I still remember the first time I ever heard Bomb the Music Industry!. 3 years ago, my friend excitedly texted me in all caps to let me know that he found one of the greatest things on the Internet. A minute later, I received a message with the link to Quote Unquote Records' website. My life has taken a slight turn since then.
Since discovering Quote Unquote, Jeff Rosenstock's genius, Bomb the Music Industry!, and the fairly steady DIY punk scene, I invested quite a bit of time just listening to the music on the site. The first BTMI album I ever listened to was Vacation. It's hard to explain the impact that the record had on me, but I can tell you that I spent many sleepless nights with that album on repeat as I hoped for a change of pace in my repetitive life away from my hometown.
Walk to the bus stop.
Go to class.
I discovered comfort in Bomb's lyrics. Jeff's powerful vocals and lyrics painted an interesting picture of a sometimes repetitive yet hopeful outlook on life that one should have. My favorite track off of Vacation, "Campaign for a Better Next Weekend", stuck with me throughout the lonely summer of 8th grade as I struggled to learn not to harrow on what I could've done, but instead focus on what I have done. I may have looked into some of their songs a lot more than I should've, but I felt I could relate on a totally different level. I've listened to shitloads of the Mountain Goats and Radiohead, but Bomb the Music Industry! hit me in a special place that no emo band of my youth or deep guitar driven band of my teenage years could even enter.
I already had a deep love for Bomb's music, but then Jeff's solo album, I Look Like Shit, came out. Few albums made me cry as much as that album did. I was a depressed 14 year old who cried a lot. That album took the depressed part out of that equation, but kept the crying part.
I found about BTMI's last California date one morning last year, and I thought I'd be spending the rest of my life in California, so I busted my ass trying to buy tickets and find transportation to San Francisco. No one was willing to drive a 14 year old to San Francisco to see some band, so countless rides bailed on me. I gave up and came to terms with the fact that I'll never be able to see them.
My life changed for better and for worse one morning last year. I had to move all the way back to my hometown in New Jersey after growing fond of California life. I packed up my stuff and flew back to my old house. I lost all my friends and I quickly fell back into depression. One cold night, I got another excited message in all caps letting me know about Bomb's last show. My mind went back to trying to see them earlier that year and being denied over and over again. I was determined to go to this one.
I woke up early a week later and bought my ticket for the last show. My emotions were mixed. I felt happy that after 3 years, I can finally see one of my favorite bands, but I felt sad that this was the last I'll ever hear of them. I had to prepare. For the next few weeks, I scrubbed every imperfection off of my face, found transportation, and tested every brand of deodorant I could possibly find.
The week of the show, I returned to my original anxious/depressed state. All I wanted to do was die. Nothing was going as planned and I struggled with my relationships with people. As usual, I turned to Bomb's Vacation and Jeff's solo album to help me feel better. By Saturday night, I recovered enough to put on a smile.
I told my mother it was time for us to leave on that cold Sunday afternoon. The clock read 5:00 PM and we hopped in the car. Excitement pulsed through my body as we passed through the Holland Tunnel (though I had to cough up 13 bucks). By 6, I was waiting outside of Vinnie's Pizza to meet up with my good friend, David. He praised Vinnie's, so I tried it out for myself. I have never bought a bottle of water, a slice of pizza, and a cup of soda for only 5 dollars before, so I was in shock and awe.
After the incredible pizza experience, David and I went our separate ways as he got ready to go over to 285 Kent for the venue's last show (I realized that the night was full of finales) and I got back in the car with my mother to make our way to the Warsaw. Kanye West blared through the car speakers and I felt the overwhelming need to shit my pants due to excitement.
I was greeted by a long line of smiling people. I saw young kids and their parents, couples, best friends, people who came alone, and huge groups of people who met up online beforehand. This was a beautiful sight to see as I realized that this band brought together over 400 people to stay in the same room for one night just to enjoy music.
I checked in my coat, took a piss, and stared at the shimmering disco ball above my head. I was all alone in this large venue. My mother texted me a quick "I love you" and drove off. Shit. I really am alone.
Laura Stevenson finished her set just as I finished pissing, which made me pretty bummed. Luckily, I got to catch Cheap Girls (who always put on a great show) and despite not knowing much of the words, I stilll sang along as best as I can. The best way to describe Cheap Girls is good ol' alternative-ish rock with some pretty sweet drumming and you can totally make out with someone in their car while they play in the background.
During this time, I met a girl named Maddy who I became friends with. She hailed from Augusta, Maine, had a cool mom and friend who accompanied her on the 8 hour drive to New York, and she started off listening to BTMI the same way I did, so we connected instantly.
Andrew Jackson Jihad then took the stage. I remembered being a curious first grader in 2005 and I googled something. Somehow, I ended up seeing a very bad homemade animation video of their song Lady Killer, which I oddly enjoyed amidst my small musical bubble of Britney Spears and Aaron Carter. I was too busy daydreaming that I almost forgot I was being crushed by over 100 people behind me as everyone scrambled to the front. It was a beautiful sight to see as people young and old were screaming out the lyrics to every single song the band played. The good thing about AJJ is that if you see them live, even if you don't know the lyrics to their songs, you can still sing along effortlessly (which is what I had to do for I am not well versed in folk punk apart from Jeffrey Lewis and a few Paul Baribeau songs). My glasses almost got stepped on several times and I got kicked in the nose by a crowd surfer, but it all turned out well by the end of it.
Finally, Bomb the Music Industry! started setting up. You can sense the amount of excitement going through everyone in the room as people prepared for what was about to come. Jeff strolled out in a Smiths shirt, but instead of Morrissey gracing his chest, it was a photo of the Will Smith family. I was shocked to find a very long setlist taped to the ground and keyboard. This was going to be a long night.
Within 10 minutes, the band was ready and the piano intro to "Campaign for a Better Next Weekend" came on. Life seemed to flash before my eyes as the crowd crushed me yet again, and Jeff stopped everything as quickly as it started to remind everyone to chill out. No one listened. I ended up leaving to the side of the crowd where my eardrums were nearly obliterated by the speakers.
Nonetheless, the crowd was absolutely wild and no one calmed down for the entire first part of the band's set. BTMI! is pretty well known for their energetic stage presence and witty banter, which was nothing short of incredible as everyone screamed "DAD, YOU'RE A POSER" to Mr. Rosenstock.
The show continued with song, after song, after song. The crowd was getting crazier by the minute and I decided that the best thing for me to do was to liven up with the people next to me. I made eye contact with the nice young man next to me and we ended up hugging and screaming the lyrics to "Saddr Weirdr" while a man in a plaid shirt repeatedly crowd surfed and came out unscathed each time.
John DeDomenici, the band's charismatic bassist, complained several times about people throwing shoes at him and song requests that the band doesn't know how to play whatsoever. My personal favorite part was when he accidentally told a kid "FUCK YOU" and Jeff realized he was not at fault, but rather another kid was to blame for bad behavior. John immediately apologized and handed the young man a dollar from his own wallet. Giving kids dollar bills became pretty popular that night.
After about 18 or so songs (which included a beer soaked rendition of "Showerbeers"), the band took a break and everyone prepared for the second and last set. My back was aching at this point and I had nowhere to sit down on the floor that wasn't covered in beer, sweat, and more beer. Wise people made their way to the back of the crowd to avoid getting crushed, people tried to chug their beer as fast as they can, and a Broncos chant ensued from the stage which Jeff quickly put to a halt by saying "Stop it dude. Fuck sports."
The second set started within the next 10 minutes and I received several angry texts from my mother asking if I wanted tacos and what was taking me so long. My phone was promptly knocked out of my hand as the plaid shirt crowd surfer struck again. Despite my growing hunger and back pain, I held out and continued on with the show.
The band spewed out another row of songs that included "The First Time I Met Sanawon", "I'm a Panic Bomb, Baby!", "It Shits!!!", and "Slumlord". Tears started streaming down my face as I remembered why I was here and what the occasion is. In one first and final attempt at making music history my bitch, I jumped into the pit for "Everybody That You Love". I haven't been in a pit that insane since I saw Joyce Manor last year with a bunch of sweaty 12 year olds. That's saying something, because 12 year olds will hardcore dance the shit out of you in the right time and place.
I returned to my original spot for the last part of the show, which included a favorite of mine, "Syke! Life is Awesome!", and another crack at "Showerbeers!", which included beer being sprayed onto the whole audience. A lot of beer. Future 86 rolled on in, and then it was time.
Jeff held back tears and let out laughter and a short sigh as he looked out onto the crowd. I glanced around the room. All eyes were on Jeff and the band. People began their hugs and tears.
"Guys......just go do whatever. You'll be fine."
"Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV!!!" began and tears started flowing out of the people around me. The pit became larger. The fans got crazier. The security looked fascinated. Even the humble Polish employees of the Warsaw stopped to look at what was happening. Confetti shot out everywhere and beer was being thrown around carelessly.
As the song came to a stop, the band hugged one another and the people backstage ran to show their support. Jeff's fiancee, Christine, wiped her eyes and smiled out into the crowd. The roar of the crowd seemed to stop until the demand of an encore started to rise, until everyone was screaming for one last song. Jeff happily obliged and tearfully sang "Don't Destroy Yourself" to a crowd of content and adoring fans.
The audience left to go their separate ways. The merch room was filled of smiling faces, and so was the bar. The coat check line extended all the way to the stage. I, as well as a few other fans, waited at the stage in hopes to say thank you to the band.
Mike was the first one to come down and say hi to fans. One fan retold the story of how she saw BTMI! a few years back, met Mike, and was in shock when he brought out a paper plate and instructed her to write down a setlist for Jeff to approve of. He recognized each and every one of the faces that came to greet him, and they all thanked him for helping them through everything, which was a pretty beautiful sight to see. His mother also came to say hi to him.
"Hey guys. This is my mom. If you don't like my mom then FUCK YOU. By the way, why the fuck didn't dad come? I fucking texted him."
I exchanged a sweaty hug with Mike and patiently waited for Jeff, who finally came down to speak to me after what seemed like forever.
"Dude, I hope they don't kick you guys out yet. How are you all?"
I stared at Jeff in absolute shock that he was speaking to me. I was finally able to thank this man.
"Jeff, I just want to thank you. I've been through some gnarly depression over the past few years and your music, along with some other bands, really helped. Thanks for helping young kids like me."
I gave Jeff one last tearful and sweaty hug, got a blurry photo with him, and he sent me on my way with a pat on my back and an overwhelming feeling of joy in my heart. I was so happy, I didn't mind waiting in the coat check line for much longer than I bargained for.
As I put my coat back on and limped my way out the door, I looked out onto the beautiful view of happy fans, cars, buildings with the lights still on, and my mother's happy face. The tears dried and I had the strength to eat the tacos she bought for me.
"So, how was it?"
"Incredible, insane, and emotional."
"Was it worth it?"
"Yes it was."
"I'm glad. Now eat up."
We rolled out of our parking spot and made our way back home. I contemplated on everything that happened within the past 6 hours. It dawned on me that this band really is done. It dawned on me that people from far and wide traveled to this small venue in the middle of Brooklyn to see a band that started off as a simple musical outlet for Jeff in his bedroom. It dawned on me that after 10 years, 7 albums, and a spot in recent punk history, Bomb the Music Industry was fucking dead. As I finished the last of my tacos, I replayed Jeff's words of encouragement in my mind.
"Guys.....just go do whatever. You'll be fine."
Reunion Prediction: Nothing's forever dude. Not even Bomb the Music Industry!.