High school was rough for me. Due to misguided choices, failed attempts at overachieving, spells of depression, and overwhelming restlessness, I ended up going to three different schools, all within the same county. I desperately wanted out of high school. I wanted out of my dysfunctional family. I wanted out of my blue-collar state. I was so miserable that I tried to graduate early, collapsed under the course load instead, and ended up at yet another school.
I don’t think I could have survived high school if I hadn’t found the local DIY music scene, a vibrant mess of kids from northern Delaware that spilled over into parts of Pennsylvania. It was one of the only spaces where it felt safe to be myself: loud, opinionated, strange, and pissed. During the week, we scene kids were spread out among dozens of different schools, separated in little pockets or alone, but Saturday night we’d converge by the hundreds upon a rented hall or basement for a DIY show. The following week, if you passed another kid from the show on the street, you’d give each other a little knowing nod. I went from feeling like a social pariah to being initiated into a secret club. While the anarchist in me resisted joining anything, another part of me secretly hoped that if I tried hard enough, I might be one of the cool kids.
Bands from Toronto to Tampa would play our shows, but the band that lived in hallowed legend was Brand New. If you could claim that you had been at the American Legion hall shows they played in 2000, you had true scene cred. By the time that Your Favorite Weapon came out in 2001, I was utterly obsessed with Brand New. I listened to the album on my Sony Discman for hours on end, analyzing the lyrics for new layers of meaning. It felt as if every listen uncovered a new lyrical gem, like a message in a bottle from singer Jesse Lacey, promising survival to kids like me.
My favorite song was “Logan to Government Center.” I had fallen in love on first listen (a friend who was close to the band had a demo tape in his car for months before the official release).
What spoke to me most in this song was its theme of being alone; though I was so involved in the scene that I was putting on shows, I still felt very isolated. As a half-Asian girl whose parents both had multiple college degrees, I was almost the polar opposite of the rest of the kids in the scene, which was ruled by white guys from families that saw college as superfluous. Despite the differences, these were my people. No song reflected this tension or emptiness for me like “Logan to Government Center.”
Unlike other kids, I wasn’t allowed out on school nights, and my parents often didn’t have time to drive me to friends’ houses. For years, I blamed them for my solitude. If I’m truly honest with myself though, part of me liked it. At heart, I’m an introvert, and as a latchkey kid, I had lovely, wide swathes of time to be alone with my thoughts, listen to music, write in my journal, or draw. Just like the lyrics of the song, I was alone, but not really lonely. When occasionally I wanted company, I had Brand New who clearly understood me, because they had written “Logan to Government Center.”
As an adult, I’ve tried to listen to the many pop punk bands I worshiped as a teen, but a lot of it only holds up with a thick veneer of nostalgia. Still, “Logan to Government Center” rocks me to my core. To this day, it’s impossible for me to listen to this song without feeling a tug on my heartstrings. That introvert misfit kid grew up to be a woman who often feels awkwardly different and secretly loves to be alone, notwithstanding the affections of beloved friends, co-workers, and boyfriends who have always seemed more socially savvy. Fifteen years later, I’m still me, still alone, and still somehow content.
Song Stories is an essay collection written by music professionals and independent artists about songs that impacted their lives. It's available on Amazon.