Pop Culture Is A Gift

I used to go to a lot of concerts. Now, I do not. Live music is for all ages and I would never be such a self-absorbed jackass as to say otherwise, but as I, personally, get older, I have a much harder time getting the energy output to reward ratio of going to a concert to a point that seems satisfying to me.

There are a handful of venues that are club-sized or smaller but still have seating, and I am very grateful for them, because stadium venues are terrible for a wide variety of reasons and club-sized venues that require standing on concrete for the duration of the show are awful because my back/knees/feet have noped out of that and as long as I can’t turn back time to a younger body, they will remain a nonstarter.

Sometimes, though, putting yourself through the stadium venue experience is worth it, because that’s the only way you can see one of those acts that makes your heart happy. Which is to say, I saw Fall Out Boy on their MANIA tour last night (excuse me, their M A  N   I    A tour, that’s a Fibonacci sequence of spacing, they’re so Like That, I love them), and it was worth the drive, and the crowds, and the stairs up to my seat in the nosebleeds.

This should be where a long essay on my history with Fall Out Boy goes, and how I figured out that I love them, and what they mean to me. I am not, at present, able to write that essay. Some parts of it are too boring to share, and other parts are too personal; some of those too-personal parts are still raw and bleeding. Still other parts are just very silly, to be honest. That’s usually how it goes with something pop-cultural that you really love: it’s transcendent and mundane, it’s wrapped up in the really deep essence of you and also it’s the most purely trivial thing. Maybe that’s what makes these bits of fundamental ephemera so special; they’re nothing and they’re everything and they let us divide up into tribes of shared signals and understanding.

I spent $35 on a very ugly t-shirt and I have zero regrets.

Since they came back from their hiatus (breakup) (sorry guys) in 2013, Fall Out Boy has developed a clever marketing strategy where each album contains the typical mix of radio-friendly singles and core-fangroup-directed esoteric *THING (call it emo if you want, call it poetry, it doesn’t matter), and then, the cherry on top, one single that they can market to sports leagues as a banger for use in commercials and breaks in play while officials are conversing. These are anthems cooked up in a lab for sports-league use, and it’s easy to view them very cynically as vehicles to send the band members’ children to private schools and, eventually, a branded wing at Harvard, or possibly Northwestern, since they’re from Chicago and all.

But tucked in with the cynicism is the fact that each song also has one purely perfect line that hits the exact same *THING button as the fangroup-directed songs above. These lines pull the songs back into the core before they can fly out into pure commercial stock product. It’s my favorite thing about Second Era FOB. I’ll happily spend hours panning for those bits of gold.

From the three songs released so far from M A  N   I    A, the sports anthem is “Champion,” and it does have a bit of gold in it, but my favorite line is in “Last of the Real Ones”: “You’re the last of a dying breed, write our names in the wet concrete/I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me.”

First you say “What?” and then you say “Actually, yes, exactly,” and then you put on your ugly t-shirt and think about writing a line that makes someone else feel that way. Pop culture is amazing, don’t let anyone tell you any different.