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.