For the last twelve years I’ve listened to Jon sing to me.
Ok, so, not to me personally.
It’s his voice from the albums or at live shows as it rings out from the speakers.
There’s something special about these songs that keep me coming back. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is, but I do know the beautiful honesty of the lyrics is refreshing. Sometimes we might not want to see the truth. Sometimes the truth is ugly, but other times it’s beautiful.
I’ve been lucky enough to have grown up with these songs (But does luck really have anything to do with it? Maybe the word I’m looking for is “privileged.” Then again, maybe I’m still looking for a word). And I will continue to listen until the very end.
WE WERE MEANT TO LIVE
The sun was out. I was in the car with my mom (I think we were going to the grocery store). I was thirteen (what an awkward age). It was a sweltering summer day and a song I had never heard before, with an opening that immediately hooked me, came on the radio. I didn’t know who it was, but I knew I liked it. (My musical horizon was just beginning to grow. I was starting to find new bands and artist and see what the music world really had to offer.).
That year, when my family and I went to visit my grandparents, I heard the song again.
It was one of those days that I had decided to spend with my aunt, uncle and cousins (they didn’t live that far from my grandparents so it was easy to get there). While sitting in my cousins room, I heard the song begin to play, the notes coming through the radio speakers.
“Do you know who this is?” I asked.
“I think it’s Switchfoot,” she said.
I repeated the name in my head over and over again so I wouldn’t forget.
I didn’t forget.
The next day I used Google to find the band, the name of the song (Meant to Live) and the name of the album it was on (oh, Google…what would I do without you?). Then I went to the music store and, since nothing was in alphabetical order, searched row after row until I found it.
The Beautiful Letdown.
And it was beautiful.
LIVE MUSIC IS BETTER THEN AN ALBUM (ESPECIALLY WITH A LITTLE RISK INVOLVED)
I’m seventeen and I’m standing in a back alley, alone, in front of a tour bus. How did I get here? Well, I’ll tell you.
It’s March 2007 and Switchfoot’s Oh! Gravity tour decided to roll around to my town. Of course I’m excited. Of course I’m going. (I saw their Nothing is Sound tour at the same venue.). They’re playing at a small place called Northern Lights (now Upstate Concert Hall), where I spent most of my middle school and high school days thanks to a constant stream of good bands and artist.
So here I am, standing outside the venue in the cold. (March doesn’t necessarily mean spring. Not in Upstate New York. Snow sticks around straight through most of March, and this particular year was no different.). As I’m standing in line with a few others, I start thinking about the back of the venue. I’ve been here so much over the years that I know it inside and out.
Question: What would happen if I walked back to the buses?
The seventeen year old me was curious, but also always played by the rules. I rarely took risks when I was younger and never a risk that broke the rules or overstepped the boundaries (I still play by rules and don’t overstep boundaries, for the most part.). And I thought that I would be breaking the rules if I went back there. Well, I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, but clearly I decided to throw caution to the wind.
But one that I would soon find out to be worth it.
Before going forward I want to take a moment to say that walking that back alley alone was not only scary, but also felt like the longest walk of my life. It was as if it went on forever, like it was stretching and I was getting nowhere. Despite being by a major road, it was relatively quiet that afternoon. My sneakers slapped against the pavement, echoed and screamed out my presents with every step, not to mention the added creepy effect of all the graffiti scattered along the walls. (And that’s how I ended up standing in a back alley in the middle of the afternoon, alone, in front of a tour bus at seventeen.).
Anyway, I made it back there in one piece and was feeling pretty good about myself until I saw there were two buses, which I wasn’t expecting. So I picked one and stood in front of it, shaking. Not because I was cold, but because I was nervous. I was completely out of my comfort zone on this one, but I was sticking with it. After awhile I saw movement through the tinted windshield. Something was going to happen. The door opened and Jon stepped off the bus. He seemed to see me before the door to the bus even closed. He said hi and came right over (Like it was no big deal. Like he does this everyday. Like there’s always a seventeen year old girl with hot chocolate patiently standing in front of their bus.). I’ll let the picture tell the rest of the story.
Thinking back, I’m almost certain (like 99%) that this was the moment that changed everything. The music had hooked me since day one. And I had a vibe they were a good group of guys, but this was the moment that broke down the invisible barrier between the band and the crowd. This was the moment that solidified what I had already thought; that we are all human beings.
All around good guys.
And every day human beings like you and me.
I’m sure there’s many more words that could go on that list. I know there’s more words I could probably add to that list, but I’m going to leave it as is, since people are so much more then just descriptive words. I’m not trying to put these guys on a pedestal or act like they’re superheroes because, as the last line says, they’re every day human beings just like you and me.
OH SWEET MELODIES AND LYRICS OF GOLD
The lights slowly dim. Then it goes dark. A single chord burst through the speakers and emanates through the crowd and you smile because you know something is about to happen. The stage lights flash and burn colors of red, blue, purple, green and yellow. As you start to sing along, you’re swept away by the music.
When I let myself be absorbed by music, when I can feel the bass vibrating through my body and it feels as if my heartbeat has suddenly changed to keep time with the music, well, that’s a truly wonderful feeling. And I can’t really put it into words.
I love music and whether it’s live or coming from my CD player or iPod, I often find myself singing along or tapping my foot to the beat (or even dancing). Some of the melodies are so beautiful as the words float along with the notes. Others are powerful (you know…hard, rock, raw). It might sound strange, but I can feel the emotion of every song. (And maybe there’s others out there who are with me.). It’s the same with the lyrics, feeling the emotion; the honesty, the hope, or whatever it might be. And sometimes I think the words capture those emotions so well, so beautifully, that the lyrics are pure gold.
SO WE MEET AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN…AND AGAIN
After our initial meeting all those years ago, there were many more.
The SPAC in Saratoga Springs, NY.
The Gramercy Theater in New York, NY.
Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY.
The Landmark Theater in Syracuse, NY.
You could say I’ve compiled quite a list and have done a decent job of making my way around the state of New York. Sure, I wish I’ve been to more then six shows, but I’m not made of money and I go when I can (and this is so far from the point I’m trying to make that it’s time to move on).
The first time they remembered me, I was surprised (since it had been two or three years since my last show…Drew you totally caught me off guard). Five months later it happened again and then six months later it was déjà vu. It’s an interesting feeling too, when you’re remembered like that, because they meet so many people every day, every tour, all around the world, how is it that they picked your face out, that they remembered you? Maybe it’s luck. Maybe I have one of those faces. Maybe I’ve been to too many shows (impossible). Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. Whatever it is, it’s like seeing old friends.
I look forward to the next time we meet. And I wonder, will you remember me?
A lot of memories have come out of each one of these shows. They’re special things to me that I will not share with all of you. (Sorry if you were looking for specifics, but some things just have to be kept for ourselves.). I’ll let the pictures do all the talking. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
It seems strange to say “thank you” to people for doing something they love. Yet, at the same time, I think it’s a way to let them know not only what they do, but also they themselves, are loved and appreciated. So here’s a little note from me to all the guys of Switchfoot (on the off chance that any of you will ever read it).
Dear Jon, Tim, Chad, Drew, Jerome,
From the moment I heard Meant to Live I was captivated. Something grabbed me and has never let go. I think I found your music at just the right time in my life, or maybe it found me.
We all remember what it’s like to be thirteen, what it’s like to be a teenager. Almost everything is awkward and most of your time is spent trying to figure out who you are, seeing where you fit in and where you belong. It’s hard to be yourself when so many other things are pushing against you, trying to change you. Even now, at 25, I’m pretty confident in knowing who I am, but I often wonder where exactly I fit in this world, although, maybe that’s a struggle everyone has.
There have been many times in my life where I’ve needed God and many times in my life where I’ve needed music. Prayer helps, but so does music. At least it helps me. It’s a way for me to decompress, to escape reality as I’m swept away by the melody.
Jon, I wrote to you once, about a year ago, part of that note explaining how much your music has impacted my life. After all, you’re the band I grew up with. Your music has helped me through some hard times; when my cousin, uncle and aunt all passed away, when I lost my childhood dog to cancer, when my best friend moved to another country, on the days I felt lost and unsure of myself. Sometimes I still feel unsure of myself, but maybe everyone feels that way sometimes and, maybe, that’s when we have to take a leap of faith and just trust in ourselves. I’ve listened to your music not only in bad time, but good times too; when I’m happy or excited or for no reason at all. Your music touches my heart and reaches down to my very soul. It just makes me feel good and shines a light of hope on the dark corners of the world.
As a writer your music inspires me. As a person, you all inspire me. I think we should all strive to make the world a better place. Lately I’ve found myself writing about things I don’t necessarily understand; love, death, life in general. Life is a funny and beautiful thing, despite the turmoil the world faces and the personal tragedies. There is beauty in life. And part of that beauty is the miracle of our existence. (But now I’m going off on a tangent and it’s about to become rather philosophical, so I’ll get back on track. However, if we ever have a chance to chat for a longer period of time, maybe we can talk about this. Or music. Or writing. Or even how Drew’s joker face is so disturbing that it gave me nightmares for almost a week after seeing it for the first time.). I’m not trying to put any of you on a pedestal because we’re all human beings doing what we love, but sometimes people enter your life somewhere along the way and make an impact, a real difference.
For every note, every melody, every lyric, every song.
For all the sacrifices, for giving it your all every night, for taking the time to talk to people and hear their stories.
For the last twelve years I have been listening and singing along and each song means something to me. I’m not sure what else there is to say…just…thank you.
~ Nicole Monsees
DOWN THE OPEN ROAD UNKNOWN
Life has its ways of surprising you.
What a journey it has been.
I’m sure we all have that one band or artist that we grew up with, the ones whose music speaks to you, the ones who made an impact in your life. I might have started down life’s path 25 years ago, but I started this musical journey when I was thirteen.
And I can’t wait to see what will happen next and where the road will lead.