One Last Time: Saying Farewell To Hostage Calm
The morning of February 27 arrived with the gentle nudge of my alarm clock, but even a quiet, buzzing phone was enough to rile me out of my slumber. Today was going to be an exciting day, an adventurous day, an emotional day.
Today would be the last day I’d be able to spend watching Hostage Calm perform live.
How do I even begin to explain Hostage Calm? My band played with Hostage Calm after its self-titled came out, and I was mesmerized by the precise, math-y grooves that laced the band’s heavier punk sensibilities. Impressive musicianship, smart lyrics and something electric in the way Hostage Calm performed kept my interest. Marriage equality anthem “Ballots/Stones” sold me on buying a Hostage Calm “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” shirt, and tracks like “War On A Feeling” and “Rebel Fatigues” caught my attention. I was intrigued, but I hadn’t totally fallen in love yet.
It was Please Remain Calm, the next album, that would worm its way into my overly sentimental heart and refuse to budge. To be honest, I’d fallen off keeping tabs on HC until a friend put “The 'M' Word” on a playlist for me. Feeling infatuated with the song, I dove into the record itself and I’ve never been the same.
The album is anthemic, every single song expressing some facet of the Generation-Whatever We’re-Called experience. From heartbreak to political unrest, each hook, riff and harmony blasted a magical feeling of defiance and solidarity. I was obsessed. I memorized all the lyrics and spent hours playing the record on repeat, and I couldn’t shake the soaring feeling it gave me even after the album ended.
The album art is burned into my brain, the patch on the cover has a permanent home on my black hoodie.
“Between loneliness and some broken love, I choose none of the above.”
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The Hell We Raised
It may not surprise you that I was very excited to get my hands on Hostage Calm’s newest album, Die On Stage. I was unnerved by all the “One Last Time” phrasing and ominous title, because this band was way too cool to call it quits anytime soon. Die On Stage was great, not quite as amazing as Please Remain Calm, but I think it would be impossible to beat an album that said everything that needed to be said.
Still, I memorized every word, bought tickets to see Hostage Calm open on Citizen’s full U.S. tour and hung my Die On Stage banner in my dorm room with pride. You can imagine my utter distress when only a few days into the tour, Hostage Calm announced online that it would no longer be a band, it was dropping the whole rest of the tour and that the musicians weren’t sure if they would ever play a show again.
I was depressed, selfishly feeling like I never got a chance to say goodbye. I didn’t get a chance to thank Hostage Calm for creating some of the most important music I had ever heard. There was no glimmer of hope, no sign that I would ever get to experience the music of HC live ever again, but of course I was being overdramatic.
By an amazing stroke of luck and probably the result of a bunch of devoted fans’ prayers, Hostage Calm announced five final shows. One was on a Friday in NYC, so I called my boyfriend Garrett and we agreed to buy show tickets and plane tickets, because I couldn’t miss this. I needed closure.
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Garrett and I hit the road from Wooster to Cleveland for our flight to NYC. The car ride was filled with laughter and excitement as we dreamt of Santo’s Party House and the amazing show we were about to see. The painless drive to CLE, hilarious TSA folks and early arrival should have been a warning that things were going way too well, but we were happy-go-lucky and bopped on over to the gate.
Between reading BUST magazine and snacking, we began to notice our flight’s departure getting delayed little by little. I was anxious because I’m a worrier, but Garrett kept reassuring me that we had some wiggle room and we wouldn’t be late to the show if our flight was delayed a half hour or even a whole hour. He was right.
The universe proceeded to punch me straight in the gut; it had been too kind to us all morning. Of course the flight’s status went from delayed to cancelled as soon as the plane reached the gate, and my heart sank. In a panic I called the American Airlines' help desk and after several minutes of psychotic pacing, an amazing human being by the name of Michelle listened to my panicked explanation of why we needed to get to NYC at a certain time, and she worked tirelessly to get our tickets transferred to Delta so we could get into the city and take the train to the venue in enough time to see Hostage Calm.
I felt like I was waving goodbye to any intimacy with the band, doomed to be the shortest human in the venue, shunned in the back of the crowd because of a cancelled flight and delayed arrival. But as long as I could hear that music live one last time, nothing else mattered.
Don’t Let Their Battles Wear You Down
Fast forward to arriving in NYC, maneuvering the subway system with near 100% success and walking two miles to Santo’s Party House in Manhattan. We arrived around 7:48, catching the last few tracks of Such Gold’s performance. By some amazing miracle, the venue was not packed in yet, and I swiftly dragged Garrett around the patches of people to anchor us right against the front of the stage.
This was the universe apologizing, I think.
Vinnie Caruana played a delightful acoustic set to a crowd of passionate NYC fans who knew every single word to every song by the NYC native, their voices all joining together to shout back at Caruana. It was amazing to watch a room of many different people unite like that, and it was indicative of the energy that would spark and ignite during Hostage Calm’s set.
I watched through a slit in the curtain to backstage as the members of HC seemed to gather around as Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” blasted from the venue’s PA. Cmar thrust a “rock on” sign into the air. Whether they were watching Cmar perform a motivational speech or just rocking out to a classic jawn, my heart was racing with anticipation. The song ended and all the members of Hostage Calm stepped out onto the stage.
It took everything in my power not to cry as they pounded into the opening of “On Both Eyes.” I felt the rush of the crowd, watched the first flood of stage divers and belted out the lyrics with the strangers around me. The set felt like it was flying by too fast, but every song was a dream. They played older tracks like “400,000,” “Rebel Fatigues” and “A Mistrust Earned” and played an impeccable mix of Please Remain Calm and Die On Stage.
My irrational and obsessive love of the song “Patriot” (off of Please Remain Calm) rose to new heights as the band tore into the track in a full-band version of the song. The crowd was buzzing, a room of people singing together about wanting unity and hope in a troubled nation. To hear the pack of sweaty humans totally fuck up the weird off-beat clapping in the bridge and laugh about it before all very passionately and seriously crowding the front to blast out the lyrics, “All I ever wanted was to be there with you forever!” was truly heart-shattering.
That’s all we wanted, really. To have the chance to experience this intimate connection with a band that just got it, but forever. And we couldn’t have forever, so we had to enjoy the few minutes left.
The band closed with “The “M” Word,” which absolutely gutted me. The memories attached to that song collided with my anguish that this joyous celebration for Hostage Calm was about to end, and I could barely breathe. Tears rushed down my face (because I’m the world’s biggest sap) and I clutched the stage as we joined in singing, “Oh, it’s a sad time to be young, knowing the worst has just begun.”
Of course they couldn’t just leave us hanging like that, so we shouted for more songs. The five men who make up Hostage Calm obliged, promptly returning to the stage to perform two more gifts. Caruana joined to perform guest vocals on “Raised,” a perfect, angst-ridden send off.
“Every passion is a passing phase, but the hell we’ve raised…”
One Last Time.
The bittersweet riff that leads into “Woke Up Next To A Body” danced into my ears, and my breath caught. This was it. The last song I would ever see Hostage Calm play live. My body was on fire, nerves over-firing in compensation of the frenzy of emotion that was taking over my mind. I’d joked all day about stage diving, and as the burning bridge before the punchy cut out of guitars towards the end of the song approached, Garrett looked at me and motioned to the stage. Clambering awkwardly onto the platform at the same time as three very burly dudes, I ran to the opposite side of the stage and leapt out onto the passionate crowd to the sound of that dramatic snare hit, and it took everything in my power not to cry.
These people holding me up were singing along too, and I could feel their emotions syncing up with mine. What an amazing and magical thing, that these people were willing to catch human bodies and experience wild pushing and clambering all to watch this group of everyday people make noise on stage. Music had done that incredible thing it does, bringing people together to celebrate before they mourned, all of us losing our minds at an event we’d never experience again.
I think that was always the appeal of Hostage Calm. Its music was a celebration of the complicated reality in which we lived, the imperfections we live with and the love for which we hunger. Everyone in that room was fully alive, regardless of what troubles we faced at home, what awful injustices were occurring in our nation and around the world or what ills affected our souls. Just as its music had done many times before, Hostage Calm’s performance made me feel like I could make a change, like I mattered and that my efforts to create a better world for myself and the people I loved were not in vain. I felt like I could take on anything. Hostage Calm had given all of that to me; whether HC knew it or not did not matter.
What mattered was that Hostage Calm had given me and many others a goodbye that would light the fire in our hearts to keep our rebel spirits alive and well in its absence.
“Can’t you feel the unease, from these troubled states to the Middle East? The youth of the world are alive in the streets.”
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