(Written after Copeland’s last American show in Orlando, FL on April 11, 2010.)
There was a lot that went into that night – the planning, the expectation, the travel, and the history.
A dear friend described the night as “saying goodbye to a big part of high school.” In the office, we have a sort of specific language that revolves around music. We realize that we are drawn to music that reminds us it’s ok to sing and scream and smile and cry. Music is a safe place and a common ground, and music is one place that we can run to in attempts to make sense of our lives. Copeland had always fulfilled that purpose for me, even when I couldn’t recognize that was the reason they hit me so hard.
What began as a $40 investment in a pair of tickets ended up being much more valuable. I emailed the staff to request they not book me for anything on April 11th, but this was long before a few other developments came to fruition, namely the Spring UChapters Tour and the Pick Up The Phone Tour. Once I knew I’d be on the road all of April, I told our partners in PUTP to find a replacement for me for the stop in DC, as I would be too busy standing in line at the Social in downtown Orlando that night. On April 10th, we had an event in NYC and I quickly loaded out in order to drive to DC by 4 in the morning, hop on a plane at 11 am and land in Orlando at 3 pm. From there, the plan was to celebrate the life of a band that meant so much to me and return to DC by the next morning for a press conference on Capitol Hill. Sixteen hours later and $250 poorer, I was able to arrive in DC with an uncensored smile that painted each word leaving my mouth.
Like many of you, “Brightest” was first my exposure to Copeland’s music. This marriage between ambience and “emo” – the vulnerability and lack of answers presented in the first album were what drew me in and encouraged me that questions are useful and allowed and appropriate. I found a sort of romance in the idea that, on Copeland’s website, they asked their audience not to pry for the exact meanings of songs because Aaron Marsh, they felt, had exposed enough of his heart in the music itself. And this allowed me to make their songs mine.
I have talked a great deal in recent months about how music and memory are in constant interplay; music allows us to time travel and revisit the most joyous of times, and also the moments where our hearts have failed others and us. As the set started winding down, I began to fear that my favorite songs would forever exist only in mp3 form, but I was gifted with the best encore that could have been scripted for me. The band began the encore with “Brightest,” the song that had played a huge role in the development of my musical tastes. Next was “Testing the Strong Ones,” which (in cliché fashion) I would say is the story of my life – the description of that gap between expectation and reality, the familiar scents of hospitals and the hope that pain will end soon, the frustration with and the longing for the supernatural, the guilt and sinking feeling, and the faces of Mema, Rebekah, and Diana, and the course of events that led me to find out what brokenness truly meant – that song became my hymn. I have been tested, scarred, and held. To me, this song is a validation. The words represented everything I could not find, or rather, was afraid to find because they would scare those around me. That song made me feel less “crazy” because it was proof that someone out there knew exactly what I was feeling.
And then Aaron then said the words that the packed venue was afraid to hear. “Thank you, we love you… We were Copeland.” The finality of that statement presented a stark contrast to their very last song, “You Have My Attention.” The song that, to this day, keeps me searching, seeking, hoping, and moving. Where “Testing the Strong Ones” describes the story of my life, “Attention” describes the hope for what my story will become. The song is about the knowing what you are looking for and keeping that in sight. Nothing else that matters. My favorite part of this song is that it doesn’t want to end. It just keeps driving and cuts in and out until it fades completely. The only reason it stops it because someone behind a studio wall decided to turn a knob to the left.
There was life in that room, and it was palpable. That night had countless faces and memories tied to every note, and that is rare. Everyone had entered through the doors with a story, and at some point in the lives of these individuals and the life of the band there had been a lyric or line or chord or sequence of tracks that brought us all together for that night.
Copeland was the first band I saw after I stopped self-injuring. I saw them in Charlottesville, VA at Starr Hill. I stood directly in front of the piano. I cried for the first time without needing booze to fuel my emotions. I felt something for the first time in years. I am quite simply indebted to these musicians and their art. They got me through those first painful weeks of lucidity and sobriety. I find healing in their words, and I find resonance in their questions. I find beauty in the word play. And now, I find comfort in their memory.
I am Chad because they were Copeland.