There’s nothing quite like a last show. And last Sunday, I was at my first.
Nearly five years ago, I met one of my best friends, who would soon introduce me to his favorite band, a local group named Bomb the Music Industry. The band is everything you may presume by that moniker. It released all its music online, for free. Its shows are extremely cheap, to the point where it feels like you’re only paying to reimburse the band for the cost of renting the venue. In short, this is just a bunch of dudes playing music for the sake of playing music.
When I first heard Bomb’s snarling guitars reverberating through a set of speakers, I promised my friend we’d see them in concert. And after five years of bad luck and twists of fate, I was finally able to make it to a Bomb show. Its last show.
Now, if you’re looking for insight into the current state of the NBA, this isn’t the piece for you. All you really need to know about the NBA these past few weeks is this:
1. Paul George broke the space time continuum this with dunk.
I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve watched this gif on loop. But it’s a lot. Like, my girlfriend is complaining we-don’t-spend-enough-time-together-anymore a lot.
2. Melo scored a lot of points. All in one game.
It makes we wonder if the best strategy for the Knicks is to leave Melo alone on offense, while having the other four players stay in the defensive end and concentrate solely on getting the ball back to Melo.
3. Kevin Durant scored a lot of points. And then he did it. Every. Game. Forever.
If you want to more real insight into Durant, read this wonderful 3-Pointer. But seriously, party on Slim Reaper.
When I set out on this journey of finding an NBA team, it wasn’t just about delving into the stats of each franchise or hating on the Nets, it was about exploring what fandom really is. What is it about a sports franchise that in so many ways is so distant from is fans, yet we treat them like family. We live and die by the success and failures of these teams in whom we have no say.
Furthermore, there are people who stick by these teams no matter how often they’re let down (Hello Cleveland! I see you there too, Detroit). But year after soul-crushing year, those fans are out, wearing their favorite uniforms, proclaiming this season might be the one.
How do these bonds form, and why are we so reluctant to break them? I’m just as curious about answering these questions as I am about solving the quandary as to what professional basketball team I should pledge my allegiance.
So while the following story isn’t about basketball, or even sports, it’s about finding community in a sea of strangers, and maybe getting closer to finding out what it really means to be a fan.
When I arrived at the venue, the line to get in was down the block. And then around the corner, and down that block too. No one wanted to be late to this show.
I’ve listened to Bomb for the last five years. I don’t know all the words to every song, or even know every song for that matter. If a big fan was unable to score a ticket, I’m definitely the type of person they’re cursing, complaining people like me were there while “true fans” were left out in the cold.
But I had a ticket, and after a wait in a frigid Brooklyn night, I finally stepped into a concert hall that reminded me of a kindergarten’s auditorium.
The nostalgic feel of the venue was quickly broken once I stepped through a side door into a room with a bar to help fuel the night’s festivities. Next to that was a room with merch tables and another table selling perogies, because nothing goes better than perogies and rock & roll.
While the uniform for a sporting event is easy to discern based on the teams playing, the dress code for a punk rock concert is a little less standard. You go to a Knicks game, you throw on a jersey or a t-shirt emblazoned with a Knicks logo and fit right in. At a concert, not fitting in is almost the norm.
Throughout the night, I stood shoulder to shoulder with kids whose hair spiked in mohawks, while others had finally combed hair as if coming from an office job. Some wore jean jackets with cut-off sleeves, while others wore dresses as if going out for a candlelit dinner. I was there in a t-shirt. I can’t exactly say where I fit in.
By time the final opening act took the stage, my friends and I found our way to a balcony in the back of the hall that overlooked the stage. While the band that was playing was phenomenal, I was focused on the crowd.
It’s mesmerizing to watch a collection of strangers move in unison in response to a song. A collection of strangers from all walks of life, dressed in different uniforms, who have never met before, sharing one thing in common: a love of a song.
It’s so much like sports fandom. You’ve never met them, but you’ve experienced the same highs and lows. You’ve reveled in the same successes and crumbled in the same defeats. The love of a band and the love of a team are in so many ways the same type of love.
Finally, it was time for Bomb to take the stage. My friends headed toward the front of the crowd, and I took this picture of the stage times for each band at the tech booth.
It’s probably an understatement to say Bomb planned to play for “way too long.” They started with an hour and a half set. Took a fifteen minute break. And then played for another hour and a half.
I’ve been to many concerts in my time. I’ve seen Pearl Jam play the Garden for over two hours. I saw Paul McCartney rock Yankee Stadium for a night. But never have I seen a band play at the same level at the guys in Bomb the Music Industry. Moreover, I’ve never seen it done for three hours.
These guys didn’t want the night to end. So as long as there was another unplayed song, it didn’t have to.
Which only made this sign at their merch table ever more humorous to me:
They never planned on being right back. They were going to stand on that stage until every ounce of music poured out of them.
It was near the end of the first set that they played my favorite song. One of the few I knew all the words to.
Before this, I had been happily standing on the outskirts of the most rambunctious fans, away from where fans would ride a wave of hands to the stage and then jump back into the crowd like a children in a pool in summertime. That’s always been my favorite part of the concert, being in the midst of the wildest fans, jumping about and singing along. When I didn’t know the songs, it felt more appropriate to sit on the sidelines. But not this time. Not this song.
The familiar piano riff sounded through the venue, one which announced that the band was about to play “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” It goes something like this:
That simple piano riff at the beginning was all I needed. I heard those familiar keys, and I was off into the sweaty, jumping, singing masses.
I shouted my lungs out and nearly lost my voice singing that song alone. And it was worth every moment. For the brief duration of that song, I was no longer an outsider treading on someone else’s shoes. I wasn’t crashing someone else’s farewell party. I was as much as fan as anyone else there.
That concert continued, and I joined in during the handful of songs I also knew. By the time the show ended, it was tough to see the life of a great band come to an end, but it’s hard to imagine going out a better way. The night wasn’t somber; it was a celebration of a band and a collection of music that meant so much to so many.
I still don’t know exactly what fandom is nor how to become a fan of something so distant from me. That journey is one that is still on going.
But being a fan is something you can’t do alone. To be a fan is to join a brotherhood, a fraternity of friends and strangers in a common journey. Someday I’ll find that basketball team. But for now, I have a some Bomb songs to listen to.