Words and Photos by Weronika Koleda
What became of the room in which New Brunswick legends Thursday played last Saturday resembled a time capsule of sorts––a shred of the past that, instead of provoking aching nostalgia, built an altar celebrating how far we’ve come, how two decades later, we’re somehow still here. A consistently-present ghostly haze spilled over the stage, sifting between the warm bodies of attendees. The supposedly haunted corridors of The Rave/Eagles club (the building’s haunted mansion structure and Halloween animatronics dwelling into December added to the charm) felt oddly appropriate for a show calling us to dance with the ghosts inscribed within a record from 20 years ago.
Thursday kicked off the next leg of their Full Collapse anniversary tour in Milwaukee, playing to a packed room of those who held the same enthusiasm for the sophomore record as they did following its 2001 debut. And based on the performance Thursday put on that Saturday night, it’s evident the band too holds on to that same exuberance.
Full Collapse deserves all its flowers. The 11-track record shifted the culture of heavier music at the turn of the millenium, much like Nirvana’s Nevermind became a defiant of grunge a decade earlier in the 90s. Chances are, even if someone doesn’t bear the title of Thursday fan––or perhaps someone who hasn’t even heard of Thursday in the first place––there are bands populating their playlist that have directly taken influence from the New Jersey pioneers. It’s Thursday who take responsibility for inspiring bands like fellow Jersey icons My Chemical Romance, and for passing on the torch onto the next generation of bands like Touché Amore.
Full Collapse was born out of New Brunswick basements, from a bunch of college kids who just wanted a chance to play in the literal underground. Forming in 1997 and playing their first basement show on New Year’s Eve 1998, the Thursday lineup as we know it has consisted of frontman and vocalist Geoff Rickly, drummer Tucker Rule, rhythm guitarist Steve Pedulla, lead guitarist Tom Keeley, and bassist Tim Payne (give or take a certain number of touring members). The record took shape from an earnestness and innocence that Rickly acknowledges years later, telling Noisey in 2014 how Thursday were “Just a bunch of kids pouring all their heart and dreams into one big record. Full Collapse was like, that was it, that’s all we wanted to do. We took off school for a year to tour, like ‘this is it, this is our one big hurrah.’ And you can hear it, you can hear it in my vocals. Even though I couldn’t sing that well, I love the way it sounds because I sound like a totally inexperienced naive kid that has a lot of hopes and passion and sincerity and it hadn’t been ruined yet.”
Rickly, a Rutgers student at the time, carried the New Brunswick hardcore scene on his shoulders. Before Thursday even came into fruition, Rickly was putting on basement shows that hosted bigger names like Midtown, and showcased the ends of eras; 90s hardcore band You & I played their last show in his basement. Thursday’s first show would also be held in Rickly’s basement, with Midtown, Saves The Day, and Poison the Well sharing the bill. Building community and honoring the work within the art, Rickly provided bands who came through a stage, housing, and payment––whether 50 kids showed up or none. What eventually became a fan-beloved story stems from how the Thursday frontman committed himself to paying out of pocket what donations couldn’t cover. Referred by his “Poetry, Dance, and The Body” professor at Rutgers, Rickly would pick up some extra cash writing smut told from the perspective of women writing in to share their sexual encounters for outlets like Hustler and Penthouse. In other words, Geoff Rickly funded the New Brunswick hardcore scene by making bank writing anonymous porn letters.
Flashing forward back to 2001, the release of Full Collapse spearheaded what we would come to know as the “emo” subculture, its innovative sound paralleled with lyrical content that distinguished Thursday from the predominant breakup tracks of the time (Rickly recalls Thursday calling these “ex-boyfriend bands”). Although the same year brought about albums like Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American or the lesser known (at the time) The Unraveling from Rise Against, Thursday’s hauntingly raw lyrics projected via a combination of screams and clean singing became a catalyst for what would follow in the scene. The dual threat of clean and screaming vocals was found few and far between at the turn of the century, but the record’s release opened the floodgates for bands harboring this vocal style––and for major labels like Island Def Jam and Warner Brothers to swoop in like hawks.
Produced by Sal Villanueva (Taking Back Sunday, My American Heart) Full Collapse reads as a testament to the tragedies too many of us have experienced as adolescents and young adults, situations that caused us to grow up a little faster than we should have. Stories of those we lost too soon, small town chronicles that never made it out of the suburbs but never left you the same––Thursday’s sophomore record is tied to individual memories so specific and yet heartbreak so universal that something about it seems to hit too close to home. “Understanding In a Car Crash” was written about Rickly losing his girlfriend in a car accident; “How Long Is The Night” recalls the frontman’s French partner laying across the train tracks behind their school and awaiting the next train’s crushing velocity; “Paris in Flames” references the New York City drag ball culture documentary film and queer resistance; “Concealer” explicitly illustrates domestic violence.
In hindsight, Full Collapse’s 2002 Pitchfork review aged quite poorly––fussing over the inability to pigeonhole Thursday into some niche subgenre (an outdated take if you ask me) and finishing with a dig at the band to “lighten up a little”. It’s precisely this inability to “lighten up”, the acknowledgement that life can suck everything out of you sometimes, that resonates with young people beginning to experience the real world. In the same vein that MCR’s message was received, Thursday wrote songs for the kids who needed to feel heard and seen for the shit they were going through––Thursday themselves were those kids. Full Collapse is raw in its delivery, it’s a record that sits next to you on the back porch listening to you ponder what the hell you’re supposed to do now. It’s a moment of process and release, feeling everything that demands to be felt in the moment––pretentious fishing for bullshit silver linings aside.
As their Victory label debut, Full Collapse was initially deemed to be a commercial failure. In a 2021 podcast with The BrooklynVegan, Rickly touches on how the album racked up a measly 700 copies in its first month post release and “nobody cared”. It wasn’t until a year later when on tour with Saves The Day that a three month period suddenly turned the band’s career around. “Understanding In a Car Crash” became virtually inescapable on MTV, and Thursday found themselves elevated to the status of their friends attached to bigger names. Full Collapse would eventually sell over 300,000 copies, Thursday would chart on the Billboard 200, and a group of guys who never dreamed of being famous would contribute to the crystallization of “emo” into the cultural lexicon.
There is an non-recreatable quality to Thursday and Full Collapse that grasped onto listeners in 2001 and then cemented the record within its place in history. “Even a band that has the same inclinations as Thursday, the same desires for their lyrics, and an attachment to post-modernism or whatever, it’s specific things that make Thursday Thursday,” Rickly commented in a 2021 Spin interview. “If you make that record now, you’d have to tie it to the current place and time the way we did. You can’t just recreate that, because it was a product of its time.”
And so here we are, peering back into that crystal ball again from a different time, a different place.
Returning to the Saturday night in question, prior to Thursday having taken the stage, the room was warmed up by none other than fellow veteran of his craft, Anthony Green. Green has been involved in more projects than I can probably count on one hand. He’s someone who’s able to find a creative foothold in the most magical of spaces, and if not, he’ll create it himself. Most could probably recognize him from withstanding bands like Circa Survive (now on an indefinite hiatus), The Sound of Animals Fighting, and Saosin. Earlier that week, I had the pleasure of seeing Anthony rage in his latest endeavor as the vocal powerhouse in L.S Dunes, the stunning post-hardcore outfit also including Thursday’s Rule and Payne on their respective instruments, in addition to guitar heroes Frank Iero of MCR and Coheed and Cambria’s Travis Stever. Three days after the Dunes wrapped their east coast run of shows, Green found himself back in the midwest, this time just him and a guitar, changing the pace for an opening set of some of his solo material.
Green shed his brown corduroy sherpa jacket he seems to always be spotted wearing and turned towards a politely enthusiastic crowd enveloped under that same ghostly fog that ceased to dissipate from the room. Taking his time through a generous ten-song set, Green’s unmistakable, gravely falsetto was captivating no matter if he’s spitting fire with a full band or crooning solo to watchful eyes. There was contentment and serenity emitting from him tonight. Though Green gleefully remarked to his audience how much he loves playing for them, it almost seemed as if he was singing to himself. Dozens of people gazed upon him, and yet, as soon as he opened his mouth, Green was the only one in the room. Anthony was caught in his own moment and permitted us to watch.
Playing through a selection of his solo catalog, including “Don’t Dance” and “Trading Doses” off his incredibly vulnerable solo record “Boom. Done.” put out by Born Losers Records earlier this year, he was confronted with scattered shouting of “We love you’s” and enthusiastic cheers. Green appeared almost surprised by this, explicitly thanking everyone for being so nice to him. His set sprinkled in surprises including a rendition of Circa’s “Lustration” and a Deftones cover (“Diamond Eyes” to be exact). Sometime between songs he looked off somewhere we couldn’t see, claiming he was distracted by an angel. What he meant by this I wasn’t sure; maybe he spotted one of the ghosts haunting The Rave, maybe he caught a glimpse of his own reflection.
Celebrating their own anniversary was Omaha, Nebraska-bred Cursive, commemorating 20 years of their third full-length Domestica. The six-piece is fronted by Tim Kasher on guitar and vocals, Matt Maginn on bass, Clint Schnase on drums, Ted Stevens on guitar, including Patrick Newberry on keys, trumpet, and percussion, and Megan Siebe shredding the cello. Domestica is a concept record painting the story of two characters––Sweetie and Pretty Baby, seen on the album’s cover––enduring the tumultuous side of married life. Looking into the struggling relationship of the titular characters, the dark material stemmed from Kasher’s divorce––though the frontman explained most of the record’s lyrical content as fiction. A promotional sticker on the CD’s original release clarified this distinction further, proclaiming that “Tim Kasher, disillusioned and disappointed, got divorced. And though he’ll swear to you that Cursive’s upcoming full-length, Cursive’s Domestica is not an autobiography, the parallels are difficult to ignore.”
Kasher and co. blast through Domestica with great fervor, changing the pace and spinning the room on its head. An overwhelming sense of body heat began to linger between us all, an energy exchanging between crowd and band. Kasher is wide-eyed and wildly gesticulating in between guitar riffs as if he’s trying to paint the picture directly before us. Maginn, Schnase, and Stevens have no trouble keeping up with his antics, but allow the frontman to act as the visual spectacle of the performance. Siebe is mesmerizing on an electric cello, my gaze often shifting towards her full-body playing and headbanging. After their set I would overhear someone comment how much they loved when rock-oriented bands included string instruments into their sound. I had to agree with them.
Cursive played “The Casualty” through “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight”, but made sure to end their set with a mixed bag of extra songs. Kasher is very matter-of-fact, sparing any witty banter to sum up the opus, stating something along the lines of “And that’s the end, that was Domestica!”. The following included numbers such “From The Hips” and “A Gentleman Caller”, in addition to a new song and a hint at new material coming. Thoroughly shaking up the room before they departed, Cursive passed the stage on with their heads and spirits high.
If you asked anyone in Thursday if they ever thought they would still be playing in this band 20 years later, everyone would likely have shared the same disbelief. After delivering their final record “No Devolución” in 2011, the band parted on their separate ways, moving on to new projects, leaving it to the next generation of bands to continue the work. Confirming their disbandment in 2013, Thursday seemed to have turned the page and closed their book. It wasn’t until three years later in 2016 that the group took another stab at playing together, rekindling their relationship. Originally, the shows were to last until 2019 before finishing the band’s chapter once more; however, the momentum kept rolling through the end of that year and into 2021, when things picked back up once more. Thursday officially took on more headlining dates that extended into 2022, including a Riot Fest slot this past September, and tagged along with their old friends in My Chemical Romance for several of their tour dates across the country.
Geoff Rickly commanded center stage, back turned from the audience, one hand gripping the mic cord, the other swinging the microphone like a lasso. Tucker Rule sauntered up to his throne behind a sparkling cherry red kit and Steve Pedulla assumed his position at stage left. Consistent touring guitarist Norman Brannon (Texas Is The Reason) joined the band on stage along with Stuart Richardson––Rickly’s bandmate in No Devotion––assuming Tim Payne’s role on bass (Payne withdrew from touring with Thursday around 2006 but remains a core member of the band). The room held its breath, waiting for Rule to hit the snare twice and launch us into “Understanding In a Car Crash”. Thursday wasted no time jumping full force into the anthem, setting us up for a ripper.
I abruptly bumped backs with an EMT, tearing my eyes away from my camera’s viewfinder to notice a handful of security waiting to catch the incoming wave of crowd surfers. Not too long after, I’m baptized into the church of Thursday by a spray of water coming down seemingly from the heavens. The commotion is contagious. I turned back towards the stage; Geoff is absolutely beaming ear to ear. The frontman leaned over to bridge the gap between stage and barricade, one foot on the speaker, throwing his voice into the mic. Eyes locked with the crowd, Rickly consciously strived to be present in the moment as opposed to getting lost in the uproar. Rule is masterful on the drums, his brows furrowed as he held down the controlled chaos of the rhythm section he shared with Richardson, who brought as much intensity as a long lasting member of the group. Pedulla and Brannon riffed off each other effortlessly, heavy guitars filling in all the empty gaps in the room. It’s refreshing to see a band who, despite having spent decades performing these very songs countless times, put everything into a performance as if it’s their first. There was a genuine youthful energy coming from Thursday, they still love playing songs for us.
A few songs in, the frontman paused to acknowledge yet another, but more personal, anniversary. Rickly recently celebrated five years being clean and sober after falling into a heroin addiction following Thursday’s disbandment a decade ago. The room erupted at the sound of this milestone. Sharing another anecdote, Rickly mentioned his broken foot that left him with a cast and scooter during last February’s Thursday shows. Leaning over his leg, he pantomimed the tightening of screws as he illustrated the hardware in his ankle. Regardless of the injury, however, Rickly committed himself to continue playing even with a lack of mobility. Another uplifting roar broke out in response.
We catapulted through standout tracks like “Autobiography of a Nation” and “Cross Out the Eyes” before reaching “Wind-Up”, the second to last track on the record. Added as a last minute 11th song to the album, Rickly had a good time playfully dissing his own song that barely made the cut. For an additional 11 cents per album sale, “Wind-Up” became the lucky winner to earn the band some extra dollars. One of the more powerful moments of the set was marked by the final track, “How Long Is The Night?” The nearly six minute long track sounded devastating, even with 20 years of emotional distance. Rickly’s voice became drowned out as fans put their whole chest into the bridge, shouting “It’s all I have/to live for”.
Before the album closed out, Thursday seamlessly faded into a reprise of “Car Crash”, Rickly grabbing the mic stand and hovering it over a group of arms raised into the air. There’s something so liberating about hearing a hundred people scream “I don’t want to feel this way forever”. It was a call loud enough for our past selves to hear, a proclamation that that pain truly is temporary, that there’s another part to the story if we stick around long enough to get there. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.
The band returned with an encore of hard-hitters like “Jet Black New Year” and “War All The Time”, ensuring that they end the night on a high note. “This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb” was definitely a highlight. Crouched down on his knees, Rickly’s voice echoed over our heads. The frontman may have been critical of his vocal abilities for a significant portion of his career, but “Falling Bomb” is a true testament to his vocal delivery. Whatever Rickly and Thursday had left to give of themselves that night, they put into the last couple of songs. Our ears rang long after the band had tossed the audience their pics, thrown their drumsticks, and said goodnight.
As for what’s next for Thursday, no one can really say. Both Full Collapse and War All The Time (2003) were re-released as live albums via Velocity Records this year, but the world hasn’t heard any new material in over a decade. Rickly spoke honestly of the band’s creative direction, admitting that they’ve been writing consistently for some time, but nothing has stuck. That being said, the door hasn’t completely closed for new music. The frontman is adamant about releasing a body of work only if it gives justice to where the band is today, if the material is genuinely good enough to hold up after an ever-growing span of time has built up some of the pressure. Today, Thursday is just stoked to be playing again, moved by an audience of people who still want to hear the songs.
Thursday’s legacy is possibly most succinctly and well-captured by none other than Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, who noted in his 2005 Spin cover story that “A kid watching Thursday is going, ‘They are empowering because that could be me up there—Geoff is singing what I want to be singing,’…With us, it’s like, ‘These guys are so fucking crazy I need them in my life.’” The article goes on to proclaim that “introverts inspire others to form bands; extroverts sell records.”
There’s something about Thursday that has always felt more tangible for artists and fans alike (or for fans who eventually themselves became musicians). These guys from Jersey never placed themselves on a rockstar pedestal, but strived to level out the playing field between band and audience. Whatever Thursday had fulfilled, any starry eyed kid in the pit was capable of the same. And even some 20 years later, in a room somewhere in Milwaukee, where we’re all a little older than the kids we used to be, that feeling still rings true. A red ribbon of shared experience has tied us all together, and so we sing together.