Blue October; I Hope You’re Happy.
If, like me, your favourite band isn’t a stadium sized dinosaur, you may be familiar with an uneasy contradiction. On one hand, I want *everyone* to experience the magic of that band, and I want them to be shouting from the rooftop of pop culture. But I also get a real buzz out of being ‘in the gang’ – of meeting other fans, connecting with the band directly, and having the joy of seeing your favourite band in decent-sized (i.e. not stupidly big) venues. There’s a connection, an intimacy, and it’s unashamedly hip pleasure. You want your favourite band to take over the world AND be your little secret, all at once.
So for now, I’ll enjoy everything that comes with being in the exclusive who know and love the magic that is Blue October.
I’m really late to the party, having only discovered them a few years ago. They almost immediately became one of my all time favourites, neatly dispelling the tired idea (that I was starting to fall for) that all your favourite music is the stuff you discover in your youth. Blue October haven’t had the decades of my attention that R.EM. or Metallica or Smashing Pumpkins have, but they made it to legendary overnight in my musical imagination.
A couple of years ago, another evening spinning nostalgic on YouTube with my other half Nicci; somewhere along the autoplay way a song called Fear came on. I was immediately knocked back. The striking lead singer seemed to reach out from the beautifully understated video and grab me. By the time the second chorus came around, I knew I was hearing one of my all time favourite songs for the first time. It was a Today. An Everybody Hurts. A Nothing Else Matters. It was… everything.
And so I was hooked. As a band they make beautiful widescreen rock tracks, but it was in the lyrics where I really got lost. Frontman Justin Furstenfeld is an incredible force. He’s cut from the same kind of cloth as Michael Stipe; cryptic yet direct, introspective yet relatable. Like Stipe, he shapes complex ideas out of unexpected phrases. But Justin takes this further; his lyrics are more intense, more revealing. Like all my favourite songwriters, Justin digs deep into himself in a way that makes digging into myself a little easier. I’m not just talking as a lyricist myself; I learn more about me through these songs. That’s the power, when songwriting reaches beyond and dares to go deep.
The show was nothing short of extraordinary. The whole band worked to connect with the audience, and the crowd/band dynamic was beautifully crafted. It reminds me that a great show is always a collaboration between the artist AND the audience – serving up music to be passively consumed is not the real thing.
Justin’s connection as a frontman to his audience takes the power of the writing to an even greater height. To say he’s one of rock’s greatest frontman (tempting as it may be) does him a disservice. This isn’t just about rock star moves. This is about a human connection. He reaches out, he reaches wide, with sincerity and utter fucking conviction. It’s a HUGE thing he’s building out there on that stage every night.
All of this reminds me to keep digging, to go bigger, to be honest in my own songs. Blue October drive me further on into what really matters in music. They remind me to keep pushing for that truth, that beauty. To never settle. I’m a better songwriter for being a Blue October fan.
I’m not normally one for the meet and great, but Nicci and I agreed we had to connect IRL with the band. Besides their influence on my work, they’re a huge part of our life soundtrack. Our kids love them. Draven sings Fear at the top of his lungs most days. If I ask the twins what music they want on, they’ll almost always say “COAL MAKES DIMONS!” (sic, obvs).
We got to share this with the band, and we got onto our tenuous musical connection; us both being collaborators with Imogen Heap – small world that it is. Justin has so much love and admiration for Imogen, it was nice to be able to pass that on…*
Of course, I can’t help hold my own work up to the light, and damn, I would LOVE to share a stage with these guys. We’re trying to hit things from a very similar place, I gotta think that would be a great show. Or maybe I’m just being totally absorbed by my own ego’s gravity. OF COURSE *I* can see myself opening for my favourite band! And everyone loves them gloves, I guess… It’s a real bucket list thought, and my bucket list is looking pretty healthy too…
Perform one of my all time favourite songs (Breath In by Frou Frou) with Imogen Heap Play music full time Challenge perceptions of what disabled artists can do Get some real world recognition for my music (being recognised never gets old!) Provide for my family with MY music! Perform at Abbey Road Travel the world playing my music Play a BIG show in the US Perform for my guitar hero, the legendary Steve Vai!
- Open for Blue October?
…Shush now. I can dream big. You can’t stop me…
I’ve ticked off some huge stuff on my bucket list, for sure. Right now, just having seen my favourite band be THAT FUCKING GOOD in an intimate venue is bucket list stuff. After all, a band that are *that* fucking POWERFUL onstage can’t do intimate venues forever…
*I performed with Imogen a few days later, and she wanted to send her love right back at Justin and the guys. So Justin, if you’re reading this; WE LOVE YOOOOO! 😍😍