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Music and catharsis: My Sum 41 moment

Music and catharsis: My Sum 41 moment

bobthemob

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On 4 March 2024, Sum 41 performed in Singapore for the last time, on what is their final (and farewell) tour.

It wasn’t supposed to be. They were slated to perform last year, in fact, but had to cancel due to a family emergency. When that news broke, I was heartbroken.

But finally, I got a chance to see them. For the very first and very last time. It was… a lot.

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Underclass Hero

Deep down, I am an emo 90s kid.

Jimmy Eat World, Anberlin, Lifehouse, My Chemical Romance, Evanescence, Blink-182, Paramore, Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, Placebo, Saosin, these were many of the bands that soundtracked my childhood and early teenage years. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to see many of them live. And now, Sum 41.

And while my Spotify playlist typically comprises music from that late-90s/early-00s era, I don’t actually use Spotify that much. I mostly listen to podcasts, as well as vinyl.

Which is to say that I don’t listen to Sum 41 on any kind of regular basis.

As a result, this concert was all the more surprising, and all the more special. It was remarkable to hear many of these songs of my childhood (some I’ve perhaps not heard in years), rocking out hard amidst a throng of other (clearly not very young) fervent fans. And if you know anything about Sum 41’s music, its… angsty, to say the least. That rebellious attitude is one that resonates loudly and proudly within the Star Theatre.

And it was an emotional rollercoaster. I screamed, laughed, rocked out, even cried.

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With Me

Trying to make sense of it is difficult.

Why? It’s not simple sentimentality. It’s not even that it was a highly fun or enjoyable show (though I thoroughly enjoyed myself). There are some concerts and artists where the joy emanates from the musical complexity, or perhaps the performative theatricality. There are shows that uplifts you, inspires you, and captivates your imagination.

This wasn’t that.

It was something much more raw, and much more personal. The music taps into darker emotions – anger, loss, sadness, frustration, loneliness, grief, regret – and the collective totality of these songs resonate with a very particular part of my brain. It evokes feelings and memories from a particular period of life that will always have a rawness to them.

Amidst the raucous music and heavy riffs, there are moments of introspection. As the music fleetingly transports me back to my 15-year old head space, dark with feelings of angst and otherness, difficult questions worm their way to the fore:

“Is this who I am? Is this all I ever was? Is this who I’ll always be?”

“Have I changed? Have I grown?”

Music offers catharsis. Hearing it loud and live, amongst friends and strangers who are all having their own emotional reactions to it, it is all amplified and brought into even starker relief. And I think precisely because I don’t listen to Sum 41 regularly, hearing songs that I haven’t properly listened to in years, some I have perhaps even slightly forgotten, it opens a dormant volcano of emotional memories.

There is an immediate reckoning to be had – with who you were back then, and who you are right now.

And some answers can be found, incomplete as they may be. The struggle for self-determination never fully ceases, but there is a sense that now, decades on, we have at least a better grasp of it. And in that moment, as the closing notes of So Long Goodbye ring out, it all feels… okay.

Of course, it’s made all the more intense by the fact that this is their farewell show. This is the last time – adding an additional layer of wistful loss to the already overwhelming slate of emotions.

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Walking Disaster

I don’t claim to be the biggest Sum 41 fan. Instead, their music is integral to a complex sonic tapestry that tightly cocoons those teenage feelings and emotions. And it is precisely that inseparable connection between music and memory that makes moments like these so powerful.

With voices breaking, eyes watering, ears ringing, the live experience delivers overwhelming moments of catharsis. Joy and sorrow, elation and angst, the spectrum of emotional feedback pouring out as Deryck Whibley sings and screams his way through their greatest hits.

To some people, it might just be a concert by an angsty, emo band that’s perhaps lost some of their relevance today. But for the people there, and certainly for me, it was a glorious yet emotionally complex moment – two decades on from my most formative years, the music still reveals and resonates, equal parts reflection and affirmation.

This will be the last time, Sum 41’s great big farewell. It was everything I wanted, and everything I did not know I needed.

~ Desmond




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