It is Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
I have been twenty-two years old for two days. In those two days, I have managed to ruin relationships with three of the most important people in my life. During my birthday party, I got drunk enough to punch a very good friend in the face. This I did for reasons still unknown to anyone but my drunk-self. Prior to that, I broke up with my boyfriend, and in practically the same hour, confirmed that another good friend of mine was avoiding me. The sense of loss is overwhelming, but I try to remain upbeat and productive. I go to my favorite Spot Coffee on Chippewa for an interview with a local band. I am hoping that the distraction will help me forget my troubles, but my bad luck has yet to run out.
The band I am interviewing, CrashFuse, recognizes me as soon as they walk in. “Hey” the singer says, “You were at our show this summer at The Steak House.”
The Steak House is on Flower Street. It belongs to the friends I pissed off.
“Yeah,” I say. We chat for a bit about that particular show, one of their first. We enthusiastically reminisce about minor details; the toxic punch made from Kool-Aid and Mister Boston; the inexplicable coincidence of two bands covering songs from late nineties boy bands; my atrocious pink faux-hawk and thrift store boots; the awkward jazz band that played between sets of punkers; cramming twenty people in a basement on a hot July night with no air-conditioning; the drunk chalk drawings on the wall.
To sane people, this may sound like a special kind of hell, but to anyone who knows and loves the scene, shows like this are what we live for; the grit, the sweat, the passion, the weirdness; long nights and hoarse voices. It is all part of the music, and the music is part of us. Something about it is unlike any other high you could possibly chase. While talking about Mohawk Street on Buffablog, one commentator described the beloved-but-now-defunct venue as the place he realized that personal transcendence can only be achieved at a show. Could this statement be any truer? If I have ever felt infinite, it was definitely at a concert.
Before they leave, the band asks me when they can play The Steak House again. I tell them I don’t know. The original band, The Steak Outs, has recently fractured into two new bands and the future of the venue is uncertain. They leave the coffee shop so I can write.
Despite everything, I find myself unable to focus on the Cosmic Shakedown article that I have been putting off for two weeks. Instead, my weary mind drifts back to ruined friendships.
You see, everyone at 42 Flower Street loves music; currently, two bands reside there. The basement hosts Uncommonly Smooth, a band cheerfully carrying on the legacy of third wave ska. On the Cinder is a new punk band that practices in the attic, the bedroom and make-shift recording studio of the friend I punched in the face. Both bands share living space, utilities, and yes, even members. It is a unique set-up, one that encourages a constant flow of creative energy that other bands can only dream about. I miss visiting there. I miss my friends, and I miss the music. At 42 Flower Street, music and friendship is the same thing.
I reflect on the interview I just conducted while watching the hipster barista vacuum the floor of the coffee shop. I think she might have been at Anti-Warped Tour, an incredible show held at the Occupy Buffalo house last July. I remember how I adopted a traveling crust-punk hippie that night, much to the chagrin of the band members I surprised when I brought her home. I recall how the friend currently avoiding me sunk down into the couch with a growl. “Fucking hippies…” he muttered, as the dread-locked traveler explained about manifestation: “Like, the government uses it man, to control the weather. They tell ten thousand people on the weather channel that it’s gonna rain, and then like, it rains, man. When you want something, when you focus on it hard enough, it just like, it happens, you know? If you want it, really want it, it manifests.” I think about my friends. They do not manifest. Fucking hippies.
I get up to use the restroom. The writing on the bathroom wall says, “Boundaries, always boundaries—and the longing for infinite space” next to a scribbled picture of some continents. Boundaries: something I always seem to be overstepping. I never know the protocol; I just say what I feel and do what I want, hoping I don’t hurt anyone along the way. But that’s why I love music: pushing is encouraged.
I can hear The Fratellis playing softly through the speakers. I can just barely make out some of the lyrics:
“Faces that you know the best, oh well… I guess.”
Mutual passion for music has introduced me to some of the most intense and rewarding relationships that I have ever experienced, even if they were temporary. Whether it was skanking at The Bosstones down at The Harbor, or singing “99 Red Balloons” in the car on the way to a party, my life has been defined by music and the relationships it has brought me. Even my now ex-boyfriend and I initially bonded over a mutual, nerdy appreciation for hip-hop.
But beyond love, music has brought me something I find even harder to come by on a day to day basis: connection. It is not every day that I feel totally part of the human race. In fact, most days, I am pretty sure that I am some sort of alien. With music, all that young adult terror drops away for a second. I am just a human among other humans, but also part of the universe—and the universe is part of us.
I am barely more certain about what comes next in my life then I did when I was a scared 18 year-old, moving three hours away from my small hometown in Ohio. During that transition, about the only thing that stayed familiar was music—and now, as I get ready to transition yet again, the importance of that has only increased. I do not know what tomorrow brings.
We are three hours into Valentine’s Day 2013 as I finish this article. I have been 22, by now, for three days. Recently, I lost three very important people in my life. However, as if by providence (or manifestation if you believe in such a thing) I have been delivered to my three true loves with remarkable clarity: music, writing, and the people that inspire them.