The Time I Cried At An Underoath Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab
I’m closing in at 30 years old in a few months, so it is safe to say that I’ve been to a fair amount of shows and counting. However, I cannot say that I have cried at any despite spending my younger years fangirling over the likes of Taking Back Sunday and others. I did shed a tear or two when I was at Thursday’s “last ever” show a few years back, but it just so happens that I did cry at a recent performance of Underoath. No, it wasn’t the tears of joy at their reunion, but rather it was a mix of acknowledgement and sorrow. 

Two years ago, I lost my older brother Ricky to an overdose and the impact hasn’t left me. He always had a struggling drug addiction ever since he entered his teen years, but it didn’t make him a bad person. I wasn’t ashamed of his passing; rather I was angry that his death would become a statistic in today’s growing drug problem in New York. However, that anger didn’t last long as I didn’t get to grieve. He was a child of a failed first marriage and when my now estranged father married my mother, he had three more kids; my sister, me and my younger brother. Ricky always felt out of place due to this and turned to drugs to suppress any feelings of pain or emotional duress while also leaving home. He told me once it was the only life for him and he would feel worse if he stopped. I guess what I’m saying is that he wasn’t a bad kid, he just felt alone. When he was living at home, he introduced me to everything that helped shape my tastes in pop culture. Because of him, I saw movies like Pulp Fiction and The Fifth Element and he hid my N*Sync and Britney Spears CDs so he could show me “real music” which included Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beastie Boys.

When Underoath took the stage on December 7 at The Paramount in Huntington, I was lost in a cloud of high school memories; old friends, my first love, all the shows I’ve been to in my teen years, etc. It was euphoria of a trip down memory lane. Spencer Chamberlain had stopped in between songs at one point to say a few words about his recent sobriety from both drugs and alcohol. I felt my eyes mist as I was both overwhelmingly happy for him and was struck with a twinge of sadness as I realized that I would never feel the same high spirits as I did for Spencer that I would for Ricky. I shook it off and focused on clapping enthusiastically with the crowd and cheered for Spencer. After that I stood immobile like a statue with my arms crossed and forced my swirling mind to focus on the music. It wasn’t until Underoath performed a cover song that I started to cry.

Underoath played “I Gave Up” which is an emotional song about losing all hope and how every day is exhausting. I didn’t think anything of it, but the following song was an acoustic version of Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box”. My wall towards any suppressed emotion came crumbling down and I silently cried as everyone around me sang and screamed the lyrics back at Spencer. I connected “I Gave Up” to “Heart Shaped Box” and all that repressed regret at not reaching out to my brother more almost made my knees buckle due to the heavy emotional weight. I felt everything I held back for the last two years rush through my body like there was another person inside, stretching from a long slumber. My tears spoke more words than I ever could in that moment. Like my brother, I found ways to suppress any emotion but rather with activities instead of drugs. I busied myself with handling his arrangements, the funeral, greeting mourners and I found myself going for a run more often. It was as if I could physically outrun my own soul out of my body just so I could relieve myself from holding up the emotional barrier of a wall just for a few minutes.  If I started to cry as I ran, I ran harder to breathe out any ‘moment of weakness’ I felt. I had to be strong for my family, so I was going to be. My father was consumed in his alcoholism, my mother moved to Arizona with my sister, and my brother was busy as a Corrections Officer upstate, so all responsibility fell on my shoulders. I did what I only knew how to do; bury it and hold everyone else up. By the time I was ‘allowed’ to grieve after weeks of bills, visitors and taking care of my father, I was irrevocably numb. Even my anxiety stood silent as I made my way through each day without a sense of purpose, only other than seeing it as another day to get through.

Now, I stood in a sea of strangers letting it all hit me. When the song was close to ending, I realized that I shouldn’t let this destroy me, but rather look at it from a brighter perspective. While my brother isn’t around anymore, at least that meant he isn’t in pain. He no longer has to turn to substances to mask the misery that he felt for so long. He is finally at peace and I can hold onto that instead of grief. Just as he told me, he needed this. As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t ashamed of his death, but I was angry. The rise of drug use has exploded in the United States and I let myself feel short bursts of this animosity whenever I saw another overdose on the news. However, here I was with hundreds of people who stood singing along in unity with a man who overcame his own addiction. There were days that clouded Spencer’s mind where he wasn’t sure where his life was going or if any of this was even worth it. Instead of continuing on living in his own personal Hell that he prescribed himself, he got better. I let some of the weight shift off of me as I comprehended this. I knew Ricky would have loved the way that Spencer sang “Heart Shaped Box” and the way he brought the pain of the lyrics to the surface with just an acoustic guitar. I’m sure he would have felt something other than his continuous cycle of melancholy. It was made clear to me that both of these men were in their own form of reconciliation; Spencer in his sobriety and Ricky in his final rest. I remember realizing that my hands were clasped to my chest and it was then when I finally let myself let it all go. That was the first time I cried at a show.