With the closing lines of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, he distills the immortality of one’s art into 27 impactful and concise words: “When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st; / So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
Anberlin beat the greatest writer who has ever lived by 24 words. “We’ll live forever,” they wrote. That mantra, which closes out the concluding track “Harbinger” of the band’s final full-length album Lowborn, speaks to the way in which Anberlin can often makeany theme they tackle in their songs seem universal and timely, while still remaining understated. Even at their most braggadocios, Anberlin remains one of the most humble bands I have ever heard.
As you may know, Anberlin played their final show as a band last night, in Lake Buena Vista, Fl. Today marks not only the first day since 2002 in which Anberlin is not a band, but also Thanksgiving. On this particular day- the day which Americans everywhere will be stating what they are thankful for- I want to take a few brief moments to thank my favorite band for everything they have done for me, as well as state why I feel their final words will prove to be true.
Anberlin will live forever, not in the grooves of the thousands upon thousands of vinyl records they sold in their careers, the phones and iPods of everyone who downloaded their albums off of iTunes, Limewire, or Mediafire, or in the live videos taking space on those same fans’ phones, but in the memories of the lives in which they’ve impacted; in the amount of the lives they’ve saved because their music in some small way made life feel a little less insurmountable. This band from Winter Haven, Florida invited us into their world, and in turn we welcomed them into ours.
I have spoken a great deal about that line in Harbinger, but I feel like another line from the track is perhaps just as important: “I don’t want to go now, but I’ve got to, for you to remember me in this life.”
I will remember the first time I had ever listened to the band, my friend and I looking through the list of recently announced bands for Warped Tour 2008. That winter night we sat in front of my computer and turned on the “Godspeed” music video. Flash forward a few days later and I had the band’s newest record at that time Cities on my new iPod Nano. I distinctly recall the first time I experienced Anberlin’s masterpiece. A fifteen-year-old me, struggling to come to terms with his faith and the idea of a religious community, experiencing “(*Fin)” for the first time is still on of the most impactful moments of my young life. As I heard Stephen Christian sing the words, “We’re not questioning God, just those he chose, to carry on his cross,” I knew that someone understood me better than I could put into words- someone was speaking for those who couldn’t speak.
I will remember that first time I saw the band live- at the Vans Warped Tour, their energy infectious and their talent apparent- and the eleven other distinct, beautiful, unforgettable times that would follow.
I will remember their acoustic tour, and the impossibly long drive late at night that followed, which was worth it to hear wonderful re-imaginings of some of the band’s best tracks, including a rendition of the B-side “I’d Like To Die (Moments After You)” that still makes me begin to tear up every time I think of it.
I will remember sitting on my computer at 11:59 PM on September 29, 2008, with my best friend messaging me on AIM, and both of us buying New Surrender the moment it was released to iTunes, and then listening to the album in unison, telling each other what our favorite tracks were.
I will remember sitting in my local Applebees and hearing “Feel Good Drag” come on over the in-house radio and realizing that this band I had been telling people to listen to for close to two years had finally reached nationwide acclaim. I still recall that feeling of immense pride that washed over me as the song reached number one on the Alternative Rock Charts.
I will remember joining my college radio station, meeting friends who held the same love for this band as I did, and having the opportunity to join a little show called Keep Calm and Carry On, which has lead me to writing this very post you are reading right now.
I will remember when, thanks to that radio station, I was graciously given an opportunity to interview the band that has made such an impact upon my life, this past summer at Warped Tour- six years after I saw them for the first time at that very same festival. I will remember speaking to Deon and Christian for fifteen of the longest minutes of my life, as they answered my questions with humility and poise.
I will remember attending their final tour, surrounded by some of my best friends in the world, and singing along to these songs two final times. I will remember how the band that I have loved- a band that has surprised me countless times as they continued to reinvent themselves and their sound- surprised me one more time, playing the two albums that made me a devoted fan, Cities and Never Take Friendship Personal, both in their entirety.
Anberlin will live forever, because there are countless other people who have memories like mine- perhaps not identical experiences, but ones whose impact can not merely be measured by a song that plays through speakers or a ticket to a live set. Moments and snapshots of their lives that have shaped them and their relationships with the people around them. Moments that have brought people closer to the music they love. Moments that have brought people closer to the people they love.
I believe that Anberlin has made many of these same moments themselves. I hope they have found as much joy in their experiences as their fans have. Most of all, I hope they know how thankful we all were to have them in our lives.
“I lost myself, in the tides of a moment, but my heart’s where I’m going”- “Atonement”