It's a difficult task, to eulogize someone who you never knew. Invariably, the “who” of who they were is left off--what amazing friends, puckish jokers, kind souls. Even so, we feel an intimate closeness to these strangers. Such it is when our favorite musicians pass: we might have never even seen them in the flesh, but have still spent countless hours with them.
I got to see Planes Mistaken for Stars open for The Sounds of Animals Fighting. The crowd, jam packed full of largely emo-leaning fans of Circa Survive, Chiodos, and the like, could not have been more confused as I watched Planes roar through a blistering set on the Wilshire’s massive stage, which, already felt out of place for the band.
Massive grin on my face, I watched, as the rest of the audience cast dubious, baffled glances at one another and, I suspect, prayed for an end to the set. And—undoubtedly, not only did Planes know this, but they seemed to absolutely revel in it.
Planes has always been that band—in genres made for outsiders, they have always been outsiders themselves, straddling numerous subgenres in unexpected ways. Too loud for emo, too heartfelt for punk, too complex for hardcore, too soft for metal. They fell off and to the side of most of the post-hardcore pack, sitting in a realm occupied all to themselves. They’re a band that one doesn’t “get” on the first listen...or perhaps even the twentieth.
They’re a band of outsiders for outsiders. It’s this quality that always endeared me to them--a kind of self-aware solitude. They’re the perfect embodiment of an individual’s defiant scream against an uncaring universe, and the self-satisfied smile at the scream’s end.
No doubt much of this can be attributed to Planes’ vocalist/guitarist, Gared O’Donnell, who passed away on November 24th after a battle with esophageal cancer at the age of 44.
Between his lyrical talents and his naturally shredded vocal chords, across multiple bands and releases, O’Donnell embodied much of the push-pull dynamism that made Planes Mistaken for Stars’ releases so damn essential and important.
By setting himself and his band so far apart, by reminding you through his lyrics of your own singularity and isolation, he actually managed to make you feel less alone.
It’s impossible to pay proper tribute to a stranger who has been such a figure in one’s life. For those curious, the band themselves wrote one for their vocalist that is as poignant as anything that could be said. It’s a crime committed by that same uncaring universe that someone so young, so talented, so essential would be taken long before his time.
O’Donnell may have passed, but his singular and indomitable roar will always be there, however—a thunder in the night, forever.
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