The Dirty Work Tour - April 1, 2011 in Orlando, Fla. All Time Low/Yellowcard/Hey Monday/The Summer Set
All Time Low was headlining the April Fool's Day show of the Dirty Work tour. The band had the longest set time, the most stage decorations and the most fans at Orlando's House of Blues. But for some in the crowd, the real attraction was one of the openers.
Yellowcard, fresh off the release of its first record in almost four years, took the third spot on the tour package, playing their first full American tour since returning from their hiatus. By eavesdropping on the conversations those were having around me, I realized that my sister and I weren't the only persons of legal age in attendance who were anticipating Yellowcard's set the most.
Before the Jacksonville natives could take the stage for their de-facto "hometown" show of the tour, there were two opening acts to kick things off. The Summer Set got things going with their very poppy brand of pop rock, appealing to many of the high school-aged, All Time Low merch-clad fans in attendance. However the band had a less than stellar stage presence, really only taking control of the crowd in spurts. On top of that, the band's sound wasn't extremely enthralling. Typical watered down pop rock, buoyed by the unique awesomeness of a girl drummer who was actually a badass behind the kit. But really, aside from the cool chance to watch an awesome girl drummer, this band was a boring fill-in of 25 minutes.
Hey Monday was next, and the simple thing to say is that they were better than the band before them. Cassadee Pope is a confident and foxy lead singer who will one day develop into a charming and formidable frontwoman. The band weaved through a set of pop rock songs that was somewhat inconsistent. The most popular songs were obvious by the amount of crowd interaction, and those songs were the clear standouts. Aside from those few, we were subjected to a good amount of run-of-the-mill pop rock, really only made worthwhile by Pope's vocals.
Before Yellowcard's set began was when the electricity in the building finally started to build up. As the individual band members took the stage to some fittingly ominous music, the cheers in the crowd came from the decidedly older demographic. And when Ryan Key addressed the crowd for the first time, deafening roars poured in from a pit area which hadn't seen a Yellowcard show since I was a sophomore in high school. The band kicked off their set with "Lights and Sounds," the familiar track sending the crowd into a frenzy. They proceeded to work through a 40-minute set of more or less their "greatest hits," taking the bulk of their performance from Ocean Avenue. As a long-time fan, I was happy to hear "Breathing" and "Way Away" early in the set. They also thankfully pulled out "Believe," something I was grateful for as the opening violin notes to that song never fail to send shivers down my spine.
The crowd rose up for "Only One," and seeing that song live reminded me why I thought throughout all of high school that the chorus in that track was the best chorus ever written. The band didn't stay in older territory the whole night, taking "Lights Up the Sky" from Paper Walls and taking two songs from their latest record, When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes. It was a real treat to see "For You, And Your Denial," as that song might have been when the band seemed the tightest and most coherent. "Hang You Up" was a cool breather for the fans, and of course they closed with a memorable performance of "Ocean Avenue."
Key promised the crowd that Yellowcard would be back for headlining shows in the area "sooner than you could ever possibly imagine," something that was backed up when the band announced a June 24th return to Orlando. Yellowcard's set was marked by a been-there-done-that attitude from the pop punk veterans, working a phenomenal stage presence that made the two previous bands just look silly. At the same time, there was a look in the eyes of the band members, most noticeably Key and violinist Sean Mackin, that showed a hunger and an excitement that was as obvious as it was refreshing. It's clear that playing shows is what this band wants to do, what they were born to do, and it's clear that they're excited for the chance to be welcomed back into the hearts of fans.
While this tour was important for Yellowcard to sort of re-entrench themselves in the minds of a scene filled with short attention spans, it was painfully obvious that this group isn't meant for an opening slot. While every song they played was awesome and the crowd was really into it, the band doesn't deserve a 9-song set...but closer to the 20-song performance that All Time Low put on after them. Luckily, we'll soon be able to see them pull out all the stops; digging deeper into their catalog to pull out gems like "Empty Apartment," "Keeper," "Sure Thing Falling," "Afraid" and old material like "October Nights." We'll get to see them rip through their new record like those songs were meant to be ripped through. So even though attendees of the Dirty WorkTour probably didn't see Yellowcard exactly how they would have liked to see them, they did get an energetic and nostalgic show that only points toward an extremely bright and exciting future for this band.
Moving on to the rest of the night, it was clear how polar opposite the two main attractions were. All Time Low is at the point in their careers now where Yellowcard were years ago - somewhere right before or right after the release of Lights and Sounds. All Time Low used the headlining spot to its full advantage, busting out a ridiculous light show to accompany a long set filled with mostly newer material. I can't say I've listened to Nothing Personal very often since forming my opinion of the record, and it's safe to say that hearing almost the entire album performed live didn't change my opinion of it. The difference in crowds was obvious from the very onset of All Time Low's performance. High-pitched shrieks of unbridled joy echoed the House of Blues, coming from a demographic that probably felt a rush of hormonal rebellion when they decided to throw their underwear on stage. Not ones to disappoint, All Time Low decided to hang up every single bra they received (I counted upwards of 20) on guitarist Jack Barakat's microphone stand.
While I'm a fan of the guys in All Time Low and I can't deny enjoying So Wrong, It's Right and the Put Up Or Shut Up EP, it's never been more painfully obvious that this band has strayed far, far away from its pop punk roots and has slowly turned into a dance-y pop rock sort of band that successfully provides a magnet for the undergarments of underage girls. The sex jokes and witty banter were aplenty during the seemingly way-too-long set, as frontman Alex Gaskarth actually surprised me with his ability to command the audience.
Gaskarth the his bandmates clearly know what they're doing - they're talented and have proven time and time again that they can write a good hook. But with their major label debut approaching, I can't see them going back to what they were, and I can't ever see them appealing to an older demographic like they were probably hoping this tour would help them do. Having Yellowcard on the bill certainly drew in older (and more testosterone-filled) concert-goers into the sold-out House of Blues Friday night, but seeing the band play "Break Your Little Heart" and "Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)" probably didn't convert any fans. If "Lost In Stereo," "Hello, Brooklyn" or "Sick Little Games" didn't drive out the older crowd, then "Therapy" or "Stella" probably would have done the job.
I'm not meaning to bash on the band. They released a record which I listened to endlessly during junior year of high school, and if they're going to gravitate to a dance-pop sound that makes them appeal to a younger demographic than even the one that I was a part of when I heard So Wrong, It's Right, then that's absolutely fine by me. They can do whatever they want and take their talents to amphitheatres and eventually arenas. But the thing that sort of bums me out is that kids are growing up regarding this band as their favorite pop punk band. All Time Low takes its name from a New Found Glory song - a band that most of that audience has probably never seen live. The girls who threw their bras on stage for Alex and Jack and Rian probably won't ever throw their underwear on stage for Mark and Tom and Travis.
So when I go to a show and see All Time Low's best songs ("Coffee Shop Soundtrack," "Dear Maria," etc.) and realize that they aren't even close to paralleling Yellowcard's deep cuts that I didn't get to hear, it's easy for me to take home a grumpy old man attitude and be mad at the general teenage population of Orlando. But having about an ounce of rationale in me, I didn't leave the show upset at all. All Time Low will go off and do whatever they do to conquer the world, and they'll probably do it in fairly remarkable fashion. It's fantastic to see a band rise up from the pop punk scene and go on to dominate hordes of underage minions, and it truly makes me happy for the guys. But on the other side of the bill, Yellowcard has the chance to go on to form something even better than they left in 2008. The scene is brimming with young pop punk talent that never would have gotten the chance to tour with Yellowcard when they were on Capitol Records, but being on Hopeless is something that not only benefits the band, but benefits the scene as a whole. Looking to the future, potential touring with bigger, veteran bands like New Found Glory, Bayside or Set Your Goals is something that should get any fan of the genre excited. The possibility of Yellowcard taking out bands like The Wonder Years, Man Overboard, The Swellers, Fireworks....there is a long list of bands that people who grew up on Yellowcard are probably stoked on now. And Yellowcard could be a band that really helps those smaller groups appeal to a larger audience. Every band needs help to cross over - for Yellowcard, early tours with Less Than Jake and Rise Against were the beginning of a meteoric rise. Maybe Yellowcard can now be the group that helps deserving young bands make a run of their own.
So at the end of this long-winded review which only a handful of people will ever fully read, I guess the point I'd like to leave is that the scene has something remarkable on its hands. Yellowcard being back is something that means much more than another hook-laden pop punk record to add to your iTunes library; it's the beginning of a new chapter in the life of one of the most important bands of the genre. And after seeing that unforgettable look of excitement in the band's eyes on Friday, it's a hope of mine that people will take notice of this reunion and welcome Yellowcard back with open arms.