Friday, January 23, 2015

The Breakin’ Hundred Reunion

Graduate school. I guess if I’m talking about Breakin’ Hundred I should start with date they were formed or the date they broke up but I honestly don’t remember.  What I do remember is that they formed at some point toward my last years as an undergraduate and split-up at the end of my graduate school career.  I asked the 4 former band members for specifics and got 5 different answers.  (Philly answered twice; once under the name Philly, once under the name Michael).  So, when I hear Breakin’ Hundred, I think back to graduate school. 

Dear college, I never truly appreciated how fun you were.
I discovered the band through Krista Ryan.  She introduced me to her then boyfriend Judd Jaworowski who was the bassist.  He gave me their CD A Jar of Change for free and told me to check out one of their shows.  Krista then proceeded to remind me of every single upcoming performance. 

Not too long after I got the CD, a friend and I were sitting in his car listening to the album, breaking down each song one by one.  We analyzed the CD, not as an amateur album made by a garage band, but a professionally produced piece of pop-art.  We discussed everything from chord progression, to lyrics, to overall sound mixing.  We talked about what worked, what didn’t, and how they could improve.  We didn’t do this to be dicks, we believed they had genuine potential to get signed to a record label and just needed to smooth out some rough edges.  

While Breakin’Hundred was trying to hit it big, I was trying to get my masters in Speech Communication, Performance, & Rhetorical Studies.  Yes, the degree is as boring as the course work.  A fulltime graduate student takes 3 classes (9 credits).   Each class assignment typically involved reading 50-100 page essays written by old dead dudes blabbing about the fundamentals of communication, speech, pop-culture, performance and oration.   We then needed the ability to give a thorough analysis of the material by the following week. To put this in context, here is a quote from Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy.

  • “The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity. The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance, or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it” (Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy).  
That’s just the first 2 sentences of a 49-page book that needed to be read in one week.  It was also typical of the type of readings we were assigned.  If I ever get ahold of a flux capacitor the concept of Sweetness and Light is going to mean time traveling psycho killer.  Each class left me feeling like Lane Myer from Better Off Dead.  During finals it was regularly expected that we write 20 page term papers all due the same week.  That’s 60-80 pages of writing that analyzed dudes like Matthew Arnold, Jacques Derrida, and Plato (yes, Plato, congratulations you’ve heard of one of the old dead dudes I studied).   

This sums up my life rather perfectly.

But once a month I’d hit up a Long Island bar and check out this band called Breakin’ Hundred.  For about an hour out of my life I could forget about all those damn philosophers and books I wasn’t reading.  I could ignore the papers I wasn’t completing and just listen to some indie pop rock.  So when I think about Breakin’ Hundred I think about a time in my life where I needed the biggest distraction possible and they were happy to help. 

The band went their separate ways right around the time when my academic career concluded.  I always wished that I could have seen at least one show without Michel Foucault ringing in my subconscious but it wasn’t meant to be.  It was a loss, not only from the music but also the collapse of the community that had formed around Breakin’ Hundred over the years. 

One of my first graduate papers discussed the community that formed through music and Breakin’ Hundred was a band that proved my theory’s authenticity.  I even cited their website’s message boards in the paper.  What was also unfortunate was they never advertised their last show.  They went from playing gigs twice a month to just being gone.  Friends I saw rather frequently were gone overnight.  Sure, I could attempt to hangout with them apart from a show but that’s just too much work.   

So on January 16, 2015 Breakin’ Hundred reunited to say goodbye to Eric “Little Philly” Lao (the guitarist Philly’s brother) and their old drummer Mark Corso.  Little Philly is moving away to some foreign country somewhere (Cuba maybe?) and Mark is retiring down south to Shady Pines.  It was bittersweet because it wasn’t only a Breakin’ Hundred reunion, it was also a community reunion.  I saw people I never thought I’d ever see again in my lifetime or the next.  It seemed like they hadn’t changed much or maybe they were caught up in the nostalgia. 

It was the best Breakin’ Hundred show I ever saw.  Eric Maestre’s vocals were sharp, Judd looked relaxed and happy, Philly lifted his head up and talked to the crowd, and Mark made a joke.  It was like all those rough edges were smoothed out, the band had personality, style, and solid music.  I spent my time taping the show for the community members that couldn’t make it and for a moment forgot all about my mortgage, career, and overall adult responsibilities.  So if you’re a fan, when you watch this video try to think about where you were in your life when they were going strong, then focus on the positive vibes they hopefully gave you.  If you never heard them before, enjoy the distraction.  

Written by 
Joseph Ammendolea
“I Like To Play With Toys” Productions®

Life After Breakin’ Hundred

Judd Jaworowski – Defeated the Evil Clan.  His land was revived in peace and people will talk of his deeds as legend in years to come

Michael “Philly” Lao – In addition to finding the legendary 5 treasures, stunned the world with his discovery of 2 lost treasures.  He became a master treasure hunter.   

Mark Corso – Destroyed the vile Red Falcon and saved the universe.  He considers himself a hero. 

Eric Maestre – Completed his quest and was presented with a new quest by pressing Button B.