Tales from the Tour: A Taking Back Sunday Experience

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 at 10:59 PM

“Drive safe. Be careful. I want phone calls.”

It was always those last few words my dad said to me on the phone before leaving for any trip that almost made me want to stay home. The first time I heard them I was on my way to Philadelphia for a solo weekend trip to see my favorite band, Taking Back Sunday, on the 10-year anniversary tour for their first album “Tell All Your Friends.”

I had never been to the Electric Factory before and didn’t do much research on parking beforehand — a lesson I would learn quickly after that first night. I parked in one of those parking lots where it looks sort of sketchy, but there was someone wearing an official-looking jacket collecting money for it so it seemed fine to park. It was only three in the afternoon, so I had a long wait ahead of me.

While waiting for the doors to open, I met a girl named Amanda. We were both at the show by ourselves for the time being, so we decided to partner up and hang out for the day. A couple of hours later, her friend Meghan arrived, we exchanged awkward introductions and continued to sit outside. When the doors opened, the usual chaos of ticket scanning and wrist banding ensued, and the three of us grabbed our spots on the barricade, front and center.

The opening bands for that night were two I’ve grown fond of over the past few years: Transit and Bayside. Transit was still a smaller pop-punk band at the time and on the bill for a handful of dates, but Bayside was there for the whole shebang (minus the acoustic shows). I didn’t know much about Transit at the time, but Bayside is a band that, like Taking Back Sunday, had been going strong since their debut album, “Sirens and Condolences,” in 2004. It was no surprise when they took the stage and the crowd erupted.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when the lights go up without sounding overly corny, but my stomach turned to butterflies as Taking Back Sunday took the stage and the show began. After playing songs from their previous albums, such as “What’s It Feel Like To Be A Ghost,” “A Decade Under The Influence” and their biggest hit, “MakeDamnSure,” Taking Back Sunday played their debut album “Tell All Your Friends” in its entirety, including bonus tracks “Your Own Disaster” and “The Ballad of Sal Villanueva.”

A few of us, including those I had met earlier that day, stuck around to see if we could meet any of the band members and got to talk to Mark O’Connell (drums) and Eddie Reyes (guitar). Shortly after, I was told my car was about to be towed out of the lot I was parked in, so I booked it over to the lot and got there just before the tow truck was called. A close call I have since learned to avoid.

The second night at The Electric Factory had the same set list, but this time Gabriel the Marine was added as an opener. The thing about the second show that sticks out to me the most is not actually about the concert, it’s about the people I met. Amanda and Meghan, from the first night, had immediately invited me to hang out with them when I got back to the venue. They invited me to walk around with them for food and to hang out with them after the show. It was strange to me, because these girls knew nothing about me, but took me under their wing without hesitation. That was the day I was introduced to their other friends who would all soon become some of my closest friends. We all sat out, waiting for doors to open together, stood at the barricade together during the show and waited, once again, to see the band after. The second night we talked to John Nolan (guitar/vocals) and Shaun Cooper (bass) before the cold sent us all to our respective hotels for the night.

The closing night of the “Tell All Your Friends” tour was very different from any show that I’d ever been to. The First Unitarian Church near Rittenhouse Square has a basement that frequently hosts smaller concerts. Its crowd capacity is 150 and serves as a daycare during the day. Walking down the steep single person staircase and into the venue immediately brought me back to shows at my local VFW.

There was no room for showy stage lights; there were Christmas lights strung overhead and a mat on the stage that resembled one I remember sitting on in elementary school. It was a night of acoustic bliss from Transit and Taking Back Sunday, complete with a Jesse Lacey (of Brand New) reference from a heckler. The set list was shorter to accommodate for the atmosphere, which felt so much different than the past two nights. It was a calm, peaceful night of music. No crowd surfers, no mosh pits, just a room full of people singing along to some of their favorite songs.

As with the first two nights, following the show we waited to try and catch the band one last time before they headed out of town. We were lucky enough to be able to catch up with Mark, Shaun, Eddie and John again, and I finally got to meet lead singer Adam Lazzara for the first time. I remember the exact introduction to him that I received from my new friend Bri: “This is Kim. We’ve adopted her. We’re friends now.” Adam’s response “We’re friends now, cool,” almost shook me enough on the inside to make me feel like collapsing. This band had been near and dear to my heart for half of my life and even though those words may have been empty, it was one of my favorite things to ever happen to me.

The friends I made throughout that weekend in Philadelphia have been a rock in my life ever since. They live in Ohio, on Long Island, in New Jersey and everywhere in between. I’ve traveled with them to see Taking Back Sunday anywhere and everywhere. We’ve toured across New England, through North and South Carolina, and we’ve even snuck into a college show or two. I wouldn’t want to do that with anyone else. If there was one piece of advice I’d give to anyone afraid of going to concerts alone, it would be to not let being alone stop you. You never know who you’ll meet and the effect they’ll have on your life.

There will never be enough “thank yous” in the world to express how grateful I am to have met these kids and to have a band like Taking Back Sunday in my life.

Kimberly Firestine is a Staff Writer for The Spectator.

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