In August, Penn State Alumni magazine “The Penn Stater” was calling for submissions about concert memories in University Park. I had a lot to choose from. I saw Death Cab for Cutie at the BJC in August 2006, right before I starting going to school there. My dad came all the way up from the Philly suburbs to see Guster with me in the fall of 2007. Band of Horses played at the State Theatre, where I had a really awkward encounter with my super cute French teacher when I was a little bit too inebriated (I got embarrassed and told him the reason I was acting so weird). I saw Third Eye Blind at the Theatre, and Illinois, too. I danced onstage with Jens Lekman at Chronic Town, the hookah lounge on West College, and played the tambourine at Cafe 210 with local favorites The Kalob Griffin Band. Wednesday nights junior year were dedicated to blue grass and the all-inclusive crush on singer Natalie Berrena (she went from blonde to brunette to red and rocked it all). There were house party shows that I wish I could revisit, like Menya at the co-op and Endless Mike and the Beagle Club at the guys’ apartment on Hamilton.
(You can see the top of my head in this whole video.)
Ultimately, I chose to write about Raise Up Roof Beams, which was a band I fell in love with during the first few months of my freshman year. This is what I sent to the Penn Stater:
My first two years at Penn State I was in a club called SOMA (Students Organizing the Multiple Arts). It was the first club after high school that I joined and it made me feel so connected. I loved the responsibility of attending meetings, walking north on Shortlidge to the Thomas building after dinner in Simmons every other Wednesday. I loved meeting other kids who shared a deep love of independent music. Over the course of my college career, I saw many shows put on by SOMA and even organized one myself (The Good Life at The Hub, October 2007). However, the first SOMA show I ever went to was one where I worked the door, handing out fliers to the attendees who gathered on couches in Waring Commons. The opening band, a group of kids from Harrisburg, was called Raise Up Roof Beams, and I remember being mesmerized by the door, listening intently to the lyrics, the accordion, the harmonica, the guitar and the huge bass played by a small blonde girl. After their set, I borrowed $8 from one of my new friends to buy their CD (all I had was Lion Cash). Raise Up Roof Beams’ first record, “Fingers and Photons,” will forever remind me of walking across campus in the fall of my freshman year. I booked Raise Up Roof Beams to play another show at Dragon Chasers downtown in the Spring, which was when I met the members of the band. Five years later in Manayunk, Phliadelphia, I ran into the bass-playing blonde at a bar. I was happy to hear that the band is currently working on their third full-length album.
(This video is five years old, but that’s ok.)
I never heard back from the Penn Stater. The cover of the November issue was originally slated to feature “Concert Memories,” but after Sandusky etc. they put out “Our Darkest Days,” which makes sense. But where did the thousands of submissions go, and will the magazine ever use them? I was really hoping to be published– if only to promote the band. Something inside of me has pushed to make Raise Up Roof Beams “happen” for years. Summer 2007, Sara and I drove an hour and a half to see them play with Koji on the Roof inside a rec hall in Camp Hill. I’m not sure if I saw them play after that– until this past Friday.
Roof Beams opened at The Fire, with only three original members (the others aren’t performing with them right now, but they are recording remotely to contribute to their third album) but with a gorgeously familiar sound. I was looking forward to seeing Nathan (lead singer/guitarist) who is now married and has a baby, which is a total mind blow. Zack said I seemed nervous when I was talking to him. I felt like I was nineteen, starstruck by a local band who hit my heart in just the right way.
After their set, I went to the bar for another beer and made eye contact with someone who looked so familiar. “Do I know you?” I asked. “I’m not sure, but you look familiar as well,” he replied. His name was Chad, his girlfriend was Lisa, and they said they had been to a SOMA meeting or two back in the day. “I fell in love with Roof Beams when they played in Waring Commons when I was a freshman,” I told him, “fall of 2006.” “You’re kidding,” he said smiling, “me too.”