Adam Lazzara had the whole crowd clapping their hands in unison at that beautiful Philly venue on the Delaware River.
"Feels good, doesn't it? You know why it feels good? Because you're doing it together." His words capitalized on one of my favorite thoughts to have at barricade: the hundreds of people behind me were all going through different things in their life right now. But tonight, the artist on stage was here to sing all their worries away.
Taking Back Sunday was one of those artists I started listening to in a very unconventional way. I heard them for the first time live and in person, at a music festival on their home turf of Long Island, New York, where the crowd went absolutely berserk for them. I recognized a few of their songs, such as 'Makedamnsure' and 'Cute Without the "E."' What really sold me on them, however, was their stage presence. While playing their music, the lead singer, Adam, would roam the stage, moving as he pleased and swinging his microphone without care. What I fell in love with most of all was how genuinely happy the band members looked on stage. They may not have been playing songs about rainbows and sunshine, but they loved what they were doing, and they greeted the crowd as good friends. It was that night in New York that I decided I would start listening to their music for real. I also promised that I would see them live again the very next time I had the chance. This week, I followed through with that promise. I had hyped this concert up so much, I was a bit afraid it would not be as good as last time. That fear dissolved just about as quickly as it had formed. I was able to snag a spot at the barricade on the side of the stage where John Nolan plays and screams the unclean vocals. Before the set started, I did some looking around and even made a few friends. I met someone who had gotten in line at seven in the morning because he had grown up listening to Coheed and Cambria (the other headliner on this 2018 summer tour) and would only settle for the best spot in the house. I saw two people who had just had a reunion in front of me, knowing each other only from past Taking Back Sunday concerts they had been to. I also spotted a tattoo on someone's wrist that had the lyrics 'Don't Lose Your Faith In Me' with the signature Taking Back Sunday bird on it.
When the music started and the crowd heard the opening notes to 'What's It Feel Like To Be A Ghost?' all side conversations died down and all attention was turned to the stage. Just like the way all the bad things in our lives were put on hold for Adam's smile. Him, along with his bandmates, looked so genuinely happy to be playing in Philly that night, it was hard to imagine that they had already been on tour for weeks and still had twenty dates left to play before it was over. There was no sign of exhaustion or annoyance in their eyes. The night was filled with onstage banter between Lazarra and Nolan, which oftentimes ended in fits of laughter from the band members and crowd alike. The way they switched from light-hearted talk to heavy songs about heartbreak and death wishes will always blow my mind. Memorable moments included Lazarra going silent so he could hear the crowd scream their favorite line to 'Timberwolves At New Jersey,' him laughing at my friend and I upon spotting us being both the loudest screamers and the youngest people in the crowd as far as the eye could see, and watching how happy crowd surfers looked when they hit the ground safely in front of the barricade.
Which brings me to the main point I'd like to make. Most of the time, when people outside the scene hear about crowd surfing or mosh pits, they get turned off. I've been asked on multiple occasions what's so fun about being pushed around at a concert or lifted up by a bunch of strangers. But that's the whole point. When you come together at a concert and get that close to people you don't know, there's an unspoken companionship that's formed. No one is trying to hurt anyone else and everyone is looking out for each other. You want to make your way to the stage in order to have the best concert experience you could possibly have? Sure, let me help you do that safely. You think opening a circle pit will help the crowds energy? Fine, just give me the signal and I'll join in. That's what made me leave Taking Back Sunday's set with a smile on my face. When I turned around to catch the next crowd-surfer during 'Faith (When I Let You Down)' I saw that tattoo being waved in the air proudly. I saw cut up wrists trying to heal in the open air. I knew broken hearts were trying to be mended. I knew abusive homes and relationships were trying to be forgotten. I knew that this was the most refuge some people here were going to get. And I wanted to help them. The happiness I saw in that crowd was humbling, and I knew Taking back Sunday would be proud to know that their set could have that much of an effect on the people that came to see them. When Adam Lazarra had us all clap our hands together and look around to see how many people we were able to do that with, it sent chills down my spine. It was like he had read my mind. He wanted us all to know that there would be no fighting tonight. There would be no hardships. Just good music and the art of getting lost in it. By the time they played their biggest hits such as 'Set Phasers to Stun,' had everyone turn their flashlights on for 'My Blue Heaven,' and let the crowd have one last good scream to 'Makedamnsure,' the energy level was so high I could almost feel it in the sand beneath my feet. Maybe not everyone will be able to see them in their hometown of Long Island for the first time. But if you ever by any means get the chance to crowd surf during a Taking Back Sunday set, please seize that moment.
Taking Back Sunday is currently on tour with Coheed and Cambria. Dates can be found on their website or Bandsintown. Connect with them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.