This journey will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was a journey of great distance physically but also emotionally. I never realized how much Streetlight Manifesto meant to me until I was standing inside the Rialto Theater in Tucson Arizona, about 500 miles from home, surrounded by complete strangers screaming the lyrics as loud as we possibly could into each other’s faces. I can’t possibly recreate the feeling that was inside that theater that night. The rawness and the passion that every single person in that venue felt was unprecedented for me. Every song they played brought a new wave of feeling over me as I heard opening notes to songs that have been playing through out much of my adolescent life. Patrick cried, I wish I had, and might have had I been more hydrated, but I do know this, never have I been that soaked in sweat, other peoples and my own of course.
In one paragraph, describing all of our experiences before and after the show may be too difficult, but they definitely helped add to everything about the show that left such an impact on me. We left Albuquerque in the afternoon of July 3rd, with the goal of spending the night in Las Cruces with my Grammy and grubbing hard on some enchiladas. Except we drove the whole way with no AC, just the windows down and the music so loud Patrick almost went deaf in his right ear. It was grueling but maybe we saved 10 bucks on gas, who really knows. The plan proved fruitful either way and we feasted and stayed up late playing pinball on her antique and messing around on our smart phones, relaxing knowing what was still to come. We slept in remotely late and watched the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on mute due to the antiqueness of my Grammy’s TV and all took our turns taking cold showers (the hot water was out or broken or something). We jumped into the car and took off for Tucson, this time AC running in order for us to actually hear and comprehend the music we were going to be listening to. We made the drive with no stops and pulled off the highway to go to the closet public pool we could find. At that time, I had drunk about two water bottles already and my bladder had expanded to the size of a watermelon and was very ready to burst.
The pool (and bathroom) were both very refreshing, but also kind of filthy. The water was murky, the lifeguards were useless and the bathroom looked as if it had not been cleaned in weeks. To top it all off, Ben smashed Gus in the face with his head, making Gus’ goggles slice open his face and creating the illusion that he had been beaten bloody. Of course the lifeguards didn’t have any sort of first aid and preceded to hand Gus a luke warm, half filled Gatorade bottle to hold to his face. During this time while Ben and Gus attempted to do something about Gus’ bleeding face, me, Adam and Patch explored the very generic yet entertaining water slide that the pool came equipped with. It distracted us for about half an hour and by that time Gus and Ben were back and we were ready to go and nourish ourselves. Obviously we went to In & Out Burger and we ate a disgusting amount of food due to the fact none of us planned on buying food the whole trip. Adam himself ate a 4 x 4 burger (four patties) and a milk shake and fries.
After we were done with our gorging, we headed to down town Tucson, anticipating nothing but finding everything it seemed. The instant we stepped out of Gus’ van, I heard a voice yelling my name. Now obviously being in Tucson, I assumed my common name had gotten the better of me again, but it turned out, the whole Guez family clan had made the road trip as well! Exchanging hugs all around, we all marveled in the fact we had run into each other six hours away from Albuquerque. They were off on some Guez mini adventure though, and there was an amazing instrument store right besides us so we went inside.
It turned out to be an incredible store that bought and sold and essentially traded old instruments. There was a cache of every kind of instrument imaginable in every condition imaginable for numerous reasonable prices, but it took us almost until closing time to find the hidden gem of the store though, because it was up on the second story in what appeared to be the storage area of the store. Patch found a tuba that had a price tag he thought read $20 when in fact it was $2000. So of course Patch lugged the “heaviest tuba he had ever picked up” down stairs to clarify but even with disappointing the news it was not dirt cheap, we also discovered Streetlight Manifesto had been in the store not three hours before us and the trombone player had actually purchased a trombone. With that news, me and Patch exited the store to go stand in line while the rest of the crew went to nurse some coffees in preparation for the long night ahead of us.
The Rialto Theater is almost exactly like the Sunshine, except for 3 very distinct and awesome differences. For one there is free water, two the bathrooms are very classy and the most important thing is that the whole venue has a gradual slope allowing people to stand anywhere in the venue and still be able to see the stage with extreme ease. Those factors made the show infinitely better and allowed room to escape if the need arose and also the ease to enter the crowd again.
The opening bands sadly were almost painful to listen to though. So as I impatiently waited for what I had driven six hours for, I swayed back and forth, trying my hardest to get into what I was hearing but all I wanted was to hear the horns of Streetlight. My cousin and his friends showed up around half way through the second warm up band and were fairly drunk, shoving and talking loudly thankfully drowning out the warm up band. Thankfully they were distracting enough to make time go faster and sooner than I thought possible, it was time. The opening “I WILL NEVER DEFEND THE MEN THAT MAKE AMENDS WITH ANY ENEMY’S FRIENDS” echoed throughout the theater as everyone screamed as loud as humanly possible, and then the trombone solo hit and the madness truly hit people. It was instant chaos, people attempting to skank and mosh and just move in any way possible with absolutely no room to do so what so ever. So it became a huge mass of moving, instantly sweaty bodies just swaying back and forth, smiles hanging crookedly off of faces as the music resounded within the theater. It became almost claustrophobic with how anxious people were to move and I bounced from my friends to each side of the stage by the end of the song. Throughout this, I came to the sudden and terrible realization that I was either dehydrated or suffering worse than usual from the In & Out we had wolfed down earlier. So I slowly backed myself away from the mass of movement, sadness tearing at my soul, but happiness and joy disintegrating my ears as the best thing I had heard in a long time assaulted all of my senses.
I hovered out of the cut for a while, still singing, still happy, and I realized who cared that I felt sick, this was the last fucking time I was going to see Streetlight Manifesto. Then “The Hands That Thieve” hit and something about it reenergized me enough to leap into the crowd again and give it my all, then and for the rest of the show. I think it was the way the song ends, “When it was time to fight, we chose a side…” and hearing an entire group of people, over power the microphoned singers with the purest heart and soul pouring out of every word sang. Hearing everyone together, connected by this beautiful music really just hit me then and there. I really never had fathomed the true power of music until that point, but knowing that all of these 1000 people had one thing, one very strong thing in common really seemed so wondrous and awesome. Streetlight Manifesto can and has brought together thousands of people and in that instant I finally had a glimpse into the fact that as affected as I was and am by this band, there are thousands of others too equally affected. That thought just warmed my soul and my tearless tear glands tried oh so very hard to shed tears at that instant but I couldn’t. The next song had already started.
It only got better. I remember so vividly two songs in particular from that night and they came after my revelation during “The Hands That Thieve.” First was
“The Big Sleep.” Already probably my favorite song by them, hearing it during the last time I would ever see them live made it all the more special. At this point in the show I was drenched, I mean absolutely drenched in sweat and half mad with joy. Hearing the opening chords to this song sent me into an absolute frenzy and I started grabbing random people in my delirium. Then by an act of God, I found Patch and together we grabbed the guy next to us to sing along to the part about Mr. Dylan and the pure emotion in their faces utterly destroyed me and my definition of bliss.
The next song was “A Moment of Silence,” one of my favorite songs when I first found out about Streetlight. I had never heard it live before and I was so excited when I heard the opening notes that I slapped the ground and pulled my sweat soaked shirt over my face screaming in joyous wonder at the beauty.
I literally could go on with what appear to be extremely exaggerated explanations of my experiences (try saying that 10 times fast) for each and every song that was played but, I don’t want to seem like I am repeating myself. All I can say is I am not using any hyperbole. Every song just gave me more and more bursts of energy, even as I felt the need to throw up more and more heavily as the show went on. I just refused to acknowledge it and kept going with all my might. “Failing, Flailing,” “A Moment of Silence” and “Big Sleep” all got me more and more animated until the encore came and “Somewhere In the Between” came on and I knew it was time. I knew it was time to say good-bye to some of the best times I have ever had at a show. Time to say good-bye to the best fans I had ever encountered and know that a bond would forever exist between us. As the last words crashed down heavily upon me, “And someday my friends, this ride will come to an end. But we can’t all just get in line again.”
Every time I sat down to attempt to write about my experience I got so caught up in the feeling I had during that whole night and it became quite difficult for me to find the exact words I wanted to use to make it perfectly clear what I felt. There was hope, bliss, happiness, joy; I mean, think of a positive adjective that could possibly describe a concert and I felt it at some time. I would put on some of the songs they played while I wrote, but all that would happen then would be me immediately stop typing and closing my eyes, remembering. This is what I came up with, and I swear to God, this is how I felt that night, July 3rd, 2013. The night my life ended and began.