Reckless Optimism and Walk the Moon

Sometimes you have bad days. Sometimes you have stressful assignments, or unexpectedly bad grades, or technology that won’t work with you, or interactions with humans that makes you feel like a joke. And sometimes all of those things happen in a couple of days. And suddenly you’ve got a bad week on your hands.

When that sort of thing happens, the best treatment in the world is a Walk the Moon concert. I speak from experience here.

As most followers of this blog could probably tell, I’m a huge fan of Walk the Moon, and I have been for some years now. They’re my favorite band, and I have a hard time believing they’re going to budge from that spot for a while. But I’m not sure I was ever able to place exactly why I’ve loved them so much until I attended their Indianapolis show on their Press Restart Tour last Saturday.

It came at maybe the most perfect time. I was tired and stressed and done with school and with my responsibilities and with life. I was also, simultaneously, ashamed at myself for being so fed up with all of these things, since I felt like I was failing in all of these categories. I’m not so great at failure.

And then I got to go home and pet my dog. I got to go out to my favorite restaurant with my best friend. I got to get pedicures with my mom. I got to be with my mom while she saw my favorite band in the world live for the first time.

But maybe the most therapeutic part of the weekend was the concert itself. It was in the Egyptian Room at the Old National Centre. To those who haven’t seen a concert there, it’s a pretty intimate affair. It’s nothing but the stage and a large standing-room only area for the audience (as well as VIP wings with tables and chairs to the sides, but I can’t imagine trading the amazing view for a chair). The stage itself isn’t really that big either, just enough room for the band members to stand and face the audience, and maybe walk back and forth a little. It was stiflingly hot in that room, packed in with the audience as I was, and I stood the entire time.

It was my third time seeing the band live, but it was the closest I had ever been to them. I could see all of their faces clearly. Once the concert got started, I danced and screamed and sang as loud as I could. I threw my arms up in the air when the moment felt right, and so did the entire rest of the audience. At one point during one of their more romantic songs, the crowd near us parted to give room for a man kneeling down to propose to his girlfriend. (The band members, watching this happen, demanded to know the couple’s names so that they could congratulate them.) The mood was happy, energetic, hopeful.

And standing among the hundreds of fellow Walk the Moon fans, screaming every lyric I knew (99.9 percent of them), dancing and jumping and throwing my arms in the air, I realized what it was that made me love this band so much.

They are optimistic. Recklessly so. You can probably gain that from their recorded music only, but it becomes absolutely obvious when you see them perform. Walk the Moon mostly performs optimistic songs and even when their songs are sadder, they’re always with a note of looking ahead to better days. I can think of only one of their songs that is truly sad, and that one doesn’t usually get played at their concerts. (Though it is excellent).

But it’s not only in the content of their music, it’s in how they perform it. They’re energetic, they engage with the audience, they run back and forth across the stage. Kevin Ray, their bassist, always turns around and shakes his butt to the beat of “Shiver Shiver”, a classic fan-favorite that’s heavy on the bass. Eli Maiman, their guitarist, likes to shred his most complicated parts while striking rock-star poses. And Nick Petricca, the band leader, vocalist, and keyboard player, always encourages the audience to let loose and sing and dance along.

At no point do they bring down the mood. It seems they have no other mode except high speed, full energy, all optimism. They’re flashy, they’re colorful.

They’re unashamed of their positivity. Recklessly optimistic. And that is what I admire most about them.

I could talk for days about how much talent they all have, how fun their 80s-inspired sound is, how I love their often goofy lyrics, but it all comes down to that optimism. It’s the reason I keep coming back to them again and again.

It’s the reason that particular concert was such a cleansing moment for me, because it had felt that entire week like I could never possibly be optimistic again. What was the point, when it felt like I was failing in everything? What did I have to look forward to except more failure and more feeling awful?

But that performance showed me I was wrong. As far as I know, we hadn’t left the world, hadn’t traveled to some place where things were suddenly alright that night in the Egyptian Room. Yet, in that moment, I could still be optimistic.

Don’t get me wrong, when I came back to IU the next day, the same stressors and failures were there waiting for me. In fact, they were there with a vengeance that sent me back into a similar funk to the one I had been in before. And then, on the way back from class one day, I started listening to their new song “All I Want”. And I was surprised when a few of the lines hit me particularly hard.

“I am my own sanctuary,
I am my own hero,
I am my own teacher,
I am my own best friend,
I am my own Friday night,
I am my own love of my life,
I am my own way out.”

I won’t lie and say that all of a sudden I’m a master of fighting my anxiety demons and winning. I won’t lie and say that I never give in to defeatist attitudes anymore. But remembering what it is that I admire so much about my favorite band is an excellent reminder that that reckless positivity comes from within.

That was the energy I was feeling that night. As much as it was influenced by the crowd around me and the band on stage, it was my decision to laugh and scream and sing along. And it’s my decision to be happy, even when it’s hard.

I’m glad this wonderful band reminded me of that

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