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Nathan Gray of Boysetsfire belts out a tune at the Rex Theather in Pittsburgh on July 31.

PITTSBURGH — It was a hot Monday evening and I had to wait a half-hour outside the Rex Theater on the South Side.

By the time I obtained my ticket, my hand was sweaty and I was ready for a nap.

Despite old age creeping in (I’ll be 26 in September), I forced myself to wake up and check out the venue. The last time I saw Boysetsfire at The Rex, seats reminiscent of a movie theater lined the back of the auditorium. To my dismay and tired body, they were gone.

I got comfortable in a dark little corner by an unused bar — clutching my phone set to vibrate — waiting for one of the band’s guitarists, Josh Latshaw, to call me. We were to sit down for an interview.

Before I left for the show I had an uneasy feeling about the interview — I’m not sure if it was a premonition or my well-confirmed pessimistic nature kicking in. Either way, I heard the bad news straight from the source.

I saw Josh walking around and stalked him, debating whether I should inquire about our meeting or not. I almost let him slip back up to the balcony when my courage kicked in.

I called his name — stopping him dead in his tracks.

I quickly explained that I was the girl he had been corresponding with for the last two weeks.

Before I continue, let me give you a little background. I have been entranced by Boysetsfire since a friend let me borrow a few of the band’s CDs in college — that was about six years ago. Their lyrics are political, socially aware and insightful. At first I was taken aback by their style — it was a mixture of hardcore screaming and soothing vocals by Nathan Gray, as the rest of the band changed tempo to back him up.

You just have to check them out to get a feel for their music, since mere words can’t do Boysetsfire justice.

I had been to three of their previous shows. They all were amazing. The camaraderie between the band and fans is unbelievable. But hold on — I’m getting ahead of myself.

Josh stood there on the steps waiting for me to continue.

“So, are we still doing the interview?”

“Didn’t you hear?” he said.

“Hear what?”

“We are breaking up.”

“You and I or you and the band?” I joked.

He explained that Boysetsfire is retiring from the music scene. He felt there was really no point to do an interview now. I agreed, but it was hard for me to believe this was going to be the “last” show and I didn’t get to talk to them. At least I was a part of it. So close, yet so far away — story of my life.

Anyway, I had to stomach three opening bands before getting to see the main event. I won’t mention any names but the first local band was — hmmm — well, the music wasn’t too bad, but band members seemed to think they were rock stars.

The lead singer helped to turn me off when he repeatedly advised females in the crowd to show him their breasts. I’m being less crude, of course. I’m not sure who was supposed to swoon at that comment, but at that point it was hard for me to take them seriously.

More bands played and I waited — as patiently as possible. I Am The Avalanche went on before Boysetsfire and they were impressive. Their sound reminded me of Strike Anywhere and The Bouncing Souls. The lead singer seemed humble and passionate — a growing rarity in bands.

OK, so the band I had been waiting to see was finally coming on. Hundreds of people were packed close to the stage, creating a slightly less smelly sardine tin. Boysetsfire began playing and the crowd roared. Fists were punching the air as spectators became part of the action — singing along and swaying together.

A few songs into the set Nathan informed everyone that the band was retiring. The crowd showed its disappointment, but it didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the night. Actually, I think it pushed everyone harder to make the most out of the moment.

Each song was delivered with high intensity from both the band and fans. The very last song threw the venue into a frenzy. People were dancing, screaming and connecting with the group.

The sense of unity was satisfying. How can one band reach so many people and do it on their own terms? It’s one thing to regurgitate lyrics, but to embrace them as a belief, that is something special. I could see it in the crowd’s eyes. I just hope those on hand live it longer than that show.

I can imagine Boysetsfire wanting the same — for their music to live on and continue to inspire. I’m convinced it will.

(Serena Serafin is a page designer at The News.)



Members of Boysetsfire:

•Nathan Gray, vocals

•Chad Istvan, guitar

•Robert Ehrenbrand, bass

•Josh Latshaw, guitar

•Matt Krupanski, drums

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