My sophomore year in college was beyond fun. I’d settled in to “college life,” had joined ZTA, and had made some of the best friends that I’d ever had. I have a fairly sharp memory, but I’ve reached “that age” where things have started to blur together – you know, that “Did this happen in that year or this year?” kind of thing. I’ve long since forgotten what my room number was that year, whatever classes I took have left my feeble brain, and I can’t remember for the life of me what the big “hit” show on TV was that year.
But there are a few things I distinctly remember: I fell in love for the first time (and subsequently, had my heart truly broken for the first time); I got a “noise ordinance” violation for the stereo in my 1983 Toyota Tercel being too loud while driving around in town; I suffered a particularly rough incident with peppermint schnapps; I became a “big sister” in the sorority; I desperately tried to understand rugby; and I laughed endlessly about the “tree” that floated up and down 4th floor Minta Martin.
Mostly, however, I remember the music. Denise (and Sky, for a time) were across the hall from me and Nicole. We lived with our doors open and one or the other of us was always playing music. That year’s memories are all set against a backdrop of Black 47, The Violent Femmes, Crash Test Dummies, New Order and Pearl Jam. And then…then there was the band that would change music for me forever. The Counting Crows.
Sure, “Mr. Jones” was what led me to by the album that fall in 1993, but I’ll never forget hearing the CD for the first time. I was absolutely transported by the poetry of very first lyric, in the very first song on the album…”Stepped out the front door like a ghost into a fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white…” Back then, I still had delusions that I would someday be a famous author. I studied great writers, I read books by the gross, I immersed myself in language. And then along comes this band, with this singer/writer that phrases things like I’d never heard them phrased in lyrics before. It was absolutely the most incredible thing I’d ever heard.
WHO WRITES LIKE THAT? It was fucking brilliant – it remains brilliant to this day. And the whole ALBUM brims over with lines just like it, chock full of beautiful metaphors and imagery. In places it is sad and broken, in others, hopeful and happy. The writing always questioned. It was sort of like life itself, set against this tapestry of music that was woven with instruments like accordion and banjo. I’ve always loved music, but I think August and Everything After may have been the first time I really listened to music.
Everything changed that year. Bruce Springsteen suddenly had competition in my heart. Because while Bruce told these grand stories, Counting Crows wrote music that, for me, was raw emotion. And we all know that I’m a drama queen…
In the years since, The Counting Crows have only become more cemented in my heart. Sometimes, I feel like Adam Duritz is crawling around inside my head and taking my thoughts, the ones that I speak to no one, and making them eloquent. My heart still breaks every time I hear “Anna Begins,” because I relive that year and learning what it was like to watch someone you love walk away from you. “Daylight Fading” will always be my “striking out on my own” song, the summer I graduated from college, blaring it in my huge apartment that had no furniture, but was filled with hope. When I’m laughing with my friends, it’s “Hangin’ Around” I hear in my head. “Holiday In Spain” makes me cry, every time, and I always listen to it when something is ending – friendships, relationships, vacations – because it sounds like a song about endings to me, even when the narrator doesn’t want it to be. And when I am in crush, I listen to “Accidentally in Love” and laugh at myself and how goo-ily romantic I am. I know, I know – the songs are never about what we think they are about. But that’s the magic of music – songs become what you need them to be. There isn’t an important moment in my life since that time that hasn’t been framed by a Counting Crows song. Their music really is the soundtrack of my life.
I’ve seen them nine times in concert in the 17 years I’ve been a fan. Despite making every effort I have been able to, the closest I’ve gotten is third row, at a show by myself two summers ago, only to have a group of jerks next to me – who could have cared less about the music – literally invade my space and make me uncomfortable the whole show. But tomorrow night, my 10th Counting Crows show, my dream will come true. I will be in the front row. I will be there with one of my closest friends who totally gets my love of their music. I will sing along, I will feel alive, and I will love every minute of it.
I cannot wait.