The Gaslight Anthem
December 31st, 2007
The Starland Ballroom
Sayreville, New Jersey
The last few months were leading up to this day. Since the formal announcement of the show, the end of the year was nothing more than a countdown to New Year’s Eve. Ten years ago, I stepped into a basement in New Jersey to see a little band called This Side of Brightness. Ten years later, I stepped into one of the Starland Ballroom to see the same band, now called Thursday.
Anyone who has ever been to one of Thursday’s annual holiday shows knows that there are always surprises and no matter how many times you’ve seen them, you’re going to be in for a real treat. New Year’s Eve was no exception.
After having braved the cold and the line outside, we were greeted by people with party favours, hats, and horns. Passes were collected, old friends were greeted and new friends were made. By this time, innerpartysystem were completely finished getting their stuff off the stage, and the Gaslight Anthem were dragging their gear onstage. I was really looking forward to seeing them play. I had heard that they were the Jersey version of Against Me!, and everyone who said that were correct. They were an equal mix of working class punk and roots with a little bit of grit thrown in for good measure. I thoroughly enjoyed them even if it seemed like not very many other people did. Their set was short, sweet, and to the point. They didn’t spend much time with banter aside from introducing themselves and saying that they were from New Brunswick, but I almost think that that worked in their favour. They let their music do the talking for them.
Before I knew it, they were finished loading out and Circa Survive were setting up.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect for their set. I had heard mixed reviews from Anthony’s acoustic set from the 27th, so I wasn’t really sure if he was going to be on or not. He came out to wow the crowd, and wow the crowd he did. Anthony is really settling into his skin and is really becoming acclimated to really fronting a rock band. It seems strange knowing that he’s done the frontman thing for a while now, but sometimes when someone has such a strong stage presence, it’s a little hard to get used to. He is really learning to use his charisma to his advantage. He’s learning to channel all of his energy and use it to put on an explosive performance. As evidenced by the setlist, they played a nice mix of old and new to the delight of the crowd. They played through every minute of their 45 minute set like it was the last set that they were going to play. They were having so much fun and that really showed in how well they played. The crowd seemed to notice as well because they went mental from the first note.
Their set was over just as soon as it began, and I could see Thursday’s guitar tech, Josh, dragging gear up from behind the screen. It seemed like they were taking their time. I was probably just getting anxious. In reality, they were probably just waiting to take the stage at that specific time to that they could play in the New Year. It was all a part of their grand plan, I’m sure. Joey had told me most of what was going to happen and who was going to sing, so I was starting to get really excited. The rest of the photo squad positioned themselves in the photo pit and got ourselves situated. One of the security guards told me what Geoff was planning to do, so I moved myself towards the centre of the so called pit. Almost as if on cue, the screen went blank and the houselights came down.
This is what we had been waiting for all year.
I had peeked over the monitor and had a look at the setlist. To say that I was mildly disappointed that they had changed it [read: no songs from waiting] from when Joey Southside told me earlier was a slight understatement, but knowing what was going to take place took away any and all sense of disappointment that I might have had. Watching these guys play was kind of strange. No longer were they on stage to work because they were in the middle of a tour. No longer were they on stage because they had to be. They were onstage because they wanted to be. They were there to have fun. They were there to commemorate ten years since the first time they played a New Year’s Eve show in Geoff’s basement with Saves the Day with one guitar player [Geoff.]. Even after all of the millions of times that they have played these songs over the years, everything still seemed fresh. They weren’t the same band that they were last year. They played with an energy that I hadn’t seen in a while. It almost seemed like they had an attitude of, “fuck it, we’re going to have fun tonight and if we make mistakes, then so be it.” They played through the first three songs, and we were all ushered out. I didn’t really start enjoying the set until they started playing Understanding in a Car Crash. Joey had told me that Anthony was going to come out and sing, but when he didn’t turn out, it was clear that the band had more up their sleeve than what they had let on. Everyone, including Steve, was in really good spirits. Maybe it was because everyone’s parents were there. Maybe it was because everyone’s friends were there. Maybe because it was New Year’s Eve. Who knows? Whatever it was, though, it made a huge difference in the way they not only interacted with each other, but with the crowd as well. Everything was a little punchier. Everything was a little bit tighter. The angry parts were angrier and the loud parts were just a little bit louder. You could hardly hear Geoff over the crowd. Everyone was singing along so loudly, and so enthusiastically. It was one of the greatest things I had seen in a while. There was such a sense of solidarity if ever I felt it.
Right before Cross out the Eyes, Geoff said something that floored me. He said something that I never thought I would hear him say, and it was something that the entire band had kept a secret from everyone. He said something to the effect of, “there is a band that has been a huge influence on us. They broke up last year, and I think that without them, we wouldn’t be here. These guys are one of my all time favourite bands, and I’m really excited to have Nathan Gray from boysetsfire come out and join us on this next song.” There was a split second of silence as if the crowd didn’t believe what they had just heard. Nathan to came out, picked up the microphone and BAM right into the song. Nathan and Geoff bounced lines off of each other like ping pong balls. They were such a perfect vocal match for each other it was ridiculous. By the end of the song, the entire band was all smiles. They played Love Song Writer and walked off stage to get ready for the countdown.
Like clockwork, at 11:58, the band walked out and picked up their instruments.
“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this right, New Jersey. Ready?
Happy New Year!”
The balloons fell and Tom started into that riff and everyone knew what was coming. Perhaps it was a little bit cliché, but no one cared. The place exploded into Jet Black New Year. The crowd lunged towards the stage. The band lunged towards the crowd. The only thing that kept the two apart, though not for long, was the barricade. I saw Joey on the side of the stage, and almost as if on cue, Jesse #12 walked out, soon followed by Joey. It was a noisy, chaotic, beautiful thing to see. The three of them screamed into the mic one last time and Geoff introduced the two just on stage: Jesse as their friend and Joey as their friend and the singer of “one of my favourite fucking hardcore bands ever.” After a powerful rendition of Tomorrow I’ll Be You, mistakenly introduced as never having been played outside of Australia before(it was played at the Holiday show in 2004 and on the European tour in May 04), the band was done, the formal 21+ afterparty invite extended, and the houselights brought up. Under 21s filed out, and the rest of us danced the night away
That is how New Year’s Eve 2007 happened.
The Gaslight Anthem
In Fear and Faith
The Only Difference Between Medicine and Poison is the Dose
Holding Someone’s Hair Back
Semi Constructive Criticism
Stop the Fucking Car
Kicking Your Crosses Down
Between Rupture and Rapture
Other Side of the Crash [Over and Out of Control]
Understanding in a Car Crash
Sugar in the Sacrament
At This Velocity
War All the Time
Ladies and Gentlemen, My Brother the Failure
Signals Over the Air
For the Workforce (Drowning)
Autobiography of a Nation
Cross Out the Eyes [%]
Love Song Writer
Jet Black New Year [^]
Tomorrow I’ll Be You
% = with NATHAN GRAY FROM BOYSETSFIRE
^ = with Jesse [the Number Twelve Looks Like You] and Joey Southside [The Banner]