The year is 2003. You arrive home on a Friday afternoon having just finished another grueling day at school. You grab your trusty iPod 3G and pop those earbuds in, awaiting that iconic guitar riff to start your weekend off right. The lyrics barrel out at an ear-drum-blasting volume and penetrate your every thought with a youthful euphoria; ‘we were both 16 and it felt so right.’ You sit back and relax; you are carefree because you have your whole life ahead of you.
Fast forward 20 years later and things look a lot different today. Many of us have grown up and have accepted a whole slew of responsibilities 16 year old versions of ourselves would have never been able to fathom. However, Yellowcard fans in Philadelphia were faced with the opportunity to let the stress of adulthood melt away for a few hours last week and we owe thanks to the band’s “Celebrating 20 Years of Ocean Avenue” tour for that.
On Tuesday, July 11th, the venue’s outdoor Skyline Stage and band of 20+ years presented themselves to thousands of reminiscent pop punk fans ready to celebrate the anniversary of a seminal album in the genre and the reuniting of a band just as significant. It helped having support in the form of friends made along the way with fun-loving sets from Mayday Parade, Story of the Year, and This Wild Life, three bands who are also no strangers to music and have been well-established in it for over a decade.
Yellowcard’s energy exploded as they ripped through “Way Away” and “Breathing” to start, the first two tracks off of Ocean Avenue. And just like that, we were all swept into a whirlwind of yesteryear as those that still had every lyric memorized shouted them out into the summer air. And the magic of it all was that, despite the band’s 5 year long hiatus, it felt as though no time had passed at all. Yellowcard walked on stage and everything just fell into place as if they were meant to perform and we were meant to be soaking up their refreshing positivity.
Early on, vocalist William Ryan Key made sure to express his gratitude in a speech that left everyone feeling equal parts nostalgic and sentimental. “This is real, this is actually happening. None of us ever thought this tour would happen. We never thought we’d be playing music again,” Key admitted regarding Yellowcard’s recent reuniting.
Camaraderie oozed off of the stage in a heart-melting display of longtime friendships turned creative partners turned friends again. With it followed their appreciation for everyone who stuck around. “It’s surreal how many people have showed up. We cannot see the end of you, thank you. You all brought us back to life.” Key turned to his bandmates and offered a very genuine “I love you guys so fucking much.”
As if words weren’t enough, the way the band interacted with the crowd proved an overflow of admiration for their supporters. Violinist Sean Mackin’s mile wide smile was absolutely infectious each time he leaned out into the ocean of people to bridge the gap between the stage and crowd. When guitarist Ryan Mendez and bassist Josh Portman hopped onto the risers at the front of the stage, it never felt as though its purpose was to elevate themselves, but to meet everyone’s excitement without being swallowed by the stage.
The spirits surrounding the Skyline Stage were high from every angle. Security high-fived crowd-surfers who came running from in front of the barricade with uncontainable grins as if they had been waiting for the moment to swim atop bodies to “Rough Landing, Holly” since the moment the band’s hiatus began. There, we were more than just fans listening to a band we liked and they were more than just the band we liked performing for their fans. We were people experiencing heartwarming connections on a very human level. We were all in this experience together.
Halfway through the set, the band invited good friend and vocalist of Mayday Parade, Derek Sanders, onto the stage to help them perform “Hang You Up,” a touching moment after Key had admitted he owed so much of his ability to heal from the loss of Yellowcard post-breakup to befriending the band.
As their set transitioned into its latter half, the band dedicated a slot of time to their latest single released this year, “Childhood Eyes,” the first new music they performed for a crowd in 7 whole years. Suddenly, looking around sparked a realization. Attendees who once listened to Ocean Avenue as teenagers were now full-fledged adults meeting Yellowcard’s experience with the addition of something 2003 certainly could not have provided; their very own kids. In that moment, the passage of time was evident, but in this context, it no longer felt like such a bad thing. The crowd was riddled with new faces who were possibly experiencing live music for the very first time, proving that the passage of time can in fact inspire remarkable things. It can see progress, create families, and bring bands back together.
This made their encore all the more special. As they moved through “With You Around,” “Only One,” and of course, “Ocean Avenue,” generations were brought together by a mutual appreciation for a band whose impact transcends time. The end of their show should have been bittersweet, but it was just sweet as we sought comfort in knowing that they were back and that they were here to stay. And so were all of the other good things that came to their listeners over the past 20 years.
Experiencing the celebration of Ocean Avenue and Yellowcard’s live show experience was the perfect use of a summer evening whose warmth reflected the warmth of its sentiment. Aside from being the only place you’d hear the words “skin-melting violin” used in the same sentence, seeing the band back at it felt akin to reuniting with an old friend whose relationship recognizes, but feels unmoved by, the passage of time, whose ability to pick things up right where they left off trumps lost days, months, or even years while celebrating the experiences had within them. Yellowcard proved to be that friend for many that night. So happy birthday Ocean Avenue. Thanks for being the soundtrack to the lives of past, present, and future music listeners.
Show Date: 07.11.23 | Philadelphia, PA @ The Mann | Yellowcard Ocean Avenue Birthday