An Underdog Reminisces

Yellowcard made my dreams come true.

I remember being about 13 years old, hearing my older sister play the song “Back Home” repeatedly on her bedroom stereo and wondering why on Earth the singer pronounced “California” that way. “So that it rhymes,” she’d explain, but I just thought it was weird. She later sat me down and had me listen to “Believe.” She’d told me it was this great rock band who – get this – has a violin player, and they wrote a song about 9/11. I was just beginning to get into music apart from what I heard on the radio and the boy bands I grew up listening to, so I didn’t really have a strong opinion on the band or the song.

It all changed in the early summer of 2004 when I heard “Ocean Avenue” on the blogging site Xanga. Remember that one? The upbeat tune and catchy chorus got me hooked instantly. I looked around for more songs by them, found “Back Home” and “Believe,” and realized it was the same band. “Believe” quickly became my favorite. I listened to several songs on the Ocean Avenue album and was confident I’d found a new favorite group. Bye bye, Backstreet Boys.

As a 14 year old girl going into high school, I became obsessed with the band – as most reading this already know. I researched everything I could about the band and their music. I learned more than is normal about the band members. I listened to their music on repeat constantly. I joined an online message board, whose worldwide members were diehard fans, called “Underdogs,” just like me. I saw their photos from concerts and photos with the band at the Vans Warped Tour, and dreamt of someday maybe having photos like that of my own. Everyone at school knew me as the girl who loved Yellowcard, including my teachers.

When the band announced U.S. tour dates for the following fall, I knew I had to go. I counted down the days until finally, it was a chilly, rainy Wednesday night on November 9, 2005 when my father, sister, best friend and I went to Asbury Park, NJ to see Yellowcard play. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. To say that I freaked out when the band came on is an understatement. Up to that point, I had never been so excited for something. I couldn’t believe I was actually seeing them live, right in front of my face. After the show, I was astounded and completely starstruck to meet and take photos with my favorite musicians – so much so that I cried hysterically from happiness the entire ride home.

The next January, the band was releasing an album called Lights and Sounds. To help promote it, they had a scheduled appearance on MTV’s TRL, and the fan club had a contest where some lucky winners would get to go for free. Of course, I entered. And by some miracle, I was chosen. So, I took the day off from school and went to MTV’s studios in Times Square to see Yellowcard perform a few songs live on the show. I was completely beside myself with excitement. I was in the front row, dancing and singing along to some of my favorite songs right in front of Sean Mackin and Ryan Mendez. It was unreal.

Over the next few months, I remained a constant presence in the band’s online fan community – getting the attention of fellow fans and members of the band. That spring when I saw the band play for a fourth time, it was like we were old friends, hanging out and having the time of our lives. I went to more than a handful of shows later that year in 2006, and as a 16 year old girl, those shows are memories I will always cherish and never forget. Among those – perhaps my favorite concert moment after more than a decade of shows – when the lights went down after “Waiting Game” and a spotlight shone on Sean as he stepped forward. I knew what song was coming, but I had no idea what he was going to say into that microphone before beginning his violin solo. Having my favorite song dedicated to me in front of a sold-out show was an astounding, other-worldly moment I will always hold dear.

So the years went on, of me never missing a show in the tri-state area, and of my life continuing to blow my mind. My dreams of someday meeting members of the band, taking photos with them, and maybe even catching a set list or guitar pick were far beyond surpassed. I have more guitar picks and set lists than I can count. Still, every show was like the first all over again – the fun and excitement never faded, and still hasn’t. I learned that one of the items on the infinitely-long list of why New York City is the best place to live, is that a tour never skips over the area. School day, weekend, holiday, regents exams, midterms or finals, I was there. New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, I was there.

When the band came back from hiatus, it was like they’d never left. Between college, Lauren’s grad school and my full-time job, as adults, we were able to go to even more shows than before. Maryland and Massachusetts were added to the list of states we’d traveled to to see them. Each show was a reunion – a family reunion, that is. At almost all of them, Lauren and I stood in the front row stage left, hugging the barricade while rocking out to our favorite songs. Having the band members watch our crazy selves as much as we were watching them, loving the show even more knowing the band was having as much fun watching us as we were watching them. We’d spend time – whether it was ten minutes or five hours – after shows, talking, sometimes partying. I’d think about 14 year old me and how she’d react, in awe that my favorite band was this great.

The line between fandom and friendship is a delicate one. Over the years, men who’d started out as strangers who played music I loved became friends and brothers to me. Theirs are relationships I hold so close to my heart. Sometimes, I look back at all of the memories over 11 years of going to shows and I still can’t believe some of it was, or is, real. I’m now older than they were when we first met, and that thought is truly crazy. They watched me grow up, from an awkward, brace-faced high school teenager to a (more) mature, working adult. Their dreams came true when they got to tour the world playing shows; mine came true when I got to go to so many of them.

Of course it breaks my heart that the band is saying goodbye and I will no longer be able to look forward to their shows or new music releases. As their “biggest fan in North America,” I can hardly express how sad I am that they’re ending things. But as a friend and sister, I respect their decision and I understand it. As usual, the band is doing things on their terms, the way they want to do it. I have looked up to and admired Yellowcard for about half of my lifetime, and they’ll always be a huge part of who I am. The band was my entire world as a teenager, and they continue to be a major part of my life. They will always be my favorite and I don’t think anything can or will change that. No one else can ever compare to what this band has done for me.

“I may be leaving but you’re always in my heart.”

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