Friday, July 11, 2008

Stepping Out Into The Night: The Gaslight Anthem

During the school year we have keggers at our house. It’s a blast. And it pays for the utilities. My main responsibility for each party (aside from getting the drunkest of the inhabitants, a duty I've bestowed upon myself) is to make the playlist. And I’m good at it.

I enjoy the process for several reasons. First of all, I am selfish. Other people suck at picking music and I rule. That song “Bullying The Jukebox” by the Bouncing Souls is pretty telling: “Well I walked into the bar and I put in twenty bucks because I know people taste in music sucks.” I also enjoy shitting on people who ask me to play !!! or Daft Punk.

But the main reason is the enjoyment I find in people liking the songs I picked. People dance. Sing along. Drink. To my songs. Okay, not my songs, but the songs that I picked. It’s still a great feeling. As close as I will ever come to people cheering for me.

And I understand what works and what doesn’t. I pay attention to what people are enjoying and what they aren’t. So I’ve developed this art pretty well. The playlist at this point is really just different variations of a set formula.

The longest standing piece of this formula is playing Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” followed by “Born To Run.” And my friends and I go crazy every time. The light always goes out for “Dancing in the Dark” and when “Born To Run” comes on there are about 10 of us that go nuts and sing along. Every. Single. Time.

The regulars know that when “Dancing” begins to fade out, I run to the PA and turn it up as loud as my straight edge roommate will let me before Max Weinberg’s drum roll kicks off “Born To Run.”

Now it may seem like something that gets tired after awhile. But it continues to be the highlight of the parties. It has never once been anything short of incredible. Because for all of us, arm in arm, screaming the words in each other’s faces, these ten minutes are our safe-haven from the outside world. Nothing out there can get in the way of our sharing this moment. Not a goddamn thing.

And that’s what’s made Bruce Springsteen legendary. His songs are about believing in the promised land, about the weekend—stepping out into the night. The moments that transcend whatever is hanging on your conscience.

And Brian Fallon, the lead singer of the New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem, understands the feeling that a Springsteen song can bring. The Gaslight song “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts” paints an unbelievably similar portrait to the one of me and my friends singing along to “Born To Run”:

We are the boys from Little Eden
We are the hardest Saturday nights
Drank from the fountains of the fireworks
Sweat and bone for a better life

We like our choruses sung together
We like our arms in our brothers' arms
Call every girl we ever met Maria
But I only love Virginia's heart

And we sing with our heroes thirty-three rounds per minute
We're never going home until the sun says we're finished
And I'll love you forever if I ever love at all
Wild hearts, blue jeans, & white t-shirts
With wild hearts, blue jeans, & white t-shirts

It’s my life, right now. This song is about the life that I live. It’s hopeful. It’s tragic. It’s growing up. I don’t know where I am. One year from today I’m supposed to be in the real world. What that means, I’m not sure. But I know what it means to be here right now.

“So tonight I'll call you from a fourth-street payphone, but I'll sleep on the beach if I ain't got a ride. Someday I'll buy you that house on Cookman, we could sleep on the beach all night. Sleep on the beach if we ain't got a ride. Sleep on the beach all night”

For Fallon, for me, for my friends, our American dream, our hope is within choruses. Our escape, our better life comes from the heroes we sing with.

The '59 Sound, the second Gaslight Anthem LP, is out August 19th. Mine’s on pre-order. Blue vinyl. The title-track, and first single, is up on their myspace.

I Could’a Been A Contender” (second song on the first album Sink or Swim. The song that first caught me.)

I’da Called You Woody, Joe” (a tribute to St. Joe Strummer. “And I never got to tell him so I just wrote it down, I wrapped a couple chords around it and I let it come out”)

“Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts” (from the EP Señor and the Queen)


CrystalCabinet said...

Nice blog. It's better than mine. What the hell is up with you these days? I'm going to goddamn Japan. Goddamn. The Replacements are amazing and I'm sad that they lost. I'll have to get some Husker Du.

The Captain said...

I gave this album a B+. It was my first experience with The Gaslight Anthem. Check out my review at