At the time of United by Fate‘s release, I was mostly brooding about Jeff Buckley‘s death and listening to the Cure. Not only was I just starting to discover hidden jewels of the music world that had been unavailable to me until then, but unlike most kids my age, I had no understanding of why punk music, lifestyle, and ideology (or what is considered punk by 14-year-olds) was so great, what the big deal was all about. To me it failed to convey a message, through excessive enthusiasm, happy-go-lucky melodies and repetitive, chant-like choruses. At the time, I never thought I’d forget what being a teenager felt like – that all this pain would find its way out of me somehow, that more than ten years later I’d sit in a room, writing about the way I can’t for the sake of me remember why it was so important to feel like I belonged somewhere.Walter Schreifels at Szene, May 2010
So my introduction to punk (and hardcore, and post-hardcore, and everything-in-between) came a little bit later, after I’d mourned the fall of Grace and Buckley‘s ghost long enough. God knows how it started; maybe it was spending too much time with musicians and kids who’d manage bands and kids who went on tour with other kids who played music and getting introduced to the bassist and to the drummer and to the guitarist and having my hair and my jeans and my non-existent tattoos not be right but it didn’t matter – there, suddenly, between Dimitrij and Mineral and Jimmy Eat World and Belle Epoque and AFI I saw and felt the beauty of it, raw like a natural diamond (or insert any other metaphor that fits your liking here). Bands like Belle Epoque and Dimitrij pulled the last bits of anger out of me, AFI taught me the beauty of words, Mineral taught me to be sad and Jimmy Eat World helped me to get over things. One Last Wish saved my life more than once, and somewhere among those, there they were: Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools, all at once, hitting me in the face. And so since that moment, Walter Schreifels was in my life whether I wanted it or not – along with others, of course, but nevertheless always being first place.
When Rival Schools came on stage a couple of nights or so ago, I first held my breath, and then I remembered that they are human just as I am and that it is exactly that fact which attracted me to music in the first place – that none of these musicians are superheroes, they are men and women who make mistakes, at least just as often as I do.
I want to wring it out every ounce
I want to do the right thing when the right thing counts
I want to feel the difference to ease my doubts
Before we disappear
Standing there in that crowd with people who felt the same, raising their fists up buzzing with energy was so powerful, in spite of a sound being at times too flat, with fuzzy guitars and unclear vocals; somehow all that mattered was the passion that always kept them going, right up from the 80′s until today, often reinventing themselves, changing sound or band or side-project ever so slightly. Playing new songs such as Wring it Out – cheerfully welcomed by the crowd -, Choose Your Own Adventure, and Racing Through Red Lights and old favorites like High Acetate, Everything Has Its Point and one of my all-time favorites Undercovers On, stopping only momentarily to greet “Wien” and to reference a song from one of his old bands (“Anarchy in Vienna, Youth of Today!”), to wipe the sweat off his forehead and take off his jacket, humming the first few words from the Beatles’ Yesterday, everything was magic because it took me back to a period where little things like this mattered. The thought that maybe Rival Schools were never meant for a big stage did cross my mind, especially when …Trail of Dead (the headliner that night) started playing, synchronised voices and guitars and a sound so clear and loud at the same time, the drummer throwing his stick up in the air and catching it then keeping on playing. But they’re from a different league and so, though I’d been disappointed once by Trail of Dead, I left the venue content, vinyl under my arm and an increasing volume of memories I thought I’d forgotten coming back to me, drawing comics to Rival Schools until my hand ached on a rainy day, singing out loud with my headphones jumping stones on my way home.