Yellowcard: The Final World Tour

One strike of the violin and I am instantly eight years old again. I’m sitting in the backseat of a 1998 Dodge Caravan. My parents’ chatter is muffled by Ryan Key’s voice blaring out of the headphones connected to my brand new CD player- a rare and unique treasure I found in Dollar Tree.

Back then I didn’t think of Yellowcard as real-life humans, just rockstars I watched on MTV. I never imagined I’d see them in concert. That was only something cool teenagers like my sister could do, so I’d like to think 8-year-old me is proud now that I’ve seen them play live on three different occasions. What I know for sure is that both 8-year-old me and 21-year-old me are each a messy mixture of grateful and heartbroken as Yellowcard plays for the final time in Philadelphia.

Looking at their faces as they take the stage, I can’t help but think they are feeling the same way.

I watch Key’s eyes scan the crowd, focusing intently on each face as though he’s trying to take a mental picture or something. He opens his mouth to sing the emotion-packed lyrics to “Believe.” Every single fan sings right along with him. It’s going to be a good night.

Yellowcard has been playing shows in the city of Philadelphia for the past sixteen years. “It feels good to be back,” says Key after the final note of the opener. “I see some familiar faces out there. Some that we’ve seen recently and some we haven’t seen in years.” He goes onto joke, “If you’re just here to stand in the back and yell for us to play Ocean Avenue, don’t bother wasting your time.”

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he says. “I want you to dig way deep deep down tonight and figure out what it is that you want to sing to us about. If at any point you don’t know the lyrics to our newer songs, just sing about anything. But DO NOT stop singing. I want everyone to leave this show without a f*cking voice!”

The band is aware they’re most popular for their older music, but as their glory days wind down, they maintain a level head. In their official breakup letter, they state “ The decision was an incredibly difficult one for us to make. We considered so many things – our families, our health, our future endeavors. In the end we realized that this was the right time to step away and preserve the legacy and integrity of the band.”

The pop punk pioneers have crafted a legendary career, releasing ten studio albums and touring six out of seven continents.

Despite a mixed response to their most recent albums, Yellowcard fans made sure they came out to support the band’s final world tour. The sold out show had the Electric Factory booming with positive energy. Even before the bands took the stage, the whole venue came together to sing the best pop punk hits from the early 2000’s. I made friends with every person around me as we jumped up and down shouting the words to “The Best of Me” by The Starting Line.

New Jersey’s own indie rockers, DryJacket opened the show, followed by Like Torches, a pop punk group from Sweden. Throughout each set you could hear shouts of encouragement surface from the crowd. “I like your beard!” “You rock!” “Nice flannels!” “We love you!” The bands played along. “Hey thanks!” “You guys are great!” “We’re having too much fun up here!” “We love you more!”  The dynamic felt more like a casual reunion with close friends rather than a famous rock band playing to a mass of fans.

This attitude carried into Yellowcard’s set, especially within the audience. Everybody had each other’s back. Anytime things got crazy in the pit, my neighbor would give me a thumbs up checking to see if I was okay. At one point I saw a bunch of people come together to clear space and help a kid find his glasses. After my friend got kicked in the head by a fallen crowd surfer, they both rushed to make sure the other was okay, unworried about their own self. A total stranger even helped me take off on my own crowd surfing endeavor, and afterward I was ambushed with hi-5s from every direction, even from the security guards who were shamelessly jamming in front of the stage.

Yellowcard trucked through twenty six songs, making for a special two hour long set, nothing short of energetic. Their setlist was a strategic balance of classic hits and brand new songs that have just been released. Inevitably they closed the show with the song that started it all. Pure bliss took over the venue as everyone went back in time with “Ocean Avenue.”

For one night, we got to forget about the madness taking place outside the four walls of the Electric Factory. No politics, no divisions- just music.

On Rape Culture

Today I found out that a distant family friend was raped last month in Atlantic City. I found this out in the form of my father warning me not to celebrate my 21st birthday there.

If I shouldn’t celebrate my 21st birthday in Atlantic City, maybe I shouldn’t sit on benches either. Afterall, that’s what Jessica was doing when some man decided he was entitled to invade her body.

She was sitting on a bench. Waiting for her mother. At 8:00 in the morning- broad daylight. No scandalous clothes. No drugs or alcohol. No interest in this man. And certainly no interest in a lifetime of picking up broken pieces left with her after this nightmare of a morning in September.

Though I’ve never met Jessica personally, this news hit me hard. My heart broke for her and every single person in the world who has ever been through something similar. It forced me to wake up to the sickening reality that something like that can happen to me too. None of us are safe. We live in a society that allows rape to happen. Being a 20-year-old female college student, I am surrounded by stories like Jessica’s everyday. The harsh reality is that sexual assault is an ever present plague.

Here are some disturbing statistics from RAINN, the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the United States:

Every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted.

1 out of every 6 American women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.

1 out of every 10 rape victims are male.

21% of transgender/queer college students have been sexually assaulted.

Out of 1,000 rapes, 994 perpetrators walk free.

I am overwhelmed by these statistics. Sexual assault in our country is happening at an alarming rate. So what do we do about it? I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure this out and so far this is what I’ve come up with:

VOTE.

We’ve all heard the story of Brock Turner at this point- a monster who walked away from a horrific rape and molestation with only six months of jail time. An open letter from his victim blew up the internet and people all over the world announced their disgust toward him. Turner received consequence from the public since his story went viral, but sadly most other rapists walk away free of  aftermath.

The 2016 presidential election is monumental for many reasons, one of the most overlooked being the fact that the next president will appoint four new Supreme Court justices. As citizens of  the United States, this decision will affect each and every one of us. If we want to eradicate the issue of sexual assault, we need to start by voting.

STOP BEING A BYSTANDER.

The most appalling detail about Jessica’s story is that out of everyone on the Atlantic City boardwalk that dreaded morning, not a single person stopped to help her. The bystander effect is a dangerous phenomenon. It promotes an unsafe environment. Step in and help your neighbor. Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

This concept trickles into how we treat sexual assault on a more personal scale. If your friends are joking about rape, intervene. If a friend of yours has been raped, help them. Be there. Encourage them to report it. When you turn a blind eye to sexual assault, you become one one of the biggest parts of the problem.

Lastly,

DON’T RAPE PEOPLE.

Here’s a simple concept: Be a good person. Treat others with respect. This is nothing more than a matter of human decency. Think about how your own words and actions leave an impact on the people around you.  Under no circumstance are you entitled to another person’s body without consent. Understand this concept and spread it like wildfire.

Next weekend I’ll celebrate my 21st birthday in a place that is not Atlantic City and hope that’s enough to save me from a fate like Jessica’s. I’ll hope I leave the weekend with a heart full of memories and not debilitating trauma. But most of all I’ll hope that when the time comes for my child to turn 21, we’ll live in a better world.