Late to the Party: Bands I Got Into After Everyone Else Did

by James Cassar

I’m not foreign to the concept of being “tardy.” There was a math teacher in my first high school who’d really be okay with having a classroom full of untucked uniform shirts, but made more of a show when someone would show up after the bell digitized its last clang. “Boom, tardy!,” he’d scream, like a silver-fox John Cena (or P.O.D., really).

Boom. Five bands, all of which I dug after their foundation had been laid and fans were already playing in their musical dirt. Time to get messy. In alphabetical order. First up:

The Menzingers
This really doesn’t make sense given my strange love for Philadelphia, but I’ll oblige. I had heard a few tracks off On the Impossible Past, a record I read Thomas Nassiff dissect so well in an AbsolutePunk review. I even checked out “My Friend Chris” from I Was Born. That’s where the fascination ended. Shortly after Rented World entered the universe, I gave this band another shot. I saw them tear up Bled Fest and reinvigorated my love for “Casey.” A girl on Tinder (in Charlottesville, VA, mind you) once told me she wanted to get the phrase “American muscle car” tattooed somewhere, after the wailed recollection on “Good Things.” I now call my jokes “Men-zingers.” No one thinks it’s funny. That girl surely didn’t.

Moose Blood
I have this pal named Grey Gordon, whose No Sleep Record, Forget I Brought It Up, went up for pre-order the week after Moose Blood dropped pre-orders for their explosive debut LP. I laughed off the name (it’s still pretty stupid, like Sorority Noise or Wham!) and the album cover screamed an aesthetic I abandoned when I deactivated my blog. This is where being a pretentious lunatic cost me some serious first-pressing vinyl cred – I think it’s on its fifth pressing now, which is wild even for No Sleep standards. This band’s brand of emo just sticks so well with sunnier textures and I was left in the cold. I still don’t own this on vinyl. Good job, self.

The Starting Line
Looking back on my relative lateness for this choice makes me feel silly for not picking this up sooner. I had heard Kenny Vasoli & Co. cover J-Lo’s “I’m Real” for the first (!) Punk Goes Pop compilation when I was pushing eight years old. I have an older sister after all, whose Warped Tour 2003 plan included The Starting Line. That sheet of college-ruled paper is somewhere in my desk at home, proving at one point my older sister was more hip to pop-punk than I was. That no longer is the case. (Sorry, Kristi.) I think Direction was the first record I gave a true college try to, long before college. I picked it up for $4 at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. This band had disbanded years earlier. I would later see Kenny Vasoli dance it up with Vacationer the night before I turned twenty. I’d tell him I was a true-blue TSL fan. He didn’t need to know that true-blueness sprang up after they were together…right?

I dated this girl once. She had a Twitter, nowhere as embarrassing or as astronomically high in its tweet count, from which she blasted her hundred-or-so followers this question: “Can I just drive around with the top down and blast Wavves forever and not go back to school?” I’d seen Wavves’ name plastered all over scenesters’ T-shirts (remarkably so, seeing as the University of Virginia’s population ignored music for the most part, unless it was Wavves), but hadn’t given them a chance. Was this due to my general avoidance of all things drug-related in a passing attempt to remain “straight-edge” throughout college? Not sure. We ended up blasting “Green Eyes” down Route 15 in a busted-up BMW convertible. I don’t think I ever gave this beautiful band up after that.

Maybe this one doesn’t count, because most people who like this band – basically featuring Brian Warren and an ever-changing rotating lineup – aren’t obsessed with Tumblr or some sort of virtual scene cred. There wasn’t a huge social barometer rising around me every time I forgot to listen to how layered and masterful every album from the ‘Box is, its ranks filling with disdain and terror every time I ignored a fated drug reference or clever chord progression. I’m lucky for that. When I traveled to Fort Wayne in order to watch my kid brothers in The Obsessives record their first LP, Heck No, Nancy, we listened to Flies in All Directions at least four times on that drive. I would never be the same, but after I exclaimed that, driver Nick yelled back at me in the minivan, “Yeah, where were you? Weatherbox is the best band on Earth.” I find it hard to disagree with him.