Celebrating 20 Years of Thursday's Full Collapse
The band brought their breakout album to the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on Monday, December 5th, 2022.
With a huge, bright smile, Geoff Rickly and the current touring incarnation of his band Thursday launched into the band’s biggest song, “Understanding in a Car Crash,” to open their set at the Beachland Ballroom. The band, including Rickly, Steve Pedulla, Tucker Rule, Tim Payne, and Norman Brannon - are on tour playing the band’s breakout album Full Collapse in its entirety 20-plus years later. It’s December 2022, but the sights and sounds instantly bring me back to 2001. It’s a wistful look back, despite the intense and melodramatic lyrics. Think about it. We’re all smiling and singing along to a song with gut-wrenching lyrics Geoff Rickly wrote about one of his best friends dying in a car crash when they were in high school. Now that we’re all 20 years removed, it takes on a whole new life as nostalgia for when we were younger and screaming those words in a completely different context of our lives. I don’t know the full biography of all the band members from Thursday, but the change in my life from when I was 22 to being firmly in my 40s is almost impossible to grasp. And yet, even with the dichotomy of gleefully celebrating gloomy topics, it doesn’t feel strange because who has the time? The important fact is that we all made it here to the Beachland in 2022 to be together. I described it to a friend as a life-affirming show, and I don’t think I was overstating it.
Splintered piece of glass
falls in the seat gets caught
broken windows, open lock
reminders of the youth we lost
At one point in the show, Rickly talks about how different things have been since the last time he played the Beachland with his band United Nations in 2014. Rickly spoke about how before that show, he drove around Cleveland to find drugs, presumably heroin. On this night, Rickly proudly talked about feeling great at five years of sobriety. I hope he’s nearly as healthy and happy as he looked all night as he stalked the stage and brought the crowd into every song the band played. And maybe in that context, it makes sense that no matter how heavy or dark the lyrics are to songs like “Car Crash,” “Cross Out the Eyes,” or “Paris in Flames,” we’ve all earned the right - each in our own way - to re-contextualize the morose music of our youth with joy and elation here on the other side.
Granted, I never struggled with heroin addiction, but I certainly made it in my own way. In 2003, when I last saw Thursday on their tour supporting War All the Time, I was neck-deep in my depression and a quarter-life crisis. I was a smoker who drank far too much and kept buying concert tickets so I’d have something - anything - to look forward to. I was lonely and sad almost all the time, so it’s no wonder Thursday’s music spoke to me. That night Thrice and Coheed and Cambria were also on the bill. It was one of the highlights of my year to be standing in the pit when the band unleashed “Jet Black New Year” from their EP Five Stories Falling. It was a song that spoke to me lyrically and musically. It was an emotional tantrum, verging on the edge of control, all the while asking, “How long can we take this chance not to celebrate?”
Have we lost everything now?
Walking like each other's ghosts
Around these silent streets
(the sedatives tell you everything Is alright)
Like calendars dying
At New Year's Eve parties
As we kiss hard on the lips
And swear this year
Will be better than the last
But in 2022, when Thursday opened their encore with Jet Black New Year, it was all smiles, including when the mosh pit started to swallow me up.
Before Monday night, I had kind of forgotten how much I loved Thursday. I would have told you I was a fan, but it was based on history more than the current day. I honestly hadn’t listened to more than a song or two in many years. It was money in the bank for me, and I had long since taken it for granted. Seeing them live and hearing all those songs from Full Collapse hit me again and again, one after another after another for an hour, and made me realize just how much I’d forgotten.
Such is life when some of your fondest musical memories are more than old enough to drink, let alone smoke, even after you’ve quit or moderated those behaviors. I might grab a beverage or two, but I would never dream of pounding PBRs the way I once did, let alone inhaling cigarettes. That doesn’t mean I can’t look back fondly at even the habits that were intended to kill me. That’s what happens when you make it out alive.
In some ways, the words in Thursday’s music have lost their urgency or even some of their meaning over time. They were presumably the most important things Geoff Rickly had to say 20 years ago when he committed them to these raucous songs and captivated fans worldwide. But I’d like to think of it differently. The words might have lost some of their original meaning in the current day, but they’ve gained some new meaning along the way. And sure, the crowd might be a little bit smaller in number these days than it once was, but this concentrated sense of belonging, wanting to be there, and being happy together is maybe even more relevant now that we’re all older.
You know, even if it is paradoxical, we’re smiling while we scream about loss from our youth.