To Rainer Maria: I’m Sorry, and Thanks for Everything
Dear Rainer Maria, and music fans of all stripes:
In the late 1990s, some friends of mine ran an all-ages music venue. I volunteered there whenever possible, and attended as many shows there as I could.
One weekend that I couldn’t make the trip was on the date of your show at the now-defunct space. Though I secretly wanted to go, I was pretending to be too punk rock for school — and if I remember correctly, I had some big assignment I was trying to complete.
That night, Rainer Maria played what was undoubtedly a great show — and while you were playing, I left a sassy voicemail for my friends. Remember the days when people actually used answering machines? Well, their answering machine was at the top of their stairs, and they would turn the volume to 11 and listen to the messages from downstairs in their living room.
The other day, more than a decade later, a friend mentioned the record label that you were on at the time, and I immediately thought of that night and what I’d done. Yes, I still feel bad about it. Yours were a talented, hard-working band, and I might have deflated your good feelings from the show.
If I did, I humbly apologize and hope that I didn’t ruin the experience for you or any of my friends who were at that apartment. I don’t know what had come over me; I was probably exhausted and stressed. However, those are reasons that would not likely assuage artists busting their butts to make sincere, influential music, and I am indeed sorry for that weak moment that I had.
Did I have to out myself on this mistake? Do I need to be writing these words? I don’t know, and it might be a gaffe in etiquette in and of itself. However, I believe in supporting communities of which I am a part, and even at this late date, I support you and want you to know it.
To readers who might not be familiar with original post-punk/emo music, it’s not the same as the current diluted genre. Emo started with a desire to emote and discuss more personal/poetic concepts that were less available in traditional three-chord punk which focused more on hard-driving political and antisocial/subculture themes (see: The Clash, Black Flag, Wire, Crass, Bad Religion, MC5, The Stooges). Emo arguably started with bands like Rites of Spring and Embrace, who bridged the gap between punk and a new genre—the post-punk music that got a little deeper into personal relationships, with a little less testosterone at the helm.
I’ve had kids who are into New Emo ask me whether I got into emo music because I was depressed, whether I was a cutter and wanted to die. Absolutely not! I loved punk, too, as well as tons of other music. I simply also liked the alternative choice of hearing songs about relationships that weren’t soft rock but instead had a driving beat and more crunchy, amplified guitars. We can’t always be listening to Phil Collins when are hearts are broken, right? Even his brilliant records need to be put on the shelf sometimes. And that’s where classic emo can come in handy.
So to anyone who didn’t know Rainer Maria’s music before you read this letter, I urge you to check out the bands that I’ve mentioned, as well as other popular bands like Hum, The Get Up Kids, Braid, Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Jawbreaker, and Drive Like Jehu. They’re on labels like Southern, Polyvinyl, Touch and Go, Kill Rock Stars, K, Dischord, Drag City, Quarterstick, Merge, and more. Hey, we’re in the Internet age, but it’s still good to have a place to start.
And as for the members of Rainer Maria, I hope that whatever you are doing now, you’re confident that what you did with your band was in fact worthwhile and important. I hope that your current endeavors are successful and productive, and that you’re doing well personally, too. Selfishly, I hope that my lack of forethought in that instance did not leave a scar; I would hate to hurt you in any way. Thought we don’t know each other, it’s important for me to try to make these belated amends.
And to the rest of you, do give Rainer Maria’s song “Tinfoil Heart” a chance. It’s a gorgeous song, and please don’t allow the fact that you heard me singing it in a cranky way on an answering machine to give you pause. I actually loved that tune and have listened to it on repeat more times than I’ll say.
Thanks, Rainer Maria, and be well.
Sincerely, your fan,
PHOTO BY DANIELLE ST. LAURENT