Music has always been a huge part of my life, at first I was obsessed with New Kids on the Block, then Garth Brooks, and in high school I was all about N'SYNC. Then my freshman year in college, my best friend introduced me to The Matches.

She had been living and working in Lake Tahoe the previous summer, and her friend had invited her to go see some friends from high school that were playing a show. They missed the show, but hung out with the guys after and became friends.

She then called me, and said you've got to check out this band. They had pressed their own cd and were selling it via an online store. I bought the cd, and listened to it all the way through, and then started it over and listened again. it was soon on repeat. It didn't immediately blow me away, but to say it grew on me would be an understatement.

I began watching them online via a live music streaming venue called iMusicast in Oakland, CA. I have great memories of jumping around and singing along to their popular L3 (Loud Live Local) shows in the production room at the radio station where I worked, because the studio had much better speakers than my PC at home.

In the Spring of 2003, I was discovering their first full album, and they embarked first tour leaving Oakland, CA in a white passenger van to tour the country.

They came to Texas for the first time on May 24, 2003. With a small group of friends, we left White Oak and headed for Fort Worth and the Ridglea Theater. Fortunately I had an aunt that lived nearby, and we were able to crash there after the show.

Knowing their popularity in the East Bay, I just knew that they would have a crowd in DFW... not so much. They played the small upstairs area at the Ridglea. What appeared to be 'Goth Night' was going on in the actual theater downstairs, and my small group of four people was half the crowd for The Matches.

Mandee Montana - Mix 93.1

They appreciated that we came. We visit with them, bought merch and even helped them tear down after the show. It was very up close and personal, and a lot of fun. After we helped load the van we talked to them about their tour. These four young men, ages 17-20, were driving a white passenger van across the country playing gigs in small clubs and theaters, and making friends along the way. In most cities, they crashed on the floor of friends to save money.

I was incredibly moved by their passion for their art and creativity. They not only wrote and recorded their own music, but designed and sewed their own clothes and created all of their own album art.

Mandee Montana, Mix 93.1

In college at the time, I was working towards an Associate of Arts, but after I met The Matches I also began pursuing an interest in photography and art. I had dabbled in photography and design as a member of the yearbook staff in high school and really enjoyed it. This band inspired me to take it further.

I started taking more photography classes and art history, and fell in love with it. I began to understand what drove them. It was eye opening, and it changed the way I saw the world. I began taking my camera to shows. I captured this image, that still hangs in my office today, of the lead singer Shawn Harris at Trees in Dallas in 2003.

Mandee Montana, Mix 93.1

I continued taking so many photography classes that I earned a certificate in that alongside my AA. I also began painting and sewing and writing. I created a scrapbook of my experiences attending their shows. I added photos, notes, and paint. It was kind of like an art journal about the band and the shows I had attended.

Mandee Montana, Mix 93.1

I even asked the bass player, Justin San Souci, to draw something for me and added it to the book. I took it with me to their show in Houston, and showed it to Shawn. He immediately wanted to add to it. He took out a red and black sharpie and sketched a detailed drunk pirate.

From the Spring of 2003 until I began to settle into a full time job in radio in 2007, I followed the Matches. If they came to Texas, or nearby, I was there. They would even sometimes greet me as 'Texas.' I sometimes baked cookies and packed candy for the guys. I knew it was hard for them to be on the road and so far from home for weeks on end.

Mandee Montana, Mix 93.1

The little band I met 11 years ago signed with Epitaph Records a year later, and remastered their original album, E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals, for release in 2004. After going out on the grueling Warped Tour circuit and touring overseas, they had not made the traction needed for major success. Their sound was ahead of the time, and not marketable on the radio landscape. In 2009, they played their final show, and sold out The Fillmore in San Francisco.

Unable to attend the show that summer, I thought I had seen them for the last time. Then the unthinkable happened. Last week they announced a ten year anniversary reunion show on November 8, in San Francisco. Immediately I asked Lucky Larry to approve vacation. I was looking at hotels and plane tickets, and then the show sold out in two minutes.

Thankfully, they added a second show and I was able to secure tickets, before it also sold out. It's been close to five years since I've seen my friends, and I'm really looking forward to it. In fact if you follow me on Spotify, you've probably noticed I've been jamming out to their record again lately.

It's easy to lose sight of self-expression with responsibilities at every turn, but I have found it's important for me to make time to let my creative juices flow. The Matches, and their music, remind me that 'art is meant to be seen.' Because of them, I have created a variety of art projects, made friends all across the country, and continually stepped out of my comfort zone.

Their art has played an important role in my life. They have inspired me to see the world differently. The Matches were the spark that ignited my current perspective... for that I will be a forever fan.