Tonight I revisited the soundtrack to my 20s.
I’m not sure I could have previously pinpointed what that sounded like. But as Nickel Creek performed a variety of songs from their four main albums, I felt as though I was taking an audio tour of my past.
“The Lighthouse’s Tale” took me back to Saturday game nights during my senior year of college. We knew two albums were sure crowd pleasers: a mid-90s rock mix a friend made, and Nickel Creek’s self-titled album.
“This Side,” in hindsight, was the perfect song to carry me into that awkward year after college. The band released that album the month I would have started my senior year (had I not decided to finish early). Life felt foreign, indeed, on that side of graduation.
“When You Come Back Down” is one of several songs that remind me vividly of moving back to Alabama and finally chasing down my dream: a career in journalism. When I enrolled in grad school at Alabama, I wasn’t sure I would make it in this field. I had always been told I was a good writer, but I knew journalism was a competitive, intense industry. I realized how much I had to learn in my first semester, thanks to the Intro to Reporting class (a course I earned a B in, but now teach). I was terrified, but I was taking a chance I believed was worth taking.
It was hard to believe it would pay off during nights when I would lie awake, obsessing over how I could strengthen my resume and skill set in order to get a job. When I couldn’t quiet my mind, I’d return that self-titled album to my CD player. By track three, “Out of the Woods,” I would be breathing easier. By the song’s end, I would usually fall asleep.
My favorite band seemed to change with me, with instrumentals on each album exploring new territory (I love “Ode to a Butterfly,” but “Smoothie Song” and “Scotch and Chocolate” took my growing interest in instrumental music a step further). Every time “First and Last Waltz” begins, I remember again how it seamlessly transitions into “Helena,” showing how a voiceless piece of music can set the tone for what’s to come.
“Doubting Thomas,” and “Why Should the Fire Die?” as a whole, carried me further still. The album came out while I was working my first job. I knew journalism was the right fit–I loved it even more than I imagined I might–but I was also struggling with the adjustment that accompanies working full time and figuring out life on your own. The answers weren’t always easy, and the journey didn’t always look like what I expected.
“Reasons Why” has always encapsulated the struggle of those unmet expectations. There were nights, particularly in 2002, when I would play the song on repeat. It remains my official favorite song of all time.
When I first heard “Hayloft” on the band’s latest album, I was taken aback. It felt jarring in the context of both their previous work and “A Dotted Line.” But the song has grown on me, and seeing it performed tonight reminded me of how much Nickel Creek has matured in the 13 years I’ve loved their music. These songs and musicians have been the soundtrack to my growing up.
Nickel Creek, Alabama Theatre April 16, 2014
Destination / The Lighthouse’s Tale / Scotch and Chocolate / This Side / Rest of My Life / Out of the Woods / Ode to a Butterfly / When In Rome / 21st of May / Anthony / Smoothie Song / You Don’t Know What’s Going On / Reasons Why / Doubting Thomas / Elephant in the Corn / Somebody More Like You / Hayloft / The Fox
Encore: First and Last Waltz / Helena / Cuckoo’s Nest / Where Is Love Now