast forward to March 24th, 2017. I’m standing on Figueroa St., just feet away from The Novo, the venue where I saw Yellowcard live on October 18th, in what I thought would be my last show with them. One week later, my father died. Talk about learning how to move on and grieve. That night I stood with my friends, my sisters Dyrce and Sandra, and we laughed and cried and sang our hearts out. Tonight I stand alone. There’s friends around, and I’m definitely not the only person queueing up for this, the second to last Yellowcard show, and yet, I stand alone.

“Bottoms up tonight / I drink to you and I / ‘Cause with the morning comes the rest of my life”. That’s a verse from “Awakening”, the opening track for Yellowcard’s Southern Air, and the song stuck in my head for the past 24 hours. It perfectly sums up my sentiments for today. True, that song’s about starting over after what seems like a nasty break-up. But to me, tonight, it’s about my favorite band breaking up, me experiencing their second to last show, and what comes next: The rest of my life.

Over-dramatic? Maybe. Untrue? Not for a heartbeat. My story with this band is well documented on the online blog I’ve kept since my freshman year in high school. I first listened to them on the Summer of the Ocean Avenue release. My cousin Carlos brought the album over on vacation and I copied it on my computer and listened to it on repeat for months. Ever since that Summer, this band’s music turned into the soundtrack to my life. My Chemical Romance was my fix: they got my depression and they fed my dreams of making it through high school. But Yellowcard did something different, something that runs deeper within me. They gave me a different kind of hope. For some reason I can’t (and won’t try to) understand, their albums have followed my life developments pretty accurately. I’m not saying that Ryan Key and I share some mind connection, but the songs he’s written speak to me on a different level. There’s a song for every time I’ve lost and every time I’ve won. And last year, when they released their final, self-titled album, I thought they were teaching me to say goodbye to them and I was very grateful for their consideration.

And then my father died.

The night of Yellowcard’s release, I cried myself to sleep while listening to it on my iPod. I sang through every song and fell to pieces in their midst only to be put together again by the music and lyrics of what is the last piece of new music by my favorite band. I’ll never get to discover a new album of them again. And after tonight, I’ll never get to experience one of their live shows again.

The last time I saw them I was blessed with the opportunity to buy the Deluxe Tour Package that included a meet and greet and a hang out with the band. I got to see them up close, chat with them and tell them how incredibly important they are to me. I spoke a bit with Mendez and Sean, who know me better from all the shows and tweeting and street-teaming. I told them about my dad’s illness and they told me to never give up. We talked and hung out and had our photos taken. It was a blast. Sean’s last words to me, when I said I would miss them, where “I know you are strong. You girls will be ok. Now go sing your hearts out and enjoy yourselves”.

I went back home and told the story to my father, sedated in the ICU. They’re supposed to be aware of their surroundings, deep inside. I know he listened. I kept thinking everything would be alright in the end. I believed. And then he died. On October 25th, 2016. Way before his time. A month before my 28th birthday. 2 weeks before my boyfriend moved away to a different country. 5 months, to the day, of Yellowcard’s final bow. My favorite band will end tomorrow night, for good. And then it’s gonna be only me. I’ll have to learn how to live without their new insight into my life. I’ll have to cope with the memories, knowing there’s no going back.

The Novo, March 24th, 2017.

* * * 

By the end of the show, I had found my friends and jumped and yelled and sung and cried. I cried so much. I cried during “Ocean Avenue”, the song through which a lot of us got to meet them. I cried during “Life of a Salesman”, a song about fathers and sons and wanting to honor your parents’ legacy. I cried during “Believe”, the anthem, my first tattoo, the mantra I say to myself whenever things are going wrong. I cried during “With You Around”, a song about taking a leap of faith and daring to love again (and punk rock). I cried and pumped my fist in the air during “Lights and Sounds”, a very underrated rock song that should have been played more on the radio back in 2006. I broke during “View from Heaven”, with Diane -a friend I met through the band’s fanbase- holding my arm in support… that song hits close to home. A lot of songs went by in a blur of sweat, tears, and back pain.

I’m pretty sure Mendez and Portman caught a glimpse of me near the barrier. And I’m certain that they were happy to see me. One of the things I love about this band is their commitment to their fans. They sincerely care for us. They share our laughter and our sadness in a way that feels authentic. Back in October, when Dyrce, Sandra, and me came to their show in L.A., Sean was delighted to see us at the meet and greet. The moment he realized it was us, their crazy Mexicans, he jumped up and embraced us in a warm hug. Mendez did, too. Portman was happy to see us and I hope Ryan was, too. Even though he has always been a bit more shy around us than the rest of the band.

March 23-25 has always meant something significant in my life. I’ve been to some of my favorite shows on these dates. It is the date I matched with my current boyfriend on OkCupid. It is the date I met my hero, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. It is the date I appeared on a Yellowcard video. It is the date My Chemical Romance broke up. It is the date I say good bye to Yellowcard. Hopefully, these fateful dates will hold more surprises for me in years to come. I’ll welcome them with open arms and open eyes, for fate has brought me all this way and I’m doing ok.

And I think they are, too. I can’t know for sure, but I think they know the impact they’ve had on our lives. And I bet it’s both humbling and terrifying for them. MCR’s Frank Iero used to say that it wasn’t a band that saved our lives, but rather we did it ourselves. He’s probably right, but it is a fact that music is the fuel that keeps a lot of us going. Lyrics and live shows and loud music and internal sing-screaming pick us up when we’re down on the ground. A lot of what I have accomplished so far relates to my passion for my interests. I define myself as a “fan from hell” not because I’m annoying or because I follow blindly wherever my fandoms lead, but because when I love, I commit. To genres, to artists, to people. This love has taken me to amazing places and situations. This love has helped me meet amazing people that I’m honored to call friends. This love brought me here, to L.A., for Yellowcard’s final tour. And this love will help me in moving on.

Thanks in part to this band, I am stronger than I ever thought I’d be. I believe. Here I am, alive. I’ll move on, I’ll keep on living. I will take Yellowcard’s advice: “Every single plan you will forget / So do what makes you happy, no regrets”. This is goodbye, but the street’s not empty tonight.