I had been tossing around the idea of attending this year’s Four Chord festival because I can always use a good music festival in my life, but I was mostly interested in seeing all of the smaller bands. I don’t know why, but somehow in the last 10 years, Mayday Parade has not managed to charm me, so I knew for sure if I went, I wouldn’t be staying for the whole thing.
But then my work friend Debby came over to my desk one day last month and was all, “Hey, you know how mu niece is dating that guy in that band? Well, they’re playing—-”
“Four Chord Music Festival!” I enthusiastically blurted, because as soon as someone broaches the topic of music, I go from nodding off to be super-caffeinated/high-alert/auctioneer-voiced.
Long story short, Debby said that she would ask him if he could get me tickets, because she lets the band crash at her house when they’re in town. And he said yes! And Henry said, “That’s great but I’m not going!” but man, even though I would have to go alone, this was something I needed in my life right then, you know? Alone time with music. It was going to be fine.
I wasn’t sure if Debby was going to give me physical tickets, or if this was going to be a name on the list type of thing, but then she went on vacation before everything was ironed out and I was low-key panicking. But then the day before the show, she got my number from a co-worker and said that everything was OK, just go to will-call and I’d be fine.
So last Sunday, on the way to Chooch’s piano lesson, Henry dropped me off at Xtaza. Henry’s kind of like a soccer mom these days, you know? Dropping me and Chooch off here and there and then getting to spend his child-free time at the grocery store.
So, I get to the window. Doors opened about 30 minutes prior to my arrival, so there wasn’t a huge line. Just a few people behind me. A few people behind me who got to hear me TOTALLY GET SHOT DOWN.
The ticket guy was so smirk-y about it too. “Nope,” he said, flipping through the list. “No Erin Kelly.”
I just quickly said, “OHOKTHX” and then dipped on out. 2016 has taken away every last bit of fight I had left in me, so I wasn’t even about to try and argue or even smooth talk my way in.
Instead, I texted Debby that there were no tickets for me, and then sat on a loading dock, trying not to cry. This was the worst scenario for someone like me: I’m a nervous wreck about EVERYTHING plus I was there ALONE and now I just looked like some washed-up groupie who thought she was entitled to free entry.
I was preparing to just pay my way in when Debby replied to me and said that she texted her niece’s boyfriend and he said that my name should have been on the list and that he was going to talk to the promoter, and told her to tell me to stay there, that they were on their way.
So I continued to sulk outside of Xtaza, while all of these people walked by on their way to Four Chord and I was so sad because they were all there with friends and not LONERS LIKE ME.
Anyway, Debby advised me to try again in a few minutes, so I waited for TWENTY minutes because I was so nervous that it was going to happen again and I didn’t want to be that asshole! The ticket guy sighed when he saw me, because he knew that my name was now on the list. There was another guy there with him this time, possibly the promoter, who laughed and said, “Pays to be persistent!” as the ticket guy grudgingly scratched out my name and mumbled about getting a wristband at the door.
God, that felt satisfying!
It was 1:00PM at this point, and I had missed the first band, but whatever. I needed time to gather my bearings since I hadn’t been to this club probably since 2008, when it was Club Zoo. Henry and I used to go to a ton of shows there back when it was Metropol, especially back before Mr. Small’s was around to provide a much better show experience. Xtaza is just way too nightclubby for my liking. It’s hard to get a good spot, the balcony is VIP now (it used to just be 21+ back when it was Metropol) and it’s fucking cold as shit in there. I kept my jacket zipped all the way up to my chin and I was still shivering.
The place was still pretty empty when I got there, since it was so early and most people probably were only interested in the main, national acts that were playing after 6pm. It went straight to the bar because my nerves are sometimes popping off when I’m alone at a show, and I was having a hard time adjusting to the darkness of the venue and couldn’t shake the disorientation I was feeling. But, even just ordering something at the bar proved to be a challenge for my high-anxiety self. I didn’t want liquor and I couldn’t see what beers they had, so I panicked and ordered a YUENGLING because that’s what the guy next to me had and I DON’T LIKE THAT KIND OF BEER. So then I went and stood by the railing and had to discreetly hold my nose while I took large sips because I just wanted it to be over.
This is what I was doing while Smile My Dear was playing on the main stage. They were OK! Nice, local pop punk. I was feeling it.
I was thankful that the transition from main stage to second stage was smooth and painless. You basically just turned around and walked a few feet and then you were at the smaller stage set up by the entrance. And there was only about 5 minutes in between each band, which was a blessing because it meant less downtime for me to stand around awkwardly looking like I was lost and maybe crying.
The first band I saw on the second stage was Check Engine Light from Long Island and I loved them lots like tater tots! I started excitedly texting Henry about them and he was like “Ok.”
It was during their set when I started to calm down a bit and just really let the music do its thing. I was determined to make the most of my day alone, to not let anyone ruin the vibe, and to keep an open mind with every band there (ugh even the two ska bands which I did not like but I won’t say that they SUCKED because I just really don’t like ska so my opinion is biased).
Immediately following Check Engine Light was In Your Memory and I was heart-eyes right from the start. They reminded me a bit of Nonpoint and letlive. and I giddily sent Henry a video.
“Who’s that” was his response and I don’t know why he bothers to ask because HE TRULY DOES NOT CARE.
Skashank Redemption was up next on the second stage and I will admit that I did not move from my spot because I JUST DON’T LIKE SKA. I can’t really put my finger on it but I think it’s just that it’s too happy and trumpet-y? I don’t know. The Jamaica Ska scene in Back to the Beach is THE ONLY PART OF BACK TO THE BEACH I DON’T LIKE.
So no, I don’t endorse this band.
But the next band to play on the main stage won my heart: Look Out Loretta from Jeanette PA. I was already looking forward to seeing them based on their band name, which is something that Mike Lange uses after a Penguins goal FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO AREN’T PENS FANS, BOO.
<iframe style=”border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;” src=”https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=4199829923/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/” seamless>WKND GTWY by Look Out Loretta
I really liked these guys a lot, a lot, a lot! Which is weird because I don’t like the any of the bands listed on their Bandcamp under the “for fans of” section, lol. You just never know with me. It depends on my mood.
After them was Worst Kept Secret from West Virginia. They were metal and I enjoyed it but I know that Henry would have hated them. I need metal in my life here and there, you know?
I was really looking forward to Modern Chemistry because we saw them at Riot Fest in 2015 and I vaguely remember liking them but also I think we were eating good donuts during their set too so I could be projecting my donut euphoria on their music? The Four Chord program said they sound like Circa Survive, and I for sure would have remembered if they sounded like Circa Survive.
As soon as they started playing, I was able to confirm that no, they don’t sound like Circa Survive. But I did like them a lot! They were very pleasing alt-rock and I wish they had gotten a longer set time, but it was still enough to leave a memorable impression on my dumb brain.
However, I listened to them on Spotify the next day and it didn’t resonate as much with me as it did live.
Here’s a sampling of Look Out Loretta and Modern Chemistry, which you would know if you just read the caption of the Instavid, but here I am doing the work for you:
Head Injuries was next on the small stage but I wasn’t feeling them so I went back over to where I was standing by the main stage, and that’s when I realized that this was like the third time that day that I kept accidentally standing next to someone’s dad, like I was subconsciously missing Henry or something.
Patent Pending was next and this was another band that, on paper, I should not have liked at all because they were PURE POP ROCK. I realize that I was at a festival that specialized in pop rock, but I am pretty picky with that genre. I tend to lean more toward the serious pop punk bands….or maybe that’s not the best way to explain it. Maybe I should say that it’s the joke-y pop punk bands I don’t like. I enjoy The Wonder Years, State Champs, Real Friends….bands of that ilk. I’m probably speaking an alien language to you right now, but together, we can get through this dirty toilet bowl of a blog post. We’re almost there!
This was the first time, four hours in almost, that a band spoke up about the election. The singer was basically like, “I want to believe that we’re all on the same side here, and none of you look like douchebags, so….” Political stance aside, these guys were incredibly entertaining and I did all the things they told us to do and if you know me at all, you know that I won’t go through the motions of jumping or doing jazz hands unless I’m a true fan of the band telling me to do these things because I’m 37 fucking years old and sometimes a bitch just wants to lean against a railing and causally nod her head.
But yeah, they had me doing all the things because their energy was infectious. INFECTIOUS. And then they had a song about not putting off your dreams any longer and I was like THIS IS A SIGN and I felt so inspired and stoked and once again grateful for Debby getting me into this damn thing.
Whoever would thought I would like a band that sings about Mario and douchebags. This band was A+, would see again. They were so much fun!
Finally though, it was time for Let It Happen! I was really excited to see them because anytime there is any connection like this one with Debby and her niece, I get so interested.
I have to say that out of all the bands who had previously played that day, Let It Happen was the most fashonable. This was my first impression. My second impression was that they are really funny and have good banter. My third impression was that they are LEGIT! How are they not more well-known?! According to their bio, they’ve been around since 2009 but I never heard of them until last year when Wendy was all, “Haha, some band is staying at Debby’s house, you have to ask her about it!” and it turns out they were actually playing a Hit the Lights show that night that I hade been considering going to because Tiny Moving Parts were also playing and I love Tiny Moving Parts and am I losing you again?
SORRY, I GET ALL TANGENTICAL.
But guys, I urge you to listen to Let It Happen!
They’re from Cincinnati and said that Pittsburgh is prettier, so LOL Christina.
They had some very die-hard fans in the crowd, so that was fun to watch. I would for sure go see them again, and now I’m kicking myself for not going to the Speak Low If You Speak Love show they played at last month at Smiling Moose, because that would have been a beautiful venue to see them at. I love Smiling Moose. I do not love Xtaza. Xtaza is cold.
They were totally worth enduring a day alone among strangers.
Eternal Boy was next and it was big deal because the singer—Rishi—is the guy who organized Four Chord. Eternal Boy used to be the Space Pimps which is a band that pretty much anyone who was even remotely a part of the local Pittsburgh scene over the last decade should have least heard of. And again, another band that I might have been quick to dismiss if there was an option to see a different band on another stage, but I’m REALLY GLAD there wasn’t because they were great. Rishi at one point was like, “I have a mic and you don’t” and went on to voice his disdain for the current state of things, and then dedicated the next song to minorities, LGBTQ, women, and anyone who feels at risk, and then apologized on behalf of this idiotic country, at which point I lost my shit and just sobbed like a baby because I’m a woman and probably about to be on my period.
Any band whose tag line is “music for the nostalgic and broken-hearted” is right up my alley.
Keep Flying was the last band to play on the small stage and they were mildly ska-ish but I tried! Oh lord, did I try. I also tried to buy a fucking Four Chord shirt but the credit card thing wasn’t working by then so it was cash only and HENRY ONLY GAVE ME $15. And that was just because there was supposedly a food truck outside just for Four Chord but then there was no re-entry, so…..?
By this point it was after 6. I watched a little bit of Hawthorne Heights for old time’s sake but shit, I was so cold that I was actually shivering and standing with my hands tucked under my armpits like I was some kind of bro, and I was beginning to get dizzy because I was hungry and I can’t even just be hungry without a side of MAJOR DRAMA AND THEATRICS. So Henry and Chooch came and got me and we went to Eat n Park where I ordered the salad bar and ate with my jacket on because I COULD NOT WARM UP.
I had so much adrenaline coursing through me for the next several hours, as I excitedly recounted to Henry and Chooch all of the bands I saw that day, but then 9:00 rolled around and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even watch The Walking Dead.
What a great day. <3