BLUE OCTOBER has been around since their inception in 1995 and I have see this band come up in rank and file. Yet even after seeing them play a gazillion times, tonight was the first night that I was able to photograph them “officially”. I can also say that with these gazillion shows under my belt, I’ve never walked away from one going, “Well, that show sucked!”. Ever.
If you are familiar with the band and their story, CONGRATULATIONS! If you don’t know the skinny behind the band, it’s really not anything that is super out of the ordinary: band forms, band does great in hometown, band expands to other cities, band does better, band gets a hit on the radio, band gets bigger, band tours nationally, band gets bigger, band gets another hit, and another, and another on radio nationwide and worldwide, band gets bigger…you know that drill. Only this didn’t happen in a year or two or over a cycle of their first record. Hell, they were signed to a major in 1999 and then dropped (Universal Records) in 2000, which was 17 years ago. In that respect, there isn’t much of a difference between any other successful band. That is, if you’re looking at them based on scribbles on paper. But you can’t do this with BLUE OCTOBER.
See, the other bands that might have that similar story, don’t have JUSTIN FURSTENFELD as their frontman. Other bands don’t have a brother duo like JEREMY & JUSTIN FURSTENFELD. Sure, there are gobs of bands that have brothers that play together. But those other brothers in bands aren’t like the two in BLUE OCTOBER.. Some of those bands may have a versatile player that can play any instrument set in front of them. But they don’t have RYAN DELAHOUSSAYE who plays the violin, keys, guitar and probably could play the mouth harp – or whatever that thing is, like Snoopy plays with The Gang…I totally bet he could rock that shit! And sure, we’ve all heard the ribbing about the bass players of bands not being important or needed or whatever…but one cannot deny the keen and suave importance, and as equally talented than MATT NOVESKEY in the band’s music, not to mention within the band’s day to day haps. And even if MATTHEW OSTRANDER isn’t a founding member, he has the stage presence and talent that oozes BLUE. (And to be fair, I have to include C.B. HUDSON because his influence and style of playing gave BLUE OCTOBER a notch in the leather belt of rock and roll).
Y’all can HATE ME and even if y’all wanna roll your eyes and argue about 11 bands that, on paper, are just like BLUE OCTOBER, I won’t be able to stop myself in trying to convince you that this band is super unique and one of a kind. Because in truth, they really are. There isn’t another band that has a frontman quite as dynamic as JUSTIN. In all facets, really. Musically, lyrically, stage presence, personality, talent, vocal style/tone, physically – all things that JUSTIN has had going for him probably since he could talk, but let’s just say since the formation of BLUE OCTOBER, shall we? And like every coin, there’s the other side; the UGLY SIDE as one song says, that no one but JUSTIN has that creates a perfect yin and yang, for the band. I bet some would agree with me, maybe JUSTIN too, that finally, after so much upheaval and pain, that this can now be seen off stage as well; that balance is restored within him as well.
For me, what makes BLUE OCTOBER so appealing, now and then, is the brutal honesty that JUSTIN brings to his music and how that honesty makes its way up and out of his mouth so beautifully. Along with to the music that the band writes and creates that backs him up, this honesty just is. The balance doesn’t just exist with JUSTIN. No, it exists with all of the members in equal ways. And this is why, IMHO the band is amazing and still selling out shows all over the country. But hold up…look, I’m not the expert on BLUE OCTOBER and I can’t put their HISTORY FOR SALE up here, nor is that my intention.
Starting out, the house lights were on and everyone could see everyone else; like a big family gathering or a convention of sorts. Everyone was chatting and the rise of energy was almost like a front coming in to change the weather. And then one white light gleamed out into the audience, then another, then another…and the music came up, while in the darkness with those beams casting shadows and cascading light into that darkness, like a beacon shining INTO THE OCEAN to guide a ship home – the show started.
The first three songs were kind of a blur for me, to be honest. I didn’t even move from the position I was in at the front of the stage because, I’ll be frank, I couldn’t move. I’ve never stayed in one place in the photo pit before. I think in some ways, some part of me still doesn’t feel like a “real” photographer. I mean, I don’t think I am in a professional way. I always tell people that too and say that I just think pictures add to my reviews or interviews. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you’ll know that I love band photography where you can see the emotion or the movement behind a band. And that’s how I take pictures by watching and waiting for those energetic bursts or parts in a song that I need to capture.
TBH, it’s totally all FEAR as to why I don’t call myself a “photographer”. If I did, that would leave my pictures open to being judged or scrutinized. And I just figured that out now, adding these thoughts on the 4th edit of this draft. Interesting how that little piece of self revelation happened, huh?
What that paragraph above boils down to is that I don’t feel “good enough” a lot of the time and while I do my best to instill an attitude of confidence or knowledge that I am ok and enough for whatever situation or scenario comes up…it is easy to fall short in uncomfortable situations. What does all of this have to do with BLUE OCTOBER, you ask? Well, I hope this example will SWAY you into a better understanding of the band.
Their music has always drawn a hopeful and pretty picture for me, despite some of the hard truths twisted up in the lyrics. I’ve always related to the prose JUSTIN scribes, no matter how dark of a place they come from. I admire his resilience and his ability to continue PICKING UP THE PIECES and carry on. Or to look at himself and change something that is toxic or harmful about his relationships or even within him personally. Man, he just keeps trying no matter how hard shit gets thrown at him! I wish everyone had this within them. I think this is the same for a lot of fans; that somehow, he speaks the things we can’t muster out of us, until the day we can. Oddly enough, I believe that BLUE OCTOBER has assisted in parts of me becoming aware of things within myself, far to mundane and boring to draw out here, though. Perhaps another time…hmm?
For the sake of this actually being a review of their show, I’ll go ahead with what I experienced that night. With the intensity of rolling the heaviest boulder in thick mud around a room, BLUE OCTOBER delivered a show that makes an audience sweat, sing, weep, smile, recollect, relive, and feel all of the slivers of our lives, as we breathed deep to exert the energy to move this boulder through the DIRT ROOM for two plus hours on Saturday.
Most importantly, I saw people living life at this concert; like in front of my eyes! I mean I saw a guy get down on his knees and propose to his girl, right there in General Admission. I spoke to a woman that was seeing the band for the first time that night and her makeup was smudged from tears of awe. I heard a long time fan quiet his friends around me when the band started as he said “It’s time for church…”. I heard everyone singing every word of every song and I watched as eyes were affixed to the stage, unable to blink as if their lids were glued open on purpose. I saw kids with their parents, gaggles of BFFs, and clusters of guys all there to see BLUE OCTOBER. And driving HOME, I realized that seeing BLUE OCTOBER plugs me back into feeling my life – the good and the bad. You know?
BLUE OCTOBER has the gift of performance, song, poetry and reaching into a person’s heart to cause a reaction. These reactions cause a bond that, for me, has continued for 20 years. If I were asked to think of another band that had what BLUE OCTOBER has, I am not sure I could. I’m not sure there is a formula to replicate what happens on the stage at a BLUE OCTOBER show. I’m not even sure you or anyone could mold a band like them, period. I think the lines that connect the dots in designing the blueprint of BLUE OCTOBER are created by sheer spontaneous explosions from JUSTIN, RYAN, JEREMY, MATT and MATTHEW and their separate movements in life. And because of these movements, and how they BLEED OUT, they are able to propel this unmistakable understanding of the human condition to those that hear them.
Follow the band on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube and treat yourself to not only their recorded music, but treat yourself and go see a show. You may walk away a completely different person…and maybe their music will give you some peace, hope and affirmation that love does exist, people can change and that we are all right where we’re supposed to be.
Til Next Time – MRML
Photos by Cherri Bird