The kids are all a mess. We call each other kids, colloquially and as some sort of affectation. We all just finished college, one way or another. We all just broke up with our significant others because thats what you do when you quit school. We hang out in dingy basements and watch bands five nights a week. We dont use street names, just numbers. 504. 602. 1138. Anybody who is anybody knows where these places are. We bring our tallboys and watch each other play music. Every band that stands in front of us is the best band in the world. They’re close enough to touch and not just physically. Its not enough to just hear music; we absorb it. There are too many good bands in this town. We inspire each other and we know we are going to rule the world.
“I think its time you knew; I like you ’cause youre new,” sings Eli McCormick in the most fitting possible line to describe Bloomington in 1997. It’s not just about girls or boys, although of course that’s there too. We’re feeding off piles of beautiful new energy and intensity. Intro to Airlift are impossibly cool. They are improbably intense. They are unbelievably easy. It’s the stuff we need. We are all living dichotomies and they are as much a part of the fabric of Bloomington as the dive bars and coffee shops we frequent.
When you’re twenty-three you have nothing but you think you know everything. Watching these guys in a damp basement, you end up realizing: they might actually know everything. There’s something in the songs that they’re intentionally holding back on. That tension and release, minus the release. They are the girl you walk home from the bar who invites you in but just for a cup of coffee. They are the best band in town and they probably don’t know it.
My nascent little punk band plays a few shows with them and I honestly feel like giving up after they play. It’s too effortless. But then I remember, they’re kids like I am. Bloomington kids and they do all the stuff we all do. City-wide games of capture the flag and water balloon fights and desperate nights of drinking and all points in between.
Intro to Airlift were a meteor shower and then they were gone. They fit Bloomington like a perfect pair of jeans; the ones you sleep in. They were all of us. Beautiful and flawed and just what we needed in our greatest and worst moments.
“We’re still waiting to decide what to do.” Christ, could any phrase sum up what we were trying to feel in the summer of 1997? We were in stasis. We were a bundle of uncontrollable nerves and impossible shapes and the kind of energy that only comes from standing two feet from an amp in a beer-soaked basement with a bunch of like-minded kids. The kids are all right. The kids are all fucked. It doesn’t matter. We ride our bikes through campus at midnight and pretend there’s no world outside Bloomington. And you know what? There isn’t. This is the soundtrack to a life. That idea that if you weren’t there you won’t understand it is trite and clich, but even if you weren’t there, this is still a document. We got this life. We owned it.
Put on the record. Pour some cheap beer onto a cement basement floor. Imagine the prettiest girl or boy in the room and wonder what theyre doing after the show. Close your eyes. Then release.
In the late ’90s, Secretly Canadian released a split from June Panic and Bloomington-based Intro to Airlift, and it’s now finally available on streaming services – you can listen on Spotify + Apple Music.
Our friend David Coonce wrote this piece to commemorate this. You can follow him on Twitter.