When our mutual friend Tom died, Zander and I decided that life was too brief and unpredictable not to have a band anymore. As we tried to find our sound, he suggested we cover "Stand There Until You're Sober," thus introducing me to the band Bomb the Music Industry!. Despite my reservations about the number of chords in the song, it became a staple in our set, complete with revised lyrics about National Bohemian, and our friends always sang along.
Bomb came to be one of my favorite bands. I asked for a collection of their records for my twenty-first birthday, and a clerical error at Asian Man Records headquarters got me a few extra records. I sent an e-mail to their lead singer asking them to come play at my college. They came, they played an energetic set in a church, and then they partied with us afterwards. I moved around the country, from Maryland to Connecticut to Arizona, and band member Matt Keegan (usually) remembered me whenever they played in town.
Their records have grown with me. I used to prefer the earlier demo albums. I thought that Scrambles was their worst album until one morning I woke up and realized every song related to my life at that moment. Vacation changed the way I thought about music. The collaborative nature of their music introduced me to dozens of other bands. The shortlist of musicians that I have fallen in love with thanks to Bomb the Music Industry! connections is quite long.
None of these details are particularly unique to me. You have probably had similar experiences with your own favorite band. Maybe even with Bomb as well. But they are important to the narrative of how I arrived at the penultimate Bomb the Music Industry! show at the Warsaw venue in Brooklyn on January 17, 2014.
I pick Danni up from her work in Baltimore at 3PM and head up the I-95 corridor. The roads are generally clear until some mild traffic on the BQE once in Brooklyn, and we are parked near the venue by 6:15 for 7 o'clock doors. Lucas got a second hand ticket earlier in the day and joins us for burritos at El Toro Taqueria across the street. (It is worth noting that Lucas also got a ticket for Sunday's show second hand, paying $150 on StubHub for his admission. That's probably the most anyone ever spent on a BtMI! ticket.) Doors open at 7, and Hop Along goes on at 7:30. I get in line at 7, but don't get into the venue for at least an hour due to an exceptionally long line, and miss Hop Along's entire set.
It is going to be a while before Bomb goes on, so it's beer time. The Moustache Brewing Co.'s beer is a nice, hop-forward beer, and is apparently a special brew just for these shows. It is definitely better than the Tyskie.
BTMI finally come out, and start the long, bantering soundcheck that they are known for. They seem in high spirits. They are laughing a lot, unprepared, and taking even longer than they usually do. The audience seems impatient with the wait and I can hear grumbles buzzing around me. All the tension is on the point of breaking when the opening synth chirps of "Happy Anterrabae Day!!!" start and are cut off. Echoing the sentiments of the song, lead singer Jeff Rosenstock pleads for the audience not to be violent. They restart the song, and the audience acts according to the lyrics, "When we're not feeling strong, we grab the mic and sing along: Na na na na," and erupts into a mosh pit.
The band is performing with a certain energy that is different from the past shows I have attended. They are joyous in a way that already feels nostalgic, that this is already a reunion gallivant for them. In a way, it is. This weekend is the first time they have played together in close to a year, and even those last few shows were isolated events following the "HERE COME THE WATERWORKS" Summer 2012 tour. The setlist seems nostalgic, playing a song off of 2005's To Leave or Die in Long Island here, a track from the reminiscing Adults!!! there. They are teasing the audience with bubblegum like Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." Jeff's voice sounds more confident than ever.
"I Don't Love You Anymore" is one of my favorite songs, and I am glad they are playing it, but it is calling my attention to the age of the crowd. It seems like everyone around me is at that uncomfortable age between 18 and 21, when you are not considered mature enough to legally drink; the age when Bomb's music first reached me. It must be difficult for a band to keep getting older but for a passionate audience to stay the same age.
Someone is complaining during the introduction to "The Shit That You Hate" that the next five minutes will be sadness and bad vibes. I feel like this person has missed the thesis statement of Bomb the Music Industry's music- life is a bummer, but you can find your own pocket of happiness if you work for it. All the lyrics to all their songs are depressing, all the melodies are earworms and sing-alongs, and at the end of the day, all the $10-all-age-ethics are nice gestures that would not mean anything if the songs did not stand up on their own.
By "25!!!," the audience is anticipating the end of the set, and ratcheting up their energy. The band feeds off the excitement and sends it back. By "Syke! Life is Awesome!," the stage divers are so persistent that they begin to pile on top of each other as they float across the crowd. By "Showerbeers!," (the second appearance of this song,) the crowd, the band, everyone is exhausted, and the encore break is welcomed.
"Future 86" is the perfect song to end. The lyrics detail a narrator with two relationships falling apart around him simultaneously, his lover and his band. Jeff sings, "Say the word, and I'll put my guitar down." Confetti cannons start firing off during the climax. Everything is beautiful and sentimental. But Bomb the Music Industry is not content on ending with such a clean note, (Is it self-handicapping? Replacements imitation? Feeling uncomfortable baring raw emotions on a large stage?) and play the short blast of fury "Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV!!!" Still, through all the noise, the vocals are betraying the sadness of the night as Jeff screams an octave higher than the recording.
Driving on 684 is generally as pleasant and as graceful as eating hot soup off a stick, with cars clustered tight and traveling an average of twenty miles per hour over the posted limit. Tonight, there is almost no one on the road with me as I head north towards Brewster. Danni is asleep, the radio is off, and I have plenty of time to think about the show I have just witnessed.
Reunion Prediciton: By breaking up Bomb the Music Industry! and continuing to perform as a solo artist, it allows Jeff Rosenstock to choose to perform the songs that matter to him, without any obligation to the fans of certain tired songs. To me, that means there will not be any more Bomb the Music Industry shows as we know them. If the lives of the band members intertwine at some point in a distant future, I can imagine them picking up instruments for their own enjoyment. However, I cannot imagine there ever being a time when we can purchase tickets to a planned event again. And as much as I have enjoyed their music in the past, I am content with this. Their performance was a fitting (start to the) end of Bomb the Music Industry!