October 30, 2016

Relient K: Slow Down and Not Forget

I want to take a detour from my usual posts about traveling for Hanson and let you guys in on another band that has held a quieter importance in my life over the last 13 years. I’m talking about Relient K. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re probably best described as a Christian Rock band with punk tendencies (though not so much punk in recent years, and not always overtly Christian). Personally, I just categorize them as awesome. A close friend introduced me to their music when we were 15, and I immediately fell in love with their witty lyrics and wordplay before I ever figured out that I had any writing skills of my own.

I listened to their album “Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do” every morning on my drive to school in the 10th grade. They have these great lyrics that for whatever reason I can never seem to fully learn no matter how many times I listen. It's like they say so much in so few words that I find myself just listening and enjoying it rather than trying to repeat it, and it's the perfect mix of serious and silly. I saw them perform for the first time in 2005 when I was 17, one of the first concerts I ever attended. They were the first band I truly loved that I got to see live, and I think I owe at least part of my love for live shows to these guys.

When I rediscovered Hanson in late 2006, somehow Relient K took an unplanned backseat. Sometimes when I’m listening to their music I question how and why that happened, because I don’t feel like I love their music any less, nor does it feel like a competition. I love both Hanson and Relient K for different reasons. They occupy separate spaces in my music fan heart. Still, I’ve got 10 years of Hanson experience and over a hundred shows, and after 13 years of Relient K, I just returned from my 4th. It boggles my mind a little bit because I feel like I love Relient K’s music way more than four shows’ worth implies, especially when you know my Hanson background. I guess it's an excellent reminder that the number of shows you've been to doesn't make you any more or less of a fan than anyone else.

If I’m being completely honest, I think it might come down to the fact that when I went looking for more, Hanson’s fanbase was waiting for me with open arms. There was a fan club and forums full of people talking excitedly about this music that I loved at exactly the right time in my life, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Even today, I’m not sure where to find the largest concentration of Relient K fans, and I think that has made all the difference in me being willing and able to travel to see them the way that I do for Hanson. I simply haven’t made the connections I needed in the Relient K fan base to push me to do more. There were no enablers making it seem “normal” to knock out ten shows in a single tour, so I didn’t. And every time I see them, I regret it a little bit.

But that hasn’t stopped me from seeing them when they come to Myrtle Beach, and thankfully they do that somewhat regularly. I just came back from their stop here on the Looking for America Tour with Switchfoot on October 28th. Of the four times I have seen them, I’ve gone alone twice. It terrifies me to no end, but they’re worth the discomfort of braving the crowd alone. This time I bought a VIP ticket that got me a M&G and photo opportunity with the band in addition to early entry. Aside from one incredibly quick and hideous photo I got with Matthew Hoopes three years ago, this was my first time actually meeting the band. I was terrified and excited and completely out of my element, so naturally the whole thing was a little awkward. Which is pretty much my way of life, so I’m fine with it. Matthew Theissen made small talk about where I’m from, which I completely bombed when he tried to ask what direction my city was in relation to North Myrtle Beach. (Look, I can’t give cardinal directions to my best friend or my mother either, so it's not necessarily a side effect of being star struck. It's a side effect of me being me. For what it’s worth, the correct answer was southwest!) They were friendly and polite despite my shyness, so I have to give them props for that. I hope for more opportunities in the future where I can redeem myself and act a little more like someone that has a personality.

The show was great from their more comedic songs, to their classics, right down to the part where I sobbed openly in front row center. They had released a surprise Halloween EP at midnight that same day, so we got to hear the EP in full. There is one song in particular called “The Cup” about Butterfinger Cups that I can’t actually stop singing, and if you’re a Hanson fan reading this, think Digital Pants quality with killer candy lyrics:

Some kids smile at SweeTarts, sweet hearts
(It’s so sad)
But three cheers for Three Musketeers
Out there fighting the good low-fat food fight, all night
That's right, three cheers for Three Musketeers
Reese's Cup was the candy they all measured up to
Snickers bar's no fun in the fun size

…you get the ridiculous and great picture here. The EP is called The Creepier EP-er, which is an obvious follow-up to 2001's The Creepy EP. Did I mention they make genius titles? Because they do.

On a much more serious note, the tears came at the end when they played a song called “Deathbed.” Morbid as it may sound, this song was instantly my favorite when it came out in 2007. It’s so real and raw and tells an unglorified story of a man who ends up dying of lung cancer after a pretty sad and unfulfilling life. The part that makes it beautiful is the redemption at the end, and the salvation that occurs on his death bed. It’s just a completely beautiful and moving song to me. I cried the first time I ever heard it even though it held no personal connection for me at the time. I had to stop listening to it when my own dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2015. I lost him last summer, and as far as I was concerned, I considered “Deathbed” permanently retired from my music library. I was afraid that a song that once felt beautiful to me would serve as a bitter reminder of my loss, and I didn’t want to be faced with the emotions I knew it would bring.

But life is full of surprises, like having to endure that song alone in front row center, in full view of the band with tears running down my face. I don’t regret it. I met another fan before the M&G and confessed my fears about hearing that song live. I felt like I owed it to her to not be the weird stranger sobbing uncontrollably next to her at the show, and she reassured me that it would be okay if I cried. I’m hesitant to share such a personal story here and I certainly don’t want to upset anyone or draw pity, but I also want Relient K to know how much I truly appreciate that song, pain and all, because through the tears it still reminded me of what I loved about it in the first place. It's nice to be reminded of the beauty and grace at the end of the heartbreaking story.

I'm not sure who this post is for, exactly. I know it's completely out of place for most Hanson fans that read my blog regularly, and it's probably just plain weird for Relient K fans to see this strange girl with a Hanson blog rambling on about a band that she has stayed oddly quiet about for someone that claims to love them so much. I guess it's for me, and maybe also for Relient K, who have certainly given me more than I have given them. I'd like to somehow give them the truth if nothing else.

I don't know that I have accomplished any of what I wanted to say with this blog post. It still feels like a weird and confused mashup of one girl's love for two bands and a little bit of regret for letting one of them seem less important, even if only in my own head. I guess I just feel like I owe this band something more than silence, like leaving out the truth of how much I love Relient K's music for so long is somehow the same thing as lying. So for what it's worth, Relient K's music has been a constant positive force in my life. I'm thankful for these goofballs from Ohio that sing about mood rings and elephants and the art of letting go of unimportant things. Chapstick, and road trips, and things like apathy. I just want to slow down and not forget to say thanks.  

And if you're not familiar with Relient K, have a playlist with a few suggestions!
(You'll have to check out "The Cup" on Youtube because it's not on Spotify yet)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think you are exactly right about the Hanson fan base. There are many other bands I love to listen to, but I haven't made any connections with their fans the way I have with Hanson fans. I'm so glad I get to be a part of this community.