While I'm not the first or last person to make this point, it needs to be said for the record here and now: the judges at Battle of the Bands in School of Rock made the right choice in awarding No Vacancy the top prize. This once maligned decision now shoulders the nostalgia associated with a bygone era in rock music; the early-2000's, post-grunge, alternative metal scene was the peak of radio-friendly melodrama. A moment gone all too soon. Simply, "Heal Me, I'm Heartsick" may very well be a Creed-esque masterpiece lost to time, a singular achievement in songwriting and performance alike.
In the wake of Dewey Finn's departure, No Vacancy went all in on a full-scale rebrand, tweaking both their overall sound and aesthetic. Along with their new lead guitarist, Spider, the band discovered a creative energy devoid of self-assuring guitar solos and on-stage antics. Instead, they channeled a newfound restraint and sought to fully utilize the full range of Theo's lead vocals and camera-ready stage presence. With a matured approach and airtight musicianship, No Vacancy would qualify for Battle of the Bands and be the odds-on favorite to win.
With all due respect and admiration for the very skilled Zack Mooneyham, the song "School of Rock," once the people's choice, now feels overstuffed. It's a patchwork of ideas, glued together as if constructed by children (shhhhhh). Sure, there are some chill-inducing moments to appreciate (Tamika's feature, Zack's solo, Lawrence's cape), but the song squanders some of that bravos because it shamelessly panders to the crowd in a desparate plea for approval and validation (a consistent theme for the frontman, Finn). In the rearview mirror, it's safe to say it was championed by an accepting audience that included a host of parents, as well as venue-regulars who were oddly available for a midday show on a weekday.
On the contrary, "Heal Me" doesn't play for laughs... it goes for gasps.
No flair, no filler, no flaws- it's fully-realized and deliberately executed. It's a triumph of the form, a true tour de force. And just so we're clear, Theo's lyrics are decidedly not lame and no, it wasn't a beauty contest, the judges were most definitely listening to the music. In this case, the haters were wrong. They say one great rock show can change the world... and No Vacancy delivered on that promise.
Some lingering thoughts:
Remember when Dewey and Principal 'Roz' Mullins go out to grab a coffee together, but they end up at a bar drinking beer from liter-sized mugs? And instead of gulping it down without pause like Dewey does, Roz gingerly nurses hers, sip by sip. That is of course until Dewey knowingly queues up Stevie Nicks on the jukebox- and her character transformation begins to take root. Point being: it's hard to articulate how truly exhilarting it can be to hear your favorite song out at a bar, and this scene captures that momentary bliss perfectly. Meanwhile, I'm at home ripping through several pale ales like it's my day job. Read between the lines, Theo. Read between the LIIINES.
Burning River Pale Ale Great Lakes Brewing Company Pale Ale - American | 6.0% ABV @glbc_cleveland