Casey Jones - Start to Finish
Record Label: Self Released
Release Date: June 12, 2012
When a band breaks up, fans are often left in the dark as to the reasoning behind the decision. Sure, musicians don't necessarily owe their fans an explanation, but it's the least they can do to show their respect for those who supported them over the years.
The members of Casey Jones clearly understand that mentality, as they have posthumously released a documentary entitled Start to Finish. As the title suggests, the short film follows the straight edge hardcore band from its formation to its final show. Taking it one step further, they self-released the documentary and made it available as a digital download for as low as $5 (or up to $20, if you're feeling generous).
Casey Jones formed in 2003, when metalcore was on the rise to commercial success. Mastermind Josh James was playing guitar in Evergreen Terrace, but he wanted to explore his hardcore roots with new band that celebrated the straight edge lifestyle. At a time when most band merch was emblazoned with brass knuckles and skulls, Casey Jones took a decidedly more lighthearted approach.
James had no intention of singing, but when a vocalist proved harder to find than expected, he took the reigns. After rounding out the line-up, releasing a demo and playing shows, what started out as fun side project quickly gained momentum. The members were busy with various other projects, so touring was largely limited to summer runs during James' downtime from Evergreen Terrace. The band released their debut album, The Few, The Proud, The Crucial, in 2004 and followed it up in 2006 with The Messenger.
When they found themselves with material for a third effort but no label to release it, it spelled the beginning of the end of Casey Jones. Excited about the new tracks, the band recorded and released the album themselves, with the caveat being that it would be their final work. Appropriately, the 2011 album was titled I Hope We're Not the Last, borrowed from a Minor Threat lyric.
My only complaint about Casey Jones' Start to Finish is that the live footage is interspersed throughout the documentary, which ends up being nearly half of the 43-minute runtime. It's also not the entire set. The footage is great; all of the stage dives, pile ons, finger points and gang vocals at the band's final show in their hometown Jacksonville, Florida were professionally captured and edited via multiple cameras with soundboard audio. But I would have much rather had the full, uninterrupted show independent from the film.
The documentary itself is good but brief when you factor in all of the live footage, which will leave fans wanting more. Granted, the band doesn't have a particularly storied history. That said, it's a interesting watch. There's not much drama behind the scenes; instead, the doc gives in-depth insight to inside jokes such as how guitarist John Howard received the nickname Poops and the story of how Carl of "C.G.L. 2K3" got laid.
The documentary ends with a quote from James that sums up the group more eloquently than I ever could: "I hope people remember Casey Jones as a band that stood for something, that had something to say. I hope in a time of need that people can put on our music and find what they're looking for. I hope we're not the last."
It's sad to see a band as unabashedly passionate, positive and fun as Casey Jones go, but Start to Finish is a nice way to send them off. It was one hell of a 9 year run, and they bowed out gracefully. If you ever enjoyed a Casey Jones song, straight edge or not, you owe it to both yourself and the band to check out their swan song.