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I recently read Sorry Please Thank You, a collection of short stories by author Charles Yu; they are humorous, engaging, and rather poignant, especially if you’ve ever been a part of what might be considered a “nerdy hobby.” In a story called “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” the reader takes the point of view of the main character in a role playing video game and bears witness to the existential crises he faces. It’s funny and will strike a chord with anyone who has ever played a story-based video game, but lurking under the surface is a struggle for identity and a bit of modern malaise that we all feel.

When I heard “Good Knight, Sweet Dreams” by Philadelphia-based The Fantastic Imagination, who write self-proclaimed “psychedelic fantasy jams,” I immediately thought about Yu’s story. Frontman Josh Meakin sings of a conflicted medieval knight, clad in armor, taking oaths to do battle, but maybe these “sacred oaths are just our first death rattle.” He considers that he could have been a sailor or a farmer. He believes that his “life’s a lonely tragedy,” but then from a deeper place, he is comforted that “his life is not as hopeless as it seems” and to “take heed, your tale becomes a legend as you breath.” Perhaps this good knight will not die in vain, or perhaps he is taking false comfort in salvation or a greater purpose. You, the listener, must make up your mind, you must choose your own adventure and path.

I first discovered The Fantastic Imagination from a local video series called Bands in the Backyard (BITBY), where the band is introduced to us, one by one, in the form of a skit, a play on the sword in the stone story, the hero’s quest, where through magic and determination, the band arrives at the castle for their final test – to rock your face off. It’s really great how fully the band embodies this fantasy persona in their music. Like Yu’s story, it rises above shtick and instead becomes a wonderful medium to tell the bard’s tale. Even the music itself, which is winding, complex, ever-changing, and incorporates woodsy acoustics, video game-like electronics, and balladeering structure, takes on the “choose your own adventure” form.

The Fantastic Imagination are currently working on a proper release, but until then, make sure to listen to their online demos and see them at a concert. Hark! Be advised that you are consuming a beer in their presence and not accidentally a magic potion. You’ll lose 20 hit points by drinking it!

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