By Jordan Meiland
Going to a The Wonder Years concert is a special occasion. They’re my favorite band, so seeing them in the flesh is like Christmas to me. I get to sing along to Dan Campbell’s songs of depression, anxiety and self-loathing (the only songs I’ll sing along to). I lose my voice and strain my arms after screaming too loud and pointing too much (you do it to get the singer’s attention). I cry tears of joy during songs like “Local Man Ruins Everything” and “The Devil in My Bloodstream.” I become a different person at these shows. Their sold-out Webster Hall show in February was special. In addition to their regular electric set, they played a stripped-down acoustic song. During both sets, they played songs I’d been dying to hear for years, specifically “You in January” and “The Bluest Things on Earth”. The crowd was full of people feeling the music as much as I was. I was screaming along so much that I lost my voice by the fifth song of their electric set. I had one of the best nights of my life. As the last note rang out and the band left the stage, people began making their way to the exits. Of course, as usual, a small handful of fans stayed behind, screaming and pointing wildly at setlists and guitar picks left behind by the band, myself included. Emily, my friend who came along, held my side bag as I waited at the barricade, trying to get whatever I could. After some unsuccessful attempts to get a setlist, I was about ready to leave. But suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a stagehand walk onto stage carrying a drumstick, which I assumed was one of Mike Kennedy’s (drummer of “The Wonder Years”). It had to be his. Every other drummer thus far kept their sticks. I waved in his direction and shouted “Yo!” He saw me, nodded, and tossed the drumstick in my direction. As it flew through the air, the adrenaline kicked in and I reached out to snatch it. I caught it. She caught it too. A young woman about my height went for the stick as well. When she realized she wasn’t the only one that caught the stick, she started yanking with all her might, trying to pry it from my grip. For the next 20 seconds, I stood still, keeping a firm grip on my end of the stick. While she tried to get the stick, I looked around the room, making eye contact with onlookers as if to say: “are you seeing this?” I wasn’t going to emulate her and make a bigger scene. I’d hoped she’d give up and just let me have it, but she didn’t give up. In fact, she got more aggressive, to the point where she started snarling at me to hand it over. That’s when I had enough. “You know what,” I said firmly, “Let’s play Rock-Paper-Scissors for it. Best of 3.” She glared at me before nodding and letting go. In that moment, I could’ve turned around and walked away with the stick. But that would’ve been a cheap shot, so I stuck to my word. With the stick tucked under my left arm, I turned to face her, and we started playing. I won the first round. She won the next. Tied one-to-one, the final round would determine who’d go home with the stick and who’d go home disappointed. As the pressure built, I got more and more anxious. I started shaking at the knees. I bit my lip hard and started breathing heavy, dreading that final round. In that moment, my world stood still, and I’d never dreaded anything more. We never had that final round, though. I forfeited. “You know what, why don’t you just take it?” I asked, holding out the stick for her to take. With an excited yelp, she snatched the stick and jumped forward, throwing her arms around me. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she exclaimed, hugging me. When she let go, I stood back and watched as she walked away. I turned to Emily and we started walking towards the exit. Why’d I do it? Why’d I forfeit instead of playing one more game? Put simply, if I lost the stick in the last round, I’d remember the concert as the one where I got cheated out of a piece of wood and went home disappointed. Instead, I remember it as another superb The Wonder Years concert where I screamed my heart out. A concert where I got to see my favorite band at the barricade. A concert where I displayed incredible kindness towards a complete stranger. In a deli a few blocks away, as Emily waited on her grilled cheese and fries, I sipped lemonade and we talked about the incident. It left me confused. I couldn’t stop talking and thinking about it for the rest of the night. That incident, which couldn’t have been more than 90 seconds, has had an incredible effect on me. It has raised a number of questions I’ll never know the answers to. What would’ve happened if I won that last round? Would she have gone berserk and try to snatch it from me again? Would she start crying, making me look like a jerk? Would I feel bad for her and give it to her anyways? On the other hand, what would’ve happened if I lost that last round? Would she snatch it from my hands with a wicked laugh and run away? Would I start crying? Would I turn away and make a mad dash for the exit? I got no answers in the deli. Instead, I had a strange feeling of relief as Emily got a grilled cheese.
Read Issue 17