Music has always been an important part of my life, despite the fact that I was born with no innate musical skills. Longing for something that passed me by on the natural talent spectrum has always been a source of frustration for me. I would love to have a singing voice worthy of a beautiful song. I was simply not gifted with the ability to carry a tune, nor was I ever able to pick up an instrument and make smooth, coherent sounds. Though I dabbled with the piano, viola, and guitar, I never felt very comfortable with the polished wood in my hands. Despite my efforts at studying, I could never read music. Any note I ever played was by ear: listen and repeat. This inability to follow written dots on arbitrary bars forced me to drop out of many music classes early on in school when reading music became mandatory, and I could no longer get away with “faking” it. Frankly, I just wanted to play.
When I was 10 years old, my Aunt Susi gave me a big (I say big because I was so small!) acoustic guitar. That guitar sat in a closet until I was a senior in high school, and I finally decided to pull it out and take lessons. I’m not quite sure why I waited so long to dust it off and play other than time has a funny way of slipping away from you and stealing all your intentions when you are young and not paying attention. I took Guitar class at my high school for a full year as a senior. It was by far my most favorite and memorable high school class. Throughout the year, I continued to struggle with reading the music given to us in classroom handouts, but the group was informal enough that I made it through by listening and playing. Almost 10 years after that class, my guitar still sits in my room, neglected and collecting dust. It has accompanied me everywhere from cross-country road trips to every major move I have made as an adult. I hate for it to be out of my sight for too long. I cannot imagine being without the guitar. It is simply a part of me; a constant reminder of my unfulfilled lifelong passion.
I think that my struggles with music led me to appreciate those who were awarded true musical talents that much more. It is hard for me to not feel a twinge of jealousy towards those who have been successful in their pursuit of musical endeavors, but I do think that people who share what they have created make this world much more enjoyable for the rest of us.
One of the musicians who I have consistently followed, and who is a permanent fixture on my “Top Three Favorite Bands” list is a man named Andrew McMahon, former lead singer of the bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin.
I first saw Andrew perform when I was 15 or 16 years old at the original Music Midtown festival in Atlanta, GA. He was with Something Corporate at that time, and they were just emerging onto the mainstream music scene. They were playing on the main stage at the festival during one of the daytime slots. I actually stumbled upon their performance because the crowd was pretty sparse at the time, and I think we (my friends and I) had just come from the packed Bone Thugs show, or something like that. After a few moments of watching him play the piano and sing into those trademark double microphones, I was transfixed, and ultimately, a fan for life. I have since followed him from Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin to his most recent solo project. I have attended his performances from that first time in Atlanta, to shows in South Florida, Mountain View, CA, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD. It is hard for me to hear about him playing near me and not immediately jump on the computer to purchase tickets. He has remained that much of a staple in my growing music library. Every single one of his songs is a memory to me, like re-living three-minute moments of my life every time I see him play.
Last night, he played a show here in DC at the 930 Club. I have seen him perform at that venue several times before as a part of Jack’s Mannequin, but last night was extra special. Because he is not a part of JM or any other formal band at this point, he was able to play some of his older music from Something Corporate, which carries the most emotional significance to me. He performed a beautiful set, ending with his cult classic “Konstantine” for the first song of the encore. At last night’s show, in typical Andrew McMahon fashion, he shocked everyone by crowd surfing to the back bar to grab a shot of Jaeger during the last song of his encore (La La Lie). He made it all the way to the bar and back, relying on the mercy of his young fans, in perfect time to finish the song and jump around on the piano as he usually does to close out his shows. The man is a true talent.