Sometimes you have to listen to fate.
Like when you, a Californian, find yourself on twitter selling the Riot Fest ticket you bought for some reason but never really wanted, and are asked by a Chicago local if you’re going to the Fall Out Boy show at Wrigley Field. Maybe you laugh it off and explain that there’s no way; no matter how big of a fan you are, you’re a college student in Orange County, two thousand miles away, and that making a midwest trip on such short notice is out of the question… or maybe you don’t. Maybe you take that simple question as a sign from the universe reminding you that your love for Pete Wentz can move mountains (and work a miracle), that you’ve already budgeted for this trip (in the wake of Riot Fest), and that you’ve wanted to follow this dream for a few years now… and maybe, just maybe, you wait a few days until hopping on the next plane headed to the Windy City. I, of course, did the latter.
Us For Once readers have probably realized by now how big of a Fall Out Boy fan I am. I’ll spare you all the pages of admiration, but this band is my band. Pete, Patrick, Andy, and Joe are my favorites, my absolute number ones, my best boys. I’ve been enamored with their energy and the indescribable way their songs can make me feel since 2013, fresh off the hiatus. I would not be where I am today without them, I would not have such a clear idea for my future without them, and Us For Once Magazine would literally not exist. More than just a band, Fall Out Boy is an enormous driving force in my life, one that encourages me to keep pushing through and writing my story. Just like Brendon Urie/part one of this series, this is another example of me wanting to do anything to support the people who have indirectly supported me through so much. That being said, flying out to Chicago to see my boys play a hometown show- and their biggest show to date, for that matter, was an opportunity I could not pass up.
This sounds very dramatic, but this entire experience was something that affected me so deeply I couldn’t even write about it until now, a week after the fact. Chicago was more than just the Wrigley show, even though that was incredible. The ballpark was filled with thousands of fans, all there for the band that was born out of Wilmette suburbs and those city streets over fifteen years ago. Energy was high, with Patrick Stump (who was rocking a Cubs hat, and his glasses, an extremely rare occurrence during shows) delivering excellent vocals and strutting across the stage like he owned the whole place, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley giving some of their best performances to date (at least in my opinion, I’ve seen Fall Out Boy four times and this one was especially notable for Joe and Andy, especially because of setlist additions like “Lake Effect Kid” and “Thriller” that showcased their instrumental talents), and Pete Wentz’s extra reflective, extra special speeches to the crowd. Pete was calling home; whether we were Chi-town natives or not, he let us know that the fact that we were all there together meant everything, saying, "This is our favorite night. This is our favorite place. These are our favorite people”.
As far as the show itself, it was incredibly surreal. I arrived with no to-do's and no camera. I wasn't there to photograph the show, I was just there to enjoy the whole experience and feel like just another person in the crowd. The lights, the setlist, the fireworks, and the Lake Michigan wind all came together to remind me that this was really happening. Fall Out Boy was playing Wrigley Field and I was there. In a way, this disbelief was an emotional connection between us and them, as it seemed like the band was also enjoying every single moment of the show, while still not entirely believing it was happening either. Every time Pete would stop to tell us stories about growing up going to Cubs games, or Patrick would reminisce about the early 2000s, writing Grand Theft Autumn on the corner of Roscoe and Hoyne and jogging around town, it felt like a real time pause button for real life. A second for everyone to take a breath, open their eyes, and realize that crazy dreams can come true.
Hearing certain songs live for the first time (Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes, Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea) and getting to appreciate older favorites (Grand Theft Autumn, Thriller) left my head spinning in a mess of adrenaline and love. The MANIA tour setlist has been great since the first cycle, and this second leg of the tour just raised the bar even higher. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Chicago Is So Two Years Ago. I travelled halfway across the country for two main reasons: to support my boys at their biggest show ever, and to hear that song live. One of my favorites, only ever played in one city anymore? Those three minutes and twelve seconds were everything to me.
After the fireworks explosions and hearing “Saturday” on a once-in-a-lifetime Saturday, my night ended in flurry visions of confetti and being comfortably wrapped in an exclusive Fall Out Boy at Wrigley spirit jersey. Whenever I leave one of their shows I leave happier than ever, with a huge smile on my face and a strange peace in my heart. I always think that I’ve had enough Fall Out Boy to hold me over for a while, but as it seems to happen, the universe always has other plans. I thought this trip was a journey for me to finally see my boys play a hometown show, to be proud of them, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
During my short weekend in Chicago, I saw Fall Out Boy play one of the most iconic ballparks in the country, visited the city they call home, drove through the suburbs of Wilmette they grew up in, explored Pete Wentz’s (sort of) alma mater, and got to find myself in the streets of downtown. My last day in Chicago was surprisingly the most important to me. Early that Monday morning I set out alone, just me and my headphones. I’d finally gathered enough bravery to ride the L train all on my own, and I decided to spend my last few hours before the airport guided by fate. I closed Google Maps, got on the red line, and just let the city guide me. I ended up at a station called Lake, and walked around the downtown streets for a few minutes, turning where I felt I should and following my intuition until I got to the Clark Street bridge on the Chicago Riverwalk. I can’t explain a thing, but that place meant everything to me. Have you ever wandered upon somewhere you just know is special, even if you can’t pinpoint why? Like you’ve seen that place before in a dream? That’s exactly what the riverwalk is to me.
I spent a few hours walking up and down along the stretch, listening to a playlist of the Fall Out Boy songs that have always meant the most to me. Feeling the cool water breeze, sunlight covering me, and the drums from “City In A Garden” beat in time to my heart reassured me that I was exactly where I needed to be. I looped the riverwalk and wandered around the city for miles, only guided by the universe and the songs I’ve trusted for years. As my flight departure time inched closer, I took a seat on an empty bench overlooking the bridges, the river, and the city that helped me find myself. I was happy to just be, and spent with a little blue notebook, writing down my thoughts, feelings, and a few sketches to sum up this whole journey. After that, I took a deep breath, feeling like I’d accomplished everything I had come there to do, and then some. One last look and a lick lick salute goodbye and I was on the blue line to O’Hare airport, headed back to LAX.
This experience will probably the most representative of this whole series, as it really wasn’t about worrying about how I was going to get there, it was about love (the love for my favorite band that drove me out there in the first place, because inspiration runs on short notice), trust, and discovery. If you ever have the chance to follow what you love, chase it wherever it takes you. And if you end up where it all began, let yourself go and walk around the city alone, just you and the music. It sounds so simple, but it’s incredibly magical. I thought I traveled two thousand miles to feel a rush of pride for my boys, but I ended up incredibly proud of both of us.
There’s something different in the air of Chicago; because once I breathed it in, I ended up doing some soul searching that weekend, and I found exactly what I was looking for.