no. 16 — Tough Love by Forth Wanderers
Forth Wanderers is high key one of my favorite bands of all time. My friend Ryan introduced me to them. I think they had made some offhand comment about how I might like them, and that they knew of the band because they were from Ryan’s home state. This was during a time when I was begging my friends to make mixed CDs for me because I wanted to expand my music library. Coming to college will do that to you- all of a sudden you realize that your world is much smaller than you thought it was.
This band started when half the members were in high school and the other half were scattered at different colleges. Despite the physical distance, they made multiple albums and EP’s by passing tracks back and forth through various stages of development. Honestly, I cannot believe that one of my all-time favorite albums was made in such a disjointed way, especially because it feels so cohesive and smooth. The lyricism is perfectly matched by the rhythmic guitar. For a group of people who didn’t sit together to make this, but instead collaborated in separate bedrooms in separate states, this is a masterpiece.
Of course, it’s more than just the distance that makes this album extraordinary. Having seen them live a few times, I’m also deeply impressed by how tight their performances are. Ava, the frontwoman, published a personal essay on Vice about her experiences touring and performing with panic disorder. In the essay, she describes playing a show and having to leave in the middle of the set because a panic attack set in. I was at that show, and though I had no idea what was going on at the time, reading about it later just racketed up my respect for her. I’ve had panic attacks too, but none of them have been public in that way, where I am literally on a stage, breaking down in front of people. I commend her ability to be honest about what happened, and it adds a new layer of understanding while I listen to their songs.
The first time I saw Forth Wanderers live was in a creaky basement in Hadley, MA. The last time I saw them was the show described in Ava’s essay. All the times in between have been outstanding, solidifying my love for this band and this album. My favorite song is the title track to the album, Tough Love. I remember when my partner and I were wooing each other, we’d make mix CD’s for each other, mailing letters back and forth on what we thought of the songs. The first mix I made him, I put this song on it. Since then we’ve seen them live together, and I’m proud to be accredited with bringing Forth Wanderers new fans.
I don’t know if they’ll tour again. I don’t know if any band will ever tour again with COVID having wreaked such havoc on the music industry. Regardless, wherever the Forth Wanderers end up, I will happily follow their journey.
Listen to Tough Love here.
 I will say that after Ava left the stage that night, the band invited audience members up to help sing their songs while we waited to see if Ava would come back. I got to sing Painting of Blue with the members of the band backing me, which was amazing. But knowing now what Ava was going through, it feels less like a bragging right than it had at the time.