Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Format: An Obituary

Like I said yesterday, The Format broke up earlier this week. Upon reflection, I've decided they were my favorite band of all time. The reason being, to me, The Format represented growing up.

I saw my first Format concert when I was 17 as openers at a Yellowcard/Something Corporate concert. It was the first concert I ever traveled to see. I bought Interventions and Lullabies and kept it in my CD player for almost two months.

My second Format concert was the summer before I went to college. My friend Lauren and I drove two hours to the House of Bricks--a shitty club in Des Moines to see them. It was an all ages show, so it started early because the club had a policy of kicking underage kids out by 8. There were less than a hundred people there. Limbeck, Maxeen, and Steel Train opened for them and they went so long that by the time The Format went on they only had about half an hour to play.

They ripped through their set and they'd just gotten through their acoustic break, "On Your Porch", when the sound guy came on the PA and said they had time for one more song. They played "Wait Wait Wait" and just as they hit the last note they switched into "The First Single". The first chorus hit ("let's cause a scene") the sound guy cut off the PA. The band kept playing and the crowd was singing so loud it didn't matter that the microphone didn't work anymore. Nate jumped off the stage and ran through the crowd, still singing, leading the crowd through another verse and two choruses, building with each line until the band hit their final note and the stage lights went out. It was transcendence. It was legend.

My third and final Format concert was in Iowa City, at the Picador (formerly Gabe's Oasis, where bands like Nirvana and 311 played on their way up the club ranks). The club capacity was about a quarter of what the other shows on the tour had been (Nate's grandparents live in Iowa City, and they came to the show), and if the fire marshall would've come in he would have shut the place down, no questions asked. It was a rowdy, intense show. The crowd sang along to every song, and when the band finished the encore with "She Doesn't Get It", nobody wanted to go home.

I have The Format's LPs on CD and vinyl. I have a Format messenger bag that I've used every day since the first show I saw. When I found out about the break up, I finally understood all those people who cried when The Beatles broke up. For the kids that packed the Picador and got thrown out of the House of Bricks, The Format is the closest they'll ever come to knowing that feeling.

If Kanye West announced he would never make another song, Rolling Stone would put it on the cover, and the million people who won his battle over 50 Cent would shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives. The Format won't get into their local paper for breaking up, much less Rolling Stone. The only way people will know is by word of mouth, or by reading their MySpace blog. But those kids who have spent hours pouring over the lyrics to the entire Dog Problems album and reading their blog will be in mourning for days, even weeks.

It is rare to experience something so pure as a band that isn't popular as a result of gimmicks or a scene or, in this climate, a ringtone, but I truly believe that this band was an exception. I outgrew most of the bands I liked when I was a kid, but I don't think I'll ever outgrow The Format. Good-bye, Nate and Sam. You'll be sorely missed.

2 comments:

SheDoesn'tGetIt said...

A great goodbye to a band that I too loved. I only wish I would have been in the audience that fateful night in des moines - it sounds as if it was an experience for the ages (but apparently not all ages after 8pm - fuck the establishment).

Thanks for the proper eulogy.

Hot cizzle said...

While they are breaking up under the name The Format aren't Nate and Sam still planning on making music together?