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HUGHES: Learning to share your favorite band

Morgan Hughes

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In a sea of black X’s throbbing forward in nearly perfect unison, scream-singing lyrics to songs I’ve mouthed the words to a million times before, sweaty and fatigued, pushing my body forward through the crowd just to get half a step closer to the stage, I feel at home.

This Halloween I traveled to Chicago to see my favorite band play live at a dive-bar venue just past the city’s Greektown neighborhood. I swapped my festive costume for an under-21 wristband and black permanent marker X’s on the back of both my hands, but it was a trade I was eager to make.

I found The Front Bottoms in September of my senior year of high school, or rather, they found me. I guess I showed up late to the party because I began listening to them shortly after their second album was released, but I made up for my lack of punctuality with pure devotion.

When you are sad or stressed out, what songs get you through the slump? Who do you turn to when the rest of the world seems unreliable or uninterested?

It’s difficult to describe how it feels to love a band deeply, to dedicate your time memorizing the words to songs written by someone you’ve never met, to defend them fervently to the people who you thought you could trust with this fragile, time-sensitive piece of yourself.

There’s a reason people tattoo themselves with song lyrics, or wait for hours in line (or online) to buy tickets to a show, or risk the pummeling that comes from being at the front of the crowd.

Music functions as a way to make people feel less alone, to give them something to relate to, and when you find that which you relate to, you latch on.

A song from The Front Bottoms’ new album was recently on a popular Chicago radio station. When I found out, I was the epitome of melodramatic.

Wrecked with the thought that music by my favorite band might be blaring through the headphones of someone who listens to mainstream radio, I was forced to accept the fact that I did not own this band.

I may have a personal connection to The Front Bottoms, but I’m not unique in my feelings. Regardless of the show you attend, you will find people with an authentic attachment to the music. And when that music finds its way into the mainstream spotlight, there’s a physical pain felt by self-proclaimed ride-or-die fans that can’t be expressed with words.

The most accurate way to describe the feeling is to call it bittersweet. While you’re happy for this band or artist that you know has worked so hard to get to where they are, it’s hard not to feel like the friends from high school who you lost touch with once they left for college. You know them, you feel what they feel – or at least that’s what you tell yourself. You were so close, but then they lost touch.

When that band starts to get recognition from the rest of the world, you have two choices: be the person who is comfortable getting waves of eye-rolls when you say “I’ve been listening to these guys for years,” or abandon your resolve as number one fan and force a smile when someone asks you if you’ve heard this “new band” they just discovered.

It’s hard to say if there’s an effective remedy for this situation. If you’re anything like me, you’ll re-watch early music videos and online interviews to soften the blow, but much like after a break-up that was a long time coming, eventually you will realize that this was inevitable. Either the band would dissolve or they would receive enough recognition and support to stay together.

But unlike a break-up, you still have the band, you just have to learn how to share them with the rest of the world. Worst case scenario, you can reminisce in the good times and remember that at least you had 2013.

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