The time I met Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack on random weeknight in Richmond
Or, "My Favorite Accident"
Last month Mick Jagger was in Charlotte, North Carolina for a concert. Yep, nearly six decades in, The Rolling Stones are still touring, apparently having little issue selling out stadiums all over the country, and the strangest thing about that is it’s not at all surprising.
What is surprising is how the night before the show, Jagger dropped by a totally nondescript bar just outside downtown Charlotte called the Thirsty Beaver Saloon.
Mick Jagger is probably the most famous and recognizable living rockstar on the planet, and on a random Wednesday he walked in to a dive bar in Charlotte, sidled up to the counter and ordered (what looks to be) a Coors Light.
AND NO ONE NOTICED IT WAS HIM.
This story by Jeremy Markovich at North Carolina Rabbit Hole is a wonderful deep dive into the whole event, including an interview with the bar’s owner who laments that he wasn’t there.
Kacey Musgraves and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have also apparently been spotted at the Thirsty Beaver in years past, but I like to think the list of celebrities who’ve dropped by is much higher. Next time I’m in Charlotte, you better believe I’m going to swing by and cross my fingers that Tom DeLonge or Emily Haines will be there.
This whole story leaves me tickled pink. I love that Jagger’s got a habit of moseying around whatever city he’s in ahead of a show. This is a man who has done and seen a lot in his 78 years, including (allegedly) impulse-buying a mansion while on LSD and only finding out about it the next morning. Yet he’s still got enough thirst for life to go hang out at a junkyard in Nashville or have a beer totally alone in Charlotte when he’s killing time between concerts.
This story reminded me of a night in 2009 that still gets me stoked, no matter how many times I tell the story to friends.
I’d moved into my freshman dorm at VCU a few weeks prior and immediately became enamored with the college experience, mostly because I had achieved what I dreamed of doing for all of high school: I had gotten the hell out of the suburbs.
As we settled into our new lives my roommate Chase (miss you dude!) had already made me laugh to the point of tears a few times in our dorm. In the dining hall Miles and I would debrief each other on everything — classes and our love lives, mostly. I had piled into the bleachers at the Stu and become part of the rootinest, tootinest, nastiest student section in college basketball.
I could hardly believe my luck. It felt like for the first time in my life I was living, not just sitting around, waiting for the real fun to start.
Also, I was trying real hard to keep good grades. In high school I was a bonafide underachiever, and I’d heard stories of similar ne’er-do-wells excessively partying, flunking out and landing back at home. Not me. I would not be going back to Midlothian. Well, I would only when I needed half a lasagna to keep in the fridge. Thanks Mom!
One random weeknight I was wrapping up at the library, whose entrance faces the Compass, the brick plaza that stitches together the dining hall, library and some of the main academic buildings. It’s the de facto heart of campus, and it’s gorgeous.
It was pretty late in the evening and I was tapping out from studying for my first-ever midterm exams. A small crowd had gathered across the way and I could hear someone playing an acoustic guitar. Despite the textbook-induce haze I was in, I recognized the hook.
But all I can do is close my eyes, and cross my arms, and hope to die, ‘cause you don’t fucking listen, when I’m around.
“Damn, shoutout to that dude for playing Motion City,” I thought. He was pretty good, so I walked over. He was sitting on one of the benches and looking down at his guitar, commanding everyone’s attention.
A few songs later, after he asked everyone to sing along to L.G. Fuad, I realized what was going on, but couldn’t convince myself it was happening.
Is that…Justin Pierre?! I nudged someone next to me and asked.
“Yeah it’s him,” they told me. “Their drummer’s from Richmond. The whole band’s apparently in town.”
Justin Pierre was playing an impromptu acoustic set in Richmond, and the tides of fate led me right to it. The beanie he was wearing hid his magnificent hair, otherwise I like to think I’d have identified him immediately.
The whole thing was too damn cool. I saw Motion City a year prior when they were touring with Chiodos (they were promoting Even If It Kills Me and Bone Palace Ballet, respectively, and DAMN what a show that was), but seeing JCP play a private show a few blocks from my dorm was truly special.
I stood there a few feet from him, backpack on, and sung along with everyone else.
BETTY, I NEED YOU. I MISS YOU. I’M SO ALONE WITHOUT YOU. TO CALL UP ON THE WEEKENDS WITH MY CELLULAR PHONE.
He eventually wrapped up, taking plenty of photos and signing lots of shirts for everyone before walking away towards Hanover Avenue. I think I talked to him briefly, just blurting out something incoherent about being a huge fan. He was kind about it, kinder than he needed to be.
The issue with growing up is the world starts to feel like it’s shrinking all around you. The new, enthralling events that leave you starry-eyed feel fewer and farther between, and it’s hard to ignore the background hum of humanity somnambulantly walking toward climate ruination.
But I choose to believe those life-affirming moments are still out there, and the issue is we’re perhaps too caught up in our heads to notice and appreciate them. There’s still gold in them-thar hills, I believe — the challenge is in reminding ourselves to look for it.
I don’t walk into bars or out of libraries expecting to see something magical, but I think it makes for a better life when you believe that you just might.