The last days of Streetlight Manifesto

Steve O - November 23, 2013

How did it come to this?

So I spent last weekend in New Jersey. That’s right New Jersey. And I had a damn good reason to be spending time in New Jersey. Nov. 15th and 16th were nights two and three, and therefore the last nights, of Streetlight Manifesto as a full time touring band. Or for all intents and purposes, at least in my mind, the end of Streetlight Manifesto. It was a celebration of a decade of Streetlight. Night 1, on Nov. 14th was a night of rarities. I arrived for Night 2, the early days of Streetlight. Night 3 was, obviously, the later days of Streetlight.

Streetlight Manifesto

The shows were at the Starland Ballroom, out in the middle of nowhere. You could either park at the venue’s parking lot or across the street at the VFW. There was nothing else around. The place was packed though, as both nights were sold out. And since it was a ska show, that meant a lot of underage kids. Who, since they couldn’t drink, had to find others ways to entertain themselves. Luckily there was a screen in front of the stage, playing ads for upcoming shows and local businesses. One of those businesses: IHOP. The crowd figured out the ad before the IHOP one and would have a countdown. “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, [EVERYONE CHEERS]”. This happened each time, both nights. Whoever was running the powerpoint decided to have some fun, and inserted pictures of pancakes and waffles after the IHOP slide, asking “Pancakes…” “…Or Waffles?” The crowd overwhelming voted for pancakes. (I vote waffles). On night two, a slide was inserted with the Denny’s logo crossed out, leading to a chant: “Fuck you Denny’s.” Oh yes, the underage crowd found ways to entertain themselves. And I’m sure IHOP found themselves with lots of late night business.

Now, as for the actual music, Chris Murray opened both nights. I’m sure most people in the crowd had never heard him before, but that didn’t stop them from moshing and crowdsurfing and releasing all that energy they had built up by cheering for IHOP. Dan Potthast was up next. The former singer of Mu330 just plays solo now, and puts on a quite entertaining and humorous set. The crowd continued going crazy, prompting the line of the weekend from Dan: “There’s a guy crowdsurfing to the banter of a dude with an acoustic guitar. More specifically, there’s a banana crowdsurfing to the banter of a dude with an acoustic guitar.” For yes, some kid decided to dress up like a banana.

And so, that leads us to Streetlight Manifesto, for two last times. These were my 10th and 11th times seeing Streetlight. The first time was back in 2006. So for the decade they’ve been playing shows, I’ve been attending most of the time. I saw kids at these shows who were probably 5 or 6 the first time I saw Streetlight. I felt old at these shows. While the crowd went crazy and moshed and crowdsurfed and sang along so loud you could barely hear Tomas, it wasn’t as crazy as would be expected. It was a little too crowded for that I think, as there was virtually no room to move around anywhere on the floor. Streetlight made each night a special occasion, focusing on their early material one night and their later material the other. This meant two unique setlists, in which they played all but one song off of their three full lengths (Everything Goes Numb, Somewhere in the Between, and The Hands that Thieve). But the records were not played in exact order, giving a semblance of an actual set each night. For those of you that want to know what you missed, here it is:

Nov. 14th: The Early Days

  1. Everything Went Numb
  2. Watch It Crash
  3. That'll Be The Day
  4. Failing, Flailing
  5. The Receiving End Of It All
  6. The Saddest Song
  7. What A Wicked Gang Are We
  8. If And When We Rise
  9. Would You Be Impressed?
  10. Point / Keasbey Nights / Counterpoint
  11. We Are The Few
  12. A Better Place, A Better Time
  13. A Moment of Silence
  14. A Moment of Violence
  15. Here's To Life
  16. The Big Sleep

Nov. 15th: The Later Days

  1. With Any Sort of Certainty
  2. We Will Fall Together
  3. Down, Down, Down, To Mephisto's Cafe
  4. Forty Days
  5. Ungrateful
  6. We Are The Few
  7. They Broke Him Down
  8. Your Day Will Come
  9. Toe To Toe
  10. The Hands That Thieve
  11. If Only For Memories
  12. The Littlest Things
  13. One Foot On The Gas, One Foot in the Grave
  14. Oh Me, Oh My
  15. The Three Of Us
  16. The Big Sleep
  17. 1234, 1234
  18. Somewhere In The Between

For those of you paying attention, you’ll notice that Everything Goes Numb and The Hands that Thieve were played in full, with only “The Blonde Lead The Blind” missing from Somewhere in the Between. They also played “Keasbey Nights” in the middle of “Point/Counterpoint”, which used to happen all the time, but it had been a while now. I’m sure there are (or will be) videos of each night popping up on Youtube.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s the end of an era. Apparently, they’ll still play sporadically around New Jersey and the northeast, and I can’t imagine Tomas not writing and (very slowly) releasing music under some name. But this was the spiritual end. I’ve been listening to Streetlight since 2004 or 2005. This was the 3rd state I’ve seen them play in (joining Illinois and Wisconsin). I read Camus, The Catcher in the Rye and The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler because Streetlight references them. Hell, I quoted the line about Hemingway in "Here’s to Life" in an English paper about Farewell to Arms in high school. Streetlight is one of the (many) bands I cannot imagine my life without their music. That’s why I’ve seen them so much, even when they didn’t have a huge selection of songs to play. That’s why I know virtually every word to every song, even though Tomas sings insanely fast sometimes. That’s why I drove three hours to see them two last times. And if this is the end, what an end it was.

Here’s to life.