Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turn Up the Radio

I love this video. You don't have to like 30 Seconds to Mars to like this video they made about touring, about playing for a crowd about what music means to people. Yes, it's crazy that Jared Leto might look younger now than he did in My So Called Life, but this video explains it all. Towards the end, there's a girl, adorable scene kid with a lip ring and sad smile who says this:

"Some people believe in God, I believe in music. Some people pray, I turn up the radio."

I've seen people be offend by that line, but in this generation, in this world, where religion has meant so many bad things, I can't blame her. I know I feel the same way.

I was reminded of it again when I was at Yellowcard last week. I saw them for the first time in college when they were touring for the Ocean Avenue album. I went with a sorority sister, Whitney, whom I started the night off mad at because she was late and we missed The Starting Line’s set. As we were watching the show, she grabs my arm during “Believe” and says, “close your eyes.”

I have to admit, at the time I thought she was insane. We were at the Tabernacle, full of people and in the back and she’s telling me ridiculous things. But she shakes my arm and I figured ‘what the hell’ and went for it.

“Believe” is a beautiful song in any context. In 2004 or so though, 9/11 was still a raw memory, the images were still burned deeply in our heads, more than they are now that it’s been a decade. Closing my eyes had me there, living it, and my breath catching in my throat. The music wasn’t just there, it was flowing through me and I wasn’t listening, I was feeling. It changed everything about that song in one instant.

I grew up on music. I got my first boom box with a tape deck and radio when I was in elementary school and it was full of New Kids on the Block, Amy Grant and Paula Abdul cassettes. I’ve been listening to the same local pop station in Atlanta for over two decades. My mother blasted it in the car, current pop music, sixties tunes and later on in life country music. I was in the band by the 5th grade and didn’t quit for good until my brother broke my clarinet when he was in college. He’s the musician though, getting his Masters in Music Performance this spring.

In high school it was what I did, lay in my room and listen to the radio or CDs. When we moved to Kentucky, the Nashville radio station I listened to while doing homework did a “Top 5 at 9” that I wrote down in my agenda almost every night. There was no point in documenting it, but I did anyway. (They had a contest probably, but I never called in). Before that Yellowcard concert, I’d bee to other shows, I’d listened to tons of music, headphones or stero or computer blaring. I have to say though, that was one of the first times that I realized what it could do, what music could mean.

Lyrics had always been important, but in that moment it was everything. Just the last, tattooed and pierced kid says in the end of that video.

It would happen again, in London, when I went to see Bright Eyes. I knew about half of their music, not enough to justify the show, but I was in London on study abroad and I wanted to go. The venue was sweet, the weather great and I had a friend to go with. Halfway through the show I realized that if Conor Oberst started a cult, I’d join. It was that kind of music, it flowed through me like that. I didn’t have to know the words, I just had to feel it.

Standing in the Masque to see Yellowcard again, when they played “Believe” I closed my eyes. It wasn’t the same as before but it was still there, still in me. It never really leaves, which is probably why we’re so attached to the music we love. When all else fails the songs are still there. All we have to do it turn up the volume.


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