My Nostalgia – 2004

My Nostalgia

How does our music scene follow-up a year like 2003? With many of the bands that had released breakout albums the previous couple of years coming back for seconds. We’re at a spot where this music scene is riding a wave. Blink-182 helped bring pop-punk into the mainstream, and bands like New Found Glory, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, Sum 41, and Yellowcard are spearheading the next wave. 2004 is where New Found Glory drop Catalyst, Sum 41 return with Chuck, Jimmy Eat World tears us open with Futures, and Green Day takes back the crown with the massive American Idiot. And it’s the year where a bunch of new artists appear in our lives. We’ll see Straylight Run, Name Taken, The Spill Canvas, and Northstar all release albums that captivate the community. We’ll get Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety and an extremely polarizing Taking Back Sunday record.1

2004 marks the spot where I wrap up this My Nostalgia series. I started in 1998, and the Back To series began in 2005. So, 2004 is the crossroads. It’s everything that led into that next crest of bands that so many of you reading grew up with. It’s where AbsolutePunk undeniably took off to new levels and my life shifts from this website being a project I was doing for fun, into something I will dedicate the next 15 years of my life to.

Let’s head back. It’s 2004. This is the period of my junior year of college and a little bit of my senior year. I’m growing frustrated with classes. I’ve changed my major to business, and yet the classes run from seemingly obvious (marketing) to things I definitely don’t want to ever do (accounting), and what I want to be doing (working on AbsolutePunk) is squeezed in between all of the regular college things. Except, this year, there’s one little tweak. A bunch of my close college friends, including my roommate from the previous two years, will study abroad for a semester. Most of them are going to Salzburg. For a brief moment, I think I’m going too; I even get a passport. But then I find out that the house we’d all be staying at gets very weak, at best, internet. While the website is beginning to blow up, I’d have to, in many ways, put a pause on it for a semester to get the full experience of studying abroad. I decide I can’t do it.2 So now I’m back at school, and most of the people I spent the previous two years with aren’t there. I’m living off-campus in an apartment with some people I only knew tangentially from the earlier years. I spend most of the time at my girlfriend’s apartment with her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend. But it doesn’t feel the same. I’m wandering. I’m feeling restless. I’m feeling trapped in a rut. Everyone around me is stressed about trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, and I feel like I have the answer but not the time to commit to it. I start thinking about just dropping out of college to work on the website full time. It’s making some money; I could get a part-time job, maybe even keep living somewhere around the campus and hang out with my friends? When my girlfriend at the time decides she’s going to go abroad the next semester, I see an opening. I propose to my parents that I take the next semester off.

They flip their shit.

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  1. Lasers anyone?

  2. I sometimes ask myself if I regret this decision, and I don’t think I do, even if I wish I had those memories with my friends. I still see their pictures and think about what might have been.

My Nostalgia – 2003

My Nostalgia

Heading back to reflect on 2003 is going to be a difficult one.

It’s arguably one of the most critical years in my musical journey, but that comes with some scars. This week we continue the trek by exploring the end of my sophomore year of college, that summer, and into the start of my junior year. AbsolutePunk has shed its fan-page skin and become a website for all the music I want to talk about, and it’s starting to see traffic on levels I never expected. I’m running it from my dorm room; I’m getting so much mail I get banned from the college post office, in class I’m sketching new ideas for what I want to do next with the website, between classes I’m updating it from the computer lab with news.

Things are getting a little wild.

And then, in the span of these next couple of years, the scene explodes like a thunderclap.

It’s difficult to properly put this year in context because the albums coming out feel like rapid fire on reflection. There’s so many. And so many of them that had a massive influence on the music scene, and me personally, that it’s virtually impossible to talk about all of them. Albums like Thursday’s War All The Time and Further Seems Forever’s How to Start a Fire could be deconstructed in entire articles. I could tell stories about how I was convinced Matchbook Romance was about to blow up and late-night AIM chats with the band about signing to Epitaph and coming up with their new band name. This is the year of AFI’s Sing the Sorrow and The Ataris’ one dance in the spotlight with So Long, Astoria. It’s the year of Rufio’s inexplicably recorded vocals and MCMLXXV. And it’s the year of Ben Gibbard flexing with Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism and The Postal Service’s Give Up. I mean, get the fuck out of here with that Ben!

I could write treatises about all of those albums and more. They all had an outsized impact on my life, who I became, and the kind of music I enjoy. But to really deconstruct my musical taste and the music scene’s trajectory as a whole, I need to focus on a specific five.

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My Nostalgia – 2002

My Nostalgia

Last week’s article in this series felt like a turning point. 2001 was the year I left home, went off to college, experienced 9/11, and turned AbsolutePunk into a website about more than just two bands. And now, looking at 2002, the years start to blend into a period that’s less defined by where I was in school. Previously, each year correlated well with each grade of school, but now in college, things are more mixed. 2002 is roughly sophomore year of college, but there are parts of it anchored to the surrounding grades as well. This leads to my memory being slightly blurred when trying to pull what exactly happened when together; however, one thing is crystal clear. 2002 is a year when pop-punk and our scene absolutely exploded1 in popularity.

It’s 2002. I’m 19. I’m now in my second year in sunny southern California, and I am playing a part in all its stereotypes. Bleached blonde tips, puka shells, hoop earrings, Atticus, Rip Curl, and Macbeth clothing pouring off me like surfer wannabe syrup. I’ve been indoctrinated into the slang. I now know it’s “soda” and not “pop.” The previous summer back home was one of the most interesting in my life. Everyone coming back from their first year of college and meeting up, almost itching to show off the changes. The shy kids who are now the life of the party. The previously unpopular groups are bursting with confidence after a year away from the chains of high school labels. The roles and friendships rekindled. And everyone wants to share their drinking/smoking weed stories. Everyone has become a mini-mixologist in their first year away and is dying to tell you about it. It’s glorious; it’s hilarious; it’s summer.

And now, as I start the new school year, I feel like I’m settling into college life. My college roommate and I install an air conditioning unit in our dorm room that is so old it looks like it’s part of the building. While everyone else gets in trouble for their new, modern units, we go unnoticed and spend the year with the only air-conditioned room in the entire hall. I also discover that the cable TV that runs through the dorm (that we’re supposed to pay for) is simply a box in the ceiling that you can just plug right in if you have the right cables and adapters. So we do. And we now have free cable. It’s a year of immaturity, hijinks, and tales that we re-tell time and time again while laughing at the absurdity of our youth. I honestly can’t believe some of the stuff we got away with. And around us, there’s a pop-punk utopia blossoming. Not that far away, Drive-Thru Records is pumping out the height of their catalog (teamed with MCA Records). [deep breath] The Starting Line release their debut album, Midtown release Living Well is the Best Revenge, New Found Glory release Sticks & Stones, Home Grown release Kings of Pop, Allister releases Last Stop, Suburbia, Something Corporate drops Leaving Through the Window, Finch releases What it is to Burn, and The Early November release their EPs. [exhale]

Holy. Shit.

And that’s just the stuff related to that label.

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  1. dot net

My Nostalgia – 2001

My Nostalgia

The cliché goes that the music you listen to in your most formative years is the music that will stay with you forever. And, while the past couple of weeks have touched on some of the most important years of my life, nothing comes close to 2001 in terms of “formative.”

It’s 2001. I’m 18. At the beginning of the year I’m completing my senior year of high school. At this age, I’m well aware it’s always been expected of me to go to college; that’s just what you do after high school. But it was never a huge draw or goal for me. School felt like such a waste of time. I felt like I was on the frontlines of technology, the internet, and all I wanted to do was spend hours online exploring and learning about computers and programming while listening to pop-punk music and eating Red Vines. The idea of four more years of sitting in class felt positively soul-sucking, but there was no way in hell I wanted to stay and live at home with my parents either. I wanted out. And I wanted to go to sunny California, somewhere the polar opposite of the rain-soaked Oregon I had known my entire life. Somewhere I associated with all these punk bands in my CD collection. So I applied only to colleges in California and one of the Oregon schools as a back-up. The University of Redlands offered me the most money. The campus was gorgeous, it was in southern California, and that was good enough for me. I knew I would be leaving my childhood friends behind, they’d scatter to other schools across the country, and I’d be leaving my girlfriend.1 But I needed to get out. Desperately.

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  1. There was an ill-fated attempt at long distance, but that was a horribly stupid idea.

My Nostalgia – 2000

My Nostalgia

In hindsight, the year 2000 is the last year I lived without an overarching feeling of cynicism toward the world. The year 2000 is also where my musical collection exploded to multiple giant binders of CDs filled with youth-defining pop-punk albums. And the year 2000 is when I first registered the AbsolutePunk.net domain name.

It’s the year 2000. We just survived the hype of Y2K and all the fears of computers crashing and arguments about if the millennium starts now or next year. I’m 17. I’m a junior in high school and obsessed with Blink-182 and MxPx. Blink-182 had released Enema of the State the previous year and would drop their monster single, “All the Small Things,” in January. Their popularity and fame would skyrocket as a result. My online life had just begun; I’m playing around with a hilariously ugly website that I have called “Absolute Punk,” and spending most of my evenings on AIM talking with friends and making new ones to share music with. And this is where I start to see my musical tastes coalesce around a few new themes.

First, because of MxPx, I’m getting really into various bands on Tooth & Nail and adjacent labels — the so-called “Christian bands.” This includes Slick Shoes with Wake Up Screaming, Craig’s Brother’s Homecoming, and a new online friend really into this music telling me about this album from a band called Relient K that, in their words, “are like if Blink-182 didn’t sing about dicks and cuss and had way more harmonies.” I ended up finding the album in a Christian bookstore and was immediately annoyed at it coming in this weird nonstandard plastic case that didn’t fit on my shelves. However, I was hooked moments later as the music blared from my car as I sped down the highway playing it through one of those CD to cassette audio adapters. Many of my musical memories from this era are tied to that car, that hilarious CD player jammed between the seats, and colossal CD binders shoved underneath them. From picking up my two friends on the way to school each morning, to making lunch dashes, to cruising around the town after school, or on weekends, trying to find any excuse for us not to go home quite yet. Homecomings, a prom, basement video game marathons of Perfect Dark with friends, and all kinds of teenage “firsts.” It’s all soundtracked in my head by the albums of this era. These memories all go hand-in-hand with the albums I was drawn to at the time. I wanted something bouncy, loud, fast, and fun. Something with some energy. Probably something talking about teenage life and heartbreak. And 2000 delivered music of that variety, in spades.

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My Nostalgia – 1999

My Nostalgia

1999 was the year we all got enemas.

If 1998 was the year I first felt the pull to music and the idea that a band and a sound could be my very own, 1999 was the year I saw what happened when that feeling went mainstream. In 1999 Blink-182 released Enema of the State and blew the fuck up. Over the years, people have asked me why I think this album, and this band, had the impact they did on so many people and why they were the ones to help bring this sound into the mainstream. I don’t really have the answer to that question, but what I do know is my story and why the band resonated with me in the way it did. I can only extrapolate outward from the reasons I ended up with posters of the band all over my wall and more Hurley t-shirts than any one child should own.

It’s 1999. I’m on the precipice of turning 16. The previous year was one of the most formidable for my young music tastes. I discovered punk and pop-punk music for the first time and began diving into anything that sounded remotely in that genre. I have my first real girlfriend. I have my first real “heartbreak.” Both are textbook examples of young stupidity and arrogant jealousy. Neither are helped by listening to music that reinforces the idea that girls are there to break my heart, and I’m the one that’s been wronged in all situations if my emotions have been hurt.1 Blink-182 and specifically Enema of the State played into this disaffected suburban youth mentality perfectly. It was a band and album that rebelled just enough and showcased what I wanted to believe I could be: a cool guy that just likes to goof around and have fun with my friends. Some girls try too hard; I’m just out there acting immature and weird for the laughs; where’s my dog? It’s a combination of music (catchy, fast, pop but with just enough of an edge to be cool), aesthetic (clothes, attitude, southern California vibe), and mentality (fuck it let’s just dick around, adults be damned), that was utterly addicting to a sixteen-year-old in suburban Oregon. And I ate it all up. I still remember begging my mom to pick the album up for me on release day so it would be there when I got off the bus. She did. I don’t think that CD left my CD player for months after. It was everything I wanted. And it went beyond the music; I wanted to be Blink-182. When I turned on my TV, I saw Backstreet Boys, NSync, and 98 Degrees dominating TRL. And I looked at the Boy Bands and thought, “I don’t look like them, I don’t act like them, is this who I am supposed to be?” and then I saw these three dudes running around naked with spiked hair and baggy t-shirts and skater shoes and it was the first time I had a model for something different. This was all pre-internet, pre-being able to find others to look up to or model your style or life around. I had MTV, some magazines, and now this new window into a world I didn’t know existed. This southern California skate/surfer vibe was like unlocking a part of my brain that said, “there are others out there that are going through similar shit, they made it through, they’re having fun, you can too.” So right as I’m seeing this world start to open up in front of me in the form of these bands, I also go to my first concert.

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  1. ??

My Nostalgia – 1998

My Nostalgia

Over the past ten weeks, I’ve been looking at the old AbsolutePunk best-of lists and reevaluating my end of the year lists from some of the prime years in our music scene. But what happened before 2005? Over the next few weeks, I’d like to explore the very early years of AbsolutePunk and the music that helped shape my life.

It’s 1998. I’m 15. Every school dance is playing “Gettin Jiggy Wit It,” and boy bands are just beginning their reign. My clothes are too big. My musical taste is mostly made up of whatever my friends have been listening to. There was a grunge phase in middle school. I listened to a lot of Nirvana. A friend’s brother showed us Dookie. There was a Snoop Dog, Boyz II Men, and Salt-N-Peppa thing that happened in elementary school. I don’t remember it that much, but I remember a friend sharing some cassettes with me. And I was a child of the ’80s. I liked Michael Jackson. I had the Batman soundtrack by Prince. I listened to the music my dad would play on the record player every Sunday morning: The Beatles, Elvis, Simon & Garfunkel, John Denver. But my musical identity? The music that I called my own? The obsession with needing to listen to something every single second of the day? At this point in time, it didn’t exist. My closest friends were listening to Metallica and Pantera. I liked it well enough, but it never quite connected with me. It felt like the Nautica shirts I was wearing at the time, a costume I wore because everyone else was. This period, between 1997 and 1998, is where everything changed.

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