I'm hitting the road in a few minutes, heading up to Chapel Hill, N.C. for Ben Folds Five's first live show in eight years, which I still kind of can't believe is actually happening.
This will date me more severely than my young professional self would
like, but I was hardly thirteen when I discovered this band, was
fourteen (nearly fifteen) when I saw them live for the first time, and
was fifteen (nearly sixteen) when they broke up in 2000. They weren't
the first band I ever loved (that distinction would undoubtedly go to
Hanson, circa summer 1997) but they were the first band I ever loved
that got me cool points with anyone (anyone that I cared about the
opinion of, at least, as I roundly despised most other Hanson fans, and
still do). Their split was my first band breakup, and smarted in that
very specific way that only first band breakups when you're
almost-sixteen and everything is awful anyway can smart.
My one consolation was that I'd seen them in concert a year before. My
cousin Marie and I somehow convinced her parents to both let us use
their credit card to buy scalped tickets to the band's show in Atlanta
for the Georgia Tech Homecoming show and to drive us down there from
Chattanooga, Tenn., where we lived. It was September 1999, and we were
one month into our freshman year of high school. We'd been to only one
other big concert before-- Hanson, Starwood Ampitheater, Nashville,
August 1998, lawn seats-- but that was with our moms and sisters. This
time, we were alone, dropped off by her parents in their giant,
bumper-sticker plastered black Suburban, on the curb at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Now, having since been a college student myself, and having marveled
even at how young each subsequent class of 18 and 19 year old freshman
seemed, I can only imagine that our respective fourteen-ness was
absolutely comically apparent. From our carefully-selected thrift store
attire to the hugely oversized and overpriced t-shirts we gleefully
bought at the merch stand to our intense giggling to the outsized glee
with which we shouted "WELL, FUCK YOU TOO!" during the all-out crowd
sing-along during "Song For The Dumped" I can only imagine how
intensely we annoyed the so, so much cooler college kids around us.
But we did not care. We had the night of our lives. We left hoarse and
still trembling from the sheer exhilaration of screaming obscenities at
the tops of our lungs (neither of us would become habitual "cussers"
until we started driving, almost two years later). Then her parents
took us to the Varsity and I was still so flustered from the whole
thrill of it all that I ordered a salad. [Editor's note: The Varsity is a legendary burger joint that has clogged Atlanta's arteries since 1928.]
And a year later, Ben Folds Five was no more.
Except, tonight, they are.
now lives in North Carolina herself and has loved Ben Folds Five longer
and possibly more intensely than me, couldn't get tickets. I've become
somewhat of a symbolic envoy of our adolescent dreams-- which, I guess,
means I ought to be nice to all those UNC freshmen who snapped up all
the tickets at the box office. They're babies, but so was I, once.
Before I head out, some wish-listy predictions for the night:
- Ben Folds will bring out his dad for a live rendition of the
answering machine message that comprises "Your Most Valuable
- They'll play The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner front to
back, in its entirety, as planned, but will come out for some kind of anything-goes
- The encore will include a rendition of "Amelia Bright," penned by
drummer Darren Jessee, which they played live right before the breakup
(and which I downloaded a live bootleg of via Napster, OMG), and which
appeares in lovely form on Jessee's Hotel Lights debut album, Firecracker People.
Fingers crossed, at least. I'll have a full review tomorrow. Now, I-85 calls my name...