songbook: leaving

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

The Starting Line – Leaving

“2-12-99 – at the stroke of midnight.” Any pop-punk fans worth their salt will know exactly when to yell that phrase, fist in the air. The Starting Line seems to be one of those bands that everyone who had even a passing interest in the genre listened to at some point. TSL was an immediate favorite of mine, and I can still listen to Say It Like You Mean It without cringing. When I started college in the fall of 2002, the album was still fairly new and in heavy rotation.

One of the first things I did after starting college was join the Wisconsin Union Directorate Music Committee. While walking around campus the week before classes started, I saw posters for a free Hey Mercedes show everywhere. I had seen an ad for the music committee in an activities packet I received during freshman orientation (“talk to Brendan – the one with the hair” read the ad, a nod to the student director’s pompadour), but it was really the realization that they booked bands I liked that truly sold me.

As part of my training, I had to cover a show with an experienced member of the committee. The show I picked was The Starting Line with Motion City Soundtrack and Truth in Fiction on October 5th, 2002. That day I learned how to load in, run the lights, pay the band, and other production fundamentals, but of course the best part for nerdy little 18-year-old music-fan self was meeting the bands. I had met bands before while buying merch or after shows to take a picture, but it was nice to get to actually have a conversation with them and not have to worry about coming off as a groupie.

The singer of The Starting Line, Kenny Vasoli, and I hit it off, bonding over being from Pennsylvania, being 18, and being away from home. We were pals for the night, the first of my many (often one night only) rock-and-roll friendships. We didn’t exchange any info, but we did meet again. The following May I went to the Y100 FEZtival in Camden, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia. After The Starting Line’s set I ran into Kenny, and we chatted for a bit about tour and how nice it was to be home.

Fast forward almost nine years to last night. Kenny’s new band, Vacationer, was opening for The Naked and Famous. It was wonderful seeing him so happy, and after the band’s set I stopped by the merch table to say hello. While Kenny no longer remembered me, he did remember the show where we met (“With Motion City?! I have a tape from that show!”) and is still as easy to talk to as ever. After saying hello I couldn’t stop smiling – Kenny will always be wrapped up in the rush of happy memories from my first steps into the music business.

married to the weekend

Motion City Soundtrack has never done me wrong, and their latest release, My Dinosaur Life, is no exception. I got to know MCS as a live band, benefiting from going to college just a few hours from their home base of Minneapolis, MN. In the span of a couple years I saw them more times than I have fingers, booking them several times myself. The thing that always struck me when working with them was their clear joy for making music and performing, a feeling that comes through on My Dinosaur Life.

MCS gave itself a shot in the arm on MDL, ramping up considerably from the stripped-down Acoustic EP.  Though their songwriting has expanded and matured, My Dinosaur Life is closer to their debut release than anything else in their catalog. The songs are big and polished, but not bombastic or over-produced. The excellent track “Disappear” is an excellent example, encompassing the raw emotion of I Am the Movie‘s best songs with singer Justin Pierre’s delivery a pointing, accusatory finger in your face.

Don’t fret if MCS’s pared-down efforts are more your style; the album offers a mid-list breather with acoustics and hand-claps, and it lets off emotional steam with the wink-and-nod sing-along “@!#?@!” – a bouncy garage jaunt that politely invites interested parties to eff themselves. Don’t worry – the quintet hasn’t gotten bitter, they’ve just learned to put a spin on their smiles.

My Dinosaur Life drops 01/19/10.
Visit Motion City Soundtrack’s site for more info.

the harder the snow the harder they grow

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Drain the Blood (the enemy lurks)
Bobby Birdman – I Will Come Again (taxidermy has never been so cute)
Field Music – Them That Do Nothing (the high-fived handclaps are my favorite)
Vampire Weekend – Cousins (all you need is an alley)
Fredrik – Vinterbarn (record player, typewriter, catman)
Motion City Soundtrack  – Disappear (the land of 10,000 lakes and panda masks)