Songs and Scenes: A week of flashbacks–in three parts
By Jonathan Hicks
One of my favorite artists is a guy by the name of Butch Walker. Late last week, I was listening to his 2008 album, Sycamore Meadows, as I do regularly. In one of his songs, he penned the lyric “I finally know the difference between going back and going home.” It is a line I find significant in a variety of ways, applicable to a multitude of situations.
Walker effectively tells the story of his life, diagramming the places he has been and the perspective he has gained. The song was released two years ago, but in it, I continue to find personal meaning. It inspires me to reflect back on the place I am from, the places I have been, and the places I still want to reach.
Another of my favorite artists is Taking Back Sunday. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to find myself at my favorite concert venue—the Metro in Chicago—to see the New York natives play. As with many bands, TBS has experienced much tumult, with members coming and going. Apparently the five original groupmates felt inspired to return to their roots, as the band recently reunited their original lineup for the first time in a decade. I was on the front rail at the Metro for their triumphant return to the Windy City.
It was a beautiful reunion. The band seemed more cohesive than ever, laughing onstage, clearly having a great time in each other’s company. Though years ago they had apparently not always seen eye to eye personally or artistically, they had reached a point where it no longer mattered.
As for me, it was the first time in a couple of years that I was on the rail for such a raucous show. You see, I spent my late teens and early 20s going to the Metro and other small venues to see intense punk shows. Bands like Showoff, Allister, Mest, Fall Out Boy, Spitalfield, Third Eye Blind, Green Day, Gravity Kills, Sugarcult and The Living End shaped who I am. Most of those groups have disbanded in recent years, and I had feared they had taken part of me away with them. But last weekend, I jumped and sang and screamed while those around me moshed and crowd surfed. This temporary community of fans shared songs and sweat, bonded by our love for music. For an hour and 40 minutes, it felt like the old days—days I feared had passed. It was incredibly calming and reassuring to know that part of me is still there.
Though I have spent the last couple years as primarily an environmental/nature writer for The Rock River Times, my first love was actually as a rock journalist. From the time I was the editor of The Valley Forge, the student newspaper at Rock Valley College, to my tenure at Western Illinois University’s Western Courier, music was my primary focus. I was fortunate enough to cover many of my favorite bands, and made lifelong friends in the process.
More recently, I all but abandoned rock journalism. I found it increasingly trivial, perhaps the result of the fact that much of the music being released just didn’t inspire me the way it used to. How could I write about artists who themselves seemed to have very little to say?
Today, after a full five years as a TRRT contributor, I find myself once again sufficiently inspired to talk about musical notes and notes about music. I haven’t moved from my desk, but I am returning to my roots. And as Butch Walker and Taking Back Sunday both reminded me this week, going back isn’t going backward.
It’s good to be home.
Until next time…
From the July 7-13, 2010 issue