The Story So Far, Seahaven, Stickup Kid, Troubled Coast, Stateside
July 14 @ Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA)
I can admit that I haven’t given the new era of pop/punk a fair shake. There are certainly some bands I enjoy, but with the genre severely oversaturated, I tend to write off these bands before one listen. In an effort to expand my horizons, I joined a sold-out Chain Reaction crowd in welcoming The Story So Far to town. I get the appeal now.
I wasn’t immediately won over, though. Opening the package was Stateside, who displayed every complaint I have about the genre. Assuming the tech issues were the venue’s fault, the set was still as sloppy as could be, sounding more like a local opener than someone from the tour package. I was already shaking my head before their inexcusably awful cover of Taking Back Sunday’s “MakeDamnSure,” which inspired not one person to dance. Some of the guitarwork and structuring on “Smokestacks” was intriguing, though until their live show and lead vocals improve, this band will reside in pop/punk purgatory.
The bad taste in my mouth was quickly erased via Troubled Coast. Though their music wasn’t the crowd’s flavor, I rocked out to the night’s heaviest set. The dose of hardcore was the pick-me-up I needed, and each track from their latest EP delivered as expected. The band even gave the crowd a pleasant surprise in two new songs from their upcoming full-length, both of which displayed the rapid evolution Troubled Coast has always shown. Remember their name, because these boys will be headlining their own tours by the end of the year.
The audience showed life for the first time as Stickup Kid took the stage, finally starting my pop/punk lesson. While the breakneck verses customary of the genre just aren’t for me, the tempo shifts in songs like “Dreaming of Kenny Rogers” gave a nice dynamic to their music. What won me over though was the atmosphere they created, engaging with fans as frequently as humanly possible. The fans didn’t disappoint either - though I may (unfairly) question their tastes, pop/punk kids have an undeniable blast and only care to have fun.. And overall, I respected Stickup Kid’s set, even if they’re not my cup of tea.
Small talk and more technical difficulties limited my time watching Seahaven, though I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw. As if his voice and lyrics weren’t commanding enough, frontman Kyle Soto’s look and demeanor sealed the deal. When they did get to play, the set was very solid, complete with great harmonies that really brought the songs to life. “Plague” and “Goodnight” were two of the night’s highlights, and the band certainly earned my respect (as noted through my purchase of Winter Forever on vinyl after the set).
Then came The Story So Far. I wasn’t remotely ready for what I was witnessing. I’ve been to countless sold out shows at Chain Reaction, but I’ve never seen a crowd react with such passion to a band. For the first three songs, I legitimately couldn’t hear one note from Parker Cannon as he lead a pop/punk choir through his songs. Watching hundreds of fans recite back every word while crawling on top of each other was quite the sight. What’s more is the idolization was well-deserved, as TSSF put on one hell of a show. I intentionally avoided listening to the band before the date, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed their brand of reigned-in pop/punk. The guys were completely in sync and reeked of professionalism while maintaining that lively demeanor that inspires so many music fans. After leaving and throwing Under Soil and Dirt on for the first time, I was immediately nostalgic of an immensely fun night.
So yeah - I get it now. Pop/punk is a good place to be, and I’ll come ‘round more often.
Show Review: Tyler Carter
May 1 @ Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA)
You can say what you want about Tyler Carter’s past, but the kid has a bright future ahead of him. With a set of four solo tracks and a re-interpreted Woe, Is Me song, it was clear that Carter understands what music moves units and how to deliver said music.
There’s no screaming here – just a smooth dude with a bunch of club-friendly songs (I think? We all know I don’t go to clubs). Whether you have an aversion to his post-hardcore roots or his new radio-friendly sound, it’s hard to deny his talent as a vocalist and entertainer. It didn’t matter that half of his set was new to the crowd – they threw their hands in the air, bounced along and had a blast. It was far from my usual genre choice, but even I couldn’t help but bob my head.
It’s just so catchy. “Bad Girl” and “Love, Sex, Riot” scream Top 40 and make you wonder why Tyler isn’t singing hooks for rappers. The audience was able to connect with his first solo song “Side To Side,” as well as a new piano version of his last song with Woe, is Me, “Fame over Demise.” Girls are going to be such a sucker for “Find Me,” a new slow jam about his relationship with his younger brother. All of it is aimed at what’s popular today, and it succeeds.
It may not be for you, but I bet your little sister and that sorority chick will be singing along to this stuff in no time.
Playing their Karma Never Sleeps EP from front to back, the band reaffirmed why so many feel so strongly about their music. Every note, riff, lick, and hit was precise and powerful, displaying all the technical qualities of their tunes while delivering a high energy live show. All of the dynamics from the record were there – the crescendo of soft verses developed into big choruses and room-shaking instrumental sections. There's obviously great chemistry between the boys, who gave one of the tightest sets I've seen at Chain Reaction. It was everything I expected it to be, and then some.
It’s impossible to ignore each member’s individual musicianship when you watch them play. Most vocalists take liberties live, changing melodies for greater ease– Brent Walsh actually upped the ante, adding extra vocal runs all throughout the set. Guitarist Ian Pedigo and drummer Blake Dahlinger were spot on, supplying all their signature leads and beats like true veterans. If I had to name an x-factor, it would be Chris Hinkley, who knocked great bass lines out of the park while delivering harmonies worthy of a lead vocalist. They’re all talented musicians on their own, and their combined forces have created a commanding sound I expect to become a scene staple (and hopefully help extinguish the phase of Anthony Green wannabes).
So to answer your question, no – I haven’t run out of good things to say about this band. My childlike excitement for their music is only growing, because I know anyone who gives these guys 10 seconds of their time will be hooked. Long live I The Mighty.
Show Review: Sucré
April 12 @ Bootleg Bar (Los Angeles, CA)
Celebrating the release of their debut album, the magnificent trio known as Sucré took the quaint stage at The Bootleg Bar to play A Minor Bird in its entirety. Watching the songs come to life for the shoulder-to-shoulder audience was downright majestic, and impressive on a level rarely seen at shows these days.
The hour-long performance was absolutely captivating. Most of these songs were only a few days old to the audience, but the connection was palpable; seldom have I seen a crowd so fiercely attentive. It was a brilliant display from the immensely-talented musicians, taking viewers through powerful tracks like “Chemical Reaction” and stripped-down cuts like “Light Up” with unbelievable ease. Every part of the set was as professional as it was heartfelt, hitting that desired balance every band hopes for.
The individual talents of each member were captivating in their own right. I could watch Stacy King sing for hours – her tone and range are tremendous and beautiful. Darren King’s complex showings in Mutemath were dialed down here, but just as striking and crisp as you would expect. Unsurprising, Jeremy Larson made gorgeous music from every instrument he touched, splitting time between piano and guitars while simultaneously offering backing percussion. Combined, it was almost too brilliant to comprehend, especially with a string quartet assisting. Watching all 7 musicians seamlessly weave together on “When We Were Young” and the outro of “Troubled Waters” was awe-inspiring and smile-inducing.
I’m nearly out of adjectives that adequately show my feelings towards the show, but calling Sucré “perfect” doesn’t seem like a stretch.