Pusha T Celebrates Past, Present, and Future on It’s Almost Dry Tour

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As the crowd began filling the floor of the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre in Indianapolis last week, the excessively bright lights from the stage beamed a direct message: Pusha T. It’s Almost Dry. Rap Album of the Year.

It’s a bold statement that’s also hard to argue. The name It’s Almost Dry, which dropped back in April, was meant to communicate the final touches being put on a masterpiece. An homage to his past, a comment on his present, and establishing his future, the album was acclaimed upon release and stands as some of King Push’s best work. His current tour serves as a victory lap for both the album itself and over two decade’s worth of hits.

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IDK

The night opened with rising British-American rapper IDK, whose energetic performance got the crowd moving. Tracks like “Dog Food” and “Taco” from this year’s Simple. kicked off the set, but it was 2021 single “Shoot My Shot” that hit hardest.

The bulk of Pusha T’s extensive set was obviously populated with tracks from It’s Almost Dry, but it also served as a tour of his full catalogue, including almost the entirety of 2018’s stellar Daytona, select tracks from My Name is My Name, as well as covers, guest verses, and even the delightful appearance of “Grindin'” from his time with Clipse.

It should come as no surprise that “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes” absolutely went off to open up the set. It’s a beat custom made for such a setting, and in truth, his history of production from the likes of Pharrell and the Neptunes to Kanye West shines through the speakers, each beat telling its own story. His run through Daytona tracks mid-set was a keen reminder of Kanye’s brilliance on that project, as was the surprising performance of 2012’s GOOD Music collab “New God Flow”.

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Pusha T

But aside from the excitement generated from the setlist itself, Pusha truly appeared joyed to be sharing in these songs with the audience. His smile resonated between tracks, even as his determined and intricate delivery of lines could send chills down your spine. Despite his self-given title of “Cocaine’s Dr. Seuss” and the cold reality of his stories from the streets, there’s always been something blatantly approachable to Pusha’s personality.

He’s in his element on stage as much as anyone you’ll witness, and his ability to translate such personal and specific stories into music that resonates across a wide fanbase is something that sets him apart from his peers. It’s Almost Dry is another thrilling chapter in his tale, and it’s truly a gift that we can experience it from the stage while hanging on every line.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Riot Fest: My Chemical Romance Usher in the Return of Punk Rock

Riot Fest is always a bit of a shit show. It’s where Warped Tour kids went once they began contributing to a 401(k). But there is a draining magic to the event that draws us back year after year to brave the heat and feet for 10 straight hours a day. But this time, just this once, it felt different.

This year’s first day was held beneath clear but milky skies, the sun slowly peeling away sunscreen and shade to provide attendees with painful and splotchy souvenirs they’ll carry with them all weekend. While everyone’s experience at a festival is different, I spent Riot’s opening day shepherding a group of people who have never attended the Fest before from stage to stage, making it even more impossible to review the event as a whole. 

Instead, I have snapshots of the day burned into my brain. Anthony Green ditching his mic and launching himself into the crowd during L.S. Dune’s intense debut show. Singer Stubhy Pandav of Lucky Boys Confusion wiping away tears of joy as the crowd that showed up early to see them shouted “LBC! LBC!” after telling them about his recent struggles with muscular sclerosis. Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years brimming with an earned confidence as he introduced “Low Tides”, a song from their upcoming album The Hum Goes on Forever, before announcing that he was dying from the heat of the blue jumpsuit he wore on stage. 

Pioneer skate punks Lagwagon slaying the stage, as well as a man accidentally trebucheting a tub of cheese fries onto the grass after throwing his hands up in excitement to yell “Tony Hawk!” when they played “May 16”. A girl in a large hoop skirt running across the open field of grass to see Anberlin, only for her foot to catch in her clothing and faceplant into the dirt. A girl sitting alone on a swing hanging from a poorly lit plastic arch, watching Portugal. The Man with a gentle kick of her feet. A man in full face paint of the classic Misfits skull logo giving a resigned “Fuuuuuuuck,” when he realized that they were actually playing on Saturday, and he was watching Friday’s punk legends The Descendents. 

The question everyone seemed to be wanting to ask, though, was how My Chemical Romance would play, considering they were booked on the stage tucked furthest away in the corner, with the worst view and nowhere for the monolithic crowds to go. Seemingly every third attendee wore a different MCR shirt, some even in the blue leather Danger Days jacket. People flowed through the ever-swelling crowds in fluid rivers to a single stage. Considering MCR’s headline gig (and reunion tour) had been postponed a full year, it was hard not to consider their set something entirely different from the rest of Riot Fest.

A close friend of mine said that seeing David Bowie’s 1979 performance on Saturday Night Live was an event. The 80’s were just days away, but Bowie’s spellbinding performance in the last moments of the decade was Bowie himself allowing the 70’s to end and announcing, “Okay. Now the 1980’s may begin. Now, you may have new wave.” Forty years later, he swears that seeing that single moment of television was a monumental moment of his life.

Bands like Descendents and Lagwagon taught us what punk rock was. Alkaline Trio and Taking Back Sunday showed us what a new generation of punk rock could be. The Wonder Years and Anberlin redefined punk rock entirely. My Chemical Romance somehow managed to naturally encapsulate all of those sensations into one tidal wave of energy that even people who don’t pay attention to the genre can still sing along to. 

My Chemical Romance at an offensive distance from the stage

As the lights flared, Gerard Way stepped on stage in dark glasses, a shawl, and a dark coat over a dress like a vampiric babooshka. The image stood haunting, iconic even, as the opening notes of new single “The Foundations of Decay” swept over the fields. The image of My Chemical Romance on stage together bore a palpable energy for anyone standing below that seemed to say that punk rock itself was re-energized. 

My Chemical Romance said, “Okay. Punk rock is back.”

Was it the best show I have ever seen? Simply put, no. Gerard’s vocals seemed stunted at times, pronouncing each syllable so startlingly disjointed from one another at times, and lacking some of the trademark swagger of his elegantly disheveled vocals. Despite that, the drama he brought to the stage was a power on par with a relaxed David Bowie. Between every song, Way took the time to check on the sea of people mushing themselves together like an ocean wave to be as close to the stage as possible.

Frank Iero and Mikey Way moved little on stage, but the sound they expelled was a force of nature. Hearing those guitars again was an event. Whether MCR makes new music or not, just knowing the band is a ruling force of music again feels like it is singlehandedly ushering in a new era of the genre.

The next night, I was able to see one of the Drive-Thru Records bands I thought were gone forever, Midtown, reunited and preparing to tour with MCR. Their sloppy but thrilling set was cobbled together allegedly at the request of Mikey Way himself.

The Academy Is…, performing together for the first time in seven years, headlined the Concord Music Hall with a passion and fury that had been missing from pop punk for over a decade. William Beckett may in fact be the best frontman in all of pop punk, in utter control of the stage and sounding better with age.

Pop punk royalty Yellowcard, playing Riot during the day Saturday, were reunited after years apart.

L.S. Dunes, courtesy of Alice Wiltgen

Speaking of Frank Iero, the other big takeaway from Riot was the debut of L.S. Dunes. Composed of Iero, Anthony Green, and musicians from Coheed & Cambria and Thursday, the new supergroup is one of the few times such a team-up seems to not just succeed, but astound. Bringing together the best parts of post-punk hardcore, L.S. Dunes threaten to compete with the best the scene has to offer, shining as a particular high point in Anthony Green’s already astounding discography, comprised of some of the best and most influential bands in the genre. 

As previously stated, Riot Fest was a shit show. There was no shade. One of the biggest bands in the world performed in a corner. The line for artist merch was an hour and a half long. Beer was a felonious $14. But it’s our shit show. Its very existence is a symbol of the thriving perseverance of punk through ages and eras, as well as a beacon of inspiration for bands on the rise. I can’t wait to be told “Holy shit, the sunburn on the back of your neck is impossible,” again next year.

Punk rock is back. Now, we may see it evolve.

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and almost spent $7 on a water bottle. There was a sign saying they were $4 in the distance, but he was first in line at a cart and just wanted to look cool in front of his friends. What a fool he is indeed.

mewithoutYou’s Final Boston Show

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I can hardly believe the title of this article. It feels like forever ago, and I suppose in a way it was, that mewithoutYou posted that fateful update on their website in October 2019 that started with, “By the end of next year mewithoutYou will no longer be active.” It feels like forever ago that the implications of that sentence set in motion one of the most drawn-out goodbyes the scene has witnessed. Of course, it was never intended to go that way, but, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

I almost didn’t get tickets to the final Boston show that happened on August 6th. I had been debating – between saving money and going to shows during a pandemic – whether or not it would be a good idea. Of course, as all of you who follow my music journey here know, I have tunnel vision when it comes to tours. There is only one question, and only one answer: “Are you going to the [insert band name here] show?” “Duh.” So, armed with vax card in hand, I drove up to Paradise Rock Club in Boston to bid one of the most interesting, creative, and beloved bands in the scene goodbye.

Opening for this final leg of the tour was WHY?, generally a five-piece band dropped down to a multitasking two piece. From playing the drums with maracas to swapping their bass guitar back and forth, the unique vibes here were perfect to complement the whimsy of mewithoutYou. I had never listened to WHY? Before, and at first I wasn’t sure how I felt, but by the end of their set I was in awe of how talented they were.

mewithoutYou started promptly at 9pm and played a two hour, career-spanning set. They mostly chose songs from 2004’s Catch for Us the Foxes, most likely to compensate for not doing a 10-year celebration for the album in 2024. They opened with the energetic “Torches Together” and it really showed how united of a fanbase they have. It could only be described as Bacchanal. It was great fun, but you couldn’t help but feel a tinge of sadness in the air at the prospect of never doing this again. 

The guys stoped between tracks to briefly thank people who made their 20 year tenure as a band possible: their families, sound tech, and bus driver. It was also touching to see all of their kids there for the whole set, enjoying themselves and singing along side stage. Aaron would often use the instrumental breaks in tracks to check in with the kids, getting down on his knees to their level and sharing a joke. The sense of community and love for what they’ve accomplished together was strong.

After plenty of full band time, the other guys left and Aaron came back on stage to sing some acoustic songs, including the song that introduced me to the band, “The Fox, the Crow, and the Cookie”. They didn’t play that one when I saw them for the first time during the [A→B] Life 10-year tour, and it felt incredible to have that sense of justification and closure in hearing one of my favorite songs during the farewell tour. Halfway through, the rest of the guys joined him for the end with the full band additions, and then they played two more tracks, ending the night officially with “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”.

Even though I’m sad to see mewithoutYou come to an official end, I have faith that this won’t be the last we hear from them. With their level of creativity and just pure joy they clearly get from making music together, I hope the guys will still continue to record and maybe even let us listen in to the next part of their journey. To mewithoutYou I say, “You played the flute / When no one was dancing / You played a sad song / When no one was crying” and made us feel everything in between, and I’ll miss every part of it.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

A Night of Beautiful Catharsis with Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday

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There’s just something about experiencing live music on a perfect summer night, surrounded by people that are just as in-the-moment as you are. Even better when the bands on stage are the kinds of bands that have stood the test of time, soundtracking so many moments to your life. Third Eye Blind and Taking Back Sunday are bands that have been with me through thick and thin. Through formative years and adulthood. Through good times and bad. Seeing them together on the Summer Gods tour as it stopped through Indianapolis last week was just as cathartic as you might imagine.

Look, the past few years haven’t been easy on any of us. Maybe that’s the reason for the heightened feelings of joy and relief to be in the presence of the music we love. Having a full slate of summer concerts this year has certainly been a sight for sore eyes, but I’d be lying if I said this show wasn’t circled in red in my mind. 

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Taking Back Sunday

Like so many of you, Third Eye Blind’s 1997 debut self-titled album, followed by Blue in 1999, then by Taking Back Sunday’s breakout Tell All of Your Friends in 2002, and everything that came after, was a stretch run of impactful music in my life that’s almost unparalleled. But to imply that those moments are frozen in time would be wildly untrue. These are bands that have evolved right alongside my own musical tastes through the years, as I’ve documented ad nauseam.

It felt perfect then, as Taking Back Sunday took the stage, after an opening set from Hockey Dad, to the sound of “Tidal Wave”, the lead single and title track from the band’s most recent release in 2016 – and album that still feels underrated. Per usual, Adam Lazzara and the band were a delight to behold, smiling through their set and genuinely seeming to enjoy every moment. 

As you might expect, the set spans across the band’s discography, but gives plenty of time for hits from fan favorite albums like Louder Now and Tell All Your Friends while still exploring a few unexpected songs from Where You Want to Be (“Set Phasers to Stun” – hooray!) and Happiness Is (another criminally underrated TBS album). Lazzara and guitarist/vocalist John Nolan’s stage banter is topped only by their timeless ability to build off of one another’s vocal performances, pushing every song over the top.

More than anything, Taking Back Sunday’s set reminded me that it’s been a while since we’ve received a proper release from the band. But something tells me that new music may be just around the corner.

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Third Eye Blind

It was only last fall that Third Eye Blind Our Bande Apart, their seventh full-length album. While the band’s early material still resonates with me the most, it’s phenomenally impressive how Stephan Jenkins and company have stood the test of time. Their set spans decades, and so many people around me seemed to know every word to every song. 

No matter how many times I see Third Eye Blind live, I’m always impressed by Jenkins’ comfort level on stage and the timelessness of his voice. You could feel convinced that he’s performing hits like “Graduate” and “Losing a Whole Year” for the first time instead of the 500th time based on his emotion and conviction behind the mic. Say what you want about the man, but he’s nothing if not driven. Most recently, his passions have zeroed in on climate change, which is actually pretty fucking cool.

For the large majority of Third Eye Blind’s set, I crowd watched. There’s something about the communal experience of letting down your guard amongst strangers and leaning hard into the things that music makes us feel. On this night, it felt like everyone around me was experiencing those same feelings of catharsis as myself. A moment to feel normal again amongst the music that has carried us through for so many years. It just felt a little different in the best way possible.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Bayside and Thrice: An Unexpectedly Joyous Evening

There is an energy in a concert hall that fills the blood with electricity. Hundreds of people being beaten with reverberation and walls of sound. It’s amazing and, until hearing Thrice and Bayside on the stage of the Concord Music Hall, I hadn’t realized I missed it. Every show I’d been to since the pandemic had been outdoors, but it just doesn’t replicate the dark cavernous rooms split with spotlights.

Feeling the floors vibrate in Chicago, it finally dawned on me: music is back. Life feels whole again. A little over halfway through their co-headline tour, Thrice and Bayside entered the stage with full force to a crowd of hundreds who all seemed just as excited to be there as I was.

Opener Anxious found a bridge between the sounds on display for the evening with an emo punk aesthetic. Reminiscent of Chicago favorites Real Friends, Anxious juggled through twinkling guitars, heavy riffs, and layered vocals. Playing songs from their recent release, Little Green House, Anxious feel primed to roll with the best of the acts of the genre, such as Knuckle Puck.

Thrice

Thrice is a band I’ve personally never been too into. Their sound always reminded me of the radio rock that I never enjoyed growing up. However, seeing them live and in a small venue was an eye opening experience. Their presence onstage was measured, the music pulsating. Thrice set a mood for the room that thundered against the walls. As the room sang their songs back to the group, I realized I had been missing out for almost two decades on an extremely talented and varied band. 

Thrice blasted through their singles “Black Honey” and “Stare at the Sun”, and ended with “The Earth Will Shake Us”. 

Between artists, the crowd was filled with an ambient kindness and joy that seemed to fill everyone in equal measure. “This venue is perfect. I’ve seen Bayside play here half a dozen times,” a man told me against the railings of the upper balcony. “They literally just keep getting better.” Down on the floor, a group of women were debating the merits of the album Vacancy versus Interrobang. Another man tapped me on the shoulders and asked in all seriousness, “Are we going to duet ‘Devotion and Desire’ or what?”

Bayside

I’ve seen Bayside at Concord Music Hall many times, usually opening for another band or being the penultimate act of a co-headlining tour. This time, they closed the night vibrantly. For a punk show, there didn’t seem to be the circle pits that I would have expected. Instead there was dancing. Everyone seemed to be dancing or were overcome by singing along to every song. The eruption of noise as they chanted along to “Sick, Sick, Sick” or sang over the roaring vocals of “Montauk” reminded me of my first concert. Foregoing an encore, Bayside finished the night with “Devotion and Desire”, setting the room on fire one last time before walking off. I couldn’t find my duet partner, but I like to think of it as a “we stared at the same moon” situation.

It seemed like every show I tried to see last year and this spring was canceled or delayed. Finally being back in a venue was revitalizing, and it seemed to be a shared experience amongst everyone in attendance. For the first time in two years, the world felt complete while the ground shook and every word of the night was sang in unison by hundreds of people.

by Kyle Schultz

Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and somehow managed to launch marinara across the room.

A Night with Semler and Relient K

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I’ve very much enjoyed getting back into the swing of live music. Freshly boosted and ready for a taste of the good old days, Jeremiah and I dropped by Paradise Rock Club in Boston to see Relient K. It is a fact universally acknowledged that Jeremiah’s favorite band is Relient K, and I get tickets every time they come around because one day, I know they won’t come around anymore. And I feel as though that day is closer than we all may realize, so I don’t want him to miss a chance to see them.

This is Relient K’s first tour since 2017, when they toured with Switchfoot as every 90s youth kid’s dream lineup. A killer show, one I will always viscerally remember. At that point, I don’t think I was writing for the site, or else you definitely would’ve heard me gush about it. But before that, I saw Relient K for the first time in the same room I saw them in just last week, for the Mmhmm 10th Anniversary Tour in 2014. Jeremiah and I weren’t together yet, so I lured a friend who could drive to take me under the guise of “You’ll get to relive your youth group days.” It all feels very full-circle.

Opening that first night was From Indian Lakes, one of my all time favorites. Opening this past show was Semler, a queer Christian artist. I won’t lie, one of the reasons I got tickets to this Relient K show was to see Semler, who I have followed on social media for a little while now. Something about a person who goes against every religious norm we were raised with, who can still sing truthfully, drew me in. When Relient K announced that Semler would be the opener, the comments on their socials were honestly awful, and I wasn’t sure how it would play out. But the night of the show, there were just as many Semler fans as Relient K fans. I bought a t-shirt, obviously.

Generally the opener is supposed to get you pumped for the main event, but by the time her set was over, there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. You could feel the church hurt palpably. It was like a therapy session. I fell in love.

Relient K came on not much later, opening with “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been”. They played an energetic, career-spanning set. Obviously, we couldn’t get enough. One of the things that made the show even more fun than it could have already been (if that was possible) was the audience. It really was just a bunch of us having a great time vibing and remembering how it used to be. We met up with a couple of friends and just generally danced all night. The band has as much energy as ever, and Matt Thiessen somehow hasn’t aged a day.

Noticeably (or not noticeably) missing were any tracks from Collapsible Lung, but there was a great rep from Forget and Not Slow Down, one of my top Relient K albums. They obviously played all the popular tracks and saved “Be My Escape” for last. When I first saw them, I captioned my instagram post, “It’s funny how you find you enjoy your life / When you’re happy to be alive” and it still rings true. I don’t know if I’ll have another chance to see Relient K before they finally hang it up for good, but what I do know is that they made me who I am today, and it’s always a joy to be in a room where we all have that in common.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Underoath Hits the Road with Spiritbox, Bad Omens, and Stray from the Path

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Near the end of their set at The Andrew J. Brady Music Center in downtown Cincinnati last week, Stray from the Path vocalist Andrew Dijorio shared a personal and moving story about his struggle as an isolated artist during the pandemic. Dijorio described being unable to take the stage and perform as resulting in a feeling of having lost his purpose. It’s a sentiment that resonates for all of us in one way or another. But here we were, together again in the kind of setting that can melt those feelings away.

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Stray from the Path

It had been over two years since I last attended an indoor concert like this, and I got the feeling that it was the same case for many others in attendance. It led to an elevated kind of energy that you could feel throughout the night. I actually had butterflies in the photo pit before shooting the sets – something that was a relatively mundane event prior to the pandemic. 

It had actually been so long since this tour was announced that one of the original bands on the lineup no longer exists (R.I.P. Every Time I Die). Nevertheless, the night is a celebration of Underoath’s new album, Voyeurist, along with being a showcase for a few bands on the rise. 

After Stray from the Path, it was Bad Omens turn to take the stage. The band has made a name for themselves in recent years by threading the needle between metalcore and hard rock, concocting something melodic enough for radio but heavy enough to get the pit moving. Vocalist Noah Sebastian is a true showman in the best way. His confidence on stage was a sight to behold, but his vocal performance is what stole the show, especially when the band plays “Never Know” and “Limits” – two tracks that highlight the band’s stellar songwriting and Sebastian’s soaring vocals.

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Spiritbox

Speaking of bands on the rise, in the time since the tour’s announcement, Spiritbox have simply exploded onto the metal scene thanks to the success of their debut, Eternal Blue. No longer the opener, the band could likely be their own headliner very soon. Given that this is their first long trek on the road as a unit, it’s amazing how tight their set is. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were a veteran band (vocalist Courtney LaPlante and guitarist Michael Stringer previously toured with iwrestledabearonce). 

LaPlante dominated the night with her powerful vocal performance, rising to the occasion with massive screams on tracks like “Holly Roller” and “Hurt You” while delivering powerhouse cleans on “Blessed Be” and “Constance”. With a setlist only seven tracks deep, it wasn’t hard to be left wanting more. On the band’s final song of the night, “Eternal Blue”, Stringer’s haunting guitar solo at the end of the track capped off a perfect set. 

The night would mark my 10th time seeing Underoath live. What’s left to say at this point? I’ve stated for years that Underoath is one of the best live bands on the planet, and the Voyeurist Tour only adds to the legacy. The band’s catalog is deeper than ever at this point, even with the continued admission of tracks from 2010’s Ø (Disambiguation). Somewhat surprisingly, though, the band’s 15-song set only includes four tracks from the new album. However, Voyeurist opening track “Damn Excuses” allows the band to explode onto the stage, followed by regular show-opener “Breathing in a New Mentality”.

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Underoath

The night is a solid mix of new tracks, fan favorites, and a few rarely performed songs like “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine” from Lost in the Sound of Separation and “There Could Be Nothing After This” from Define the Great Line. In the end, it’s hits like “Reinventing Your Exit” and “Writing on the Walls” that get the crowd going, even if the band’s performance of Voyeurist-closer “Pneumonia” is utterly jaw-dropping to experience in person.

By the time you’re reading this, the tour will be completed with two final shows in Underoath’s hometown of Tampa, Florida. In the end, one thing is for certain: both bands and fans felt overjoyed to be back in this setting. The promise of more to come from all involved instills a kind of hope that we can all cling to.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

The Wonder Years (and Friends) Pack a Punch

The Wonder Years Providence Splash

I’m a sucker for opening bands. Oftentimes I will leave a show with a shirt from every band, and that’s a testament to my lack of self-control, but it’s also a testament to the caliber that opening bands are at these days. Long gone are the lineups that exist to sound gross to make the headliner look good. Sometimes, the artists get added to my regular roster, and other times, I let them pass me by, just grateful for the live experience they offered. Last night’s lineup was one of those shows where everyone was incredible and at the top of their game.

The first band of the night was proper., a band from Brooklyn. The band was kind enough to respond to my Instagram message asking for their setlist – love y’all. A three-piece that packed a huge punch, and the lead singer Erik’s stage presence was great. For their first time in the city, they were able to really connect with us in the crowd and everyone fell in love with them. Musically, they have a frenetic punk sound, but there was nothing chaotic about them as a band. Everything was tight, and even though they “hadn’t practiced in the past calendar week,” their set was solid and I wish they had been able to play more. 

PRONOUN from Boston was next, and she also graciously allowed me her setlist after I sent her a DM. I’ve seen her play before, at a Turnover show in 2017, but she was a one-woman show at that point. She has added two more members to the outfit, and a whole lot of experience as well. The first time I had seen her, she didn’t really stick with me for some reason. This time around, she has a few more releases under her belt, and a lot more confidence. With easy vibes, and song titles like “I wanna die but I can’t (cuz I gotta keep living)”, it’s clear that she has found both her niche, and the perfect genre for those of us who use guitars to soothe our mental illnesses.

After a brief intermission and rousing crowd rendition of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire courtesy of the venue playlist, it was time for band three of the night. At this point in my concert career I’ve usually disassociated and want to head home, but of course, I always push through. The sweaty people, the smattering of conversation, and the alcohol seeping through my sneakers is a lot to handle, especially after so long out of the game. But onto the stage steps Future Teens.

Another Boston native band, Future Teens was the perfect act to be third. Not only because of their acclaim in the scene, but for their ability to bring everyone back together. Everyone was dancing to these songs about Boston being overrated and crying in traffic, and the togetherness was palpable. There has been such a disconnect in the scene because of the pandemic and every time a crowd unites – old fans and newly budding fans alike – it feels like old times. Future Teens did just that. It’s always interesting to me when I get to see a band that I’ve only heard about, and sometimes I will deliberately not dive in, and just let the music wash over me that night. Future Teens has made a lifelong fan of me with their show last night. Endlessly energetic, and great music to boot. I didn’t grab a t-shirt from the merch table last night because of how crowded it was, but I have one of their  90’s inspired t-shirts coming in the mail to rep my new faves.

And of course, eventually we make it to the ones we’ve all been aching to see: The Wonder Years. This was my second time seeing the band play (the first was with Tiny Moving Parts, Microwave, and letlive.), but my third time seeing Dan Campbell play – I caught an Aaron West show in 2017. The energy in the room as they finished setting up was undeniable, and as the guys stepped out and Dan said “this is our first headlining show in 21 months,” we knew we were in for a treat. They played tracks from all of their albums, as well as their new Christmas song “Threadbare” for the first time. They pulled out “Christmas at 22” from their back pockets, and according to some fellow attendees who updated the setlist.fm page for the show, they hadn’t played that one since 2014. I’m past my pit days now, but the crowd went wild, and security let up on the no-crowd-surfing rule and let the chips (and the people) fall where they may. 

This was my second venture back into live music, and it’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The Wonder Years have mastered how to put together both a perfect lineup and a perfect setlist, and it’s a joy to see them when they come in from Philly. After this run of shows, they are headed out on a tour where they will be playing both The Upsides and Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing in their entireties.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

The Phoebe Bridgers Reunion Tour: An Experience Worth Waiting For

phoebe-bridgers-reunion-splash

It had been just over two years since the last time I had attended a concert. I was apprehensive. I wondered if that passage of time had somehow quelled my love of the setting. Maybe I didn’t need live music experiences anymore, at least not with the same frequency as before. That’s what I was thinking, but then the lights went down, a band came on stage, I raised my camera to capture the moment, and felt that familiar rush wash over me. I missed this more than I knew.

It’s wild to think about how much has changed for Phoebe Bridgers since the last time she took the stage. Pre-pandemic, Bridgers was still carving her path, building on the early momentum of her debut, Stranger in the Alps, and her collaborative projects, boygenius and Better Oblivion Community. But then came Punisher, a perfect album that changed everything, but all took place in isolation. There was Bridgers in February, in attendance at a bizarre Grammys in her skeleton pajamas, never having had the chance to perform the songs that had changed her life in front of a live audience.

Truthfully, after all we’ve endured, it has made this late summer’s Reunion Tour the perfect opportunity to finally re-connect and share our experience of Punisher together. The tour’s dates were recently moved to outdoor venues, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry. It felt about as safe as you can feel these days at an event filled with strangers.

MUNA opened the night – an electro pop trio I had no prior knowledge of. And guess what; it’s still so much fun to discover a new band at a concert. Led by vocalist Katie Gavin, the band exhibited an infectious joy onstage throughout their set, making it impossible to look away. Opening with tracks like “Number One Fan” and “Stayaway” from their 2019 full-length album, Saves the World, the band’s knack for creating dance-worthy tracks ranging in emotion and energy set the tone for the night. When they debuted their new track “Silk Chiffon” (featuring Bridgers), it made clear that MUNA is on the cusp of reaching another level.

To finally experience Punisher in person was…therapeutic? Healing? Relieving? It was something. Bridgers opened with “Motion Sickness” from her debut, making a subtle nod to the idea of our collective reunion. “Let’s experience something familiar before we dive into the new stuff.” From there, “DVD Menu” led into “Garden Song” which led into “Kyoto” and oh my god every song still sounds so perfect. Every track from the album happened in sequence with various other songs from Bridgers’ other works sprinkled within.

The setting fit the mood – dark, but lit with just enough light to create a “vibe.” A backing screen featuring an opening book that visualized the chapters of the performance. And of course, Bridgers and band decked in those skeleton PJs. Highlights of the show depended on your own personal attachments. For me, “Moon Song” proved just as sad and lovely as I had hoped. But it’s hard to outdo a choir of screaming to those final moments of “I Know the End”. Every song was delivered with care. Every moment felt worth absorbing.

In hindsight, I can’t think of a better show to reacquaint myself with the setting. Punisher has meant more to me in this past year than I can put into words. Having the opportunity, after all of this time, to experience it like this? In a weird way, it almost felt worth the wait.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel 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.

Underoath Observatory Kicks Off with “Lost in the Sound of Separation”

I attended a concert on Friday. Sure, I wasn’t standing front row in a sweaty venue, camera in tow, earplugs in place, absorbing the experience amidst a sea of other fans. But I still enjoyed every second.

Underoath, who recently completed a live-streamed Twitch series breaking down each of their albums, have begun a string of three shows on consecutive Fridays titled Underoath Observatory. Each show will explore one album in its entirety. The event kicked off with Lost in the Sound of Separation and will be followed by Define the Great Line on July 24 and They’re Only Chasing Safety on July 31.

Aaron Gillespie (screengrab by Twitter user @jmcjmc451)

This experience was obviously a no-brainer for me. Although I’ve seen the band live nine times, I never turn down another opportunity if it’s within driving distance. And this Friday’s performance of Lost in the Sound of Separation – my favorite album from my favorite band – is something I’ve been waiting on for a long time.

Two years ago, on the album’s 10th anniversary, I pondered why the album hasn’t been given a fair shake alongside Define and Safety since the band’s reunion. I was fortunate to see Underoath during their headlining tour for Separation in 2008, but even then, several key songs from the album (including my favorite, “A Fault Line, A Fault of Mine”) were left off the playlist. Having the chance to see the album performed in whole, filling in the gaps on my “Underoath Songs I’ve Seen Live” bingo card, was something I couldn’t pass up.

Spencer Chamberlain (screengrab by Twitter user @jmcjmc451)

The band has long been heralded as a great live act, putting more effort than most into their on-stage production. Seeing Underoath live is more than just seeing the six members perform on stage. Each tour is like its own piece of performance art. And in typical fashion, the band has spared no effort in this endeavor. Thankfully for fans, so many musicians have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to explore live-streamed performances, but Underoath Observatory is on another level.

From the lightning to the camera work to the fantastic quality of the sound production, Friday night’s performance felt every bit like experiencing the band up close and personal (minus the sweat and ear-ringing). Each track felt special, but seeing the band explore songs never performed on stage was a delight. The liberty the band took on album closer “Desolate Earth: The End is Here” may have been a highlight.

But then again, it’s hard to pick one moment. About an hour after the stream ended, the rendered video from the performance was put online for ticket-purchasers to re-visit. Without hesitation, I poured myself another drink and relived the experience again.

In times like this, we savor every opportunity we can find to cherish our favorite music. It’s not lost on fans how important it is to support the artists we love who have lost their ability to make a living on the road. If you’re a fan of Underoath (or heavy music, in general), you can still grab tickets to the next two performances at UnderoathObservatory.com. And don’t forget to snag a vinyl copy of one of the three albums.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple pop culture outlets and was previously an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife, daughter, and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.