Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blueprints for Friendship in Cities that Surrender to the Dark Way of Vital Lowborns: A Coming of Age Tale of a Girl and a Band

For the past couple of weeks, something has been troubling me. When my mind gets quiet, I have felt a nagging feeling in my heart that just won’t go away. It’s interfering with my work. It’s affecting my sleep. I just can’t shake this feeling of loss.

This feeling hit me for the first time a few weeks ago, and for a while, I couldn’t deduce what was nagging at me. After quite excessive brain-wracking, it hit me.

This terrible feeling that has been plaguing me. I figured out its origin: one of my favorite bands - Anberlin - is breaking up.

I know. It doesn't seem earth-shattering enough to be affecting my sleep and work. Seems a little silly or overdramatic to claim a band's break-up is distracting me at my job or impacting my mood on a daily basis, right?

I can’t argue with you. In fact, when I figured out the cause of my melancholy, I felt confused and tried to think of something else it could be. But that was it - Anberlin's break-up was the cause without a doubt. I felt ridiculous and embarrassed; so much so, I initially avoided telling my husband what was really bothering me when he inquired. But after a little interospection, it all made perfect sense. Just hear me out.

To start, if you don't know Anberlin - the aforementioned band that is breaking up - they are an alternative/indie rock band (my description, not theirs) from Florida, who has been performing together for more than a decade. They have released seven albums (not including compilations and live albums) - all of which are some of my favorite albums I own.

As for my relationship with Anberlin, the roots run deep. I started listening to them in 2003 after I bought tickets to a show they were opening. I was in the 10th grade, and music was the beginning, middle, and end for me, so for every show I attended, I wanted to ensure I knew all the bands - just in case I fell in love with them. Then, I could say I’d seen them live at least once and cherish the memory. This was a frequent practice for a couple of years, but I can only think of one band that I think was worth the time and research: Anberlin. 

Anberlin playing at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC - July 2003

I saw them in a small club in Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle - and as I remember, they played only five songs. They opened for Further Seems Forever, Autopilot Off, and The Movielife - all bands I loved - but for me, Anberlin stole the show and my heart. I was so entranced by them. The music was so intriguing. It was catchy but unlike anything I’d heard. And like so many other girls before and after me, I was especially enthralled by their frontman Stephen with his amazing voice and charismatic presence. To make the show even more exciting, I got the chance to meet the band after the show. I took pictures with them and complimented their music and performance. I still love these pictures so much because they capture who I was so perfectly (not to mention I’m wearing my awesome Kermit and Vincent Price shirt!).

Me at 16 with singer Stephen Christain

Me with bassist Deon Rexroat

But that show was special to me for a completely different reason: it was on my 16th birthday - the exact day. My 15-year-old self couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate my Sweet Sixteen than pushed up against sweaty people in a little club while we danced and sung along. And it was. This show is still one of my fondest memories from high school, and Anberlin was the biggest part of it.

Since July 19, 2003, I have loved Anberlin. Even when my tastes shifted, they stuck with me. They grew, matured, and changed in the perfect ways with me instead of pulling away from with shifts in their creations that alienated me as a fan. As I got older and matured, they continued to connect with me through their music, lyrics, and stage shows. I have loved a ton of bands throughout my music-cognizant life, but I associated most of those bands with a certain period of my life. But not Anberlin. 

Anberlin is transcendent in my life - they have been background music in my life story since I started listening to them. They are me in the 10th grade when music was all I wanted to do all day. They are me in college when I was traveling with friends to explore and find purpose. They are me when I met my husband for the first tim and  we talked about things we loved - Anberlin being one of our common denominators. They are me getting married and stating a new life. They are me now when I look into the future and see the world changing in front of me. They are me now when I see nothing stays the same. They are me now recognizing how priorities shift and visions of the future change. They are me now maturing into the person I want and need to be. 

Anberlin performing at an acoustic in-store performance in Philadelphia, PA

So, in a way, as heartbreaking as it is, by breaking up, Anberlin is doing what they do best for me. They are continuing to grow with me. They are reflecting the path I see in front of me. They are showing me the way forward.

I know it sounds melodramatic to be taking a band’s break-up so seriously, but at the end of the day, it isn’t their break-up that is nagging me. It is the idea of the change on the horizon.

Because I’m not the 16-year-old in Cat’s Cradle singing along to “Foreign Language" anymore. I’m not the 19-year-old squeezed into a record store in Philadelphia after driving for six hours to hear “Unwinding Cable Car” acoustic. I’m not even the 26-year-old who danced around, screaming the words to “Self-Starter” alongside her 16-year-old brother, who has just started going to shows. I'm someone else now - although I’m not sure who quite yet. A homeowner? A woman getting ready to become a mother?

That’s what has been keeping me up at night. That’s what has been plaguing my thoughts constantly. This idea of change has been making me nervous, and like I have done so frequently throughout my life, I have turned to Anberlin to help me understand it. And for a moment, I felt let down because they are breaking up and can no longer help me. But that isn’t true at all. They are helping me transition to this new person that I am.

Stephen performing at the NorVa

With an announced and amicable break-up, they released one more album for me to love, and they are coming through Norfolk one last time for me to say goodbye and to remember every person I’ve been who has loved their music equally but in such different ways. 

And on their final album, “Lowborn," they have sent me beautiful lyrics that speak to me even more than their others have on past albums and reach out to comfort me. On "Atonement," Stephen sings, "I've loved where I've been, but my heart's where I'm going." Then, in “Harbinger,” Anberlin offers a lovely so-long: “Love’s pressure is just kisses and what’s last’s to come; and look back with a lighter soul; harbor motion into the great unknown.”

Me with singer Stephen and drummer Nate at the NorVa in 2006 (the last time I was able to meet them)

So, thank you, Anberlin, for being a part of my life. Thank you for sharing so much of yours with me. Thank you for all the words and melodies that will always fill my heart with an incredible joy. Thank you for the wonderful memories. Thank you for growing with me. I can’t ask any more of you. You have done more for me than I ever knew.

In your final year, when I dillusionally felt like you might be letting me down, you’ve outdone yourselves again. Instead of letting me down, you have come through the way you always do. You have placed a period on the end of this sentence. Now, I can move on to the next part of my story.