Guest Post: What It Was Like Opening For My Favorite Band’s Final Show

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Photo Credit Jesse Johnson

There is nothing more amazing than opening a show for one of your favorite bands. It’s the summation of all your pain and sacrifices coming together to create a worthwhile moment. It’s the time you point to in moments of self-doubt to prove it was all worth it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of perfect timing—a freak accident. This happened to me when Motion City Soundtrack asked me to open their final show 10 minutes before doors opened.

At this point I had been traveling with the band for a week on their last trip to Japan, and we flew from Tokyo to Chicago for their final show. Their drummer Tony Thaxton is my fiancée and we met playing music together after he had already left the band in 2013. He originally left because touring had taken its toll on him, but he rejoined for a final tour with the band’s original lineup.

Their final show at the Metro in Chicago sold out the instant tickets went on sale. Everyone was dealing with a 13-hour time difference and we were all comparing notes at the beginning of our day to see who had the weirdest sleeping schedule. I was frazzled and emotional, and I can only imagine what they were feeling having 19 years of their careers coming to an end in one final celebratory night. It’s happiness, nostalgia and mourning—like watching a New Year’s countdown happen for a small group of people who you’ve grown to love. These were people who had become my friends over the past year and I was watching all these emotions play out on their faces and I felt the same stress, minus the pressure of performing. That is, until Tony walked in and asked me to open the show: “Black Foxxes had to drop off the bill and we don’t have anyone to open. Can you do it?”

I had flashbacks to a year earlier. I was on tour playing keys for What’s Eating Gilbert when they had to drop off the three-week stint due to an emergency. The headliner Anthony Raneri (Bayside) asked if I could finish the tour with my own project, Tiny Stills. Both conversations began with me cursing and ended with me asking for a sharpie and a napkin. Sharpies and napkins have informed so many of my important life decisions.

I have a profound and deep respect for MCS. I admire their cathartic songwriting and fearless performing. Their lyrics have inspired me, and I’ll always remember where I was when I first heard their music. They were a game changer for me, and now because of my relationship with Tony, this band means something even more to me. They had brought him into my life indirectly—this person who became my person. No pressure.

Before I went on stage an avalanche of stress hit me. It’s like being transported to that time when you’re learning how to dive off the diving board for the first time and gravity kicks in and you panic but it’s too late—you’re going in and you can either belly flop or follow through. It was two minutes of eternity standing on the side of that stage. I felt like throwing up. I felt like passing out. If only I had more time. I asked where we were – Chicago, right? When you get that stressed out you forget things like where you are. That’s life for you. I wanted to run away; I walked on stage instead.

This was the kind of show that fuels your daydreams for the rest of your life. It will be the thing I force myself to remember the next time those inevitable voices of doubt try to overthrow my passion to continue. When I got to the microphone I realized the performing part was easy. It was being asked by people you admire to do something amazing that was so mind blowing and scary. I looked at the crowd. They weren’t strangers. These were friends I was planning on screaming all the lyrics with later that night when MCS came out to play some of our favorite songs for the last time. We had all felt the same things. We knew what it was like to be scared and lonely, we had our hearts broken, and lost people we loved. This was our time to come together and celebrate all the pains that made us able to relate to one another. I played my set. I hope I gave someone a song that can comfort them the same way so many of my favorite songs have comforted me.

I watched Motion City Soundtrack play their last show from the side of the stage. I sang the words when I wasn’t crying. I noticed a paper taped to the wall. In big black letters it read, “You are in Chicago.”


Written by: Kailynn West

Check out Kailynn’s music with Tiny Stills: