One listen and you're hooked.
That's how I'd describe what I like to call a "gateway song." You know the type. It's the tune that you form an immediate attachment to and obsession with after only one encounter. It's the one you feel powerless around. The one you can't get out of your head. You want to know more about it. You NEED to know more about it. You will stop at nothing until you're completely dependent upon it and your life will never be the same again.
OK, deep breath. Gateway songs aren't supposed to be scary or debilitating. They won't lead you to the door of Dr. Drew's "Sober House." What they will do is open your mind to a whole new musical existence, and how can that be a bad thing?
So grab a couple bags of Cheetos, turn on the black light and get comfortable because you're about to drop in on the heightened euphoric perception of Dashboard Confessional, The Clash, Whiskeytown and Phish.
1.) Dashboard Confessional's "The Best Deceptions": After I graduated college, I took an internship at Alternative Press magazine and it wasn't long before I began my real education -- in music, that is. One fall day, while I was editing pages, I came across a frontman who was compared to one of my all-time favorite singers, Elliott Smith. I was immediately intrigued, and when I noticed his group was playing in Cleveland that very weekend, I was sold. The moment I stepped inside the Beachland Ballroom and heard Chris Carrabba belt out the poignant and heartbreaking words of "The Best Deceptions," I was a smitten kitten. From there, I blazed through all the bands on Vagrant Records -- like The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, Alkaline Trio, etc. -- and then it was on to other like-minded peeps like Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate. What can I say? You're never to old to RSVP to the emo party.
2.) The Clash's "Train In Vain": I'm not sure exactly when I fell in love with The Clash. It was either the first time I heard "Train In Vain" or the first time I set my eyes on the band's iconic album cover for London Calling. There was just something about the band that was exciting, dangerous and utterly invigorating. While my friends were busy rocking out to Bush and Everclear, I would hole myself in my room and listen to "Train In Vain" over and over and over again. Looking back now, I realize that this is one of the "least" punk Clash songs, but I don't care because it made me want to know more about the music and the movement. Plus, without it, I would've never discovered bands like Rancid, The Distillers, Against Me! and more. So anyone who wants to challenge my cred can piss off! (How punk is that?)
3.) Whiskeytown's "Don't Be Sad": Before Ryan Adams was milling around "New York, New York," the alt-country crooner called Whiskeytown his home. The band was together for six years and put out three amazing albums, including Pneumonia, which was released after the group had already disbanded. On a whim, I picked this LP up at a used record store in my college town and was immediately intoxicated by Adams' heart-wrenching lyrics and twangy instrumentation. From there, I fell down a rabbit-hole of Americana, which was lined with acts like
4.) Phish's "You Enjoy Myself": I'm not ashamed to say that I lost nearly five years of my life to hemp necklaces, patchwork pants, drum circles and 20-minute guitar solos. Yes, for much of my late teens and early 20s, I was a jam band fan. (Please, try to withhold your laughter -- and judgment.) I blame it on my friend Cristen's older brother, Greg, who took me to my first Phish show when I was a junior in high school. At the time, I couldn't understand why people were still wearing tie dye, how they had the energy to spin in circles for two hours straight, and where that funny cigarette smell was coming from? But then I heard "You Enjoy Myself" and everything started to make sense -- everything except what the hell they're singing about. (I mean YOU try and translate "washa uffize drive me to firenze" and I'll name my first-born child Fishman.) Everything after that is a blur of patchouli, parking lots and Maxell XL II tapes filled with bootleg concerts from The Grateful Dead, The Big Wu and moe. (OK, you can officially stop laughing now.)