I was 19 in '97, when your first song made it big, far too old to possibly enjoy a bubblegum hit sung by a bunch of kids. But something about the sound drew me in. It was different - the arrangement, the vocals, the beat. My sister was 15 then, and in a time when we had nothing in common, suddenly, we had your music. We spent hours upon hours that summer dancing and lip synching to the Middle of Nowhere album, plastering our bedroom walls with your Teen Beat photos, trying time and again to make our parents REALLY listen and appreciate your talent. We squealed with glee when your videos appeared on MTV and dissected each and every shot on film, hoping to demystify your creative brains. It was a wonderful summer.
Years passed, and my sister and I phased through different paths of life, all the while keeping up with your music. We've seen every show we could - The Orpheum Phoenix (2000), Nita's Hideaway Tempe (2003), The Marquee Tempe (2005), The Ogden Denver (2009), TLA Philly (2010), The Fox Boulder (2010), Cain's Ballroom (2011), The Fox Boulder (2011). We've watched as you guys grew up - got married, had kids, became masters of your own independent label universe, and used your talents to give back to others. We've been on this road with you, made possible through your music and your incredible communication to fans through the newest age of online streaming. We've joined your crusade against poverty in Africa, worn TOMS and then removed them for a walk. As if your music wasn't inspiring enough on its own, your philanthropic hearts take it to the next level.
Last May, I journeyed to your hometown for a Members Only Event. Your hometown is just as charming and genuine as you all are, and the MOE, not surprisingly, was an incredible gift of music and friendship. It seems funny to reference "friendship" with people I've not known as friends in the traditional sense - but that's how you guys present yourselves. You invite your fans into your lives. There's an obvious level of trust you've established with your fans, and it fosters an authentic sense of respect in return. Never in my life have I seen such a gesture of kindness from a band to its fans.
So all in all, thank you. Thank you for your philanthropic goals; they inspire so much compassion in the world. What you started with your walks has begun to trickle into the world. There's a frozen yogurt shop that just opened near my home this past spring, and its owners donate money to local schools each week. Inside the shop, there's a big poster stating the owners' inspiration: Blake Mycosksie of TOMS shoes. I thought it was so cool to see others catching onto that "giving circle" philosophy - something that I've learned about from you guys.
Thank you for your camaraderie with your fans - for the late-night gas station streaming events, the MOE photo sessions, the funny website blog updates, the 2+ hour long concert sets. These things only begin to explain why we all love you! And, for forever and a day - thank you for your music. It's been a beacon in the night, a shoulder to cry on, a source of comfort in high and low points in life, a definition of heart and soul.