Jason Jones

Major: Journalism - Public Relations Class: Senior Hometown: Lowville, NY Age: 23

Posts by Jason Jones

Voice on Fire

Frankie’s Inner-City of Toledo, Ohio, has hosted its fair share of rock legends over the years. Since the bar’s opening, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Barenaked Ladies, Coheed & Cambria and more have rocked the walls of this humble midwestern hotspot.

On this night, it is cold outside Frankie’s, but the environment inside is that of a sweltering jungle. The members of the crowd crawl over one another in an attempt to get as close to the stage as possible, patrons at the bar lean against the railing, distorting themselves in order the best view. As the lights dim and the music begins with an epic guitar solo, the fans, clad in their bright blue, green and pink shirts, begin to scream and welcome in the next generation of Frankie’s talent, the band they love. Burn the Ships, with front man Kenan Smith, have taken the stage.

*  *  *

Burn the Ships perform their song "Sona Gratia" at a show in Toledo, Ohio.

Smith started the band back in 2006, when he, Dustin Gilbert, Adam Johnson, Cannen Hodgson, and Adam Chippewa were just out of high school in Brooklyn, Mich. Today they’ve performed at more than 100 shows, and released their debut album, and they are in the studio working on their second.

It’s Smith, though, who remains the driving force behind the Burn the Ships movement.
Smith has poured his heart and soul into the band from day one, getting the members together and ultimately deciding to turn a dark period in his life into a neon-bright experience for fans.
“I live for this band. It’s been my passion and almost my guidance throughout the past five or six years,” Smith said.
The “dark period” in Smith’s life came when Smith and his brother, Kyle, were growing up in Wisconsin and eventually Brooklyn, Michigan.
When Smith was 15 years old, he noticed a change in his mother. The woman who had been a great parent to her four children for years suddenly seemed distant.
“I guess I’ll just say that she pretty much became a physically present absentee parent,” said Smith.
To listen to Smith’s brother tell the story, it happened quite suddenly.
“She just decided to check the hell out one day. Wanted to live in some fantasy world I guess,” said the younger Smith.
The drastic change in his mother took Kenan Smith to a dark place. Like most teenagers faced with a life altering event, he had trouble processing. He began having trouble finding meaning in his day-to-day life. He found it next to impossible to feel passionate about anything or even communicate with his peers.
After about a year of this, Smith started writing music in his garage.
He suddenly rediscovered his voice. He became excited to get up in the morning, and began scribbling notes and lyrics on anything that was handy.
“It might sound corny, but it was like being reborn when I started writing the music,” said Smith. “I had something to be happy about again.”
Not only was he writing, Smith believed, he was writing with a purpose.
“Kenan went through some things, we both did, and whereas I channeled it into my stuff, he channeled it into his music,” said Kyle Smith. “He wanted to help people get from where he had been to where he was.”
To Smith this meant a few things, beyond just making a band.

Kenan Smith, in the garage where he began writing music as a teenager. Photo by Benjamin Romaker.


First, he wanted the band to be an outlet for people who might be going through some kind of their own trouble. Personable interaction with their audience followed.

“All of us had some moment when we were younger where these bands advertise being able to hang out with them backstage, but we always thought that was kind of an elitist thing,” said Smith.
In response to this, Smith intsructed the band to start doing the opposite. So instead of having fans try to come see them backstage after the show, they began walking into the crowd following their shows.
The second thing Smith came up with in an attempt to help get potential audience members from dark places such as the one he had been in, into the bright place he now found himself in, was a slightly more literal one.
“When we had those t-shirts made we almost went black. Then one of us, I can’t remember who, thought it would be cool for us to use some obnoxiously bright colors instead,” said Smith. “I loved it.”
Suddenly the band came upon their signature look. A handful of guys playing powerful music, wearing neon colored t-shirts and jumping in the crowd to hang out with their fans.
“They’re just a different experience,” said Meghan Crossman, a Burn the Ships fan. “When you go see them, you get an upbeat show with bright lights and really good crowd interaction, and it’s great.”
“We’re only getting started right now, we’re going to continue to grow and mature as a band. I think we owe it to our fans,” said Smith.
*  *  *
Back inside Frankie’s Inner-City, the band plays a half hour long set, during which Smith is high-fiving fans in the front rows, sporting a painfully bright yellow t-shirt, and pouring every ounce of himself into the performance.
Smith’s relationship with his mother still appears to be broken, but he learned to live with it, and rise above it.
When the show is finished, they jump off the stage and into the audience. After a while things settle down. Gilbert and Johnson try to show a younger fan how to play the introduction to one of their songs, while Hodgson and Chippewa share drinks with three fans who have become friends. Smith sits back, taking in the scene. He is in a good place.
“I could honestly care less if we’re the next Goo Goo Dolls or if we’re just little old Burn the Ships form Brooklyn. This, this right here, this has to be better than anything else,” said Smith.

Jason Jones

My name is Jason Jones. I’m from an upstate New York town called Lowville. After high school I knew I wanted to get away and start somewhere new, so, I ended up in Bowling Green. Now I’m just two semesters away from graduating, and it’s a pretty exciting feeling.

I’m a Public Relations major. Right now I’m not sure where my ideal career path would take me. I wish I did, but I simply don’t. I think it would incredibly exciting to work for a big firm somewhere in a nice city like New York, but then I’d also find doing public relations for a professional sports team exciting.

As far as writing is concerned, I’ve always had an interest in Sports. During my first two years hear at BGSU, I worked as a sports reporter for The BG News, covering golf, rugby, soccer, football, and basketball. I fell out of the love with the whole thing however after a miserable semester spent working as the Assistant Sports Editor. Through a combination of reasons, I came to realize that it wasn’t right for me, and I left.

Now I’m enjoying my time here at BGSU. Going to class, writing, becoming involved with PRSSA, and playing on the Lacrosse team. It’s all good fun.

I’m excited to get things started with this blog.


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