June 27, 2014
by Bryne Yancey

It’s the day of your high school graduation. You’ve worked hard, occasionally, to reach this point. You’ve sat through all the classes, even the ones you knew you wouldn’t need. You’ve done all, or most, or some of the homework, and didn’t skip school too much. You didn’t cause trouble in the classroom by talking out of turn, cheating on tests, or fighting, or at least, you didn’t do enough of it to be suspended or expelled. Things are good. The future’s mostly looking bright. Pretty soon, you’ll be a high school graduate, free to do virtually anything you want with your life, so long as it’s legal (and if you’re brave/dumb, even if it’s not). 

Maybe you’re not going to college like a lot of your friends are. Your grades weren’t quite good enough, or it’s “not for you,” or you’re “taking a year off.” Or maybe you got a job right out of high school. Your dad owns the company or something. Either way, you’re going to settle down, work hard, buy a house in a subdivision full of identical houses, get married, have kids, and eventually, if you save enough money, retire and die right there, in your hometown.

For many people across the United States, the above scenario is more or less exactly how their lives will play out, with little deviation. Regrets, if any, will be minimal. A larger amount of people than you think are perfectly content with their lives playing out in this fashion, and you know what? That’s okay. If everyone left their hometown and moved to New York to find themselves, well, too many people already live in New York as it is. These people, like it or not, are the backbone of America. There are nice places to live, and make a living, all over the country. Some of them are more bright and exciting than others, but not everyone seeks out brightness and excitement in their lives. Everyone’s needs and wants, or lack thereof, are different.

I’ve been thinking about Antarctigo Vespucci’s “Don’t Die In Yr Hometown” a lot lately. The band, whose debut EP Soulmate Stuff is available for a donation-based download here, perfectly marries the skills of its co-conspirators, Chris Farren of Fake Problems and Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb The Music Industry!: Farren’s ability to cleverly and often simultaneously inject humor and heartbreak into just about any lyrical turn of phrase he wants is on full display, and Rosenstock’s knack for extracting conventional melodies from a song no matter what oddball instrumentation/arrangement is omnipresent. 

“Don’t Die In Yr Hometown” in particular, is a revelation. The instrumental refrain and chorus put a Springsteen-esque twinkle over a fuzzy pop facade, and the lyrics paint a picture that feels all too familiar for someone who’s done a lot of interesting things and been to a lot of places on paper, yet more often than not, still feels rudderless.

I’m not looking at my old notebooks no more,
or searching four years back in my Gmail 
to find the ones she wrote before.
But I don’t feel much better,
I feel basically the same.
Yeah, I dragged myself across the earth,
still I’m stuck in the same place.

I’m not looking for a good deal on a newly foreclosed home,
I’m not calling up cemeteries for quality gravestones.
I feel just like a teenager without the fire in my heart
when I force myself out of my bed and fall asleep in my car.

My greatest fear has never been dying alone,
it’s drifting into the black with someone I barely know.

Living in Philadelphia is really wonderful. We have the best punk scene in the country here, one that can be cliquish sometimes but yields far more good bands than bad ones. There’s so much to see and do and eat and drink in this city. It feels like there’s opportunity here for anyone who wants to work hard to attain it.

I try to think about that stuff when my rent exponentially increases and my living situation is in limbo, or when my income taxes feel oppressive, or when my salary doesn’t nearly come close to compensating for the cost of living here, or when I look down at the ground in even in the city’s nicest neighborhoods and see trash strewn everywhere, or when I read yet another news story of someone in my own neighborhood robbed at gunpoint for their smartphone, or when my girlfriend comes home from work to tell me how much she was harassed and utterly dehumanized on the street by the men in this city.

I try to think about that stuff whenever I feel Florida pulling back at me, the clean, crisp air breezing in off the ocean, the palm trees, the much cheaper rent and much lower taxes, the snow-free climate, how everything and everyone seems more relaxed and slower-moving, my family, my friends and everyone I ever knew or loved until I was 27 years old. After almost three years of constantly bouncing around and constantly attempting to put down roots but never quite reaching the dirt, the stability, I think, is what I long for the most. 

But the grass is always greener, isn’t it? That’s what “Don’t Die In Yr Hometown” suggests to me, that the stability I crave might not necessarily be good or fulfilling, just easier and perhaps less exciting. And while “less exciting” is good enough for a lot of people, it’s not good enough for me yet.