My Valentine

It finally happened. After seven long years I have fallen in love. Now whenever someone says the world looks and feels differently when you're smitten, I'll believe it's true.

Last Friday night at the Graceland four bands played a late, all-ages show featuring XXX Audio, the New Mexicans, Akimbo, and Pretty Girls Make Graves. Normally I don't care much for all-ages shows at Graceland, and please don't get bunched up by that remark. Saying I don't care for those shows is to say attending one means that between bands I'll be squished into the jam-packed lounge area with my friends and the other folks desperate for a drink. Sadly, I missed XXX Audio's set, because when the kids are coming, "show starts at 9:30" means SHOW STARTS AT 9:30, not "show starts when we finish our beers." But I arrived minutes before the New Mexicans took the stage, and actually found a booth in which to park my keister. On its table was a flier, which read, "SEND THIS KID TO AUSTIN!" and featured the class photo of a smiling child who managed to sport a mullet and a pompadour at the same time. Upon closer inspection I realized the kid was none other than the New Mexicans' bassist, Jeff Montona, in his youth. I barely had time to laugh before the band took the stage, and I watched the entirety of the New Mexicans' set, which was nothing short of blistering. For a good 30 minutes I was transported back to 1992 as the band played what they later would tell me was the best show of their lives. As I've noted several times before, they are heavily influenced by Drive Like Jehu and mid-'90s math-rock-infused hardcore, and that night the band's two guitarists--along with the bassist and drummer--were in complete lockstep, playing a perfectly timed set that was as tight as the floor space in the to-capacity crowd. Creighton Barrett could go head to head with Seattle's most elite drummers, and as I watched him I started thinking about how I need to go back and repurchase the Helmet albums I seem to have lost over the years. Midway through the set, Montona took the microphone and praised The Stranger for its SXSW contest, in which four non-invited bands would receive $2,000 each to play a renegade showcase in Austin. "So if you like us, vote for us and we'll give you a free single," he said, directing fans over to the merch table where ballots and singles were waiting.

After the set, I began to feel funny, like when I used to go to basement shows where balloons full of nitrous oxide went for a buck each. I held on to friends for support before taking refuge behind the stage as Pretty Girls also topped themselves and Barrett, in front of me, air-drummed along. I could see the kids riveted to Andrea Zollo as they sang along with her, and when the band left the stage I shouted out that she was my hero and told bassist Derek Fudesco I've had the time of my life watching him grow over the years. Then, it hit me. I realized that I was in utter and complete love with Seattle and its bands, and so proud of everyone who has turned 2003 into the great year it will no doubt continue to be. It took seven years and all I can say about that is--thank you.