We were there for the start of it. And Saturday, we were there for the start of the end of it for Meese.
There were many tears shed at the popular band’s final Denver concert, from the teen girls who couldn’t get into the Bluebird Theatre, to a few drops mixed with sweat coming from band members on stage. Guitarist Nate Meese didn’t make it all the way through the final song, appropriately enough titled, “Don’t Forget.” He stopped playing, emotions overcoming him. He flicked his guitar pick to a teary young fan in the front row who later said she hasn’t missed a Meese concert in Denver the past three years, and left the stage.
Endings suck. And yet there’s nothing quite so wonderful about them, too. They provide an opportunity, and they instill a need in us, to take a farewell show in more fully, to savor it, to seal the little moments into your memory. Because it’s your last chance.
I’m not going to rehash the reasons this was the last Meese show in Denver. It’s a story as painful as it is redundant. Stories of how bands get screwed by the vagaries of the music business hurt my head and soul. I just know that Meese set out with no less lofty aspirations than their friends The Fray, a band that five years ago used to open for Meese, and went on to become only the biggest selling band on the planet. Meese didn’t reach the same heights, in part because of changing representation, but you have to credit them for their ambition to dream big.
Saturday’s throwback farewell show focused on the popular early material that paved for Meese a comparatively quick road to a national label. It didn’t hurt that their music has always been infectious, melodic and irresistibly appealing to adoring teen girls. Or that they happen to be among the nicest human beings you’re ever likely to meet.
Front man Patrick Meese thanked everyone who ever helped his band along the way, including The Fray, their wives, fans and drummer du jour Joe Richmond, borrowed for the evening from soulmate opening band Churchill. The set was filled with intentional poignancy most appropriate for the occasion, notably Patrick alone on the stage singing “This is where it falls apart,” a song I’ve always presumed to be about his taking responsibility for the self-destructive behaviors that nearly killed him as teenager. Miles and years removed, hearing Patrick sing “Gotta let a good thing go” on Saturday, it was impossible to miss the more immediate significance.
On this night, it was a song about the band starting anew. It was about saying goodbye to one dream in order to pursue another, perhaps greater one.
Two songs later, Nathan introduced “After I am Gone” as the song that changed his life. It’s got lyrics about how the past eats at the present. “And this too shall pass … if you let it.” The encore began with the song “Forward Motion” – and, well, you can see how the band’s current mindset is fixed on renewal.
Meese, like The Fray and Churchill, is a fun-sounding, pop-rock band rooted in religious convictions. Patrick’s relationship with God is as subtly intrinsic to Meese songs as Springsteen’s love for New Jersey is overtly infused into his. But on this night when every lyric meant just a little more than usual, it was most fitting to hear Patrick singing his musical prayer: “I won’t object to God holding nature’s re-set button down.”
Consider it down. And while it’s sad to see the end of Meese, the band, it’s thrilling to see what Meese, the brothers, and remaining bandmate Mike Ayars, transform into once their re-set is complete.
Set list, May 22, 2010:
Count Me Out
Say You’re OK
The Quiet Side
Next in Line
Standards (Pat solo)
After I Am Gone
Start of It
Meese’s posted farewell message to fans:
After more than five years of Meese, we have decided that it is time to move forward with a different project. The three of us will all be in a new band together, along with some new members that we are very excited (and lucky) to be playing with. We will be playing two more events – the Colorado Rapids game on July 4, and also at a festival in Fort Collins on Aug. 21.
It’s time to move forward and we’re hoping that all of you will do that with us. We’re working on new music harder than ever before and we’ll still be updating our normal sites with the latest information, so keep in touch.
A million thanks to our friends and fans who made this band possible.
– Patrick, Nathan and Mike
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John Moore founded The Denver Post Underground Music Showcase in 2001 and is now the paper’s theater critic. If you care about such things, follow his theater ramblings at www.denverpost.com/theater. Find him on Twitter here.