This was my third time seeing USS - once when they opened for Mother Mother at the Royal Theatre in 2013, and again at the Phillips Backyard Weekender in 2015.
At the Royal Theatre, I had heard 'This Is The Best' (of course) and waited patiently for the song I knew. They played it, and they rocked it, and I was impressed with the rest of the show. Even from super far away (I almost needed binoculars) I watched Ash strum his guitar with passion, and Human Kebab running around going crazy.
In 2015 at the Phillips Backyard Weekender I went specifically for USS. I still hadn't listened to too terribly much of their music, but knew that I liked their sound in the songs I had heard. So I went, with no expectations. I can't recall the set list, but the one song that hit me like a ton of bricks was 'Freakquency'. The sun was setting beside the stage, setting the sky alight with hues of blues, pinks, magentas, and an essence of a warmth quickly disappearing. The crowd was writhing, and sweaty, and I was a part of it. I was a part of it. And so in that moment, and so aware, as Ash crooned to the crowd, "Someday, oh I'm gonna get you back again... rushing through my head like oxygen, never gonna let you go..." Goddamn. I couldn't see the band. I couldn't see ten feet ahead of me. We were packed in like sardines in a can, and as this sun set gloriously, illuminating us briefly and importantly, we moved as one in tune to the music. This was the moment in 2015 that I realized, I love this band. I left with my copy of Advanced Basics, where it remained in slot number 1 on my DVD player (makeshift CD player) and lives there to this day.
Then... Yo Hello Hooray.
In the winter of 2014 as most of you know, I quit drinking, and started focusing inwards and learning to be more present and aware, and most importantly, happy and carefree (as much as possible.)
When I heard Yo Hello Hooray in the spring of 2016 it felt familiar, and looking back, I'm sure I heard it before. But with a newfound awareness I was bringing to my life, it suddenly hit me harder than any drink or drug. Fuck. There it was. I was struggling yet again with depression, and struggling to find bits of happiness, as I tend to during the winters. Then it was a clear and sunny day, it was actually February 12, 2016 (thank you Timehop!) that the sun came out for the first time last year and I went to the beach with my iPod and listened to Yo Hello Hooray, cold and warm, and focusing more on the warmth. The happiness. The optimism. The silver lining. The music. It became my theme song, and as the days grew warmer and warmer, I listened to it louder and louder.
And all of the rest of the damn songs. Everything. I integrated USS into my life, and the more I listened to them, the more the theme of recovery became apparent to me. The more that the lyrics which can be interpreted as cryptic, or poetry, suddenly held so much meaning for me. I integrated my own recovery with the music, and found silver linings in each and every song.
Which I'm very sure is what Ash is trying to convey in the music that the band creates. In an interview with AMotherWorld Ash talks about his struggles with addiction (full interview here) and changing his lifestyle to become more focused on physical and mental health, and recovery. Reading this interview has been such an inspiration to me within my own journey. The correlation of music, and recovery, and how the two can go hand in hand.
For me, the music of USS has become more than that - not simply music, but in each song I find snippets of an anthem of my own recovery. Thank you. To Ash Buchholz, and to Jason Parsons (Human Kebab), for creating this sound that hits me directly in my heart and gives me strength. Thank you.
For me it was fitting that the band would begin the show with Yo Hello Hooray. I had my phone out, recording the lights and intro, waiting for the music to come crashing in, and when it did, it was my favorite song. I jumped when I realized they were beginning their set of the last show on the tour with this track, and my heart skipped a beat and my eyes welled up. I recorded it (iPhone quality, remember!) and remembered to be present and aware in that moment. It had to be a good start. It was a great start.