(note: this video is not from the concert I am describing in this post, but rather a recent show. I had a recording of this song from my show back in 2008, but lost it in a recent hard drive disaster. However, this particular video is infinitely more important because of the anecdote at the beginning)
I went to my first real concert when I was seventeen. In 2008, the Honda Civic Tour was a traveling emo pop-punk circus comprised of Panic! at the Disco, The Hush Sound, Phantom Planet, and Motion City Soundtrack. In the venn diagram of this line-up, the two circles could be labeled “People who know Pete Wentz” and “Music Belonging to an Inexplicable Genre That We’ve Tentatively Referred to as Pop-Punk”.
My mother, a baby-boomer whose cd collection included The Beatles’ complete discography and Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits and absolutely nothing else, was very long-suffering but ultimately a good sport about driving two teenage girls four hours to Atlanta for a pop punk show. She stayed in the hotel, we stood in line at the doors of the venue for 5 hours. I saw Ryan Ross in a Subway. It was a magical time.
I went to my first real concert when I was seventeen, although my actual first concert experience happened when I was sixteen, when an EF4 tornado ransacked my high school while I was inside it, destroying a century-old building and killing 9 of my classmates. My first actual concert was a benefit concert for my high school, headlined by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. (They were terrible, I didn’t stay.)
I’m disclosing this horrible event because it is trauma. My trauma. And it is directly and viscerally connected to my first real concert when I was seventeen. I realize this is an introduction to me rather than an introduction to the band, but I’ve always preferred to get to music through the people who love it.
Teenagers turn to music in search of understanding. Angry teenagers turn to punk music because it screams just like they do. Fucked up, angry, sad, traumatized nervous teenagers like yours truly turned to pop punk because it’s utterly disconnected from the clash of its own nature - the melting pot of two seemingly incongruous genres.
Whenever I’m trying to convince someone to listen to Motion City Soundtrack, I struggle to explain why they should. Motion City is not my favorite band; they weren’t even the band I went to see at that concert - I was there for Panic. I knew maybe two or three of their songs before they started their performance. I don’t listen to them every day, or even every month. Ultimately, I always come back around to the same thing:
Motion City Soundtrack sounds nervous.
Sonically, lyrically, vocally - Motion City reeks of anxiety and nerves. Songs to listen to while your hands shake.
I was seventeen at my first concert and the year before I had come closer to the feeling of impending unavoidable death than any child should. I was seventeen and weighed down by PTSD and anxiety and my hands shook almost every day until I graduated (they still shake). The thing about trauma of the near-death-experience variety that no one really talks about is you live so much of the rest of your life in those moments you thought with 100% certainty you were going to die. Your heart rate never really comes down, you never stop grasping for cover. You think it’s going to be okay and that you’ve survived, but you’re never really sure.
I was seventeen and Justin Pierre walked out on stage with his shock therapy hair and his early-2000s emo black frame glasses and the keyboards started up and he sang
I believe that I can, overcome this and beat everything in the end -
But I choose to abuse for the time being,
maybe I’ll win, but for now I’ve decided to die
and kids were screaming and jumping and pushing and yelling FOR NOW I’VE DECIDED TO DIE and we laughed and it started raining.