and i don’t know whose baby you are
The Roadside Graves, a fantastic Jersey band who released my favorite track of the year — the stunning 7+ minute “Liv Tyler” — on their EP You Won’t Be Happy With Me earlier this spring, are one of three or four bands that are lynchpins of a story that I don’t tell much but that I call, in my head, “How Pete Wentz Of Fall Out Boy Saved My Life”.
Every photographic break I’ve gotten in the last few years, every lasting relationship (or friendship) with musicians or publicists or photographers I’ve established, every time I’ve hugged a sweaty musician fresh off a stage because I love them more than I hate being covered in someone else’s sweat, can be traced back to three bands, directly or indirectly: Fall Out Boy, the Mountain Goats, and the Graves.
Yeah. Stop and take a minute and think about that combination of bands. Okay, stop thinking, I know it’s taxed some hipster minds to contemplate. Don’t give yourself a stroke or anything. And for god’s sake, don’t google Pete Wentz. It will only end in you seeing things you don’t want to see.
Regardless of the bizarre nature of putting Pete Wentz and John Darnielle in the same sentence, it’s true. The exact lineage in any given situation is unimportant, but I can draw a line straight back to one of those three bands from every relationship I’ve formed in the local and national music scenes since 2007. Well, those three bands and Michael Casey. But everybody already knew that Michael Casey knows every person on the planet.
To continue how weird this post has unintentionally become, I didn’t discover the Graves through a friend, or a music blog, or as an opener for someone else — no, I discovered them through a 2008 post at the Loss Column, a Baltimore sports blog, when they quoted from what remains my favorite Roadside Graves song, West Coast: I’ve got a heart that won’t quit, won’t break, no matter what you do. (It is the apt anthem of all Orioles fans ever. Needless to say, it’s even more apt than usual this year.)
The first time I saw them was last summer; I met my occasional concert buddy J. at that show, and his generosity with plus ones has opened a huge number of doors for me in the last year. And “West Coast” is still the song I go back to when I’m feeling battered and uncertain, when I need to remember that I’m stronger than all the shit life throws at me, that while my heart may sometimes break, it has never yet quit on me — it just keeps breaking and healing and loving, which is I guess all you can ever ask from it.
So I hold the Roadside Graves in a spot in my heart reserved for very few bands, a spot that is part love and part devotion and part gratitude.
Okay, wait, where was I? The Roadside Graves are awesome, that’s where I was. They’ve played two shows in the last year down here, with a third canceled owing to one of the snowpocalypses in the DC metro area back in January. (That weekend I missed three shows — American Aquarium in Raleigh, the Graves in the CH, and a solo Ari Picker/Daniel from Physics of Meaning show in the CH — because of snow here there and everywhere. I feel like that has thrown my whole concert-going year off, to be honest. The winter months were so slow because of canceled and snowed out shows that I’m all off kilter. Anyway.)
And they’re always fabulous. There’s something about their Jersey Americana that doesn’t sound like anyone else out there; it’s like what would happen if Gaslight Anthem met Whiskeytown, but also utterly their own. They played heavily from the new EP, which was very welcome. It sounds even better live than it does on my headphones, and it sounds really good on my headphones.
Maybe it’s a Jersey thing, because frontman John Gleason sells their choruses in the same anthemic fashion that Brian Fallon sells Gaslight’s; only more so, only doubly, because he does it to half empty rooms full of indifferent hipsters (damn you, Chapel Hill!) — the swinging harmonized chorus to “Far and Wide”, the soaring rumble at the end of “Liv Tyler”, the acoustic thump of “Jail”. They do anthemic well, these guys do, and sometimes a little bit of anthem is all you really want on a Friday night.