They Were Contenders

I would be remised if I didn’t share my thoughts on the recently announced indefinite hiatus of The Gaslight Anthem. I can’t think of a band that I’ve blogged more about over the years than those guys.

Writing on Facebook, the group said, “We wanted to let everyone know that we’ll all be taking a break from The Gaslight Anthem after this next European tour in August. We’re all going to do other projects and stay active in some way or another, both in and out of music, but we’d like to step away from the band until we decide what we’d like to do next.”

It’s unclear when or if the band will get back together for more shows or another album, but I’m glad I had the chance to see them play numerous times in Philly and NJ. I still remember when I bought their first album, Sink or Swim, back in 2007. I was living in a ramshackle apartment, just out of college, and working a full-time job as a reporter. Some of my roommates were still in college, and I was in that weird in-between phase of being an adult and still clinging to those college days of late night drives coming back from Philly after punk shows, my clothes stinking of sweat and cigarette smoke, my car stereo blasting three-minute tracks.

Yet, by that point, I was tired of spinning the same familiar punk albums from my record collection. I hungered for something to jolt me in the same way that I was floored when I heard The Clash or Black Flag for the first time. Since The Gaslight Anthem was getting such immense attention in the punk community, I wanted to hear what all of the fuss was about.

I must have listened to Sink or Swim half a dozen times when I first got it. There wasn’t anything groundbreaking in the music; big hooks, power chords, and rapid snare beats have always been the formula for punk music. But Brian Fallon’s lyrics resonated with me the most. Those tracks about “dime-store punks” and waiting for a lover by the light of the moon stuck me as a writer. The band’s soulfulness was evident even on those driving, three-minute punk songs, and that soulfulness would only grow  throughout their career. I also liked Brian’s ability, even on the first album, to mash-up rock n roll lyrics in his songs, everyone from Joe Strummer to Bob Dylan to Springsteen. It was clear, almost immediately, that the band would not be confined to three chords and sweaty basement shows.  They were going places and their influences were too broad.

Over the years, the shows got bigger and I saw the guys perform less and less, but with each album, no matter the changes in sound, I found tracks to love. The last album, Get Hurt, a document of Brian Fallon’s divorce,  came out as I split with my fiancé. For me, it was the right album for the right time, just as Sink or Swim was at the time.

When I first saw Gaslight, at a record release party for the Loved Ones in Philly, I told them after their opening set they were going to be big. They shrugged it off, but the soul, the poetry, the punk rock energy, and the best kind of rock n roll influences were all there from the beginning.

Thanks for all of the music and memories, guys! Please come back soon!

Here’s a video from their final show at the Reading Festival in the UK this past weekend.

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About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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