I could effuse endless poetics about the Sandia Mountains and the desert and our rich, fertile history, but those things—though important and majestic—have not defined my life and my experience here. No, I did not become a man by hiking La Luz alone and achieving epiphany atop the mountain crest, nor did I realize truth through pilgrimage across the Chihuahan desert, drinking from cacti and speaking to snakes.
Reality is a little less romantic, but infinitely more raw and more profound: I found myself in the sweaty confines of The Launchpad.
Tuesday night presented me with the rare opportunity to live out a childhood dream of seeing Hawthorne Heights perform at my favorite ever venue. Sure, a dozen years have passed since the genre-defining If Only You Were Lonely had an entire generation seriously considering rocking black eyeliner and imitating JT Woodruff’s regrettable mop of side-swept hair. Yes, today’s lineup looks more like an alternate-reality distortion of my parents—betrayed only by gaping gauge holes and tattoos—than they do the screamo misanthropes who stormed MTV in the early 2000s. But the songs from that era, in all their misplaced, angsty fury, still hold a special place in my heart.
And I am clearly not the only one. Though this show was ostensibly part of a tour for Hawthorne Heights’ (understandably, if disappointingly) bland new album Bad Frequencies, it was obvious to everyone in the room—band included—that we all came to scream our hearts out together and reconnect with the teenage malaise buried somewhere deep down inside us.
Though 2007’s tragic loss of screamer and founding member Casey Calvert was the catalyst for the band’s pivot towards milder and mellower music, the Launchpad crowd explosively embraced his legacy and pushed Hawthorne to heavy heights that I feared might no longer be possible.
With the repressed screamo kid in all of us finally given the chance to spread their miserably misunderstood wings, there were bound to be some mosh-pits. I was in the middle of as many as I could find, reveling in the fury of the tempest. Though emotions in the pit occasionally threatened to boil over into a full-blown brawl, I never sensed real hostility—more inexperience and rustiness in the art of the mosh, compounded by the volatile influence of alcohol.
It is a testament to Launchpad, and even Albuquerque itself, that the bastard who hit me hardest is the same hero who dove into chaos to lift me back onto my feet as I lay beneath a blizzard of frantic feet. And anytime the band broke into one of their iconic, evocative masterpieces—I am fairly confident “Niki FM” and “Ohio is for Lovers” both drew tears—any bad blood melted into the cracks and crevices of the Launchpad as the crowd united to transform past agonies and sadness into glory with an almighty, collective roar.
I was too young to really identify with Hawthorne Heights at the peak of their glory, and was understandably the youngest person in the crowd—by the time I had grown to love it, emo just wasn’t that cool anymore. So, while screaming and moshing and reliving not-
Music possesses immense cathartic power. It redeems us of our past as it reminds us of it; it gives us the means to remember who we are and what we came from. This is particularly true of the music we grow attached to and truly identify with during those most formative and confusing teenage years. Last night at the Launchpad, I witnessed an entire generation liberate themselves from their misanthropic teenage ghosts in a magnificent moshing ritual.