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Photo: Steve St. Jean[/caption]
Five years ago I wrote a lengthy farewell article to New Jersey’s Post-Hardcore heroes Thursday. When the band started to resurface via cryptic social media posts last year, my hope for a reunion show felt less misguided than it had since back in 2012.
Finally, it was announced: a Saturday night show at Toronto’s Danforth music hall, accompanied by Big Jesus, Mewithoutyou, and hometown hard-core act Fucked Up. Nearly 14 years after our first Thursday show, my cousin, my sister and I gathered for an encore exercise in nostalgia.
It became immediately clear to us how old we were when Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham brought two of his three kids on stage for the band’s first gig in 3 months. Behind the adorably metal family affair, Geoff Rickly was smiling and snapping photos. He seemed just as excited to be there as everyone else was. This wasn’t always the case.
Halfway through a set mostly celebrating the earlier years, Geoff knelt down onstage by himself, under a warm red light, and began singing “This Song Has Been Brought To You By A Falling Bomb.” He was unaccompanied, laid bare. After messing up the first line, he laughed at himself and started again. Shouts from the crowd came in the form of both jeering and cheering. Whether he heard them or not, he unflinchingly delivered the most emotional rendition of the song I’ve ever witnessed. He then rose to his feet as the band rejoined him to kick off a high-energy performance of “Division Street.”
From the very first chord of “For the Workforce Drowning” to the final dying note of “Understanding in a Car Crash,” Geoff seemed well. He didn’t seem sick, or tired, or strained. He sounded impassioned; energetic. He was smiling more. He was taking in the crowd with palpable emotion.
The crowd, mostly older and male, was equally emotional. For nearly 75 minutes, The Danforth was filled with euphoric noise — a reunion of impatient fans and the artists of their youth.
As soon as they began to make their way offstage, two syllables rose from a Toronto crowd for the first time in a long time: THURS-DAY, THURS-DAY, THURS-DAY.
When the guys returned to the stage, the lights revealed Tucker holding Tim’s bass, while Tim sat holding his sticks. A prank, no doubt, which did not go unnoticed by Rickly who took the opportunity to joke about something he would discuss very seriously only one song later. As the two switched back to their proper posts, Geoff accused his band mates of messing with him because he was on acid.
“I had 3 hits before the show.”
“I never only take 3.”
He then laughed and began to introduce “War all the Time.”
“This song,” explained Geoff, “is about the challenges of growing up beside a big city.”
In the shadow of the New York skyline / we grew up too fast / falling apart like the ashes of American flags…
And the fires in our streets start to rage / so wave to the people; They long to wave back from the fabric of a flag that sang love all of the time.
I didn’t feel like crying. But I felt truly sad. Yet, I also felt whole and content in a way that doesn’t make sense. Those few minutes of sound were released after 9/11 but they were and are about so much more. So many of Thursday’s songs maintain a haunting relevance over a decade after their release. In the age of Trump, they offer both comfort and melancholy.
As always, Geoff dedicated “Signals Over The Air” to the empowered women in the audience. The highlight of the show for me, however, was his introduction to “Autobiography of a Nation.” The song, which addresses colonialism, appropriation, and xenophobia, was released with Full Collapse in 2001.
Thursday’s dove has always been a symbol of peace. Their music has always addressed important issues like alienation, religion, war, mental illness, and LGBTQ rights. See: Paris in Flames, Asleep in the Chapel, War All the Time, A Hole in the World, and M.Shephard.
On Saturday night, two banners unfurled beside the dove as the crew was setting up. On the left, the words “REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE,” and on the right: “PROTECT IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES.” Before playing Autobiography, Geoff issued the following speech:
The final song of the night was dedicated to anyone in the crowd who had ever struggled with addiction. Geoff admitted what we suspected all along: he had been an addict for most of his touring career.
“If you’ve ever felt lost, or awkward, or just not yourself, this song is for you. If you need to talk about it, please feel free to reach out. There are a million ways to get a hold of me.”
I was fairly certain he was finally going to bring Paris in Flames back to the stage. Many around me assumed so as well. Instead: “this song is called Turnpike Divide.”
An unpopular choice for a final song 5 years ago, and an unpopular choice on Saturday. After the house lights came up, so did the disapproving voices of aging nostalgics.
“What a horrible ending. Turnpike Divide. Should have been Paris in Flames.” I tend to agree.
After the show, I spoke with Geoff outside. He was smiling and chatting with fans and friends alike. “Thank you for coming back,” I said. “Are you guys back back?”
“No.” he said, with some regret and some relief in his voice. “We just wanted to come back to Toronto because we hadn’t since we started playing again.”
Is this *actually* the end? Will there ever be a real reunion tour? It’s hard to say. Based on the excitement of the crowd last night, though, I’d say a lot of us are still hoping, all over again.