It was back to Cleveland on Sunday to catch Craig Owens on his solo run. I was so thankful that it was another weekend show, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it and then you’d all have to suffer through bitchy angst-ridden posts for at least two weeks. Another thing I was thankful for was the fact that Alisha and I dusted off our friendship earlier in the year and that she was willing to spend time with me in an enclosed space and see some bands she didn’t know much about. Thank god for Alisha!
Before we exited Pennsylvania, we stopped at Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch, and I brought in my empty Starbucks cup in hopes of disposing it because I have issues about leaving garbage in the car, something Henry is very insensitive of, do not get me started, DO NOT. My anxiety of seeing Craig Owens was starting to make me do stupid things, like squeal a lot, squirt soap all over my arm in the restroom, and stash the empty coffee cup in my purse UPSIDE DOWN upon discovering there was no garbage can outside the restaurant, so Alisha suggested I order an adult beverage. She slid the drink menu toward me, but I go, “No, I’m good. Seriously.” I think she was relieved when I ordered water instead of more coffee, but after a few more minutes of me giggling degenerately and doing weird breathing exercises, she was all, “No really, I insist” and then I found myself getting carded over a Sangria which made me VERY HAPPY. Especially when I got to pull my ID out of my iCarly purse.
After we left, I realized that when I retardedly stashed the empty coffee cup upside down in my purse, the remnants spilled out right onto the painting I made for Craig. Henry had painstakingly (not really, but he did act put-out that I asked him to do it) wrapped it for me that morning and it was completely stained on one side. “I can’t give him something that looks like it was fished from a dumpster, what the fuck am I going to do?” and I could tell that Alisha was preparing to pull over and have me sedated, but I was OK once I peeled the painting out and saw that it remained untainted. The envelope to the card, however, was also stained. So I outlined it and turned it into a dumb little creature and prayed for the best.
There was a rogue diaper strewn across the backseat, and I considered wrapping the painting in that, you know, to keep it safe and give it some pizzazz. “I can guarantee he’s never received anything wrapped in a diaper,” Alisha said. And it would soften the blow when I lost my nerve to hand it to him, and ended up chucking it at his head and bolting. But ultimately, I decided that messing with it any further would likely turn into a disaster, so I stashed the painting in the backseat and tried very hard to forget about it.
And then I was fine, really fucking fine, until we made it to Cedar Road, which was the third to the last street we needed before reaching the Grog Shop. That’s when I started getting all stupid and dizzy-feeling and Alisha began tensing up because my anxiety was contagious and then I fucked up the directions and she cried a little. It was an amazing 15 mile track of emotional roller coaster. And it only got better after we parked and began walking the street, looking for a place to pee, only to settle on a grocery store in which I accidentally locked myself in the restroom and then BROKE MY ICARLY PURSE trying to break out. It was awful. Who was going to take me seriously without a purse that says “LOL” on the zipper pull?
Because I’m not normal, I really enjoy standing in line before doors open. It’s a great opportunity to people watch and make enemies, which almost always is inevitable. This time it was immediate, so that was fucking lovely. I overheard a girl behind me mention she had seen Chiodos last year at Club Zoo, so I excused myself for butting in, and then asked, “Are you from Pittsburgh? We’re from Pittsburgh,” you know, just trying to make convo with someone to kill time. Well, this dumb ginger bitch was all, “Um, yeah, kind of, but not really” but the way she said it? It came out like a word-encapsulated scoff dipped in a vat of holy attitude jam and wrapped in pretension and I swear to god I wanted to punch it right back into her crooked-toothed maw. It was like a hobo having the audacity to speak to Paris Hilton, is exactly what she made me feel like. My hate bell was ding dang RUNG, bitches.
A few minutes later, I heard her complain about there being so many scene kids there and my palms were instantly half-mooned. Seriously? What did she think SHE was with her Stay Positive hoodie, day-glo t-shirt and seam-popping skinny jeans? And you all know how deep my scene kid love runs, so she was really stirring my pot. And she had hideous lime green eye liner on and I wanted to spit on her eyeballs and scrub it off with a Brillo pad, that dumb whore. You are in line with a bunch of people who share the same love of music as you do, so put a fucking hat on the hate, Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t even be making fun of her right now if she hadn’t opened up the ignorance spout. I can’t stand that shit.
Oh, and she thought she was a regular Chelsea Handler too, with her dead-panned commentary of every fucker who walked past us. I kept making faces at Alisha and hissing, “SHE IS SO NOT FUNNY WTF??” And unbeknownst to me, one of her minions heard me talking shit on her and ratted me out. Alisha knew of this, and was wise enough to not tell me until much later when we were inside because she didn’t feel like dealing with a fight. But evidently the girl was all, “I don’t care!” and Alisha said something else non-threatening was said but it wasn’t bad enough for her to remember I guess. And when she told me this, we were sitting at the bar, and I found myself scanning the room looking for that douchebarrel so I could kill her. Alisha reminded me that she was underage. I DON’T CARE.
So no, I guess that pickled tampon really wasn’t a scene kid; she wasn’t awesome enough.
Aside from that. the wait in line was cold yet entertaining. We got to watch some boys in front of act like assholes with a half-full bottle of Vitamin Water and Alisha was braced to call 911. It ended up bursting at one point, the contents splashing right past my feet. I cried, “I so knew that was going to happen!” and they were genuinely apologetic, which I was NOT expecting. They kept asking, “Are you sure it didn’t get on your shoes? I’m so sorry!” and then the one boy was all, “And those are really cool shoes, too, by the way” and I was like, “OMG a scene kid accepted me!” and I was so happy and Alisha was like, “You are so pathetic” but I could NOT STOP SMILING even though it was like 40 degrees and I wasn’t wearing a coat. I seriously smile like a mentally incapacitated farm hand the entire time. When I later relayed to Henry that for once people were approaching me left and right, I hypothesized that it must be my darker hair. But Henry goes, “No, it’s because you didn’t have a 44-year-old man standing next to you.” Touche, Henry.
There was also this crazy phenomenon where, no matter where we stood, passers-by trying to get into the neighboring sports bar or Chipotle would always cut in front of us. But not without a warm “Excuse me” and a smile. Alisha was getting annoyed, and finally deduced that it was because of me, not her, because she was not wearing an inviting expression like I was. “I’m like, the golden entrance,” I said with a shrug, and then decided that sounded like a porno so it became even more apropos. Alisha’s final straw was when some guy said, “Chinese cut!” before squeezing past us. I couldn’t stop laughing. Two of the guys from VersaEmerge — the fantastic opening band — chose me to squeeze past as well, and they were both very gentlemanly and friendly about it. Especially the drummer, with whom I wound up dancing in my effort to step out of his way when he tried to enter the Grog Shop, and we shared a laugh over that so you know, we’re bros now obviously. And every time this would happen, I would turn to Alisha and laugh and she would roll her eyes.
Inside, the doorman was all taken aback that I was ready to greet him with my ID, because apparently we were the first people over-21 he had encountered in line so far. It was hilarious, but once the room started filling up, I was shocked at how many older people had turned out to support Craig. It was a beautiful thing. Especially since we sat at the bar most of the night and I proceeded to get drunk off cider and walk into the men’s room two fucking times in a row, like it was my first time in a fucking bar.
VersaEmerge and The Color Fred preceded Craig, and both had excellent sets, although Fred’s went on a little longer than we liked. It had a little to do with the fact that he broke a string, twice, and only had one guitar. Both times that happened, he allowed people to go on stage and tell a joke while he rushed to restring. One of my Vitamin Water friends went up and told a joke and I was like, “OMG YES!” and clapped and screamed real loud, and Alisha was all, “STFU.” But that was our BOY Tony, I said to her! And then I wondered aloud if he still had a price sticker on his ass, which Alisha prevented me from telling him about in line because it would be too “mom-like.”
But VersaEmerge were incredible, and not just because the singer was a really hot chick with magnificent scene hair. Alisha ran off to buy their EP but swore it had nothing to do with her fast-developing crush. And later, we chatted with their bassist Devin, when he came over to the bar for a drink and I had to rub my eyes because that boy did not look 21. He was very down-to-earth and personable, and seemed genuinely humbled when he saw Alisha’s copy of their EP resting on the bar in front of her. After he retreated with his drinks, the bartender paused to talk to us about how nice he was, and how she’s much more willing to cater to bands who are kind.
“The boys in Agnostic Front? Some of the nicest guys I have ever dealt with, no lie,” and that was when she noticed that I was drinking Woodchuck. “Ever tried Strongbow?” she asked, and then proceeded to sell me the perks of the English import. She gave me a sample in a plastic cup, and when I agreed that it was really so much better than Woodchuck, she set a tall glass of it in front of me and said, “That one’s on me.”
I really love the fucking Grog Shop.
But what I didn’t really fucking love was the texts I was getting from Henry, keeping me abreast of the Pens game, which they lost. It nearly ruined my night. I’m sure Alisha thought that I was reading a text alerting me to a horrible accident at the homefront, but when I tilted my phone her way and she saw that I was just reading the score to the hockey game, she was like, “Oh” and then quickly added, “That sucks.”
By the time Craig walked past us, I was feeling REALLY FUCKING good. So good, in fact, that I was able to enjoy the entire set without bawling, sobbing, shaking, or obsessing over giving him that fucking painting. I just remember smiling so big and feeling happy and lucky to be sitting there with Craig singing a few feet away.
He started with “Letter From Janelle” and I was all, “Oh yay!” and next thing I knew my fingers were involuntarily curving into heart-formation, and Alisha was happy too because she likes that song, and it was just good, so so so good. He did a Bright Eyes cover, two Cinematic Sunrise tracks (I thought of my friend Jessa when he busted out “You Told Me You Loved Me”), and the most beautifully heart-stopping acoustic version of “Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek” that I ever could have imagined possible and I know I was beaming like a five-year-old getting a unicorn and a Mogwai all on the same Christmas. And maybe also like Henry when he was getting a hand job, the Vick’s VapoRub edition, from a Thai hooker. OK, maybe my grin was not so sleazy. I hope, anyway.
But then today I watched a video of it that s0meone posted and since I no longer have hard cider acting as a dam for my emotions, I got all emotional band-y and cried a little. But seriously, this song has some prime fucking real estate staked out on my heart.
Craig was happy and full of humor and stories. I didn’t expect to go to this show and laugh! He said “J/K” for some reason, and some girl up front mocked him. He was all, “Did you just mock me? I’ll punch you in your face, little girl” and I started to think, “Wow, he could punch me in my face anyday!” but then I remembered that I don’t like anyone that much to receive a fisted gift in the grill. Not even my own son, but he still does it anyway.
So, Craig admitted that the reason he was so happy was because he’s in love now, and like any good fangirl, I already knew about his girlfriend (who is so freaking cute, by the way). He wrote a song for her, tentatively titled “Song For Joanna” and before he played it, he had everyone sit on the floor, and then he, Brian (Isles & Glaciers, ex-Receiving End of Sirens) and Nick (of Underminded, Cinematic Sunrise, Isles & Glaciers) all sat at the edge of the stage, sans microphones, and Craig proceeded to serenade the room campfire-style. It was intimate and absolutely beautiful. They played the rest of the set like that, including “Vacation to Hell” which he wrote when he was 16, and “Intensity in Ten Cities” (one of my favorite songs off Bone Palace Ballet and Chiodos never plays it live). It was like nothing I had ever experienced at a show before. That alone was worth it.
He is so beautiful, in a myriad of ways, and I could barely stand it.
After the show, we ran back to the car so I could grab the painting, and then spent the next 30 minutes or so standing in a small group of anxious fans eager to say hello to him. I realized there was a half-assed line forming, and Alisha and I were sort of off to the side of it. A young couple heard me mention it and turned around to say it probably wasn’t a big deal.
“I’m not trying to cut in line and take away anyone’s time with Craig. In fact, I don’t even want to talk to him. I just need to hand him this painting and then run away.” So then we started chatting a bit (I almost said “for a spell” because apparently I’m an eighty-year-old now) and the boy member of the couple reached out to touch my arm (this is according to Alisha, as I was kind of hammered) as a means to console me since I was probably blubbering on about how I’m a social reject. Alisha said his girlfriend seemed angered by the physical contact and that was the end of that convo.
While standing around, I was thinking about how awesome it was that there was such a large turn-out of older people; but then I saw one of those older people (a ginger around my age, I guess) who was so drunk she was laying on the floor and being a general nuisance, and suddenly I remembered why I enjoy shows that have a primarily under-age attendance. Alisha thought she was hot.
Eventually, my bartender friend emerged from the back and gave us the bad news that Craig wasn’t feeling well and therefore was not going to be able to come and talk to us. I was disappointed for about .000005 seconds until I realized, “Hey, now I don’t have to unravel into an overzealous and embarrassing display of verbal impotence.” Spotting Nick Martin coiling up some wire on the stage, I decided to just pawn it off on him, but felt like an absolute heel in doing so. It’s like, “Hey faceless boy who plays guitar with Craig, this token of appreciation is NOT for, can you please give it to Craig? Wait, what did you say your name was?” But really, I love Nick. I think he’s amazingly talented and I tried to convey that as eloquently as possible as a preface to my request, but unfotunately it sounded more like, “Oh wow, you were awesome. You guys were awesome. What an awesome show. Would be awesome to see you in Pittsburgh. How ’bout the awesome weather. I’m upchucking the awesome. Oh, and can you give this to Craig thanks see ya.” I felt awful about it, but he was so sweet and said, “I promise you this will be in his hands tonight.”
I know, wow, fan art. How fucking precious. But, you know. Craig’s lyrics are what inspired a lot of my paintings. So what better way to say thanks than to give him one that’s made especially for him. I trust that Nick gave it to him, and I feel content and even a little relieved, to know that maybe, in some small way, I might have been able to touch Craig’s life like he has touched mine. And I don’t care how cornville that sounds, motherfucker.
On the way home, I stared out the window at the dark, malignant expanse of forest next to the highway and asked, “Do you ever wonder if someone, right now as we drive by, is getting murdered in those woods?”
In a horrified tone, Alisha answered, “Um no. But now I am, thanks.”