More often than not, I underestimate the power of music. Inadvertently shove all meaning and emotional ties to the back of my mind. Seldom do I sit and just listen. Music: it is every cliche that has ever been said about it, and isn’t that the point of a cliche? Only the truth is what makes cliches so. Music is everything: our background noise in busy coffee shops, our comfort on our early morning work commute. The soundtrack to the happiest moments and the dull drone in moments of despair. It’s always somehow there. But how often do we just listen?
Somewhere in between eight and ninth grade is when I really started getting into live music. I’d loved music long before that, but the live aspect was something totally new to me and after my first show, I was hooked. Living in Calgary, shows were few and far in between (I was going to say “especially back when I was a kid” but one, that makes me feel too old when it wasn’t that long ago and two, not much has changed in ways of getting tons of shows). Sure, enough acts came through, but I was just discovering live music: I had my genres, and I liked to stick with what I knew. I was just a young emo kid, to be honest - I read Alternative Press like the Bible and I just wanted my hair to look like just like Alex Gaskarth’s. If only Pete Wentz would have emerged from one of my (many) posters of him that I had (correction, have) hanging in my room and grabbed that hair straightener out of my hands to save me from myself and all the embarrassing photos that I would groan looking back on. All jokes and cringing aside, being exposed to this scene when I was at an impressionable age lead me to one of the greatest discoveries of my life: a band called The Maine.
I had heard of The Maine through reading Alternative Press, and I still have the magazine and the ad for Pioneer hung on my wall. Like I said, I read AP like the Bible, so any music they recommended I would check out, so, I Googled “The Maine.” When I realized that they were coming through Calgary on their next tour, I was unsure if I would be going to a show just for the sake of it, because nothing else was coming up. I clicked on the ticket link: Arkells w/ Special Guests: The Main. Well, they spelt their name wrong, for starters - I frantically researched to make sure that it was the same band. I had heard of the Arkells before, so I figured even that if The Maine were the openers, it would be a good show no matter what. So, I bought tickets on a whim. I’m notorious for wanting to study a band’s discography cover to cover before I see them live, but then never end up doing it. This was the one occasion that that wasn’t the case. I downloaded Pioneer, along with Black and White, and Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, and listened to The Maine for a month straight to get me prepared for the concert. Little did I know that nothing could prepare me for what would come my way over the next five years as a result of these two bands.
The concert was life changing for me. I stood at the very front and John O’Callaghan looked me in the eyes when he sang “We’ll All Be...,” specifically during the lyrics: for the first time, I feel less alone. I know it’s easy to claim this in a rush of excitement, but I remember it so vividly because it was real, I didn’t imagine it. And that moment? That was it. If I had to describe how the Maine make me feel in ten words or less, it’s those lyrics: less alone. I met some of my best friends at that show, and we were fortunate enough to see The Maine again in our hometown a year or so later, playing a headline show. Then, I caught them on Warped Tour after they released Forever Halloween, and this year, lucked out and saw them in London, as well as got to photograph them at Warped Tour 2016.
The point of this piece (as I’m sure you’ve already gathered) is not to review Pioneer, rather, to celebrate and to cherish it. Pioneer tells the story of The Maine, and this is the story of how Pioneer shaped my story and the person I am today. “Identify” brings the fireworks to kick off the album, and proceeding track “My Heroine” seductively rips through your earbuds. “Some Days,” is bittersweet bliss, it makes you want to float away from sadness but revel in the joy that life brings. “Don’t Give Up on Us” is an anthem for the down and out. “Misery” is a farewell to your demons both past and present. “Like We Did (Windows Down)” is a song that is so good I could probably write my thesis on it (don’t believe me? I have lyrics from this song in John’s handwriting tattooed on me because that’s how much I love it). “Like We Did” has a nostalgic vibe but makes you feel so alive in the present moment, no matter what. This song is the elixir of happiness, and is the epitome of the feeling of eternal youth - something that is physically unattainable, but in our mind and spirits, achievable.
I’m often blown away at how little mainstream recognition The Maine get, but to me, they’re the goddamn Rolling Stones. It doesn’t matter that some will never take the time to become acquainted with their music, as I feel an overwhelming sense of solidarity amongst myself and others who find solace in this secret. If it weren’t for Pioneer, I wouldn’t have met the people I did, who have become my best friends. I wouldn’t have made it through high school without this album. I wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to share this music with my parents, who have now been apart of my many trips and adventures based upon seeing this band live. If it weren’t for The Maine, I would have no idea who the Arkells are, a band I’ve worked for a few times now through capturing what they love to do best, doing what I love to do best, and I am happy to call my friends. These songs that helped me through high school now stand untouched in a trophy case - a reminder of the person I was and the person I have become. They will always be there, never gone, they just shine in a different light. They are a prize which stands as a testament to hope and endurance.
It’s truly hard to believe that this album has already been out for five years. So, looking forward: here’s to those who will discover Pioneer tomorrow, or five more years from now. My hope is that this album will be used in the way that I have used it and continue to use it, and continuously discover new ways to appreciate it. I hope that the ears that need to hear it and the hearts it will help are reached. This is an album that you need to hear before you die, because believe me, I wanted to - until I heard Pioneer. Turn it up, it’s my song - and thank you to The Maine for helping me savor the days that taste like lemonade and survive the days that feel like razorblades.