I said I would…
It’s about 10pm. The crowd has been waiting since the doors opened at 7pm. From the tiny door next to the stage, he popped his head out several times. The lights dimmed. People cheered. And not a moment later, they walked on stage in what would ultimately be one of the best nights of my life.
It started as a struggle. Streetlight Manifesto had been having trouble with Victory Records and the release of their newest album, The Hands that Thieve. This is not the first time they had to deal with unfair relationship and lack of support because since the band’s creation in 2003, there has been trouble. After ten years and 57 songs, this chapter of the story is ending. From the point of view of the reader, it may seem like the book is over, but this author has an entire series yet to be written. The band announced, “No more long tours and no more year round traveling. BUT! Streetlight is not actually breaking up, and we have no plans to ever do so, really.” (The End of the Beginning Tour)
This isn’t the first Streetlight Manifesto concert I went to. I went to one in 2011 with Adrian and it was an amazing experience, and I knew that I had to go again. Especially since this may be one of the last times I may be able to ever see them again, considering the circumstances. Hopefully, since Chicago is a large city, this means will play here again in the future. But, as to not risk it, I knew the moment they announced the tour that Adrian and I had to go. The rather annoying aspect was that they were playing all the way in Bloomington, Illinois. Also known as 131 miles away, it takes about two hours to get to Bloomington. Finding a ride to get there was the most difficult part of this entire journey. We considered so many different options, such as taking a cab, riding a train, renting a car. The problem with a lot of these is the cost. And say if we did rent a car, we tried asking a bunch of friends to see if they could drive us since neither of us have a license, but everyone seemed to have something to do. At this point, we weren’t quite sure how we were going to make it to the concert. All we knew is that we had to get there somehow.
And let me tell you this: my parents are the coolest people ever. At first, my mom was a bit skeptical considering how far the Castle Theatre was, but she warmed up to the idea. Even I was a bit annoyed by Streetlight’s choice to go to obscure places, but ultimately, I quite enjoyed it. Since we had no method of going over there, my dad suggested to take us over there. It was pretty ironic, considering a few years ago, our family decided to drive to Dallas, Texas. We ended up breaking down in Bloomington, so my dad’s suggestion was pretty funny, especially since we never made it to Dallas. We had to call a few uncles to pick us up and drive us back. Anyway, it was going to be a really long trip and we were going to go in our little, five-person car, so my mom decided that the only ones who would get to go would be my parents, Adrian and me.
We packed a bunch of water bottles and even granola bars. You’d think the two-hour ride would be boring, but believe me, it was not. I never really noticed how such a city boy I was, despite going to Mexico a few times when I was younger. I suppose it never really hit me until now. I didn’t nap, didn’t really doze off—I stayed awake the whole time. And along the way, I got to experience a whole new perspective now that I’m older. Granted, I stayed inside the car the entire trip, but still. Even the sight of things opened my eyes, I guess. I’m used to seeing house after house, if not, business after restaurant after store, or whatever. Instead of that, we saw farm after farm. Big, open spaces full of pure crops. Instead of all of these buildings right next to each other, there were huge gaps, longer than the distance of a block. It would be like just one house on each block. I have to say, it was really cool. We saw cows and horses and donkeys, and even some road kill unfortunately. We must’ve passed all kinds of people, especially those also on their way to the concert. Once in Bloomington, we stopped at a McDonald’s to fuel up on energy that would end up being helpful at the concert later on. And let me tell you this: Chicago is a very diverse city, should you have the time to drive around everywhere. It’s most noticeable in the downtown area, especially on the CTA public transportation system. But in Bloomington, it’s not really. I suppose you can say it’s because all of the university students went home or whatever. Point is, it was very different from what I’m used to. And it was a cool little peek into the side of the state that I never really looked into.
I didn’t really believe we were there even after we had gotten in line to get in the venue. We stood there, tickets in hand, my parents driven off. We paid an extra dollar at the door each because were under 21 for some reason It was kind of stupid, but this was it. We were there. We got as close to the stage as possible. They had these railings to kind of separate things. We stood near the front on the right side where there was this exit door that all of the musicians came in through and near where the sound check guy had his table. We were good in our little corner. Everyone looked like they were college students except this younger kid and his mom, which we stayed next to for half the show. I felt comfortable standing next to her because in a way, I felt like she was all of our moms. Also because she was pretty cool. Although I didn’t speak to her directly, I kind of eavesdropped to their conversation and let me tell you this: I have a lot of respect for this lady. I don’t know their background stories or anything at all, but it sounds like she’s had experience with concerts before. And should I ever have kids, I’d totally go to one with them. Hopefully I at least enjoy the music, but as soon as Streetlight Manifesto got on stage, they ran closer to the middle and completely disappeared for the rest of the show.
Anyway, Adrian and I initially grew tired of waiting. We waited an hour before Empty Orchestra, the first band, even got on stage. If we had gotten our way, Streetlight Manifesto would have played starting at 8pm until 11:30pm when they finished. Instead, we had to listen to both Empty Orchestra and Rodeo Ruby Love. But you know what? I’m glad we had the opportunity to listen to something new. I didn’t not enjoy them. I was just hyped for Streetlight. Everyone seemed kind of bored while Empty Orchestra was on stage, but in my opinion, although I don’t think I would pick up a CD, they were a good band to open. They definitely prepped the crowd for Rodeo Ruby Love. I mean, in a way, they’re all Pentimento Music Company bands so I support all of them. As the more veteran band, Rodeo Ruby Love definitely had more charm. Especially since they had the crowd going pretty well. By their last song, I knew I enjoyed them much more this time around than last time. It was enough that, when we had exited the Castle Theatre, we ran into one of the members and I bought their newest album, The Pits.
After 5 hours of waiting, Streetlight Manifesto was finally on stage. The whole mess with trying to find a ride, the entire ride, the everything. They were on stage finally, and Adrian and I got to experience again the magic we did in 2011. This was the set list:
1. The Three of Us
2. Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Cafe
3. We Will Fall Together
4. The Littlest Things
5. A Better Place, A Better Time
6. Would You Be Impressed?
7. Toe to Toe
8. Forty Days
9. The Hands that Thieve
10. Failing, Flailing
11. A Moment of Silence
12. A Moment of Violence
13. Oh Me, Oh My
14. The Big Sleep
15. A Call to Arms
16. Here’s to Life
17. Somewhere in the Between
There was this certain magic in seeing just about everything. After years of hearing studio versions of songs, as well as watching tons of live videos, we saw the fans do their little thing. The mosh pit, the skanking, the people singing along. It was so much more than listening to any other song off an iPod, than watching videos of live shows on YouTube. You can feel the raw emotion coming from the band as well as the audience. When songs slowed down, everyone stopped to sing along. And when songs picked up again, everyone jumped and moved in unison. Twice, we’ve seen them. Twice, we’ve seen the magic. They don’t give up. Nothing will get in the way of them doing what they love most, and that’s creating music. Should the fans start to die off, they will still do what it seems they are destined to do. But it’s this very dedication that attracted so many in the first place. It is this passion that brought so many together to sing along with their own personal connection. We’ve learned many lessons from them, and one of the lasting impacts is that, “Someday soon my friends, this ride will come to an end, but we can’t just get in line again.”