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Going back to Ocean Avenue:

Yellowcard
House of Blues, North Myrtle Beach
September 20, 2013

I was 10-years-old the first time I ever heard “Ocean Avenue.” My big brother drove me to middle school with the contagiously addicting lyrics and electrifying melodies blaring throughout his car speakers. The songs stuck with me all this time and so has Yellowcard.

Ten years later, nothing has changed. The tracks to that album still hold such importance to loyal fans and to the members of the band. And I had the chance to experience it first-hand last week at North Myrtle Beach’s House of Blues. Yellowcard paid tribute to the 10-year anniversary release of “Ocean Avenue.”

Vocalist Ryan Key sings to a full audience Friday night at North Myrtle’s House of Blues. Photo by Mary Childers

Vocalist Ryan Key sings to a full audience Friday night at North Myrtle’s House of Blues. Photo by Mary Childers

A band since 1997, Yellowcard released nine albums, including their most recent, “Ocean Avenue Acoustic” (Hopeless Records, August 2013). In 2008, the band announced an “indefinite hiatus.” In 2010, they reconvened and released “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes” in 2011. Since regrouping, they’ve taken over the road, including a spot on the Warped Tour, a solo tour with Every Avenue and Go Radio, and a co-headlining gig with Saves the Day and The Wonder Years.

During the first half of their Myrtle Beach set, the band played “Ocean Avenue” from start to finish. From the upbeat and aggressive “Way Away” to the quietly revered “Empty Apartment,” Ryan Key (vocalist), Sean Mackin (violinist), Ryan Mendez (guitarist), Longineu W. Parsons III (drummer) and Josh Portman (bassist) remained tight not only in brotherhood but musicianship.

The second half of the show contained an eclectic selection of music from their releases, such as “Here I Am Alive,” “Paper Walls” and “With You Around.” In between songs, Key and Mackin took time to interact with the crowd, mainly expressing gratitude for their devoted fans.

Nostalgia permeated the atmosphere as fans from all over sang along, across the 16-year catalog of sound. Vocalist Key was full of energy as he bounced from one side of the stage to the other; one wouldn’t believe he underwent serious surgery in 2006 on his vocal chords. He sang stronger than ever, full of passion and heart.

Violinist Sean Mackin playing violin during “Believe”, a song that pays tribute to the tragedy happening on September 11, 2001

Violinist Sean Mackin playing violin during “Believe”, a song that pays tribute to the tragedy happening on September 11, 2001. Photo by Mary Childers

Violinist Mackin played as if inventing his own art form—one he has crafted to perfection. Pairing harmoniously with Key, they made “Believe” sound as raw as its original recording. Despite the fact Mackin has been battling thyroid cancer since 2011, his energy radiated sincerity and hope.

After 23 songs, the show remained a night to remember. According to the band, fans can expect new music in 2014. I had a chance to catch up with Sean Mackin for a brief interview. Here is how it unfolded:

encore (e); Did you ever expect “Ocean Avenue” to reach the success that it did when you first recorded the album?
Sean Mackin (SM): Absolutely not. I think any artist that expects that type of success is on drugs or really pretentious. For me as a violin player, to be in Yellowcard is one thing not many violinists get to do. We were just traveling and touring. Ryan and I traded our cars in for our first Yellowcard van. We were just touring and then Capitol Records signed us and we wrote some songs and it just kept snowballing. I still to this day can’t believe how wonderful our life is. I never expected it and I am very happy that it happened.

e: What has it been like revisiting Ocean Avenue after 10 years?
SM: It’s been awesome. I think the relationship that our fans have with Ocean Avenue is unbelievable. So many people tell us how much the songs mean, how the album has changed them, and how it has gotten them into music. I think that every music fan has that type of record. The fact we are able to have that is pretty unbelievable. We wanted to do something different and we wanted to have the evening be really intimate with an acoustic setting. It has been really wonderful. We’re really grateful.

e: How have fans been receiving it?
SM: Oh, it has been great. We started strong in the northeast. There were really big shows in Philly and in New York. We were kind of worried that maybe we got spoiled. We went through the Midwest a little bit with Riot Fest in Chicago and down through Ohio. Everyone has just been so sweet. All of team Yellowcard is just so happy and we’re kinda like trailing down through the coast. It feels good to be back in the South. It just feels like home. We’re going to watch football tomorrow and hangout with some friends. It is just a really good time to be in Yellowcard, you can probably tell by the smile on my face.

e: What does “Ocean Avenue” mean for you on a personal level?
SM: “Ocean Avenue” is the shining moment in my legacy and my life right now. It has given me the opportunity to do and see things that I never imagined I would get to do in my life. Ocean Avenue really is the springboard. My wife makes fun of me because in our house we have gold and platinum records for “Yellowcard,” “Ocean Avenue” specifically, and she is just like, “We need some other art. This is like a shrine because all of our stuff is Yellowcard stuff.” It’s really some of my biggest accomplishments maybe throughout my whole life so it is really special. This is our 10-year anniversary of our biggest record so we are here to celebrate it and every night has been a celebration.

Key brings the energy with “Way Away” as the kickoff to the “Ocean Avenue Acoustic Tour.”  Photo by Mary Childers

Key brings the energy with “Way Away” as the kickoff to the “Ocean Avenue Acoustic Tour.” Photo by Mary Childers

e: Did you always want to be a musician?
SM: I actually didn’t want to be a musician. My mom made me play violin and I quit every day until I was like 15. We moved around a little bit and we settled in Florida. Everyone was saying, ‘The violin is stupid; who is this new kid with the glasses,” and I was like, “Mom, this is so dumb; I want to play basketball or football with my friends.” She told me, “You’re going to practice and one day you’re going to thank me for it.”

Whether she knew it or not, I think she was just making me play. I’m totally grateful she made me do it. Even after I fell in love with music, I never was like, “I’m going to play music for the rest of my life.” I thought I would be a violin teacher or in business somewhere. It just kind of worked out where my friends and I wrote some songs and people liked listening to it.

e: What is it like for your mom to see you playing the violin the way you do?
SM: It’s pretty awesome. My mom is Japanese and she moved over here when she was five, so I’m pretty American. But still she was really strict in our household growing up. I think there’s still a little bit of maybe she doesn’t understand it. She’s like, ‘Oh, it’s really loud,’ and I’m like, ‘OK but do you see the 1,000-2,000 people?’ and she’ll say, ‘Yeah, that was nice.I have to go home, I’m tired.’ So she is really sweet and I think she gets it more now. It’s well-documented that, when we started out, I dropped out of college to try to do this. I have great friends and we made it work but she was very upset that I dropped out of college. It’s nice that the family has kinda come around to see that we have worked really hard. We have sort of built our own business in Yellowcard. It’s a giant family. We have so many fans and it is weird just calling them that because they’re more like friends and supporters that really take care of us.

e: What has been the most memorable part on this tour so far?
SM: There have been a couple of really special nights. Boston specifically. In our world there are terrible things that happen like the marathon that happened earlier this year on April 15th. Fans made us some ‘Boston Strong t-shirts’ and it was such a special moment. Fall Out Boy and The Gaslight Anthem were playing, both different shows down the street, and almost two thousand people came out to the Yellowcard show. We know that there are other bands out there and that there are other things going on in the world, and for people to share their evening and their moment in their life with us is just really special. It’s more than we could ever ask for. That night was amazing. Then really close to September 11 we played in New York City and the song ‘Believe’ is my favorite song. So that was really special and we played two nights there. It was so magical. Those have been the highlights so far. I mean, the whole tour has been great but those were the moments where you get misty eyed and you just can’t believe what is going on.

e: Does it kind of feel like a victory lap with this tour?
SM: Not really because a victory lap would be like if we were winding down. We are actually in a nice cycle. We put out a couple albums on Hopeless Records and it feels like we are catching our stride. But right now this is a little bit of reflection in the middle of the storm.

e: What are some plans for the next 10 years with Yellowcard?
SM: Probably just more albums and more touring. Right now we are going to do this tour. We are going to take it to Australia and then Europe, and then we are probably off for the holidays. Usually when we get off the road we all just start writing music so I’m hoping we get a new record out sometime next year and then more touring.

e: If you could say anything to your fans, what would you say?
SM: Thank you. I love you. Thanks for supporting Yellowcard. I mean, we can’t do it without them so we make sure they know how happy and grateful we are.

e: You said ‘Believe’ is your favorite song to play, what are some others you love to play on tour?
SM: The deepest track we have played on two tours is a song called “Cut Me Mick” off “Paper Walls.” The violin part has a little swagger to it. It has a really nice groove. I really like playing “Empty Apartment” because even though it is acoustic Ryan has done a great job. He is singing it down but it still has this longing kind of sadness to it. He is such a good narrator for our band. Then we have a song called “Surface of the Sun” off our most recent record “Southern Air” and that song is really fun to play. It is such a face-ripper.

e: What about “Twenty Three” do you still love singing?
SM: I don’t really enjoy singing. I like harmony and I like talking to the audience but I did not get the gift of a good voice. Ryan taught me how to sing. He is such a great brother in arms. I think my pitch is sometimes okay because of the violin … I’ve been playing for twenty some years. My voice has changed so much over the course of the last couple years with everything that has been going on though. Sometimes when I hear recordings I’m just like ‘that doesn’t even sound like me’. So every night during that moment, Ryan makes a big deal out of it, and it is really special because I don’t sing very often like that. I mean, I wish I was a good singer. I wish I sounded like Jason from “Acceptance,” but I don’t… so when I do I want to be in tune and maybe people won’t mind.

e: What are some of your favorite places to play?
SM: We really have two hometowns: Southern California, we kind of broke in Anaheim and it was the first show to sell out. Then Orlando. We’re from Jacksonville but it is harder to get over to that area because it is a smaller market, so anytime we play Orlando we get family and everyone comes out. Those two are great. Then I would have to say Japan and Australia are also amazing, amazing places for us. Sydney and Tokyo are some amazing Yellowcard cities.

e: It is so cool seeing people all around the world love your music as much as they do?
SM: It’s pretty wild. You go out in the city during the day and you see all the different culture, the accents and food, and then you go to a show and it just feels like home. I never really get homesick because of that. We just always want the fans to know how grateful we are for them.

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