We’re not all passé, pop columnist says

Expand your horizons this week, and check out some of these upcoming events in Philadelphia.

steve ciccarelli public eyeglass

I’m still a consistent Spin reader, despite my better judgment. The last issue, the 25th Anniversary Special, is definitely one of the strongest issues in a few years, but I put it down and left disappointed. I had an idea for this column that was something of a bummer, which included the line “We’re all passé.” Yes, you’re getting douche chills. Me too.

This past Friday night at the Trocadero, Thursday headlined a pretty stellar bill with some of the most interesting bands they’ve toured with in a while. Here’s some context: As I’ve explained enough about my life growing up in New Jersey over the past year, this won’t hurt. I grew up with Thursday. We were from the same area, my discovery of them was due in part to the fact that my middle school English teacher was the bass player’s mother and I was — I’ll just come out and say it — kind of an “emo” kid.

Since 2002, I’ve seen the band upwards of 50 times in settings like dive bars, stadiums and opening for the Cure, so nothing really impresses me anymore, just like I originally intended this column to get across. But then something happened. I was impressed. I was kind of amazed. I was transported back to Warped Tour, seeing this living, breathing, real music for the first time. Not just Thursday, but alternative music in general. For some of us, Nickelback just doesn’t cut it.

I was transported back to all of these memories of years past, the friends, the times, the shows. All of the memories that I’ve been feeling out of touch with. All of the things that I thought were becoming “passé” about me and about my generation. Just because years are passing, your hair is graying and the lines on your forehead are getting more permanent doesn’t mean that you have to abandon the things that made you who you are.

I tried to forget it. I tried to say that it doesn’t matter to me. But it does. It matters almost more than anything else. It’s hard to not look at that time and not want to watch a movie. The cliché out-of-step teenagers find solace in that one thing that binds them and embraces them, like music or art or books or film or anything. Whatever touchstone that defined you.

As I imagine many of you feel, especially those also leaving this educational institution in the near future, getting old is kind of weird. It’s unknown, which makes it exciting. Some of you might be freaking out and applying for jobs and picking china for your eventual wedding registry, but I’m just looking forward to seeing what happens. There’s a great line from the profoundly underappreciated sitcom Sports Night, it’s small and it’s seemingly insignificant but it’s a perfect summation of this feeling: “You show up, and see what happens.”

Notice the artful pause in Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, which is kind of the clincher that changes these seven words from simple television to a life lesson. I’ve learned a lot in college, like how to have written these previous 522 words without making a reader want to choke me (hopefully), but nothing has hit me as much as this idea of showing up and seeing what happens.

I’ve learned that there’s beauty in the unknown. There’s something hopeful about a blank slate. Until you start working on it, you never know what it’s going to become.

It took thinking about my past to come to these conclusions. It took me growing apart from my teenage ideals to figure out what they really were. It took 22 years on this planet and 16 or so years of education (and the bills to prove it) to find the message that I knew all along. I experienced, by going to shows hundreds of times and feeling that catharsis that you can only get by being a misfit kid obsessed with music, a message: all it takes is one song.

The late writer David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005 that’s been published into a short book called This is Water, something I’ve been suggesting to friends and family for a few months. It makes sense of a lot of things that might be plaguing those facing life-transitions soon, an amazing read.

The line “This is water,” explains how you have to remind yourself that the “most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

Music is my water. I hope that all of you get to find yours if you haven’t yet. It’ll be the thing you cling to most in your times of need, distress, joy and pain.

The Bouncing Souls, another heart-on-sleeve Jersey punk band, have a line in the song “Old School” that I want to leave you with. It’s sort of like a mantra, something simple to remind you.

“Find what’s good, and make it last.”

Steve Ciccarelli can be reached at steven.ciccarelli@temple.edu.

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