A Depiction of The Killers From the #1 Victim

By Heather Rivera | 3/10/2015

I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the song that began the soundtrack to my twenties. I found myself musically deprived in the year 2003, in a little town we call Lake Charles, LA. I still had not quite recovered from the death of Generation X's hero, Kurt Donald Cobain on April 5th of 1994, quite frankly, music hadn't either. In a generation with very little even remotely resembling music on the radio, I felt great envy for generations past; namely the 60's & 70's & had almost resigned myself to the increasing possibility there would be no chills down your spine melodies, no euphoric goosebumps, no lyrical poetry to paint all the masterpieces that the soul longs to admire, no song to sing along to at the top of our lungs while it wraps its tentacles ever tighter around the heart. Only blah with a side of mediocrity.

I made my living as a cocktail waitress on a little riverboat casino, the smallest of Harrahs properties, which had once made trips around the murky lake for the amusement of its gamers, but was now docked permanently in order to adhere to the state laws concerning land based casinos while providing uninterrupted access for the eagerly impatient gamblers to the insatiable slot machines and table games awaiting inside.  Thus eliminating the inconvenient wait for the boat's return every half hour. So there I was, 22 years old, in 4" heels and an outdated uniform, serving drinks on the boat that never sailed, this was my 9-5, or I should say, my 6-2 am, swing shift. It seemed I was stuck there, just waiting for life to begin.

My hairstylist was engaging me in small talk as she weaved foiled platinum highlights and honey lowlights in my long brown hair, a tedious 3 hour task, in a trendy Regis salon in the Prien Lake mall. All along the radio buzzed overhead with the array of noise that they called music going unnoticed, when a shot fired through my heart, "du-nuh-nu-na-nuh...du-nah-nu-na-nuh...," followed by the lyric that rocked my world, "Coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine..." The uber stylists simultaneously drop their respective implements, as they all dashed to the volume control and cranked it squealing and screeching, "I love this song!" While others are shouting along the words to this song... It was hysteria, folks, good old fashioned, unadulterated Beatlemania, right here in my day and age (no pun intended.)

The song ended, the volume was returned to normal, and they casually picked up the discarded tools of their trade and resumed working as if nothing unusual had occurred. The DJ again names the song, "Mr. Brightside" by the Killers.  I remember feeling torn as to which I found to be more intriguing, be it the name of the band or that of the song, but, either way, as soon as I left the salon, I was compelled to dash to the Sam Goody to buy the album, appropriately entitled, "Hot Fuss." 

I was certain that this polished synth-infused sound and sophisticated well dressed frontman (singer, songwriter, synth/keyboardist, bass player) & his destined-for-fame birth name; Brandon Richard Flowers, must naturally be British, as most greats of our time are, but was shocked and pleased to find they are our very own, an real American band! The seemingly British attributes are a result of their equally compelling list of influences like Morrissey, Oasis, Duran Duran, David Bowie to name a few. They were actually first picked up by a label in the UK as they were passed over by the American labels. Also their fan base is much broader in Great Britain as well, which is truly one of the highest compliments a band from the states could receive in my opinion. 

Following Hot Fuss (2003), Their Second Album Sam's Town (2006)

Named after a local casino on the east side of my newfound hometown [Sam's Town], which so happens to be a favorite of my poker-enthusiast father (hi, dad!) when he visits Vegas. I buy a copy the album at my nearest Zia Records, surprised yet impressed by the evolution of their style, and once again it delivered, pure music gold through and through. As a new Las Vegan, I did not pick up on the craftily woven references to their hometown therein. This is probably since, I was entranced by a call stronger than the siren,  "and sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live, when you..., were young....." in the hit When You were Young; which was precluded by a strangely, personally appropriate verse; "We're burning down the highway skyline on the back of a hurricane that started turning when you were young, when you were young." That song sends chills down everyone's spine, even those who will never admit it, but it resonated deep to this southern girl, who had all too recently burned down the highway skyline, twice, northeast to Maine and later southwest to Vegas, all too literally "on the back of a hurricane, that started turning when (I) was young."  That song gave me a much needed release from the frustration and pain I had tried so hard to bottle up.

Their Third Album a Compilation of B-Sides, Rarities, Covers and Remixes Sawdust (2007) Includes a Compilation With Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground

Looking back, I feel silly that it never occurred to me that we (me and The Killers) had been sharing a hometown for 2 years by the time they released the fourth album, Day and Age (2008).  I read that Brandon Flowers stated that "Day & Age" was "like looking at Sam's Town from Mars." The band have also called it their "most playful record" with the album making use of saxophones, steel drums, harpsichord & tribal chanting. I love that metaphor and find it especially appropriate since Day & Age was actually written while on tour for Sam's Town. This Killers album finds me as a somewhat settled Las Vegan who had resumed working as a cocktail waitress, this time for Santa Fe Station. In my mid twenties while readjusting to my new hometown and deeply appreciated this album. It feels like each sequential album was a custom fit designed as the soundtrack to life as I knew it.  In 2009, with the economy in the downward spiral as it was, the casino did two major sweeps of seniority based lay-offs. With only 2 years with the company, I was laid off in the midst of a depressed economy. I remember sitting on my porch and thinking, "I feel so out of place here."  As my hopes began to dwindle, I began feeling less and less like myself.  I had become withdrawn and was depending on the comforts of a Tecate Preparada here, or a vodka tonic there, and was losing sight of the light as it dwindled out on my [supposed] brighter future.  I was dangerously close to just giving up and I didn't even see how quickly it was all closing in on me.  One day, as my conscience and I were at battle over the overhaul on my state of affairs I needed to perform and the resistance clinging to the comforts of wallowing in self pity.  I decided to put Day and Age in the CD player to tune out my inner turmoil, the same album I've listened to hundreds of times before, this time was suddenly speaking directly to pain, my apathy, it enlightened my mind with a revolutionary response to get my life back on track.  When I heard the slow heavy chant in the track Goodnight, Travel Well, namely the verse that goes:  'Every time you fall and every time you try; Every foolish dream and every compromise; Every word you spoke and everything you said; Everything you left me, rambles in my head; And there's nothing I can say, There's nothing I can do now, There's nothing I can say, There's nothing I can do now', I was coming clean with myself through through the enigmatic haunting lyrics that leave just enough space between the lines for one's own interpretation, the way a piece of fine abstract art can evoke a deeply personal response within the beholder.

I became deeply impressed with an urgent need to break free from the oppression of my circumstances and make tough changes, put my priorities back in order and break the bad habits that were forming patterns in my life. I knew this with such clarity and conviction that I had a real breakthrough, that to this day, almost 6 successful years later, attribute that moment in my room with that song as a pivotal point in my life.  I gave up cigarettes, drinking, and all the negativity I was nearly drowning in, and made huge strides until that difficult time seems like it was only a bad dream in retrospect. I never knew until recently that he wrote that song when his mother passed away which explains the despair and depth it conveys. That album helped me survive a very dark place in an unfamiliar land.  Another of my favorite lines from this album is from This Is Your Life;

You gotta be stronger than the story.  That's what it boiled down to for my situation, and while the answer was always within me, I hate to imagine how many wasted years it could have taken me to find it there without the power, the eloquence of their music that day. 

There Was a Live From the Albert Hall (2009) (which I just discovered has a DVD limited edition set that I am ordering now!)

So, one evening as I was waiting tables in a restaurant on the strip, a party of 6 is seated in my section. I subconsciously noted there was something different about this group of young men, but chalked it up to them being from the Midwest or something. They seemed extraordinarily ordinary: mild-mannered and polite. These are traits you don't see much in Sin City. I was rather busy during the dinner rush so I greeted them and took the drink order that consisted of a few sodas, water, a bud light and Pepsi was ordered for a friend who would be joining them soon they explained. Everything goes smoothly and they order what I would soon come to know is their usual. Shortly after the joining friend is seated in front of his awaiting Pepsi, I learn from my manager that the Killers were here! I ask where, he points to the party I had been serving for the past 20 minutes. This hit me like a bolt of lightening! How did I not recognize them!? I return to check on them a stuttering mess. Realizing that I had just recognized the greatness that sat before me, they grinned modestly. Ronnie- being the most outspoken- begins to take a vote on which dessert they should share when they all shoot him down. I worked up the courage to ask before they left for their autograph to give to my son, who is a musician in a local up-and-coming band called Full Fledged, and I thought it would mean a lot since they began in Vegas as well. And they did [issue their autograph]!

Here's some photographic evidence.

Here's some photographic evidence.

A month or two passes and I approach a table and there they are before me, only this time I was able to speak naturally, they were pleased to hear how much it had meant to me having met them the time before. I mentioned how I couldn't even look at Brandon since I felt horrible that I didn't recognize him. Ronnie laughed and said, "Right, he's only the lead singer!" They were very engaging,  Brandon even asked how my son and his band were! He remembered! As a server, I resisted the fanaticism raging beneath the surface, and only when it seemed appropriate I took a brief moment to share how they helped me get out of a personal struggle with Goodnight, Travel Well. They seemed to fully understand how that song could be so personal, even though I admitted to not knowing (at the time) the meaning behind it. They asked if I was going to attend the concert during the tour for their upcoming album and I replied that of course I was and asked what the name of the new album would be and Brandon said, "Battleborn." (2012)

A clear reference to their Las Vegan roots, as Nevada is known as not only the Silver State but also known as the "Battle Born State", because it achieved statehood during the Civil War. I love the way I can relate to the concept as I too, feel that some unfortunate circumstances forced me to fight unusual battles in my early adulthood and I have emerged victorious, in my own right, Battleborn, as well.  Each visit to the restaurant, they would deliberate over cheesecake at Ronnie's prompting and he was overruled. I felt compassion for the guy, he just wanted a piece of cheesecake, damn it!  So, I secretly bought him a slice of Bailey's cheesecake to go and brought it to him at the end of their meal. He was pleased and the band laughed. When they left, he had forgotten it on the table, as many guests do. My boss saw me looking bewildered as I discover it and he said, "Go ahead, catch them!"

I dash out the front door like a swarm of girls chasing the Beatles in A Hard Days Night! The hostess, pointing me toward Nordstrom's, I spot them halfway up the escalator. I call to Ronnie and he smiles, then skips down the ascending escalator to retrieve his forgotten dessert. 

A decade of music exhibits, unparalleled scope of variety, and a constantly evolving progressive sound. Inspired, timeless-ly poignant lyrics and euphoric melodies that set souls ablaze like no other before them. They are the Beatles of our generation. They obeyed no rules, transcended expectations, and brought it. If they are The Killers, consider me The Dead.

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