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Look At Me: Finding Hometown Glory in Fire is Motion

Photo+Courtesy+of+GetAlternative
Photo Courtesy of GetAlternative

Photo Courtesy of GetAlternative

Photo Courtesy of GetAlternative

Verónica Del Valle, Web Staffer

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New Jersey is a fundamentally uninteresting place. At least, that was how I felt before I was ripped away from its warm embrace and taken to the nation’s capital. Now, I can talk about the cultural value of taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a bagel for hours on end.

When I was sixteen, however, there was no nostalgic value to my Union County, New Jersey. I was a teenage girl who could not drive. I had overprotective parents and spent most of my time on the Internet. The 105.4 square miles that I called home had nothing interesting to offer me, mostly because I spent the majority of that time in my house, or at other people’s houses, or at school, or learning to play classical piano in the basement of a Russian woman.

However, when I was just about to leave my dreaded hometown, I went to a show.

The Meatlocker is an institution of the Northern New Jersey, a rite of passage for bored young people who like music. The front steps are littered with cigarettes. Between every set, people depart en masse to smoke. Without embellishment, it is a glorified basement, decorated with stickers and Sharpie graffiti.

The circumstances of my arrival have been lost in time and space. Of course, I remember that I was on a date, and nervous in the way that teenage girls often are. None of those things matter, though. After a few migrations up and down the steps, following the teenagers and young adults who went to smoke or get fresh air outside, a band started to play. I wish I remember some of the more intimate details, like what songs they played, but I was too engrossed in other aspects of the evening.

In the process of pretending to know who they were, the individual I was with mentioned that they were all from our home town. Union, New Jersey.

For some reason, that felt special. It felt intimate that there were other people from my 60,000 person who existed in the same universe that I did. Of course, my own romanticization of that evening was coming into play, but still. Two years later, that memory remains special.

The band was called Fire is Motion, the person I was with told me. They didn’t have much music online, and I didn’t hear about any other shows nearby. I was absorbed by that summer and quickly forgot about the band and their music and the special moment where we were all from the same place.

I forgot about them until last summer, when they put out a song that casually came into my periphery.

“Flowers in Kawameeh Park” by Fire is Motion is, at first glance, an uncomplicated song. It starts with a relatively slow and steady drum beat before unfurling itself into layered guitar and singing. The song itself is beautiful, but that’s not why I loved it.

I went to Kawameeh Middle School in Union, New Jersey. It sits at the bottom of a long stretch of road, next to Kawameeh Park. You can see the highway and a water tower behind it. The fields sit to the right, before almost immediately reverting to the kind of residential neighborhood one can imagine exists in New Jersey.

Fire is Motion has been constantly in my musical repertoire since last summer, when that song was released. Conveniently enough, the group has grown in popularity and started to release more music since then. In the last year, they’ve released an EP and recorded an AudioTree session. I listen to both almost weekly. Both “Flowers in Kawameeh Park” and their EP, Still I Try, follow similar musical mechanics. They layer and build into moments of sonic catharsis. Their music is scattered with horns, which always make me feel like something better is yet to come.

More than anything, I feel proud that other people from my comparatively small town are doing things that I love. Last semester, they played a show at Comet Ping Pong. This year, they loved on to Songbyrd.

The sense of achievement that I get from music made by people who I do not know intimately is strange, even unnecessary. But, if people can make beautiful music named after the park next to my old middle school, maybe the world is a little more wonderful than it sometimes seems.

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Look At Me: Finding Hometown Glory in Fire is Motion