December 8th, 2012. I’m at a concert, which is, in itself, not unusual. What is unusual is the fact that I’m 3500 miles away from home, standing in London’s Wembley Arena, screaming my lungs out for a group of English gents who are about to take the stage for the Final Night of Sin.
April 25, 2014. Again, I’m at a concert. That same band is playing, only this time they’re the opening act. The venue is different too: I’m at the Best Buy Theatre, and it’s my first trip to New York City.
December 11, 2015. London one more time. A tiny, cramped venue, filled with sweaty, excited fans, ready to enjoy this benefit concert. I had to wake up at 3am a week earlier to get tickets, swearing silently at my slow internet the whole time, forever grateful I already had my trip booked and this show was announced a few days before I had to get on a plane—what timing!
Now rewind it all the way back to November 13, 2009. I’m at a concert (big surprise), on my home turf (Toronto). I’m actually here for the headliners—The Academy Is…, the first and only time I’d see them as a full band—but I’ve been listening to the opening band for a couple of weeks, and I’m interested in seeing what they’re like live. I’m standing in the Mayday Parade merch line when the lights go down, and I have to abandon my spot to run into the crowd in time to see You Me At Six play what I believe was their first show ever in Canada.
By the time I was done shimmying around to their seven song set—including a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”—and rejoined the Mayday Parade line, the t-shirt I wanted was sold out (so I had to go with my second choice), but it was worth it to see a band I’d eventually worship enough to get their logo permanently branded on my skin. I’m fairly certain I bought a YMAS shirt from a member of the band that night, but I genuinely don’t remember what the merch guy looked like.
Seven years later, I’ve seen YMAS eight times across three countries and have met them at least twice. Their faces are permanently ingrained in my mind, and it’s not just because I have a poster of them on my wall. When it comes to getting me hyped for a show, no one does it better than them. Not only do you know you’re in for a rockin’ good time, but everything sounds better when said in an English accent.
I listened to their first album, 2008’s Take Off Your Colours, in anticipation of seeing them with TAI and was instantly intrigued. Up to that point, the majority of music I listened to was American bands, but You Me At Six opened my eyes to the beauty of British bands; nowadays, about half of my music collection is made up of UK-based groups.
For a while, YMAS lived in the back of my brain—I enjoyed them, but I didn’t keep close tabs on them. I didn’t even realize they had released another album, 2010’s Hold Me Down, until I saw their tent at Warped 2010. I ended up missing their set because they swapped times with Hey Monday and their new set time conflicted with Sparks the Rescue. Since that was the one and only time STR ever came to Canada, I guess it was okay that I missed YMAS…but I was still pretty disappointed.
But when YMAS released their third full-length, Sinners Never Sleep, in October 2011—though it wasn’t released in North America until January 2012—I really started paying attention. The album presented an overall heavier sound for a band that had seemed so pop-punk on their debut. In fact, Oli Sykes’ guest vocals on “Bite My Tongue” are the reason I started listening to Bring Me the Horizon later that year.
A lot of big changes in my own life revolved around Sinners: graduating from university, getting my first “adult” job; even my first music tattoo was a reference to my favorite song off the album, “Reckless” a song I love so much all three of my nieces know the words to it, and the youngest wasn’t even born when it came out! I don’t know what it was about Sinners that affected me so much. Maybe it was the grittier sound or something about the lyrics, but either way, the album forced me to acknowledge that I was married to the music, for better or for worse.
When “Lived a Lie”, the first single from their follow-up, Cavalier Youth, premiered on BBC Radio 1 in September 2013, it was on Labor Day, which meant I was at home, sitting with my laptop primed and ready for two hours (I’m not great at converting time zones), waiting for Zane Lowe to introduce the new song and talk to singer Josh Franceschi and drummer Dan Flint. When the video came out later that same day, I can’t even tell you how many times I listened to it in a row. As a whole, Cavalier Youth is more alternative and mellower than Sinners, and I’d be living a lie if I said it was my favorite, but there are some songs that I feel are very relevant to my life right now, especially the opening track, “Too Young to Feel This Old”. The lyrics show a more mature YMAS—now in their twenties, they have more experiences than when they first started out as teens, and, since I’m around the same age as the band members I can relate to them.
A few months ago, when “Night People” premiered, again on Radio 1, I was sitting in Nando’s (which was super fitting…if you’ve ever followed the band members on social media, you’ll know how much they love Nando’s), connected to the WiFi and flailing over my wing roulette platter in excitement. With the new album coming out in January, I can’t bring myself to sleep until I hear something more. They’ve changed their sound again and are keeping it fresh—if anyone could pull off that kind of loudness I was willing to bet on YMAS.
Apart from the music itself, one of the things I love most about YMAS is the way they make their fans feel like family, even the types of fans who ambush them in sandwich shops around the corner from the venue they’re playing that night, babbling incoherently at them when they’re trying to order dinner (not that I’ve ever done that…). They’re happy to make fools of themselves in public for the sake of their always entertaining tour videos. I have to say one of the greatest things in the world is when one or more of them try their hand at being foodies—whether they’re cooking with Flint or offering fast food reviews on Max and Matt’s Munchies. They’ve also done acoustic sets and meet & greets before shows, and while I know they’re not the only band to ever do that, I imagine it can be exhausting traveling oceans away from home and delivering two sets a night.
In general, You Me At Six has the power to make you feel like you really belong in the community. Last year, after The Ghost Inside was involved in a horrible accident, YMAS put on an intimate benefit show, with the proceeds going to help their friends. For a band who can sell out arenas, it was a huge step down for them to play a dingy club, but they enthusiastically threw themselves into it, with Josh Franceschi repeatedly reminded the crowd that in a world as messed up as ours, music—and the sense of community we get from music—is more important than ever. They have always rooted for the underdog and their music, not to mention their role in the music scene, reflects that. They may occasionally disappear from social media (everyone needs a little room to breathe sometimes) but they always keep their fans’ best interests at heart.
So raise a glass to tomorrow’s blues and join me in toasting to the future of You Me At Six.
Tags: You Me At Six