Dear Yellowcard, Thank You.

Photos by Eric Riley, Zach Foerst, and Jenn Curtis.

There are plenty of possible negative perceptions that can be made when someone admits that they struggle with an anxiety disorder. They are perceived as vulnerable, unusual, unable to live their own lives outside of their own four walls. I myself struggle with an anxiety disorder. I was at my worst almost three years ago, when I had my worst panic attack, in an environment that I had grown up in.

I’ve attended shows since I was 16, spending most of my weekends in high school with friends at a venue close to home (RIP School of Rock), seeing artists like Cash Cash (pre-DJs), Cartel, The Ready Set, Stereo Skyline, The Friday Night Boys, and We Are The In Crowd, among many others. Being surrounded by music was all I’ve known, so when I had an extreme panic attack at almost 21 while seeing Yellowcard (one of my favorite bands) on their Ocean Avenue 10th Anniversary tour, I felt betrayed. I spent most of their acoustic set in the bathroom behind Starland Ballroom’s stage, unsure of what was happening. A security guard walked in to check on me twice to make sure I was okay as I leaned against a wall shaking, nauseous, and barely able to breathe. It was the worst panic attack of my life. As I heard Yellowcard playing through Ocean Avenue, I could barely find the strength to go back into the crowd and catch them perform at least one full song. In fact, I specifically left the bathroom to watch them play “Only One” and couldn’t even make it through the four minute performance without feeling like I was seconds away from passing out. Eventually, I made my way to the entrance of the venue, where two security guards gave me a chair and some water as they talked to my best friend and I, trying to help control my attack. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that it would just be best to leave, but not before going back to catch at least a small bit of one more song, “Believe.” Since then, attending shows has been nothing but a continuous battle with both my anxiety and myself. However, when you know that all you want in life is to be surrounded by music, you never stop fighting.

Continue reading Dear Yellowcard, Thank You.

Show Review:: Yellowcard | Starland Ballroom 1/31/14


Ocean Avenue was released on July 22nd, 2003. I was 11 years old. From that moment on, I knew that this band would leave a permanent mark on me. There was something about their sound and how different they were from every other band that made me fall so in love with them. In 2012, my 11 year old self was ecstatic when I had the opportunity to catch a small portion of Yellocard’s set at the Vans Warped Tour stop in Holmdel, New Jersey. Unfortunately, I had to leave their set early, but for those few songs I caught, I was over the moon.

When the band announced they would be doing an acoustic tour in honor of the 10-year release of Ocean Avenue, I was so excited…until I saw that there was no New Jersey dates and both of the New York dates had sold out. For months, I was frustrated and patiently waiting for the band to announce some other tour so I could finally catch a full set of theirs. Thankfully, the band announced they would be doing a second round of dates for the acoustic tour and one of them was at a favorite venue of mine, Starland Ballroom. I wasn’t missing this show for the world. And even though I had to leave their set early – AGAIN – right after their acoustic set (for reasons beyond my control), just seeing and hearing them play live made me fall in love with them all over again.

Openers, What’s Eating Gilbert, immediately had the crowd’s attention from the moment they stepped foot on stage. This was my first time seeing or hearing the band, for that matter, and I was extremely impressed! Not to mention that their cover of “Pretty Woman” was nothing but pure genius. Seriously. If you’re doubting me, go google their cover. Fantastic. And their snazzy wardrobe was definitely a perk as well.

Once they left the stage, the crowd was stuck with nothing to do but wait for Yellowcard to start their set. Well…that’s not completely true. One of the many reasons that I love Starland Ballroom? They play the best handful of songs in between sets that call for the most awesome sing-alongs you’ll ever be a part of. The songs that night included The Starting Line, Blink 182, and even some old school Panic! At The Disco. After the sing-alongs and 5 minutes worth of $3.50 shots (yeah, that was a thing), the band I had loved since I was 11 hit the stage. The lights dimmed and the stage was covered in selectively placed lights to truly make this acoustic set one that was very intimate.

Lead singer, Ryan Key, outlined four rules for the night. Two of the most important rules? 1. Sing along until you lose your voice and 2. Enjoy the show through your eyes rather than your phone. As the first few chords of “Way Away” began to play, you could feel the atmosphere change. There was nothing but excitement, adrenaline and love for the band on stage that was holding every single persons attention. And even though this was technically an acoustic set, that didn’t stop people from crowd-surfing through the first few songs. Hey, we’re from Jersey. We go hard!

Now there’s a lot that could be said about this band, this album, and this performance. The first thing that comes to mind though? Incredible. As the band played through the album, from “Way Away” to “Ocean Avenue” to what Key likes to call “number 6” to “View From Heaven” and “One Year, Six Months” – it was all clear: this band creates music for the fans. For anyone in attendance of the show that night, you would hear the members of the band constantly repeat how appreciative they were for every single person in the room that was singing (and even screaming) those lyrics back to them. They were appreciative that people wanted to spend their Friday nights in a crowded, sweaty room, just to hear a band play some songs. But to me, and I’m sure to most of the people in that crowd, Yellowcard will never be JUST a band playing some songs. They’re the reason why I fell in love with music. They’re a band that always gave me hope when nothing else did. They changed my life and I’m sure they’ve touched and changed the lives of many others as well.

Although I was initially disappointed with the acoustic release of this album (I had expected nothing but Key’s vocals and some acoustic guitars, not a full band), the live performance was one for the record books. The energy from both the band and the crowd bounced off each other and kept the night that much more exciting. And even though the band just wrapped up their acoustic tour, do yourself a favor and make it a goal of yours to see Yellowcard at least once in your life. Trust me – you’ll thank me later.

As I mentioned, I unfortunately did not get to stay for Yellowcard’s electric set, but I have found some videos from the show (props to the guy that recorded them for such great quality!) of some of my favorite songs which I will include below. Enjoy! Even though this contradicts one of the rules Key listed…oops?

Paper WallsWith You Around | Awakening | Lights & Sounds/Ocean Avenue 

Review:: Ocean Avenue Acoustic | Yellowcard

I’ve never ranked Yellowcard as one of my favorite bands.
That being said, I don’t see that as being an insult.
The thing is, I have always given the band my utmost respect. I have been a fan of them for a while, I’ve been fortunate enough to see them perform a few times, even shot photos once.
But, like I said, they’ve never been in my Top Bands list or anything.

However, I have considered Ocean Avenue an important album to me for quite some time. When it was released, I was eleven. Yeah, eleven. I had always been a music fan. My father had sculpted my brother and me into walking, talking jukeboxes filled with pointless trivia, and it’s something that the three of us still bond over to this day.

But, when I first started discovering my own music, that was an entirely new thing to me. Thanks to a friend back in Catholic school (hooray for character building!) and his Walkman, I found out what pop-punk was.

And since then, I’ve devoured every album, song, chorus, note I could find.

Okay, enough retrospective rambling. It’s been a decade since Ocean Avenue came out. And for ten years, new fans and diehards alike have poured out their hearts singing along to this album. I know dozens of people who possess life-sculpting memories thanks to this album – the friends who would sing along to “Way Away” during the title screen of Madden ‘04, the lyrics to “Breathing” plastered into AIM away messages, slow-dancing to “Only One” in the middle of a crowded room. For Yellowcard to rework such a memorable album took some serious courage. And for a band who released some of their best, most honest work on their most recent record, it shows boatloads of confidence as well.

Tinkering with classics is always a double-edged sword. Just ask Hollywood, which seems to be quickly running out of movie ideas. However, a remake isn’t always a failure (anybody else see the new Evil Dead?). On Acoustic, we’re given second chances at a first listens. The soaring chorus of “Only One” is beautifully toned down and nearly timid, “Ocean Avenue” adds backing xylophones but, unfortunately, doesn’t go much further, and the combination of the added acoustic guitars and a decade’s worth of Key’s vocal growth on closer “Back Home” transform it into a gorgeous, somber finale.

It’s tough to say my final take on the Acoustic release. Much like when Alkaline Trio gave us Damnesia, it took a second or third listen to fully digest the tweaks that had been given to songs that made me love music, to really appreciate the alternate versions of songs that had made me me. I didn’t anticipate myself to hold this in higher regards than the original, nor should any listener, because I don’t know it that could be possible. It was released at such an integral moment in my life that, now, I see it as vital. It sculpted a lot of my views on what music was and what it could be, what it could mean, what it could feel like and what it could make me feel. Hell, I’m still being shaped by that record.

But now, hearing these adaptations at nearly 22 years old, I can take away something new from songs I first heard back when I was still sneaking into PG-13 theaters.

Written By: Eric Riley