How do you start a review for a show that features one of the most iconic bands in the "scene" playing a once-a-year show? Either way, with a lineup like this you knew it was going to be a special night.
Such Gold kicked it off with an energetic 30 minute set. Most of the crowd wasn't familiar with them, but for the small portion that did, it was a treat. As someone that has seen Such Gold, in a bar with about 40 people no less, I'll admit that it was a bit weird to see them on a big stage and a 10 foot barrier between the crowd. The awkwardness of not being able to be right in the faces of the crowd was definitely something they had trouble dealing with at first but they got over it fairly quick. Either way, this didn't stop them from putting on one hell of a set.
If you're a fan of Title Fight, Transit, and The Wonder Years you will dig what these guys are doing. If you're wondering why a heavier pop-punk/hardcore influenced band was on the bill, they were touring with Hit the Lights in December and this was one of the stops on the run before the show was re-scheduled due to snow. They started off their set with two old songs but kicked right into fan favorite "Sycamore" much to the delight of those in attendance. From there, a slew of crowd-surfing and moshing ensued and the band's comfort level increased rapidly.
One of the noteworthy things about Such Gold is their ability to pull decent harmonies live despite their heavier sound and complement it with screaming. It's very nice to see melody in this style of pop-punk. During "So Close," Kenny Vasoli fulfilled his guest vocals duty live much to the enjoyment (and surprise) of the crowd. You could tell by Such Gold's demeanor that this was a childhood dream come true because how many bands can say Kenny Vasoli is featured on their record, let alone have him perform it live. This instantly brought credibility to the band with the crowd, so what's better to do next than cover Saves the Day in New Jersey? Reign Supreme's Jay Pepito joined them onstage to play a rendition of "You Vandal" much to the delight of the crowd. The band closed with "Four Superbowls, No Rings" from their EP Stand Tall.
The entire time during their set, frontman Ben kept thanking the crowd and The Starting Line for letting them play a show they'll remember for the rest of their lives. Be on the lookout for some new releases in 2011 from Such Gold.
Next up were veterans Hit the Lights. It's no surprise why they were on the show, they're co-managed by Randy Nichols (Who manages The Starting Line) and Matt Watts (Guitarist of The Starting Line). They openly acknowledged this during their set.
One of my first concerts was New Found Glory/The Early November/Cartel/Hit the Lights in 2005, and I had not seen HTL since. I've rocked Skip School, Start Fights for several years so it was a real treat to see some material live. If you've seen Hit the Lights live with Nick, you'll recognize that he's much deeper live than he is on the record. However, I really didn't mind it. It actually plays out well with the harmonies. Guitarist Kevin Mahoney and synth player Andrew Kane usually pull off the highs with near perfection while Omar and David would do most of the lows which gives a really nice addition to their set.
Their set was an even mix of "old" and "new" Hit the Lights' tunes, pleasing fans from both the Colin and Nick eras. One thing that has always remained an anomaly for me is the amount of guys that dig this band. I know that my friends and I blast them, but it became evident why this isn't a hard question to answer. They're heavy but in their own way. Their guitar riffs and tones scream Four Year Strong but their pop sensibility like All Time Low keeps everyone happy. Of course, they played This Is A Stickup... favorites "309," "Speakers Blown," and "Bodybag" but I really wish I heard more from Skip School... but I'm just picky. My favorite song of the set was "Breathe In" because that is what I think is the perfect example of what Hit the Lights is now - the heavy and pop elements are balanced perfectly. The surprise of their set was covering "Holly Hox" by Saves the Day.
I had the chance to catch up with some of the guys after the show and talk about the new record. I'm not going to spare any details, but if it's anything close to as how they described, we're in for a great album.
Now onto The Starting Line. I can't describe the excitement and anticipation I had leading into the show. I promised to remain under some composure and keep some sort of journalistic integrity during their set because it was my first time seeing them and I needed to remember their set to write this review. Thankfully I did, but that doesn't mean I didn't have my 13 year old self singing on the inside to every word.
As soon as the lights went out, the crowd erupted and began moving back and forth, pushing forward to the stage to get as close as possible. A sea of people were waiting for legends of the Drive-Thru era to take the stage and the band immediately began right into a song that has meant so much to me "Somebody's Gonna Miss Us." If anyone has seen their documentary, the outpour of emotion in that song is so moving and it never ceases to make me realize how lucky I am to work in this circus called the "music industry." It didn't take long for them to get into older material as the crowd exploded for the next song, "Up and Go."
Every song you could see the 15 year old Vasoli come out. His energy and exuberance was unmatched by anyone that night. You could see the youthful glare gleaming from his eyes when he jumped around and danced on stage. It was evident that he was born for the spotlight, he is the ultimate performer. He just fed off of the crowd and their energy. He was somewhat affected by a shoddy bass power supply which he kept missing with the entire night, but that was a minor glitch in an otherwise nearly flawless set.
I know I'm in the minority, but I feel like Direction is the 2nd best TSL album behind Say It Like You Mean It. Music is all a matter of opinion, but this album just hit me at the right time. The idea of growing up and shedding the young and naive self came off in a manner where it's hard to depict it, but it's one of those inexplicable situations. I could tell the amount of songs played from Direction bummed out some of the crowd because they wanted to hear older songs like "Bedroom Talk," "Greg's Last Day," and others but I wasn't complaining in the least.
The band trucked on mixing in old and newer songs. They completely owned the crowd, as they sang along to every word of every song. During "Given The Chance," Vasoli added "But it will never be as good as tonight" after the line "Every minute I will count 'till the next show in the next town." He wasn't just playing to the crowd, it was a sincere line and it was reaffirmed by the many thank you's to the crowd and to everyone else that has helped TSL.
They finished off their set with three of their best songs, "Island," "Leaving," and "Best of Me." I don't know if I have ever seen a crowd more explosive than when they played these last three songs. I literally got goosebumps because the entire crowd was singing along and you could barely hear the band. After a short call for "encore!" they came out on stage and Vasoli said "You know, we secretly pray that you guys don't leave when we're finished playing." In their encore they performed a new song "Luck" which sounded a lot like a b-side off of Direction and then finished off with "This Ride."
My only two gripes of the night were the mix and the crowd. The mix for TSL was horrendous. You could only hear vocals, bass, and kick drum. There was no snare or guitars at all. It was definitely a bummer because there are some classic riffs and leads that you couldn't really hear that well. Also, the venue has a terrible habit of over-packing shows. There was hardly any room to move around and if you're one of the unfortunate ones who don't like to see a concert squished and tend to stand in the back, then you're in the only walkway and are constantly getting bumped around.
Other than that, this was one of the most incredible events I've ever been a part of. I hope it won't be the last time I can see The Starting Line. Then again, why would a band that's not together be writing any new material?