A 73 degree September night: partly cloudy, a nice 8mph breeze, 49% humidity, and three first time bands for me. The Skyline Stage at the Mann Center sits comfortably atop a hill in West Fairmount Park with a beautiful view of the Philly skyline. You couldn't ask for a better night.
I was finishing up my Farm Truck Asian style tacos when I noticed I only had five minutes until seven. I looked across at the EMT tent; one of the guys was doing a routine inventory check. The ambulance sat dormant behind him. I scarfed down the remaining taco and headed toward the crowd. As I metered the stage, I could see Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace backstage. There was still sunlight pouring from behind me, a perfect spotlight.
Music: Against Me! is a relatively new band for me. I had spend the recent weeks familiarizing myself with their most popular live songs, so I had a pretty good handle on their set. It was certainly a performance driven set; there were almost no breaks for talking/commentary between songs. I've seen this once before in Explosions in the Sky. It's a rarer, but much purer form of performance. They played my favorites off of Transgender Dysphoria Blues including "FuckMyLife666" and "True Trans Soul Rebel."
Photo: The sunset allowed me to use a more forgiving ISO speed. I felt more confident and relaxed compared to my recent shows, a good sign that I'm starting to get used to this. I chose to use aperture priority mode over manual mode, and focused most of my shots on Laura. I'm a firm believer against the "frontman/woman syndrome" that you see in a lot of bands, but I'm also a believer in the fact that you need to take a lot of shots of your subject. I took about two hundred or so shots, and headed back to meet up with some friends.
Jimmy Eat World
Music: As I was standing in the pit for JEW, I stared at the backdrop displaying their name and found myself smiling to myself. Personally, I jumped on the Jimmy wagon full-time when Chase This Light came out in 2007, but I quickly became a super-fan; I've been overdosing on their discography ever since. They're legends, and the fact that they're line-up has been unchanged since the early 90s furthers that fact.
Tom Linton must have been sick, because who I assume was their guitar tech played the entire set. They started off with "A Praise Chorus" before rolling into a personal favorite, "Big Casino." I couldn't help but scream the words as I snapped away.
They played all of the favorites, minus "Pain" which was alright in my book. As a Chase fan, it would have been great to hear "Always Be" or "Dizzy" but I'll take "Let It Happen," which they completely killed. Hearing the "Ha, ha, ha..." during the post-chorus was surreal.
After "Futures," Jim mentioned that they saw Mineral play last night and that he was full of teary eyed nostalgia. He then reflected on how how they've played First Unitarian and the TLA in Philly (two smaller venues, especially First Unitarian, which is the basement of a church) and that Futures is turning ten this year. Not surprisingly, "23" was next.
After "I Will Steal You Back" was "Bleed American." The juxtaposition created a huge surge of energy for the latter. The nostalgic factor was certainly at play and continued right into the closing pair: "Sweetness" and "The Middle."
Photo: To my dismay, fog started pouring out into the stage right before they started playing. At this time, the sun was long gone as well. Fog always makes it harder to get a good focus, and noticed that many shots weren't usable.
The Gaslight Anthem
Music: Personally, I was beyond excited for TGA. I was a little anxious, though because the group I was with wasn't overly familiar with them. Thankfully, I didn't notice a big exodus after JEW finished up. I'm sure our proximity to Jersey played a part.
When I was waiting for TGA to come on, I didn't think twice about the Against Me! cover on the bass drum. When the band came out, Brian mentioned that Benny had an emergency (a real one, not a joke one) and had to run home. The last thing they wanted to do was cancel the set. He announced that Atom Willard was going to fill in, and to bear with them. "Atom isn't exactly a fan of our music", he said. "We'll do our best."
Atom started the set off by launching right into "Stay Vicious" and following up with "Wooderson," the latter of which I discovered was a popular live song and had to familiarize myself with earlier (what an awesome song).
Brian seemed impressed with Atom after that, looking at the band members and saying, "Not bad." He mentioned how nice of a night it was and that they had never been in a venue like this before. I found myself listening to Atom as the songs rolled by. I wasn't sure how much of what he was doing was rehearsed or just pure improvisation. It seemed like a mix of both.
After "Get Hurt" which had a huge response from the crowd, it was Brian's time to reminisce. He said how they'd started out playing house shows. When they landed their first show at the Trocadero, they were asked to do a second show. He didn't think they could pull it off, but they filled both nights.
After that, they dove into "Howl" which had a great crowd reaction. After the song winded down, Brian looked to Alex Rosamilla and said "Why not play a song that we haven't practiced in two years? We're down a man, so what could go wrong? We wrote this song in a van in Florida in 3.2 seconds. Alex was like 'Check this out' and we just went with it." The howling riffs of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" followed soon after. The carefree attitude was present during their entire set. It was truly something unique, a time to relax and try some new things.
One of my most anticipated, "American Slang" came afterward. Brian sang the choruses in a lower pitch, but it still sounded great.
"Great Expectations" came next. The lights switched to a red and white pattern, which fit the giant Get Hurt album art hanging up. After that, Brian mentioned that these songs are fast, and that they play them a bit slower. He also said "we've got a bunch more." He wasn't joking; there were still ten songs to go.
The first act ended with the cover of "The House of the Rising Sun." After that, Atom was relieved of his duties, and they brought out stools to play the rest of the set in an acoustic fashion.
As they were bringing out the acoustic guitars and stools, Brian revealed that Atom had been learning all of these songs since noon. To a casual listener like myself, you couldn't even tell the difference.
They dove right into the acoustic set with a mix of new songs, bonus tracks, and B-sides. I believe some of these songs had never been played like this before; it was a unique experience to say the least. The energy of the crowd, however, certainly died down a bit.
Before playing "The Navesink Banks," Brian said how they hadn't played this one like this since their first record came out.
For a hardcore TGA fan, I'm sure, it was heaven. During "High Lonesome," my group decided to leave. I was looking forward to hearing some more off of Handwritten, namely the title track and my all time favorite TGA song, "Keepsake" and was relieved to see that they hadn't played those after I left.
Photo: About halfway through the second song, I decided to grab my monopod and try something different. I didn't have my shutter remote, but I was still able to add to me height and capture a different angle. I'll definitely be doing this some more in the future.
The ice bucket challenge has been one of the most impactful social media phenomena of our generation. And the beauty is that it wasnít started by a marketing team or executive. It goes to show the true power and potential of social media and networking online; a power that didnít exist ten years ago. For those who think those who dump ice water on their heads and donít donate are foolish and donít make an impact, think again. Completing the challenge and not donating is more valuable than not completing the challenge in the first place. Itís the same thing as donating to ďawareness.Ē You donít need money to spread awareness.
A guilty feeling has been created for those who donít donate. People are now only donating because others are making them feel guilty. Stop thinking that only money can make a difference. That isnít what this is about.
Itís the challenge itself that has spread like wildfire; the challenge itself is the reason for the media coverage, the reason that this has become so big. Word of mouth is a tremendously powerful tool.
The ice bucket challenge will be studied by social media and business moguls for years to come. This will be attempted again and again, almost to the point of receiving chain emails/IMs. Those who have donated have made a difference, but there are hundreds of charities that deserve the publicís attention. Donate to the charity that you care about, the charity that supports something that has affected your life.
I really hate the fact that I don't know many of the bands on this year's Warped Tour. Firstly, It's not the tour's fault; not at all. It's their job to give exposure to lesser known bands. In 2007, I was seeing another band while Paramore, a band that I had never heard of at the time, was playing on another stage. I wish I would have known to check them out. Warped should be more about discovery, and less about seeing your favorite band for the fifth time.
In my opinion, Warped needs to create a showcase. For 90 minutes (in the morning), everyone would flock to one stage (Camden's dual stages would work perfectly to account for set up time) to see bands play 2 songs. They get once chance to showcase, and if the crowd likes them, maybe they're awarded a longer set later in the day on one of the smaller stages. Maybe these are local bands from the area who just come to a few stops, or maybe they're on for the whole tour. If they're on for the full tour, then the smaller bands can rotate. One day they'll play the showcase with a chance at a longer set, and other days they'll be guaranteed a longer set and another band can take the showcase spot.
Maybe it won't work because if you're a big fan of one of the smaller bands, you might not get to see them for more than 2 songs. On the other hand, they'll be playing to the entire audience on that stop. They'll build a following and you can see them when they come to town for a show.
Ultimately, I think something needs to be done to combat the entire "Who is this band? Eh, I'll pass" mindset.
Anyway, a few more bands were just announced, and you can read a little bit about them below. Give them a listen:
Wind in Sails Newport, Rhode Island
Warped Dates: 7-6 to 7-13
Immediately I get a strong City and Colour vibe from Evan Pharmakis. You might know him from post-hardcore band, Vanna, but he's been setting out on his own for Wind In Sails since 2012. Evan's music is available in two flavors. If you prefer a more stripped down sound, check out October 2013 release, Dark Nights over on Bandcamp. I recommend "Heart to Focus" which you can stream above. If you want check out a more full-band sound, check out Brighter Days on Spotify. I'd recommend "Set Adrift" off of that release.
Face the King New York, New York
Warped Dates: 7-12 to 7-19
For some reason, I was expecting this to be a heavier band. I turned my speakers down before I started playing 2011 release Face the King. Then I heard the delay on the guitars and turned my speakers back up. New York rockers, Face the King definitely don't deliver the type of music you might expect on the tour. You won't find any screaming or pop-punk melodies here. I really enjoyed "All the Pretty Things Between" and "You, Me & Sound" (which you can stream above) off of The Sound EP.
Me Like Bees Joplin, Missouri
Warped Dates: 7-20 to 7-31
I was surprised to see some push back on this band based on the band name alone. Believe it or not, I hear a little bit of The Format in their sound mixed with a lot of Modest Mouse. Luke Sheafer's voice has an uncanny resemblance to Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock at times. Listen to "Pneumonia" and you'll see what I mean. The sound they present on 2013 full length debut The Ides is actually quite impressive. I'll definitely be taking some more time with this album. Check out "Comet and the Snail" and I guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised.
I, the Breather Baltimore, Maryland
Warped Dates: 6-13 to 8-3
I'm really not the guy to talk about a hardcore band, but if you're into the heavier genres, give Baltimore's I, the Breather a listen. They were signed to Sumerian on 2010 and have two full lengths with a third slated for July. They'll be on the tour with label mates Born of Osiris and DayShell.
Captain Capa Bad Frankenhausen, Germany
Warped Dates: 6-13 to 8-3
Captain Capa is an electronic band from, get this, a town called Bad Frankenhausen, in Germany. Check out "Berlin Fainting" in the video above which is from 2011's Save My Life. I tried looking up some interviews, but they're all in German. If you're interested, go check out 2013's Foxes. I'd recommend "Ghosts" and "24."
Strangers You Know Los Angeles, California
Warped Dates: 6/20, 6/22, 6/25
LA group Strangers You Know was a little hard to find (they used to be called Reprise), but I was finally able to track down "Smoke and Mirrors" which you can stream above. It's quite catchy, and attracted me instantly. Check out "Be It" and "More Than We Have" off of First World Answers.
So there's a quick run through! Even if you don't stop by and see these bands perform this summer, you'll never have to say "I've never heard of that band" ever again :)
"Crystallized" stimulates my pop craving in all of the right ways. I can see it dominating the alternative airwaves similar to the recent campaigns by Imagine Dragons' "It's Time" or Bastille's "Pompeii." I just pray that they don't overplay it. I think those two are seen as more "mainstream" for whatever reason, so we should be in the clear.
Five tracks in, and I'm praying that the album won't be top-heavy. "Anagram" does it's job perfectly in that pole position. Here comes "Daydreamer" following up the title track. I'm putting a lot of pressure on this one, but I can take an average track to wind-down from the front line-up. Alright, it wasn't bad.
It sounds like "Firelight" is the real wind-down, which makes sense because it cuts the album in half. If they can pack the second half with as much power as the first, than I'd be very surprised. In itself, not an amazing track off the first listen, but it was enjoyable. Now "Camera" comes in, still pretty slow. Possibly going to pick up? It has to. You can't have two slow tracks in a row! You just can't! This track will go insane in a few seconds.... (1:00). Alright, things are interesting now, but still pretty chill (1:57). If anything, this is a build up track to "In My Home." "Camera" is sounding like something you'd open a show with before going crazy... or maybe just a chill song with a cool light show going on.
Here we go! "In My Home" is starting off wonderfully (:17). I can feel a great chorus coming. Was that a chorus, or a second verse?
I'm hoping there's a favorite hiding in the back section somewhere. There has to be something absolutely huge back there.
So since I found Spotify about a year ago, I've been so overwhelmed with new music. I remember the days of saying "Damn, I need new music." Well those days are long gone now. Long gone.
Even if I find a new album that I sort of like, I don't really consider it "listened to" until I give it maybe five full listens. That's really when you can think back and start to form an opinion. There are albums that take months or even a year to fully hit me. Driver Friendly's "Chase the White Whale" is a perfect example. At first, I only liked the first half of the album, up to "Remember When..." but now this album is one of my favorites of all time. I find myself rediscovering bands/albums that I've had on my iPod for five years.
I'm trying to give all of this music a fair chance and avoid "once-overs." In my current rotation are: Man Overboard, Fireworks, Pinsky, Walk the Moon, Eagle Scout, Owen, and Sucre. These are all bands that I discovered over the past few months and I've been able to enjoy their music because of Spotify.
Now that Spotify radio came out, my list of bands to check out keep growing... It will never end, and that is why Spotify is ruining my life.
Btw... if you haven't listened to Imagine Dragons yet, do yourself a favor and check out their Continued Silence EP. Their upcoming album is the AOTY for 2012 that no one saw coming. Check out my review here.