Take Me Back to 2001…

In 2001, I was fifteen years old.  Where every mistake, rejection, and rude comment made you feel like it was the end of the world.  Getting lost in a lyric, a story in a book, a film, my favorite television show, or in the dance studio was my way of dealing with it.  The entertainment industry was my escape, and still is to this day.

Los Angeles is a big high school.  A sea of people craving approval from society.  Hoping that one day they will be accepted into the inner circle.  Every criticism is exactly what Simple Plan fought.  They rejected the normal and craved for people to understand the outcast.  On Saturday night, I got to see one of my favorite bands, Simple Plan, play at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.  It has been 15 years since their first album came out.  It brought me back to a more carefree time.  Remembering how one band or one song can have a such a huge impact on your life.  As I stood in the venue, I looked around at the crowd.  People of all ages from teenagers to adults in their thirties and forties; all affected by the band that was about to take the stage.  To this day, their message hasn’t changed and it still affects everyone that has ever felt like the outsider.

Before Simple Plan took the stage there were two opening acts – Seaway and Set It Off.  Both bands killed it!  Going to concerts like this brings music alive again with strong guitars, energetic drums, and lyrics that fight to give the quiet kid a voice.  It’s not like rap or pop music.  There seems to be more meaning behind rock music that gives it an edge.  It can connect on another level of the developed musical phrasing, the piecing together of the different instruments into a cohesive sound, and the lyrical versing that can help you get lost.  Seaway was the first to step out on stage.  They seem like they are still working on finding their live voice, and how to bring energy to an audience who doesn’t know who they are.  There was a song that really stood out to me and that was “Best Mistake” off of their “Colour Blind” album.  Maybe why it struck a chord was it was the epitome of 90s rock where it sounds like one loud mix of multiple instruments fighting for the lead with an overlay of screaming the lyrics over the guitars.  It brought me back to the night of staying up too late in college where my friends and I were wandering around the streets of a small town singing random songs that we barely knew the words to as we attempted to do piggyback races down the street.  Why I say it was my best mistake?  Well, the night ended with a bloody face (because someone got dropped), a hand being slammed in a car door, and a crying girlfriend, but it was still one of those nights that was the best because it was simple.  We were just a bunch of 21-year-olds having fun on a Saturday night.

Set It Off had so much energy.  If Fall Out Boy and The Summer Set had a baby I’m pretty sure it would have been this band.  The lead singer Cody Carson has the powerhouse voice and talking fast talents of Patrick Stump and the rasp of Brian Dales.  Can we talk about heaven, because that is Cody’s voice.  Set It Off started as a band back in 2008 and even though some members have changed out over the years they have had a solid crew since 2010 which includes, Cody Carson, Maxx Danziger, Dan Clermont, and Zach DeWall.  One of the best things about going to a live concert is you get to experience new bands that you may have never heard before.  Set It Off was one of those bands for me and their song “Something New” really brought me out of a funk I was feeling that day.  I have been getting lost in my own head lately.  Worrying about never truly being happy.  Never finding that career that I seem to be looking for constantly.  Worrying that those people that love and support me will somehow disappear.  Feeling frustrated that others are moving faster towards a future with that one person that totally understands them.  At least isn’t that how it always feels because of the images that projected all over social media?  The lyrics go:

“I think it, I say it, I write it, erase it,
And break my back so I don’t let you down,
I’m restless and twisted, strung out, addicted
To chasing after picture perfect sound.

And if there’s one thing in my life,
That I’ve been fighting day and night,
Well, it’s my fear of flying standby,
I feel I’ve opened up my eyes,
I shook the nightmare from my mind,
I checked the clock and now it’s my time.

So lemme show you something new,
I need a little revolution,
This could be like a revelation,
Make you see oh that a change is overdue,
Lemme show you something new”

It was like listening to a song that was saying exactly what I was thinking at that time.  Worried about standing still, the need of something new, and being so twisted and strung out from all the thinking that you just want to scream and throw every responsibility out the window.  That excitement to try something that scares every fiber of your being but you do it anyway.  It is time for that push to jump off the cliff.  Is it weird that I thrive on change, but crave the comfort of the people that have known me forever?  It’s almost like wanting to try different things, but know that a safety net is going to catch you if you fall flat on your face.  After hearing “Something New” I had to watch the music video and that thought process of wanting your friends by your side that you trust indefinitely while doing something scary, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore to do something new.

When Simple Plan stepped on stage the crowd went crazy.  It was like the fire was finally ignited and the audience was ready to get lost in a song that they knew.  The band played their entire first album cover to cover including the song that really skyrocketed their career  “I’m just a Kid.”  It was a song that was really ingrained in my high school years like Green Day’s “American Idiot” album.  The years 1998-2006 were the years of the rock and punk bands.  It was like guitar exploded on the radio – Simple Plan, Green Day, Fall Out Boy, All American Rejects, Fountains of Wayne, Bowling for Soup, Offspring, Blink 182…etc.  It was the years of thought-provoking lyrics, music that you felt understood your angst as a teenager, and those fun tunes that you would sing randomly with your best friends when you locked yourself in your bedroom as you danced around jumping your bed as your parents yelled at you to turn down the noise.

Living in Los Angeles has been an adventure the last few years.  Unlike going to other concerts on the east coast where you talk to those strangers that you don’t know because you have the same favorite song, and make new friends with those people standing next to you all night, where everyone has a tendency to stick to their own group that they came with at the event.  It’s like sticking to the status quo and if you talk to that person next to you then you might not be the coolest one the in the room anymore.  Simple Plan played a few songs that were off their second album – “Crazy” and “Welcome To My Life.”  Both were popular back in 2003 and are still an anthem for every emo kid to ever exist.  When they began to play the song “Crazy” it got me thinking about life in LA.  The conversations that you overhear about money, dating, and lifestyle.  I haven’t met very many real people out here.  It seems like the whole city is masked which makes it difficult to make friends because you don’t know if someone wants to become friends with you because of what you do or where you work, or if it is because they actually like you as a person.  The city is very materialistic.  It is more important about the car you drive, what you wear, and what you look like than about who you are as a person.  I think when Simple Plan played that song “Crazy” it really went above everyone’s head in the venue.  Did anyone in the audience really understand it?  That it is about people, and caring about people and the person that we are as individuals.  Maybe someday LA will open up their eyes, but for now, I leave you with “Crazy.”

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Songs & Artists that Shaped My High School Years

GreenDayIt’s kind of funny to look back at your high school self where the smallest thing like getting a major pimple breakout could seem like the end of the world.  The fact that you felt that your parents couldn’t possibly understand because seriously they were never a teenager in your eyes.  The dramatics of a teen are hilarious to me now and I was not really a dramatic teenager, at least I didn’t think I was in the sense that everything was constantly the end of the world.  I did well in school, I was in dance classes in all of my free time, and the little free time I had I would hangout with my friends.

As a teenager I was really into pop-punk and punk-rock music.  Granted I also listened to a lot of pop music as well, like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and N’SYNC, but I loved the thrashing beat of the drums, the bass pumping the song loudly into my stereo speakers, and the guitar solos the escalated the power of the song to a climax.  The early 2000s were a growth and comeback period for guitars.  You had artists like Blink 182, Simple Plan, Fountains of Wayne, Bowling for Soup, American Hi-Fi, and Green Day gain a huge following and popularity.

Simple Plan released their debut album in 2002-2003 called “No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls.”  Firstly, the title of this album is amazing.  It explains all the thoughts that you think as a teenager.  Life is just one big dodgeball game and you are constantly getting pelted without padding.  I don’t know if that was their intention of the title of the album, but I remember laughing at the album cover art when I got the album where it just showed one giant out of control frat party.  This album sold over a million albums in the United States and over four million copies worldwide.  These kind of numbers are unheard of today with the changing of music industry, but these numbers really shows the popularity of this group.  This pure pop-punk record had four major hits from it – I’m Just A Kid, I’d Do Anything, Addicted, and Perfect.  Perfect is one of my favorite songs off this album.  It reminds us that parents have such a huge impact on a kid’s life.  What you do.  What you say.  It means everything to a kid.  How you think of them.  Your reactions to their successes and their failures as well as their goals and aspirations.  Even as an adult their opinion still matters.

All you late 1990 and early 2000 babies I am about to educate you.  Fountains of Wayne and Bowling for Soup are not the same artist!  Stacy’s Mom – RIAA Gold Certified and Grammy Nominated song was done by Fountains of Wayne.  For all you parents yes this song is majorly inappropriate, but what song has ever actually been appropriate from the punk genre?  Bowling for Soup catalog includes songs like 1985, Almost, and my personal favorite Girls All The Bad Guys Want.  Girls All the Bad Guys Want was released in 2002 and was Grammy Nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo.  It still remains a staple in my life when I need a good lets jump around on my bed like five year old, or reminiscing on the days my college roommate and I would totally lose it when this song came on while we were studying.

Who could forget artists like Blink 182 with their fast talking, guitar pushing, and totally crazy lyrics in songs like The Rock Show or when they got super serious in others like Stay Together for the Kids or I Miss You.  Blink 182 hit a high commercial success from 1999 to 2004 and even though they have broken up (yet again) I’ll never forget my teenage obsession I came to have with songs like What’s My Age Again or All The Small Things.

The band of my high school school career has to be and will always be Green Day.  Now all you punk rock fans out there are going to say they didn’t come out in the early 2000s.  Yes, I know they came out with their break through album back in 1994 and formed in the late 1980s, but they finally received the nod they deserved from the public and the music industry in 2004 when they released the rock opera that is “American Idiot.”  It debuted on the Billboard Charts at #1 and was the first of their albums to reach number one.  It won the 2005 Grammy for Best Rock Album and it went on to become a Broadway hit.  Their is no way I could pick just one song from that album as my favorite, but if I had to chose Jesus of Suburbia takes my vote.  It is a nine minute song set in five part story of someone’s life spinning out of control, lost in having nothing to believe in, to care about.  You can hit that wall whether you are a teenager or an adult.  It just becomes easier as an adult knowing that it is not the end of the world when something doesn’t make sense.  Your failure is not what defines you.  It is how you stand back up from the fall that helps you find the boulevard you chose to be on.

“To live and not to breathe
Is to die in tragedy
To run, to run away
To find what you believe”
-Green Day (Jesus of Suburbia)

Click here for the perfect early 2000 punk-rock playlist.