As I sat facing the Hudson River while riding the Metro North train down from Poughkeepsie to New York City to see Bomb the Music Industry! for (almost certainly not) the last time, I began to feel anxious. It seems that anxiety (be it generalized, social, or other) tends to be a common factor among many BTMI! fans and the band's helmsman, Jeff Rosenstock, as many of Rosenstock's lyrics deal specifically with concerns and worries about the future and alienation, so perhaps these feelings were common.
My worries on the train ride were caused by my own desire to document the band that I love so much. From the moment John Gentile emailed me back about this article, I realized that by volunteering to write about the last BTMI! show, I would constantly be thinking about what I was going to be writing instead of simply enjoying the show as much as I could. This mental preoccupation with analyzing my experience as they happens seemed to go completely against to very essence of a BTMI! show. If you've ever seen Jeff Rosenstock play, you know that he often seems to be in a complete state of ecstasy while he performs. He always appears to be entirely devoted to the song he is playing, throwing his entire being into his art. Often times he almost seems to forget where he is, as he shouts his own lyrics with his eyes closed only to realize that he isn't singing into the microphone anymore and has to scramble to find it again.
While waiting in line to get into Greenpoint Brooklyn's The Warsaw and watching Laura Stevenson perform her set, I was able to lull my self into an almost meditative state where I wasn't thinking about how I had agreed to write an article about the concert, and started to just enjoy myself (the couple of "Showerbeers" which were specially brewed for the concert I had probably helped with this exercise in self-forgetting). As Stevenson paused her set to have Rosenstock and BTMI! multi-instrumentalist Matt Keegan pulled on stage to join her for a song, it became quickly apparent that this concert was almost a family-affair. Every single one of the opening bands had at least one member of BTMI! come up on stage and join them for a song or two. This seems to be a testament to the sort of community that Rosenstock has managed to build around his band with his intense DIY ethics. All typical barriers that might exist between fans and bands, or bands and other bands has been washed way with the express focus of trying to make something together taking center-stage.
As BTMI! finally started their farewell show on January 19, 2014, the eagerness of the crowd became almost too much for Rosenstock, who almost immediately reprimanded the crowd for budging and squishing up to the from as he began to play his first song. It was obvious that Rosenstock's primary goal was to make sure that everybody at the concert had a good time. That BTMI! could go out on a good note. It seems like it would be almost impossible for the show to be anything but amazing for those in attendance, as almost every fan who was there seemed to love the band so much that they were shouting along to every single word, even though the multi hour set included songs which spanned the band's entire discography.
Though the almost writhing crowd of fans seemed to have little to no problem living in the moment and soaking up every bit that they could of what very well might be their last time at a Bomb the Music Industry! concert, Rosenstock seemed to be more reserved than usual. I may just be projecting, but it seemed like Rosenstock was restraining himself at the beginning of the show, perhaps self-conscious about this was something so final and nervous to take some of the chances he more usually takes with his performance. Perhaps he was disappointed that the concert was not going the way he had planned it all out in his mind. At one point he called people out for not taking proper stage dives, maybe thinking about the documentary being filmed for posterity and not wanting the preserved memory of his band to be one of kids taking to long to get off the stage.
This is all conjecture though, and once the extended performance got into the swing of things it became clear that Rosenstock was forgetting himself more and more, diving in to the crowd on multiple occasions, holding his guitar up to fans to that they could help make a song-ending deafening din. It seems that the entire purpose of BTMI! has always been this type of extremely passionate expression through music. One gets the sense that Rosenstock and company may not need their fans (Rosenstock told the audience at one point that he would still be doing what he does even if nobody ever cared about the band), but that the presence of other people who care about their music as much as they do creates an experience that is truly magical where everybody involved gets to be living completely in the moment.
The last song that BTMI! played (before the inevitable encore) was the older song, "Future 86", from Album Minus Band, the BTMI! record, which Rosenstock had recorded all of the music for by himself. Despite the band's humble beginnings in Rosenstock's apartment, this song drew every member of the opening bands and family and friends on to the stage, demonstrating that Rosenstock has successfully been able to make what was once his own vision into something much much greater than himself.
While Rosenstock sang center-stage with his (I presume) fiancé the lyric "Say the word and I'll put my guitar down" one can't help but wonder if this whole extravaganza over a last show which everybody seems to know isn't really the last show is really just a way for the members of the band to move on to another stage in their life after 10 years of making music. While Rosenstock and crew were able to keep their composure pretty well throughout the show, perhaps feeling a sense of completeness now instead of melancholy, the crowd during the last songs were absolutely devastated. During "Future 86" and the final encore, about which Rosenstock slyly remarked "OK, here's one more, but you aren't gonna like it," a bonus track off Vacation called "Don't Destroy Your Self." I had never seen more people crying at the same time. The fact that a punk band could elicit such an emotional response from it's fans even when it is pretty obvious that they aren't going away for good, shows just how important of a band Bomb the Music Industry! really is, as that sort of momentary engulfment in pure emotion and passion is what "punk" is really about.
Reunion Prediction:I think Cheap Girls vocalist and bassist, Ian Graham put it best: "I give it 9 months".