Death Cab, Cutie, and Me

Ben Gibbard at Union Chapel

Ben Gibbard at Union Chapel

The first time I listened to Death Cab for Cutie I was 12. The O.C. Mix 1 began my musical education with the kind of indie bands that spoke ever so lovingly to the isolating feelings of entering teenagerhood. I took my pink iPod mini with me everywhere the summer I turned 13, and for the first time gave my life a soundtrack. This was only the beginning.

It was around 16 when I first saw a Coachella lineup. Death Cab was listed, along with most of the other bands I was listening to at the time. I didn’t know much about California beyond the wonders of Sea World, but I knew they were getting something right if something existed where you could see all the music you loved in one place. And I wanted to be there. My live music experience in Upstate New York was limited to a few outdoor amphitheater Dave Matthews shows, and one 18+ John Browns Body show for which I strategically convinced a stranger to vouch as my mother so I could get in. I knew I couldn’t stay somewhere with such limited access to music.

I was 21 when I first saw Ben Gibbard play live. He played an all-acoustic set in a beautiful church venue called Union Chapel in Islington. None of my friends had been excited by the idea, so for the first time I went to a show alone. I got there early and sat in the second row, listening to an episode of This American Life about what happened to military Dogs after WWII (or was it WWI?) until the show started. I started weeping with joy as soon as he started playing, and I knew the words to every song he played. It was magical.

I went on to see The Postal Service play that April at Coachella. I sat behind the Greek in Berkeley with friends to listen to them play for free a few months later. When Death Cab came to town last August, Lina and I saw them play at The Independent. We saw them again the following day at Outside Lands. We’re flying down to see them play their new album at the Hollywood Bowl this July. Ben Gibbard really never gets old.

I might say that Death Cab is to me what the Beatles were to my dad, but the Beatles are arguably the other greatest musical influence in my life. Death Cab has been there for me in my most formative years, and grown with me on my journey towards adulthood. This NPR article hits the nail on the head describing the impact Death Cab has had on a generation, and I encourage you to read it.

I suggest taking a listen to their new album. You never know what might strike a chord with you, wherever in your journey you may be.

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Mind Over Matter

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I was recently sitting with my friend Lizzie before she went onstage to perform at a student showcase concert. Eyeing the performers onstage I turned to Lizzie and said, “So do you just not have the part of your brain that recognizes this situation as terrifying?” (mentally referring to the concept of being able to switch off one’s inner critic to do something out of the ordinary in public). “No way,” she responded, “Every time I’m about to go up on stage or perform in front of people I get terrified, but I just tell myself, ‘You have no choice. These people came here for something, and you are going to give it to them.’ And then I just do it. I channel my nervous energy into the belief that I can do anything, and the confidence that I will.”

This idea, so simple and eloquent, really hit home with me. I forget sometimes, as I think many people do, that overcoming fears, whether rational or not, is a matter we as individuals are entirely in control of. So the next time you feel afraid, stop for a moment and mentally channel that feeling into the confidence to overcome your fear. Remember that you’re the one in charge.

In the meantime, check out Lizzie and her amazing band, RiverRan, here.

No Excuses, Play Like A Champion

url-1Friends on the east coast are always surprised when they hear about my annual pilgrimage to Coachella. Whenever the topic comes up I hear the same frustrating sentence, nearly word for word. “I would love to go to Coachella, but it conflicts with school/work/life. Maybe someday.”

It isn’t this sentence that bugs me so much, but the mentality, the attitude implied.

Someday I plan on having a family, a few kids, and a well established 401k. Now is the time to do the things that responsibility will prevent (or at least make logistically more difficult) later in life.

When I first began making the mid-April pilgrimage to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival back in 2010, I had no idea that the festival would come to have a major impact on my life. As a lover of live music, I had dreamed about going to Coachella ever since first coming across my dream line-up of bands as a wee sixteen-year-old.  So when my freshman year of college rolled around and I finally had the opportunity to go, I jumped at the chance, and never looked back.

Each year that I’ve returned to Coachella I’ve learned new things about myself. I’ve experienced lessons in life, love and friendship, not to mention extreme heatunexpected rainstorms, group dynamics, channeling creativity, managing expectations, being prepared, and most of all, having fun.

Every time I go to Coachella, the three days of the festival seem to be concurrently the longest and shortest days of the year. I try to take a moment, each time I wait in line to enter the campsite on the Thursday evening before the festivities begin, to appreciate where I am, and the joyful rumpus that I know is about to take place. I know that before I have the chance to blink I will be strapped into an airplane seat, dirty and tired, with six to eight hours of travel ahead of me. It is during this time that I am best able to reflect on the year that has led up to this moment, and think back through my years of previous Coachellas.

I’ll leave you with a few nuggets of wisdom that I have collected over the last four years. 

When it comes to getting out of your comfort zone, don’t let yourself make excuses. Go on adventures with the people that you love. You will never regret getting to know them better, and you will learn more about yourself in the process. It may come as a surprise, but you can always learn new things about yourself, if you take the time to do so. You can never be too prepared, and you will never regret time spent appreciating art and nature.

 I may go back to Coachella next year, I may not, but I will be heading to Burning Man for the first time this August so I know one thing for sure: many more adventures await me.