Amidst the never-ending deluge of 10-year anniversary tours that have become the calling card for a scene currently awash in nostalgia, how satisfying is it when the source material truly stands the test of time? Mayday Parade’s debut, A Lesson in Romantics, remains just as fresh and enjoyable a decade after its release, while serving as a touchstone for a period when emo pop began bubbling to the surface of pop culture consciousness.
This is probably as good of a time as any to reveal my bias. A Lesson in Romantics is one of my favorite albums – a collection of songs that saw me through a particularly difficult period of life and placed hope on the horizon. I also consider it to be a hallmark album in a genre I love. Born from the influences of its many predecessors, A Lesson in Romantics managed to successfully embed punk inspiration within a pure pop vehicle, helping expand the scene’s audience.
Thus, my attendance at the Indianapolis date of the tour found my objectivity slightly compromised. As Mayday Parade made their entrance, the rising lights revealed a stage setup resembling the album’s unforgettable cover art, complete with a sunset, a hand-drawn skyline and even streetlights buzzing with a yellow glow. The only notable absence was that of a red umbrella.
As the opening chords of “Jamie All Over” blasted through the monitors at the front of the stage, I found myself shouting the lyrics of, “I had a dream last night we drove out to see Las Vegas” while wielding my camera to capture the scene – half fanboy, half music critic. I have no regrets.
Of course, I wasn’t alone. I’ve seen many Mayday Parade concerts through the years, and one of the things I love about the band is the joyfulness of their performance. It’s hard not to watch vocalist Derek Sanders bound across the stage, typically barefoot, and not return his smile. Often, the crowd becomes a choir, especially during setlist staples like “Jersey” or “Black Cat”.
Something that sets A Lesson in Romantics apart from its peers is its lack of a signature song, although you could make a compelling argument for “Miserable at Best”. Instead, the album flows effortlessly across 12 tracks, and on this night, everyone in attendance seems to know every word. There are no lulls, no filler tracks to suffer through – Romantics is a truly great album from front to back. Sure, I have my favorite songs, but there’s not a single one that I’m apt to skip.
One of the most obvious conversations surrounding the tour has been the absence of Jason Lancaster, who provided half of the vocals on the album, but departed the band before its release. No one truly expected a sudden reunion, but it’s hard not to wonder what such a tour would have felt like, at least until you attend one of the shows.
True to the album’s sing-along nature, the Indianapolis crowd belts out the lyrics in call and response fashion, assisting drummer Jake Bundrick with additional vocal duties. During the aforementioned piano ballad “Miserable at Best”, the crowd is allowed to sing alone for several stretches as Sanders plays from behind the keyboard. It’s the kind of communal catharsis that makes this scene still worth fighting for and a joy to be a part of in its best moments.
A few of my personal favorite moments of the night came during those fleeting lose-yourself flashes, such as during the soaring chorus of “Walk on Water or Drown” and the opening lines of “I’d Hate to Be You When People Find Out What This Song is About”. Even so, it’s hard not to also enjoy observing others in attendance having their own moments of delight or release.
Perhaps what’s just as impressive as the lasting impact of A Lesson in Romantics itself is Mayday Parade’s ability to embrace the lighting in a bottle they captured on that record, while continuing to push themselves forward as a band over the past 10 years. While albums like Mayday Parade and Black Lines may not have resonated in the moment to the same degree, the band has no shortage of great music in its catalogue, highlighted by an encore setlist after their performance of Romantics comes to a close. Songs like “Terrible Things” and “When You See My Friends” seem to elicit just as much energy from a tired crowd as the heralded album that preceded them.
The past few years have seen so many anniversary tours, that it’s sometimes hard to remember what the point was or which albums truly deserve such a grand re-telling. Perhaps it’s something deeply personal, no matter the scope of the tour itself, and a reminder that different songs impact each of us in different ways as time passes. If the goal is to collectively celebrate an album that has stood the test of time, while offering a community the chance to share the experience of what those songs still mean to us, this tour has effectively provided the best blueprint.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.