In hindsight, the year 2000 is the last year I lived without an overarching feeling of cynicism toward the world. The year 2000 is also where my musical collection exploded to multiple giant binders of CDs filled with youth-defining pop-punk albums. And the year 2000 is when I first registered the AbsolutePunk.net domain name.
It’s the year 2000. We just survived the hype of Y2K and all the fears of computers crashing and arguments about if the millennium starts now or next year. I’m 17. I’m a junior in high school and obsessed with Blink-182 and MxPx. Blink-182 had released Enema of the State the previous year and would drop their monster single, “All the Small Things,” in January. Their popularity and fame would skyrocket as a result. My online life had just begun; I’m playing around with a hilariously ugly website that I have called “Absolute Punk,” and spending most of my evenings on AIM talking with friends and making new ones to share music with. And this is where I start to see my musical tastes coalesce around a few new themes.
First, because of MxPx, I’m getting really into various bands on Tooth & Nail and adjacent labels — the so-called “Christian bands.” This includes Slick Shoes with Wake Up Screaming, Craig’s Brother’s Homecoming, and a new online friend really into this music telling me about this album from a band called Relient K that, in their words, “are like if Blink-182 didn’t sing about dicks and cuss and had way more harmonies.” I ended up finding the album in a Christian bookstore and was immediately annoyed at it coming in this weird nonstandard plastic case that didn’t fit on my shelves. However, I was hooked moments later as the music blared from my car as I sped down the highway playing it through one of those CD to cassette audio adapters. Many of my musical memories from this era are tied to that car, that hilarious CD player jammed between the seats, and colossal CD binders shoved underneath them. From picking up my two friends on the way to school each morning, to making lunch dashes, to cruising around the town after school, or on weekends, trying to find any excuse for us not to go home quite yet. Homecomings, a prom, basement video game marathons of Perfect Dark with friends, and all kinds of teenage “firsts.” It’s all soundtracked in my head by the albums of this era. These memories all go hand-in-hand with the albums I was drawn to at the time. I wanted something bouncy, loud, fast, and fun. Something with some energy. Probably something talking about teenage life and heartbreak. And 2000 delivered music of that variety, in spades.
MxPx comes out with The Ever Passing Moment, and I was convinced they were about to be as big as Blink-182. I thought “My Life Story” was that song. I was so confident that if it got radio play, they’d be gigantic. It never quite happened to that level, but I still adore that album. Blink-182 followed up Enema with their live album, The Mark Tom and Travis Show, and it was around this time that I saw the band in concert for the first time. Blink-182 shows, in particular, would become a bonding tradition with a specific group of my friends. They didn’t go to many concerts, but they always wanted to go see Blink. So we would. And we were rowdy and obnoxious teenagers out of our goddamn minds. I weep for the parents that had to deal with us coming home maxed out on teenage hormones, swear words, and sugar.
The other standout memory from 2000 is New Found Glory releasing their self-titled album and my discovery of Drive-Thru Records. I bought their first album, which I liked but didn’t love, after seeing the video for “Hit or Miss” on the original Blank TV website. I bought it and their cover EP at the same time. My thoughts were if they could combine the sound on the cover EP with their original material, they’re going to have something. And then Drive-Thru Records posted up “Better Off Dead” as an mp3 on their website, and I knew I had a new favorite band. This felt so unlike anything I had heard before, it had this undeniable energy to it, but it was so damn catchy at the same time. The choruses felt destined for live concerts; the lyrics felt so perfectly teenager melodramatic. When I would talk to friends about this band, I’d call them the next generation of pop-punk; I believed this was the sound that was going to dominate our lives for years to come. I think history’s shown that to be pretty close to right on the money.
From New Found Glory, things would snowball. Midtown and The Movielife were not far behind. There was a dalliance with Mest and Junction 18. I tried to tell all my friends about this band called The Stryder, and no one but me cared. However, they cared about Good Charlotte’s debut, and Zebrahead, and this band from Canada I kept pushing on them called Sum 41. And then there’s a particular month of 2000 where I played a burned CD of Dashboard Confessional songs, on repeat, constantly. I couldn’t find the record in any store, so I only had what I could find on Napster, burned onto a CD in alphabetical order. That’s my first experience with Dashboard, alphabetized breakup sadness.1
2000 also had Green Day releasing my favorite album from them, Warning, and Eve 6 putting out Horrorscope, but it wouldn’t be until the next year where “Here’s to the Night” dominated everyone’s 2001 graduation.
The albums I remember listening to most in 2000 include:
- Bad Religion – The New America
- Blink-182 – The Mark Tom and Travis Show
- Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors
- Coldplay – Parachutes
- Craigs Brother – Homecoming
- Dashboard Confessional – Swiss Army Romance
- Eve 6 – Horrorscope
- Face to Face – Reactionary
- Gob – The World According to Gob
- Goldfinger – Stomping Ground
- Good Charlotte – Good Charlotte
- Green Day – Warning
- Junction 18 – This Vicious Cycle
- Less Than Jake – Borders & Boundaries
- Mest – Wasting Time
- Midtown – Save The World, Lose the Girl
- Millencolin – Pennybridge Pioneers
- MxPx – The Ever Passing Moment
- New Found Glory – New Found Glory
- Relient K – Relient K
- Rufio – Perhaps, I Suppose
- Slick Shoes – Wake Up Screaming
- Strung Out – Element of Sonic Defiance
- Sum 41 – Half Hour of Power
- The Movielife – This Time Next Year
- The Offspring – Conspiracy of One
- The Stryder – Masquerade in the Key of Crime
- Thrice – Identity Crisis
- Zebrahead – Playmate of the Year
This is just an incredible list of music, from Less Than Jake to Strung Out to Gob and Rufio. These are albums that feel at the heart of my entire high school experience. From the car rides to the hallways, these are the albums that defined years that felt like lifetimes. Whereas a two year period now flies by at the speed of Twitter, in 2000, my teenage summers felt like decades, and this is the music that kept me company.
As we went barreling into the 2000 election, and Florida, and hanging chads, I began to feel a wall of cynicism crawl around me. I was trying to make decisions about what colleges I would apply to, even though a big part of me didn’t want to go. I was struggling with a sense of purpose, of self. I was so into technology, obsessed with the internet and this growing web, and I just knew this was what I wanted to do with my life, it had to be online, it had to do with this new frontier. And I didn’t know how college was going to get me closer to my goals.2 And, here in 2000, AbsolutePunk was starting to become more of a formalized thing for me. I was updating the website regularly with new features, news, wallpapers, AIM icons, magazine scans, and experimenting with new web development techniques. Tables! An early blogging platform called Graymatter that would let me update news by typing text into the web-browser. Madness! I was making friends with others online running websites like NewFoundGlory2.com and Drive-Thru Records fansites. I was thinking about how I had all these bands I was discovering and falling in love with, and I wanted to share that with people. I’d formally register AbsolutePunk.net in June of this year, and the seeds were starting to be planted for transitioning the website away from just two bands and into the next phase.
For as much as I love the music of this era, it’s this era online that I have a nostalgic yearning for the most. Before social media became how everyone communicated or shared their thoughts about everything, all the time, there were these little website silos you’d visit every day. You’d browse around, checking out updates on all the sites in your bookmarks, and then maybe talk with a handful of people over AIM about what they were working on and building. You’d look at other fansites and see what they were adding, or what design trends they were employing, and then you’d try and mimic them or build upon it for your own website. There were no clickbait headlines, no engagement algorithms, no fighting through the stream for attention; it felt so much simpler. I miss that. Now with the dominance of Facebook and this model of feeding the beast as much content as humanly possible, it feels so quaint to think about those early days. Just a bunch of stupid kids posting photos about our favorite bands. Where you’d check AIM away messages religiously and get excited about messages like, “Hey, have you heard about this band called Thrice? They just released this album in California called Identity Crisis that is getting a lot of buzz, you should check it out.”
And maybe I look at it all through late-thirties rose-colored glasses. Of course I do. But these sounds of instant messaging, the door creaks and slams, the chimes of an incoming message, are almost as important to those years as the sounds coming from my speakers. A life lived between headphones and this burgeoning online world. A world that I would escape to when things were tough at home. A bedroom in the basement with a portal to a different, more controllable, world just a few 56kbps modem screeches away. A music collection building at a rapid pace and a teenage brain filled with arrogance and confidence that only a teenage brain can have.
Graduation, college, leaving friends, family, and a girlfriend behind–this is all just on the horizon. The internet will get faster. Bigger. iPods and digital music will shift entire music collections to our pockets. New bands to discover are just around the corner, and this music I’m listening to is about to hit a new level of mainstream awareness. And, on top of it all, the entire world is about to change this next September. But when I think about this little pocket in time, it’s the moment that best defines my adolescence. Before too much responsibility, but where I’m just old enough to drive and experience the expansion of my tiny sphere. The freedom of a car and a CD player, one is letting me get out into the world, the other letting me get out of my head. The freedom of the internet and exploring an uncharted frontier, naive and powered by Red Vines, Mt. Dew, and Cheese-Its. And now with a domain name to call my own. Things are about to get weird.