Seeing Hellogoodbye perform was a labor of love. On stage, they rock out with every instrument they can get their hands on and aren’t afraid to remix their classic songs if need be. For every ounce of positivity they threw out into the crowd, it was thrown right back for a night filled with dancing and fun banter.
Hellogoodbye and openers Vacationer and Heavenly Beat aren’t trying to be rock stars, they just want to make a memorable experience for anyone willing to call themselves a fan.
The show in Chicago was the first night of a tour crossing the country and into Canada. Whatever energy lay in store for the rest of the tour, each band brought their all to the opening night. Everything was enhanced by an intricate set of monitor set pieces behind the band (framing drummer Michael Garzon) that light up and play specifically timed video to match the beat of the songs. For an indie band of their size, it’s an impressively sized back drop.
Hellogoodbye is surprisingly intricate on stage. While the stage hands set up the instruments and equipment, you just begin counting the amount of instruments on stage: guitars, bass, ukulele, mandolin, egg shakers, tambourine, maracas, three keyboards and singer Forrest Kline’s fancy new mustache.
Watching each be taken to task was fascinating, from the fact that this is the only band that can rock out on a ukulele like a champ, to the subtle twists and turns of the synth to make the keys sound just right.
The set opened with “When We First Met”, the single that relaunched their career after fading from the public eye while leaving Drive-Thru Records. The crowd immediately began singing along and wouldn’t stop for the remainder of the show.
Those nearest the stage tended to just bob heads and jam, while those with a bit more room further out on the floor began dancing in pockets that never stopped. Midway through staple “Oh, It Is Love”, Kline noticed a couple slow dancing near the back and began messing with the beat and pace just to see if the guy dancing could keep it going.
One of the highlights of the set was during the recent single “(Everything Is) Debatable” was when all three keyboards were used at the same time for a majority of the song, backed only by guitar and drum.
The band gave proper celebration to the night as well, popping a bottle of champagne for the launch of the tour as well as Michael Garzon’s birthday at the onset of their encore. The band talked to the crowd between songs, something that many bands forego, but made the band all that much more accessible and was a real connection to the crowd.
At one point, someone from the balcony shouted “What city are you from?” Forrest gave a long winded explanation as to every city he’d ever lived in before he and the other members suggested more questions she could ask him, such as “What’s your social security number? What was the name of your first grade teacher?” (Answer: ‘Miss Moddy who had big boobies’)
If there is a critique of the band, it’s the knowledgeable straying away from their older material that made them famous to begin with. Only three songs prior to the release of Would It Kill You? Made it to the set list, including two in the encore.
Co-headliner Vacationers took the stage with a flurry of California synth pop. The newest venture of Kenny Vasoli, Vacationers isn’t the most unique sound he’s created, but Goddamn they’re fun. The band jammed throughout their set, blasting the crowd with the snap of crisp pop and Vasoli’s signature wailing and lyrics.
Vasoli’s expertise in the craft was apparent, as the band was clearly a step above most in their specific genre of pop, but stayed low, never overplaying themselves to seem more than just a band that loves playing catchy songs.
Vacationers didn’t have nearly as many instruments to toy with, but with a xylophone on stage and keyboards to back the gentle guitars, they jumped from loud pop to soft jams that made the audience sway. Between songs, Vasoli kept the audience up to date with the small issues their equipment seemed to be having. It was funny to see someone who has been a major name in the scene for at least a decade casually looking out at a crowd and announcing, “First night”, with a shrug before tampering with his keyboard.
If the rest of their tour carries half the energy that the opening night held, this is a memorable pairing of indie pop. It was one of the most intimate shows I’ve ever seen, in that each band took time between songs to really talk with their fans, even if it was brief. It felt so much more real than the typical little speeches or vague asides bands tend to say between songs.
by Kyle Schultz