As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we’re looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one release from that year that resonates with them. This week, Dusty Henry reflects on Japandroids’ 2012 song “Younger Us,” stage dives, and finding the soundtrack to the end of an era in your life. Read or listen to the piece below.
There was an energy in the air, a sizzle of guitar distortion and sneakers sticking on beer-soaked floors. The perfect conditions for the first night of a new era of our lives.
It was 2012 and I’d just wrapped up my last quarter of college and gotten engaged. Popular culture was buzzing with a supposed prophecy that this was the year our world would come to an end. Finality was the name of the game.
I’d been living in a house that was, depending on who you asked, either affectionately known as “the Brick house” or “the rat house” – it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why we chose those names. A house packed with five college dudes with more beer cans than disinfectant, one of those college houses that gets passed down from year to year, black mold and all. It was disgusting and glorious. But this too we knew would come to an end. I wasn’t the only one graduating or taking the next leap in life.
As exciting as the future was, it was also paralyzing. Knowing that soon you’d need to enter the workforce, maybe not staying up until four in the morning playing Magic the Gathering and blasting music with your friends. No one wants to sell out and lose themselves, but “the rat house” was not a sustainable way to live.
As if right on cue, Vancouver BC duo Japandroids came out with their second record, Celebration Rock. It’s a record that eschews subtlety – both opening and closing with the sound of fireworks. With just a guitar, drums, and choruses that mostly contain “ooh ooh ohhs” and “wooah-oh-ohs,” they crafted a pristine opus to the transitory time between reckless youth and swiftly approaching adulthood.
I became obsessed with the album and evangelized it to my housemates. One of my closest friends in the house was also finishing his classes at the same time as me, one of my friends who I met on my first day of college. The two of us became entrenched in Japandroids feverish odes to drinking and the pendulum that swings from self-doubt to “I’m going to live forever.”
Fate seemed to favor us as Japandroids announced a show at Neumos in Seattle right after our final classes. My fiancée graciously bought us all tickets to celebrate. In true Japandroids fashion, we got too many drinks at a fancy cocktail bar we couldn’t really afford before stumbling over to the venue. When we arrived, we found a crowd of people who all seemed to be feeling what we were. A crave for release, to shout, to dance, to jump, and turn ourselves over to recklessness.
As the sound barreled through stacks of amplifiers, the crowd burst into a frenzy. Sweat seemed to glimmer from the glow of the stage lights. My buddy instantly was consumed in the fray, or maybe he was actually leading it. I watched as he jumped again and again from the stage, gliding over the hands of the crowd. He may have actually spent more time in the air than on the ground the whole show, like a drunk and tattooed Superman. I stayed on the outskirts for a while.
Torn between feeling like I should hang back and let others have their fun, or celebrate one last hurrah. I turned to my fiancée and before I could get a word in she looked at me and said “go.” Soon enough, I was drenched in a cocktail of strangers' sweat, standing between the band on stage and diving into the sea of hands.
A few months later at our wedding, we handed out handmade mix CDs to the guests. Right in the center was “Younger Us” by Japandroids. One of our favorite songs from Celebration Rock, a nostalgic ode to fleeting youth, looking back and wanting to recapture those “good old days.”
I still can vividly remember those stage dives whenever I hear that song, embracing my friend in the pit. What I didn’t grasp then is that the good times don’t actually end. Sure, they change. Life moves faster. Schedules get harder and the hangovers get worse. But the friendship endures. Youth is a fleeting blessing. It makes for great memories, but it’s not the end. It’s just the foundation that’ll springboard into the rest of your lives.
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