When I was in high school, you could have asked anyone who was even remotely familiar with me what my favorite band was, and you would get one of two answers: Man Overboard or The Wonder Years. The difference between those two bands is I still have expectations from The Wonder Years. After respectfully gaining entrance into the pop punk scene with The Upsides, The Wonder Years released not one, but two killer albums; albums exploring relevant and reflective topics like mental illnesses and social issues. Sometime between Get Stoked On It and Suburbia, Soupy fed his brain a strict diet of spinach, as his lyrics became much stronger. He abandoned telling tales of ninjas and Kool Aid and traded them for metaphors and allusions to beat poets. The band clearly matured in the past few years, which is something I can’t say for Man Overboard.
Before We Met and Real Talk are both nearly perfect albums. As a teenager, I found that they resonated with me. I thoroughly enjoyed The Human Highlight Reel, too. But hearing about perfect girls, shitty girls, and fantasy girls album after album gets old. Man Overboard found a formula that worked for them early in their career, but they never progressed from it. Save for a few serious songs – “Al Sharpton” and “Atlas” being two of their best – most of their tracks are about trivial relationships, which is something they should have retired after Real Talk. But the point of this isn’t to bash Man Overboard; rather, it’s the opposite.
I’ve always listened to pop punk, but I didn’t know too many people who were interested in it until I was in high school. Honestly, though, it didn’t matter if they liked pop punk or not; I forced it on them anyway. Someone once told me, “You’re the reason why people in Southern Maryland like pop punk.” Maybe I’m conceited, but it’s damn true. I advocated for pop punk like it was illegal. I can’t tell you how many pop punk mix CDs I made for people who would have been content listening to nothing but John Mayer and Jack Johnson for the rest of their lives. Truthfully, most of those people probably never listened to my mixes. But I don’t mind. Out of all of my friends who received my digital compilations of Allister, I Call Fives, Joyce Manor, and Title Fight, there’s only one person whose passion for pop punk would eventually match mine: Anthony Erwin.
I can recall exactly where I was when I met Anthony for the first time. We were at a joint birthday party for some kids from our high school. The kids had gotten our high school’s resident pop punk band, Collapse the Night, to play at their party. While I was a party guest, Anthony was a musician, having recently joined as the band’s drummer. In retrospect, it’s pretty funny. When he joined the band, he didn’t even like New Found Glory. He was into Iron Maiden, Metallica, and AC/DC much more than he ever thought he’d be into Blink-182 or Sum 41. But that’s exactly why we’re friends: he was a bright, open-minded freshman playing in my buddy’s band, and he seemed like someone who would appreciate my mix CDs.
I added him on Facebook and we started talking a little bit over the summer. I sent him Mediafire links to Before We Met and Real Talk, and he said he liked them. When school started again, we ended up in the same art history class. I don’t believe in God, but that occurrence is seriously the result of a higher power. When he entered the classroom on the first day, he sat at a table by himself. He was one of the few sophomores in a class of seniors, so I don’t blame him. He was a familiar face, though, and I wanted to get to know him more, so I told him to sit at my table for the rest of the year. I’ve made a plethora of bad decisions throughout my life, but that was one of the best ones.
The day just started, ‘cause I’m up with my old friends.
My entrance into the music world didn’t truly start until I met Anthony. Before we became friends, I hardly ever went to shows since I had no one to go with. Once we both got our licenses, we started going to a couple of shows every month. Coincidentally, the first show we went to together was our – and Man Overboard’s – first Warped Tour. He became (and still would be, if he weren’t enlisted in the Marines) my go-to concert buddy. It didn’t matter if he knew all of the bands or none of the bands; he’d be there. I never had to drag him, either; he’d willingly attend, because we both knew that even if the bands sucked, we’d still have a good time.
I just got the nerve to get in the cage.
I owe my writing to him, too. If he hadn’t been so persistent, I wouldn’t have started writing non-academic pieces. He had faith in the abilities I didn’t even know I possessed. I knew I had a complete understanding of basic grammar and punctuation rules, but I never thought I could write pieces that make people feel things. Just last week, he told me that my writing is getting “really damn good” and he has no doubt it will take me places. I’m honored to be friends with someone so encouraging and genuine as he is.
A day’s worth of bitching goes down the drain when you lay in my bed and pick my brain.
He’s so passionate about important topics that it’s almost impossible for me to be bothered by trivial things when we hang out. He taught me not to worry about the things I can’t change and just let things be. Other people should be thankful for that, too; I’ve stopped wishing bad things on the people who’ve fucked me over.
I’m finally at ease.
Anthony’s one of those people that everyone absolutely adores, and my grandfather is no different. My grandfather served in the military during the 1950s, so he respects those who have taken his place. He once told me, “I can sleep at night knowing people like him are protecting the country.” I concur. Anthony truly assists in making the world a safer and beautiful place. While he’s being stationed all over the United States training to defend the country, I’m driving up and down the east coast defending pop punk. And no matter where we end up, we’ll love our friends and die laughing.