2010 was an important year. But we’ll get to that later.
I didn’t have a lot of friends when I started high school in 2006. At the risk of rambling, let’s say I “switched districts” between middle and high school; I went in knowing absolutely nobody. I went from being one of 70 in my class to one of 500. It was massive and I was uncomfortable. I was timid, a little weird, and already fed up with the nonsense of freshman year. Some time passed and I made a few friends; things were starting to feel normal…ish. One of my new friends was also new to the district that year, but she was new to the state of Pennsylvania, so I couldn’t really complain too much. From the day I met Sabrina, she was vibrant; a light of positivity on my seemingly dreadful adolescent life. I have her to thank for the beginning stages of me coming out of my shell and for introducing me to a multitude of things to follow me throughout my life, the biggest of which was a band called Motion City Soundtrack.
I remember the day vividly: Sabrina and I were killing time before one of many shows we’d attend together. It was the tail end of sophomore year and by then, we made it a routine to show each other music that we loved. She showed me underrated greats like Sherwood and Single File while I annoyed her with bands like Brand New and a little group called All Time Low. But on this specific day, she brought three CDs to my house, all by the same band: “This is my favorite band!” she squealed in her usual tone. “They remind me of home and my friends in Colorado and I think you’d really like them.” When it came to new music then, I was more fascinated than I am today. So I immediately took her up on her offer and transferred every CD to my iTunes and we went to the show. It wasn’t until a few days (or a week or two) later that I finally decided to check this band out. I played the one that had the coolest-looking album art first, and the beginning notes of “Attractive Today” rang out. “Holy shit.”
I took way too much time diving into the band’s history. I was that weird kid whose home page on Firefox was Wikipedia, so this was a cakewalk. I was fascinated with Justin Pierre and how he brought important topics to light in such an oddly fun way. He was bravely bearing himself to anyone willing to listen and that easily blew my mind.
As 2008 was coming to a close, I realized that things were beginning to feel a little off-kilter; my grades were slipping, I wasn’t as eager to do basically anything, and my temper was at its shortest almost all the time. The only thing that got me through the bad days was being with my friends and playing my favorite records. Even then, though, I was perpetually unhappy. It wasn’t until the end of 2008 that I realized I was gay. Things began to make more sense, weight was being lifted off my shoulders slowly yet surely, and I was finally coming to terms with myself.
My friends were the first to know; some in unconventional ways. I told my best friend over a text, which is something I’d do over differently time and time again. But I initially did it out of fear. I had no way of knowing what he would say or do to news like that. We now look back on that and laugh, but back then, it was petrifying. The few friends I told in person were more than accepting, some quite happy for me. I was honestly blessed to have an overall positive coming out experience, something that’s excruciatingly rare, even today. But from 2008-2010, nobody in my family knew about this part of myself, and I made sure they were never, ever going to find out.
I graduated high school in June of 2010 and that summer was the very first time I saw Motion City Soundtrack live. It was my third year attending Warped Tour, so I obviously felt like the most seasoned of vets (read: hell nope). I had a whole list of bands I wanted to see but nothing could get in the way of me and my tiny camera getting as close to MCS as possible. I was antsy, I was strangely nervous, I was probably jumping, but everything was pushed aside when the band took the stage and started their set with the first song I’d ever heard from them. As Motion City Soundtrack played “Attractive Today”, I started to go WILD. To this day, I’ll never forget the first time I ever screamed “THE FUCKING COMMON COLD” at an MCS show. The band tore through a 10-track setlist holding most of my favorites. After closing their set with the staple “Everything is Alright”, I walked over to meet my friend, pulled them aside, and said “Okay, I’m gonna come out to my parents.”
I knew I had to tell them. I was about to go to college; the last thing I wanted to leave my family before heading there was a secret. I spent the rest of July and almost all of August trying to figure out how I was going to do it, and trying to figure out a backup plan in case things backfired. I may have been ready, but I wasn’t at all prepared. I had no set plan, no time or place, nothing. Finding that was hard, yet ultimately needless. I came out to my father in his car as he took me to work. I had been thinking about it with such fervor that it brought me to tears, so he naturally asked what was wrong. I was afraid he’d have kicked me out of his car, made me walk to work, and never speak to me again. Instead, he pulled over, gave me a hug, and told me that he loved me.
I’m not one to believe in signs or serendipity, but when I got to work that day, my manager Aaron was playing Commit This To Memory over the store speakers. As you may have imagined, I broke down in tears in the back room. “Seriously? SERIOUSLY?” Aaron knew something was up and checked up on me before we opened the store. I told him that I told my dad and he gave me nothing but support all day. That entire day, I was worried that my dad had told my mom before I could, and that completely ate me up. “Hey, Aaron, can you do me a solid and keep this album on repeat today?” “Of course.” It was the only thing that got me through the shift.
I was glad to find out that my dad had kept this news to himself and that it was “only right” for me to be the one to tell my mom. That night, I told her, and she was slightly blank. Her initial reaction was worry. But that subsided, and she delivered an almost identical response to my dad’s. The hard part was over. My parents will attest to this day that it was “ridiculous” for me to think something bad would have happened, but that was that same fear taking over. Not knowing is almost worse than a negative response. Almost.
As time went on, my family embraced my sexuality as somewhat “normal”; it wasn’t a topic to be left silent or hidden. I started college a little over a week later and I got into the swing of things. The first show of my college career was coming up and you could probably guess who was playing. It was my first proper Motion City Soundtrack headliner along with Say Anything and Saves the Day. It was a legendary lineup and, of course, I went with Sabrina. Throughout the next six years, I ended up seeing Motion City Soundtrack a grand total of 25 times, still the most times I’ve seen one band. I got to see them play their first four records in full, many Warped Tour sets in the blistering heat, the ten-year anniversary of my favorite record of all time, and I got to say goodbye to this mammoth of a band on three separate occasions this year.
Motion City Soundtrack are my band of a lifetime. They held my hand during the biggest shift of my life, they strengthened and solidified one of my most valued friendships, and they gave me some of the best moments of live music ever. I’m still not over the fact that I’ll likely never see this band again, but I know that they’ve left me something, many things, that matter. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for that. This one’s for you; you, that I’ve needed all along.