There are always certain songs we will forever associate with summer. Some of them are not particularly good, and I will always remember them only because they seemed to be incessantly played at top volume at every club or public place I enter. But some are the songs that I will always be able to play on a dreary rainy day and be instantly flying down a highway; singing loudly and letting my hair fly in the wind.
For a long time, this was the song I associated with freedom and summer. This was a pivotal album of my life that year; Third Eye Blind was my favorite band in that vein of late 90s rock that seemed to embody every breakup and friendship I had. Early last summer, I got a call from Nik Wever of Gain Music, informing me that Third Eye Blind was playing a free show at Echo Beach in Toronto. We decided to head down together, even knowing we would only be able to catch half the set because of work schedules. I searched youtube videos and setlists to get an idea of what they were playing this tour, and sadly discovered they most likely weren’t playing my favorite song; it was on no recent setlist and there were no live videos in the past year of it.
I usually listen to the band I’m seeing on the way to a concert. I talk about the songs with whoever I’m with, what we’re hoping they play, what each song means, everything about the night to come. I remember Nik and I talking about our favorite songs and when I showed him this one, I recall saying ‘they never play this song, and even if by some miracle they do, we’ll probably miss it’. It was a free show, so it was a decent crowd, but somehow Nik and I secured a spot in the 4th row and waited through two lukewarm opening bands. Finally, the sun was setting and Third Eye Blind stepped onto the stage.
I only had to hear the opening 3 notes of the song before I shrieked with glee. They were playing my favorite song. No, they were opening with my favorite song. The one they never play. On the night I had to miss half their set. I couldn’t believe my luck. I grabbed Nik and shook him ‘DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING?!’ I screamed at him, and he laughed at my elation. It was like being in time machine, and I whipped out my camera to start documenting this amazing moment. I recorded this video, in which you can totally hear me singing off key along to the song. The video is only 1:33 long though. I’ve shown it to people and had them ask ‘Uh, you didn’t record the best part of the song?’
No, I didn’t.
I didn’t because right around the 1:33 minute mark I realized that I was at a free show, listening to one of the great bands of my youth, while they played one of my favorite songs and what was I doing? Watching it through a 3 inch screen, fiddling with the zoom instead of taking part in the amazing moment that the universe had seemed to conspire to make just for me. So I turned it off. It was revolutionary for me. I’m the sort of person who goes somewhere nice and says ‘I can’t wait to come back here’, instead of reveling in the moment before me.
I’m not gonna get all Oprah on you here and start spouting off self help advice about the power of now, but that day changed a lot of how I live my life. As someone once eloquently pointed out to me, my life is extremely well documented. I’m the picture taker, the journal-er, the one who is constantly making sure I have all the tools to remember this moment. But in order to do that, I was missing everything. So I made myself a rule. Just like photographers get told when they get their press passes as shows, I have 2 songs to take pictures during and then I stop. Put the camera away. I’ll never be able to properly document it anyways. I can’t take a picture of the magic in the air, can’t recreate the smell, the excitement in the room.
How many of you do that? Every time I go to a show now, there’s people who miss entire shows cause they’re busy recording the whole thing. It’s even replaced lighters, people now wave their cell phones in support. This year on Valentines Day, I went and saw Dallas Green of City and Color in Kitchener, and halfway through, he said ‘who here has a cell phone? Okay, can you put it in the air? Okay, now take it and stick it right in your pocket and leave it there’. And we all laughed for being called out on our technological umbilical cord. So everyone put it away for that song, and the whole room changed. We heard the music, and that moment was just ours.
So next show you go to, try and focus more on the singing, the laughing, the people. You know, the stuff you’re supposed to do at a concert. Think of your favorite summer song (and tell me about it in the comments). Take that song and jump in a car, or crank it up at home. Sing loudly, let that sunshine run through you and dance around. Don’t worry about tomorrow, or even 10 minutes from now. Hear that song, and be here now.