• The scene: a grassy open field in Claremont, May 2002. I was there to see Save Ferris, but I left converted to the tunes of Something Corporate. Who were they? At the time, an Orange County piano-rock band that had just released their debut album that was getting a little bit of buzz in the punk-pop community. They were incredibly fun. The singer/pianist jumped all atop his instrument, and they belted out catchy numbers about drunk girls and redheaded bullies named Jordan. The front man could not have been sweeter, shooting the breeze with my friend and me after the set, joking that we could borrow drummer Brian Ireland for our own ragtag garage band. Months later, Something Corporate would become the very first band I'd ever interview. Years later, I would be on the phone with SoCo's leader, Andrew McMahon, as he sat with an IV in his arm, receiving final treatments before his stem cell transplant to cure his acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Today, the 29-year-old is married, healthy and thriving in his subsequent musical group, Jack's Mannequin. One blog entry is insufficient to express just how much McMahon's art means to me - specifically Leaving Through the Window (Drive-Thru/MCA). Released 10 years ago this week, this beacon of pop-punk perfection was the ideal soundtrack to my freshman/sophomore year in college. He was 19, too, so he shared an empathy with his fans that most rockers couldn't. (Even Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba is about a generation older than most of his starry-eyed listeners.) He was at the age where New Found Glory was his Beatles (witness opening track "I Want To Save You") and though high school was over, he couldn't shake the haters (the snarling and snarky "If U C Jordan"). It was the masculine version of Britney Spears' "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," except more sincere. Something Corporate had something more than most of their Warped Tour brethren. It wasn't just the piano or the wittiness of McMahon's or guitarist Josh Partington's lyrics; it was a song-based craft and prowess beyond their years. The shaggy front man grew up idolizing Billy Joel, and one could see that in the stunning, heartfelt narrative of "Cavanaugh Park," for example. The line "There was never anyplace for someone like me to be totally happy" was scrawled continually on my university notebooks. But I always felt totally happy anytime I saw SoCo in concert - at least five times, not to mention the oodles of times I've seen Jack's Mannequin live. Their shows were electric, straddling the line of teen heartthrob pandemonium and punk fervor with a smile. And when they briefly reunited in 2010, it was fucking magical. In 2005, it wasn't even certain McMahon would beat cancer (the documentary on his illness and recovery, "Dear Jack," will put you through the emotional ringer). And here he was with his brothers in arms - Partington, Ireland and the wacky bassist, Kevin "Clutch" Page - rocking the suburbs like they never went away. My career would not be where it is today if it weren't for that chance meeting with McMahon at his gig with Save Ferris way back in 2002. "Leaving Through the Window" is truly a magnetic stepping stone for not only his stellar journey, but mine as well. And for that, I am grateful.

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