Showing 26 posts tagged paramore

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

I believe most people now think Martin Mull was the first to say this - and it seems like as good a way as any to start out this week. As I was writing my first few posts last night, this quote kept sticking in my head. Music in general - and Paramore in particular - means so much to me on a visceral, emotional level that I have real trouble putting it into words. You’ll see my best attempts this week, but I can’t promise the level of writing you’ve seen here in weeks past. I don’t experience music intellectually - and I certainly can’t write about it that way. What I can promise this week is (hopefully) an interesting story of the rise of a great band as seen through the eyes of a fan and the best I can do in terms of telling you what this music and this band means to me and why. I may have trouble putting into words what they and their music mean to me, but I’ll give it my best shot. Hope you enjoy.

Sing us a song and we’ll sing it back to you.
We could sing our own
But what would it be without you?

Paramore - “My Heart”

I’m going to talk a lot this week about the bond Paramore has built with their fans - how they’ve worked their way up from playing for 25-50 people to where they are today. That bond is something special and it’s a huge part of why they are where they are today - and even with my close relationship with them, I know I’m not the only one that feels it.

To me, these lyrics sum it up. As a band, Paramore gives as much to their fans as any band I’ve ever seen…and the fans give it right back. It’s an incredible relationship - and their live shows are where you can see it best. A band pouring their heart out onstage…and a crowd of fans pouring their hearts out in return. These songs you’ll be hearing me talk about this week - they were written by Paramore - but they belong to us.

And since I was just talking about live performances, I’m going to start in the middle - because if this song doesn’t get your pulse going on a Monday morning, nothing will.

This is Paramore performing “Born For This” live on the The Final RIOT! tour in Chicago on August 12, 2008. The show was filmed for a DVD and the whole thing’s over on Hulu if you want to watch it.

When Paramore recorded this song for RIOT!, they invited fans of the band into the studio to sing on the track. When they perform it live, “everybody sing(s) like it’s the last song you will ever sing.”

And yeah - it never fails to give me chills. You can see what the band gives their fans onstage - and you can see what the fans give the band back. For me, the true greatness of Paramore has always been their live shows. This is a phenomenal live band - and you can’t truly experience their music (in my opinion) until you see them live. They’ve made three great records, but live…they take it to another level.

But they weren’t always playing for an arena full of screaming fans…to see how they got here, you have to go back to the beginning…specifically, for me, almost exactly 3 years earlier…

August 10, 2005.

I had no idea at the time, but that would turn out to be a day that would (and I’m honestly not overstating things here) change my life forever.

But let’s go back a little bit first. You’re probably wondering how a (now) 34 year old guy winds up loving a band whose fan base is primarily made up of people half his age. You might even be wondering why that (then) 28 year old guy was at Warped Tour on August 10, 2005 in the first place. Or, you might not be wondering any of that and you’re just wondering why the hell Hendrik has let someone write about Paramore for a week on his blog (I don’t have the answer to that, except that he apparently thinks I’ll do a decent job of it - HOW WRONG HE IS.)

Anyway, my love for Paramore starts in…1990? 1991? The exact year escapes me, but I was in high school. Up until that point, I listened to awful music. And we’re not talking just standard Top 40 pop bad - I’ve always loved that and still do. We’re talking Milli Vanilli/Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch BAD. 

So, I will now thank the music gods that during one of those formative years in high school, a friend handed me a copy of R.E.M.’s Document. Obviously, this wasn’t Milli Vanilli. Also, obviously, this wasn’t like anything I’d ever heard before. I was completely taken - with Michael Stipe’s phenomenal voice, with the jangly guitars, with the oblique lyrics…R.E.M. was the first band I ever loved. Still do. For the first time, music really touched me deeply, in a completely different way than it ever had before. I listened to other music, but I FELT R.E.M. songs. 

In college - again freshman year - one of my (still) dearest friends got me to listen - actually listen - to Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band I had previously dismissed as those “Walk on the Ocean” guys. I could do another whole week on Toad (and maybe I will if Hendrik will have me back), but that was the second band I loved. There’s a reason I use Picasso’s Don Quixote as my userpic all over the internet. Take a listen to Toad’s “Windmills.”

And after I graduated from college (I’m shaky on the year for this one), a bunch of us went to see Weezer. Opening for Weezer? The Get Up Kids. I left that show, bought Something to Write Home About and that was my (very late) introduction to the world of emo (no, I’m not even going to TRY to define that genre and I won’t use that word again this week), pop punk, punk, whatever you want to call it. And so, better late than never right? 

So, anyway, all that is a really long way of telling you how a) I started to love music - REALLY love music and b) why I was at Warped Tour on August 10, 2005. Because The Get Up Kids led me back to Jawbreaker and Sunny Day Real Estate and even all the way back to Minor Threat, but they also led me to Saves the Day and Bayside and Thursday and I wanted to hear every band I could that was making music like this - music that was LOUD and full of energy, music that was sometimes raw, always emotional (there’s that word again) - that, to me, expressed everything I loved about music in the purest way - it was music that expressed universal feelings - love and loss, pain and joy - and didn’t hide it behind difficult lyrics or imagery. It was out there - right out front - for all the world to see. The best of these bands were putting themselves out there, singing or screaming EXACTLY what they felt. The Get Up Kids made me fall in love with a whole new genre of music and even though I was, by some people’s estimation, WAY too old for this scene (last time I’m using that word too), I didn’t (and still don’t) care. I knew what I wanted to hear; I knew the music that let me get those frustrations out, that said what I wanted to say better than I could ever say it - and I was going to keep listening.

So, I guess let that be a warning about this week in advance (if you’re still reading at this point) - this isn’t going to be your standard music criticism. I’m not going to analyze what these songs mean to Paramore - what the lyrics meant to Hayley when she wrote them - in some cases, I know and in some cases, I don’t. But this is going to be about what the songs mean to me. These are songs that have changed me - and hopefully I’ll be able to articulate how over the course of the week.

This is also going to be about the experience of watching a band go from playing to 25 to playing for 25,000…and about the experience of meeting and becoming friends with one of the greatest groups of people I’ve ever encountered in my life. This is about a band (and their families and the people who work with them) who have treated me like family for the last 6 years and have given me opportunities I never dreamed I’d have.

But all that aside, it’s still about the music to me. And it was the music that started it all on August 10, 2005…but this post is long enough. We’ll get to that in a bit…

Paramore - “Whoa”

Ok, so back to August 10, 2005…now that I’ve told you how I wound up at Warped Tour, it’s time to tell the story of how I first saw Paramore.

I go to Warped Tour every year (or have since The Get Up Kids show in…whatever year that was…2001?) Anyway, one of my favorite things to do at Warped is wander. I LOVE the fact that I can hear so many new bands on tiny stages all over the dusty parking lot (because Warped is, inevitably, always in a really hot, really dusty parking lot.) So, when I’m not seeing the bands I know going in I have to see - and typically early in the day - I wander. I look at the handwritten signs and flyers plastered all over the venue and I head from stage to stage seeing what will catch my ear.

On August 10, this flyer caught my eye. Now you’ll notice that’s not actually a flyer. It’s actually an album cover - specifically, the cover of Paramore’s first album, All We Know Is Falling. I had no idea at the time, but it had come out two weeks prior (on July 26th to be exact) and that cover was EVERYWHERE at Warped. Scrawled on each one was a stage name - the “Shiragirl stage” and a time - from what I remember, it was 1:30.

I still don’t know for sure why that red couch caught my eye, other than that it was everywhere. Considering everything that’s happened since - and my faith (we’re going to be talking more about that later too, so be ready…) - I often tell myself I was led to go see Paramore that day. If you believe what I believe, you can probably buy into that. If you don’t, just tell yourself it was luck or a really eye-catching red couch. Either way, it changed my life. Not like getting married or having kids changed my life - we’re not quite at that scale - but take a step down from that and you’re right there. Anyway, I just knew that at 1:30, I was going to head over to the Shiragirl Stage and see who this Paramore band was.

The Shiragirl “Stage” was a stage in the LOOSEST sense of the word. It was the back of a truck. A rather small truck. The side folded down and voila! Stage. Zac (Paramore’s drummer) was INSIDE the truck. Josh, Jason and John (I’m not going to write a ton about Paramore’s member changes - you can read all that on Wikipedia or somewhere else. If you’re hoping I’m going to give you some sort of insight into internal drama, you’ll have to look for that elsewhere too. If you’re hoping I’ll continue to overuse paranthetical expressions, you’ve come to the right place.) Anyway, Josh, Jason and John had to duck to avoid hitting their heads on the top of the truck. The entire thing BOUNCED up and down and looked close to collapse throughout most of the set. The sound was what you’d expect from a pink truck. The TRUTH (anti-smoking) campaign DRONED on at top volume throughout their set. And yet, from the very first notes of a song I then didn’t know and now can’t remember (yes, that’s right - I CAN’T REMEMBER THE FIRST SONG I HEARD THEM PLAY), I was absolutely, 100% blown away.

I’ve been to hundreds of shows in my life. I’ve seen probably thousands of bands at this point, including tons I’d never heard of before walking into that club or amphitheatre or arena that night. I’ve seen John Mayer OPEN for Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) in front of 100 people in a tiny club in Charlottesville, VA. I’ve seen Oasis play for 300 people in what is now the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC (but then was a decrepit dump called Radio Music Hall) right after Definitely Maybe came out. (That show left me deaf - completely DEAF - for 3 days by the way.) I’ve seen bands I’d never heard of before the show blow me away and make me a lifetime fan (Steel Train opening for The Format, take a bow…) But none of that was like this. From the very first minute of the very first song I heard, the following thoughts went through my head:

1) Holy &*#@, these kids are YOUNG.

2) Holy &*#@, these kids are GOOD.

3) Holy &*#@, this girl can SING.

4) Holy &*#@, this band is going to be HUGE.

It’s easy to tell you why I thought the first three things - you can see it in that “Born For This” video I posted earlier - and even three years before that, on a tiny stage on the back of a truck, Paramore still ROCKED. I can’t tell you why I thought the fourth thing exactly - but I’ve never felt that way, before or since, about any other band I’ve seen. I just KNEW there was something special - really special - about these kids. So, of course, I went right over after the set and started talking to them and we became best friends that day and that’s the end of the story…WRONG. You underestimate my extreme and ridiculous shyness. I went over, bought the CD from…I think Josh sold it to me…mumbled “great show” and left. And then proceeded to listen to All We Know Is Falling about 1,000 times over the next month. Meeting them - and getting to know them - would have to wait a little while longer.

But back to that show. There were maybe 50 people watching their set that day. Maybe some of them knew the songs - certainly, there were people who had heard of Paramore before and even seen them play live - and some of them were probably there. But one song stood out. “Whoa” isn’t the best song on AWKIF. It’s not even my favorite song on AWKIF. But it’s the song that stood out live that day - and one listen to the chorus will tell you why. Whether it’s 50 people or 50,000 - when you shout “Whoa” and throw your fist in the air live, the song just works. 

And the line “And we’ve got everybody singing” - in a lot of ways, that sums up, for me, what Paramore is about - what the band has created - with their fans and with their music. This is a band that cares - truly cares - about their fans and the community - the bond - they’ve built with them. And that bond is - for me at least - most strongly expressed at the shows - when everyone IS singing.

"Whoa" was the song I rocked out (and rocked out is really the only appropriate term) to on the ride home - the one I remembered best from my first exposure live. I’d grow to love "Franklin" and "My Heart" and "Never Let This Go" and "Conspiracy" more, but "Whoa" was the first song I loved by Paramore. "Whoa" was the song that started it all for me.

These are pictures I took (yes, with my phone - sorry for the low quality) from that first show I saw in 2005 (see - I wasn’t lying when I said the stage was a PINK TRUCK.)

I love looking back at these now and just thinking about how far they’ve come. It’s been an amazing ride - and it’s not even close to over yet.

"Emergency" music video - the 2nd single from All We Know Is Falling.

"I think that people shouldn’t be ashamed to wear their scars, and show people, and even tell people "Look, I’ve been through a lot of terrible stuff in my life", and there’s no need to hide it….so, with the carnations, with everything like that, we all have that because we were all on five different paths and now we’re on one path, together. And all of our scars will affect each other directly. So we’re tied together, for life." - Hayley Williams.