So, this is what's up. This previous week was spent on "vacation", except that I didn't go to Bermuda or the Bahamas or Disney World. For a few days, my roommate and I caught a ride up to Philly and NYC (after the Baltimore date) with The Graduate on their tour with Rookie of the Year, My American Heart, PlayRadioPlay!, and Secondhand Serenade. Of course it was a grand time, but it was interesting to see three nights of the tour as a kind of experiment. Bands have off nights - the sound sucks or the stars are not aligned, and you miss a beat or two. The benefit of seeing three shows in a row is that I got to deconstruct and pick apart the little details that I normally don't seek to notice. That said, this show(s) review is going to be a collection of thoughts from all three of these dates.
Rookie of the Year - Steve Henderson said it best. When The Goodnight Moon was released some two years ago, it was the right sound for the right time. It was almost like they got lucky. And while I liked the album, it didn't last. At the time of the Baltimore tour date, I hadn't heard any of the band's new material, so the first show threw me off. The choruses were bouncy, the melodies decidedly summer, and in comparison to The Goodnight Moon, the new songs I heard in their set were much more upbeat. "What is Love" immediately stood out, and for pop-rock, it seemed to hit all the appropriate points. Sing-alongs = a cinch. But between the more tender, slower tracks the band played from The Goodnight Moon and the new leaf from Sweet Attention, Rookie's set was inconsistent between the two opposites. Variety is great, but ending with "The Blue Roses"? Bad choice. Momentum was severely lost through the course of ROTY's set.
The Graduate - Not much to say about The Graduate. I'm incredibly biased, so take my to-the-high-heavens praise with a giant grain of salt. I think they are a wonderful live band. "Interlude" and their instrumental transitions are always a bit over-the-top for the younger crowds they've been touring to, but they always make up for it with the drum duo jam at the end of their last song, "The Formula". The Philly crowd was the best, so receptive and energetic. Cookies for Philly. They, however, should have played "Justified". It would have been a perfect match for the crowd.
PlayRadioPlay! - I think Dan Hunter makes interesting, sophisticated music, especially as musician who is so young. I think it shines of unique thoughts and well-crafted electronic pop, a genre that I normally skip through. I think there are tons of great ideas swimming around in that red head of his, but on stage, it doesn't translate well. Hunter's lyrics were jumbled and impossible to understand during his live set, and it became tiresome and slightly frustrating. All three of the venues from my mini-tour were upper hundreds to 1000 cap rooms, and I think a more intimate setting is a better fit for PRP.
My American Heart - Since I was a high schooler, cruising the PV forums, I've had a big soft spot for MAH, so it was great to be able to see them perform. Their set was entirely made up of songs from their new album, which was interesting, but not a bad choice. Hiding Inside The Horrible Weather was loaded with good hooks, and they fit well together in a set. Bassist Dustin was running around the stage like a wild animal, and as much as I appreciate his enthusiasm for being balls out, it was sort of funny and distracting next to the rest of his more relaxed band members. Not something to write home about, but they were solid all three nights.
Secondhand Serenade - Another token of proof that radio does not equal good. The first night, John guest vocaled during My American Heart's set on "Tired & Uninspired", and he sung the wrong words and the wrong melody. It wasn't the best introduction to Mr. Vesley.
My problem is not that Secondhand Serenade is making hits. My problem is that John Vesley, who essentially is Secondhand Serenade, comes off like a total douche on stage. Did I just say that? I was appalled to see the entire crowd crooning his every word when it was all so bland, generic and predictable ... like a Hallmark card with an acoustic guitar. He's not shy and awkward like Chris Carrabba or even slightly quirky. His banter was cocky and as far from intimate as you get, which is nearly the antithesis of acoustic rock. His backing band didn't help either, which looked like they were instructed not to move their feet, because, you know, they're not the star ... obviously.
If you asked me to hum a line from SS, I'd fail the test. But every single girl and drunk/sensitive manly-man knew each word down to a T, which was both laugh-out-loud funny and disheartening. Because, most of the time, the good bands are too good for radio, and this was just the case.