Neck Deep Take “The Peace and the Panic” on the Road

Neck Deep have been on my concert bucket list for a while now and I finally got to check them off. They’re one of my favorite bands, and every time they’ve come to my area, I’ve been busy. So when they took The Peace and the Panic tour to The Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts, I got tickets as soon as I could. I wasn’t missing out this time. So far, this is the best show of 2018. (It’s only the second I’ve gone to so far, but let’s forget about that for a little while, guys.)

The show opened up with Creeper, and like Neck Deep, they’re from the U.K. I listened to them a little bit on the way to the show and I liked the fact that the lead vocalist’s voice was so unique. A lot of times, I feel like punk music can be a bit sonically redundant, but the lead singer has such an original vocal style that I can’t mistake a Creeper song for a song by any other artist. I experienced my first circle pit during their set, so that was mildly frightening, but interesting, nevertheless. A fun fact I learned about this band is that they’re on Roadrunner Records, the same label that used to host the meme-famous Nickelback.

Creeper

Next of the four bands was Speak Low If You Speak Love, who were the self-professed “mellow” band on the tour, but they still held their own. They were also the only band from the U.S. on the tour. Unfortunately, I spent most of the show in the merch line, but I actually thought it gave me a better idea of what the band sounded like live. A lot of times I’m focused on being close to the stage, which definitely muddies the sound, and it was kind of nice to have a fully cohesive idea of each band’s style. They released a new album a couple of weeks back called Nearsighted. They played a seven song set, four being from the new album. I’d strongly suggest everyone check it out, as I love the sound of it.

Speak Low

Finally out from the endless merch line, I slipped back into the crowd for Seaway. They’re from Canada, which anyone could guess from the fact that they have a song called “Keep Your Stick on the Ice”. Seaway continued the opening excellence with a fantastic set, proving once again: Always get to the show early, kids. You never know where your new favorite band is hiding. The band’s energy was great, they sang a lot of (what seemed to me) classics from their discography, and really enjoyed their time on stage. I love to see that authenticity from a band, it really helps me get into it regardless of whether I know the band or not.

Finally, after waiting for a long time, Neck Deep got on stage. For their set-up, they covered the stage in a huge white sheet, to provide an air of mystery, I suppose. They played what could only be called an explosive set. It was totally worth the wait to see them in an indoor venue, rather than at Warped or another festival like that. It’s more personal and there are less distractions.

Neck Deep

They opened with “Happy Judgement Day” from their latest album, then proceeded to play a well balanced mix of their new and old stuff. They also played “December” from their 2015 release, Life’s Not Out to Get You with the full band, rather than the original acoustic recording. They released the full band version on a deluxe version of that album, but I was surprised that they played it that way. I figured it would be the start of the inevitable acoustic part of most of these shows. They ended up playing “Head to the Ground” acoustically, a song with a chaotic and angry original recording. I thought it was a cool twist.

Something I really liked about The Peace and the Panic is how mature it is from a lyrical standpoint. Both Ben Barlow (lead vocals) and Fil Thorpe-Evans (bassist) sang “Wish You Were Here” and you could’ve heard a pin drop. The moment felt so genuine, the crowd waved lighters in the air instead of cell phones. The band took the opportunity to talk about mental health and how their hope as a band is to help people see the value in their lives. It was a really wonderful time and something that’s much needed in the alt scene.

They played a two song encore and ended the show with “Where Do We Go When We Go”, which was honestly the perfect song to end such a great show with. It was high energy and the final track on the album, so it tied everything together nicely. It was a great night and I hope I’ll get the opportunity to see them live again.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva 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.

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The Killers Take “Wonderful Wonderful” on the Road

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Killers. It’s not to say that I have anything against them, I just never found a spot for them in my library. Other than their magnum opus, “Mr. Brightside”, and a few other tracks, I’ve never really delved into their discography.

That being said, I was hanging out with some friends recently and they were telling me about how they were going to Boston to see the band that evening but that one of them had backed out and that there was an extra ticket. They asked if I wanted to go and I agreed. Their latest album Wonderful Wonderful was released in September of last year and was announced to be the final album from the band, so I figured it was now or never.

The opener they chose for the tour was a gentleman named Alex Cameron. He has writing credits on a few of the songs from Wonderful Wonderful. Even though that album is great, I didn’t think Alex Cameron was anything to write home about. Granted, I’m very picky when it comes to music. He has an 80’s pop vibe, and, even though that’s a genre I’ve been exploring more and more lately, Alex Cameron’s take on it didn’t appeal to me.

The show started a bit late so I know he probably had to cut a few songs from his setlist. The only song that really stood out to me was the final song he played, titled “Marlon Brando”. It featured a super cool saxophone solo that brought a bit of interest to what was otherwise a strange set. Alex Cameron is better on his recordings, so if you’re inclined, he also released an album in September of last year called Forced Witness.

Next up were The Killers. Since it was the Wonderful Wonderful album tour, it was only fitting that they open with the title track. My concert buddies and way-bigger-fans-of-The-Killers-than-me discussed at length whether they’d play the conch shell sound at the beginning of the show and I regret to inform anyone excited by that prospect that they did not. I thought it was a strange opener as it’s more of a mellow track, but I suppose when you’re Brandon Flowers you can play whatever the heck you want.

Each Killers album was pretty well represented during the performance. They mostly played songs from their first album, Hot Fuss, but I didn’t complain because that meant I knew a few more songs. They chose an interesting theme, stage-presence wise. Brandon Flowers’ piano was encased in what appeared to be the Mars symbol and the three female back-up singers’ mics were encased in the Venus symbol. The backup singers were a fantastic touch; really talented ladies, but not at all what I expect from The Killers. I guess I still think it’s 2005 and expected to find Brandon Flowers wearing guyliner or something. Oh well.

The setlist was really well put together and shows just how long they’ve been doing this. They played a lot of fan favorites and deep cuts, and even played my favorite song, “When You Were Young”. Brandon then stated that it was, “time for them to go to New York City,” and went to leave the stage, accompanied by protests from the crowd. Naturally, they came back and played “Mr. Brightside” and my night was made. It was an impressive set and I’m glad I took the opportunity to experience it. The tour ends in July in Paris, France, so you’ve got plenty of time to make it to a show.

After arriving home at 1 a.m. the next morning, I saved all of their albums and plan on listening to them chronologically and truly educating myself. I’m a real fan of The Killers now, folks.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva 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.

mewithoutYou Celebrate 15 Years of “[A→B] Life” on Recent Tour

If I had to describe mewithoutYou’s recent stop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in one sentence, it would be this: “Come watch Aaron Weiss shred the flowers taped to his mic stand while he screams the lyrics to ‘Gentleman’.” I watched their stagehand come through with a bouquet and duct tape in between guitar tuning and soundcheck. I smiled and thought about how sweet it was, not even realizing how insane their set would be. This show was my first experience seeing mewithoutYou and I was not disappointed. All three bands that played were full of raw energy and talent.

The first band to take the stage was Slow Mass. Based in Chicago, they are one of the most talented opening acts I’ve seen this year. The energy they exude is completely infectious. I love seeing a band interact with one another on stage; I love a band who is in touch with all of their members, equally. The bassist stood out for her intricate and unique playing, as well as for her use of subtle vocals. Their second song, “Dark Dark Energy” especially displayed their creativity and originality. I never wanted their set to end.

Slow Mass

I feel like bands choosing support for their tours have been more intentional and considerate, and it has paid off. Some of the best bands I’ve heard have been opening acts and it thrills me to see newer bands going on the road with bands who are seasoned and getting to watch today’s opening bands grow into their sound and eventually become tomorrow’s headliners.

I typically grab my merch before the show so I was all set by the time Slow Mass took the stage. Needless to say, I made another purchase after their set and let the band know how impressed I was. (Seriously, look them up – you won’t be disappointed). They’re loud and heavy and drove their sound forward in a way that really ignited the crowd and got us into the mood for the rest of the night.

The next band was Pianos Become the Teeth. I saw them perform in 2015 with The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and I was so excited to see them play again. Their last album, Keep You, really resonated with me when I first heard it and I enjoyed getting to hear those songs live again. They also played a new song, “Charisma”, and that got me even more pumped for their 2018 release, Wait for Love. They really brought the show into a quieter spot with a lot of their setlist, mostly tracks from Keep You, which was a bit of a break when compared with Slow Mass.

Naturally, the whole reason the Sinclair was full was because of mewithoutYou. A band full of mystery and the topic of whimsical legends, I was excited to see how they’d bring that persona into their stage presence. They played their album [A→B] Life in its entirety, in honor of the 15-year anniversary of its release. The album is known for its heavier sound; I could hear the strain in Aaron Weiss’ voice as he yelled out the lyrics and it brought a new perspective to why they pulled back on a harsher vibe in their later releases.

mewithoutYou

There was actually a date on the tour where he lost his voice and they had to play the whole album acoustically. That was not the case, however, for this particular show, and the crowd was full of energy and raw affection for both the band and the songs that we’ve all been enjoying for a decade and a half.

Everyone around me stopped moshing after the band finished playing [A→B] Life and stood with rapt attention to the stage as Aaron and his brother Mike played the acoustic, hidden track version of “I Never Said That I Was Brave”. Aaron then stayed on stage alone with his acoustic guitar and played “Chapelcross Towns” and “Goodbye, I!” I’ve never heard a venue so quiet before. It was truly a lovely testament to just how much respect mewithoutYou garners. The rest of the band then returned and played five more songs from their discography, my favorite being “Torches Together”.

It’s truly special to be able to go to shows and spend the evening with people who are there with you to celebrate a musical milestone. mewithoutYou has been such a steady musical influence and it was a privilege to be able to experience an album that is still relevant 15 years later.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva 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.

Carly Rae Jepsen Shares the Stage with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

As Carly Rae Jepsen’s devoted following awaits a proper follow-up to 2015’s critically acclaimed Emotion, the pop songstress has done little to slow down. Last year’s Emotion: Side B was a killer collection of B-sides that felt like a completely new album. Throw in a role in Fox’s Grease Live, the release of 2017 song of the summer contender “Cut to the Feeling”, and an upcoming opener slot on Katy Perry’s Witness tour, and Jepsen has kept a full schedule.

In the midst of it all, Jepsen found time to perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on November 21. While the initial announcement of the performance garnered varied reactions, the night itself lived up to every possible expectation.

While covering Jepsen’s Gimmie Love Tour in 2016, I remarked on the joyfulness of Carly’s audience and her unique ability to liven a room. A year later, even the confines of an orchestral performance inside the gorgeous Hilbert Circle Theater in Indianapolis couldn’t hold onlookers in their seats.

Such a performance requires a bit more than mere stage presence, to be sure. Without the familiar comfort of her backing band and tracks, no backup singers, and accompanied by one of the most renowned symphonies in the world, Jepsen held her own. From the opening moments of “Run Away with Me”, preceded by a beautiful introductory arrangement, Jepsen’s voice filled the auditorium.

Throughout the evening, Carly showcased her vocal abilities, hitting big notes with ease on tracks like “Making the Most of the night” and “When I Needed You”. Perhaps even more impressive than her pitch-perfect delivery was her knack for morphing her unique brand of pop to fit new arrangements. It’s hard to imagine a song like “Cut to the Feeling” meshing with strings and woodwind instruments until you hear it for yourself in such a setting. Give credit to the Indianapolis Symphony for capturing the heart of these songs in new and exciting ways.

Just as sections of the crowd near the stage would begin to stand and move with the music, strategically placed intermissions allowed for Jepsen to exit as the symphony played classical pieces. Still, as the night progressed, performances of “Boy Problems” and “Call Me Maybe” ended any reverence for the theater setting. By the time Jepsen returned for an encore of “I Really Like You”, the auditorium aisles had transitioned to narrow dancefloors.

The point here is that the joy of a Carly Rae Jepsen performance is not determined by setting or arrangement. Standing in front of an orchestra, dressed in gown and heels, Jepsen not only held her own as a vocal performer, but shared the joy of the moment with her audience in a way that so few artists can. That’s a talent that doesn’t fade quickly, and it’s why so many of us are so excited for what comes next.

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.

Third Eye Blind Stand the Test of Time

In the summer of 1997, I purchased an album with my own money. As a kid who was about to enter his 8th grade year, this was a big deal, considering that my income consisted of earnings from mowing lawns. In those days, I was lucky to have the nearly $20 required to purchase a compact disc from Sam Goody.

I purchased Third Eye Blind’s debut self-titled album because, like everyone else that summer, I heard “Semi-Charmed Life” endlessly on the radio and fell in love with a song filled with content far beyond my understanding. I loved the melody. I loved Stephan Jenkins’ offhand delivery. And most importantly, I loved that my mom wasn’t really into it.

Two decades later, Third Eye Blind is still one of my favorite records, even though my innocence has worn away and I rarely find myself enchanted with the carefree “doo doo doos” of life. In the time since the summer before 8th grade, songs like “Losing a Whole Year” and “Narcolepsy” have come to hold actual, painful meaning.

Needless to say, the feelings are complicated when the lights go up and Jenkins croons, “Losing a whole year” just before the guitars spill out of the monitors at White River State Park in Indianapolis.

Silversun Pickups

Jenkins and drummer Brad Hargreaves are the only remaining members from those early days of the band, as the past 20 years have brought their share of turmoil. Regardless, it’s hard not to be impressed with Third Eye Blind’s resilience and relevance, especially when considering the fate of so many of their peers. The Summer Gods Tour is a celebration the band’s debut, but also feels like a victory lap for Jenkins.

Silversun Pickups are along for the ride this summer, serving as a shining example of where indie rock has exceled in the wake of the 90s. In fact, you could argue the success of bands like Silversun Pickups as offering a platform for Third Eye Blind’s revival in the latter part of the last decade. Their set offers the perfect bridge to the night’s main act.

Summer Gods is a reference from the song “Weightless” from last year’s We Are Drugs EP and opens the set with Third Eye Blind occupying a stage at the back of the actual stage. It’s a Jenkins move, to be sure, but on this night, photographers are invited to spend the entire set in the pit, dispelling any fear of getting a good shot. By the time the band’s six-song intro is finished, Jenkins stands alone at the front of the stage. We watch with our cameras down as he gives a slightly hyperbolic but heartfelt speech about the impact of his debut.

Third Eye Blind

Until you witness these songs in this setting, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of this album. Every damn song is a hit, but not in a mindless sense. Many of us can remember the real conversations we had about the meaning of “Jumper” and how it impacted the way we treated those around us. We shouted along to “Graduate”, eager to move on to a new stage of life. “Motorcycle Drive By” became a bleeding-heart anthem for first breakups in the pre-Chris Carrabba days.

Each song pulsing into the summer night is another reminder of just how good this album is. It’s also a reminder of how hard it is to craft timeless music. The late 90s were littered with pop songs that sounded hollow in the years that followed. Jenkins, with his Gen-X indifference, drug references, and knack for flipping the light on dark subject matter in unexpected ways, has shrugged away the harsh reality of time, against nearly all odds.

In 1997, I didn’t expect to be listening to Third Eye Blind 20 years later. My foresight rarely expanded beyond the upcoming weekend. Nevertheless, it’s always nice when you can look back at a moment of your youth and be proud of your judgment, even if it was mostly superficial – 8th grade Kiel spent his $20 well.

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.

Pierce the Veil Explode on We Will Detonate Tour

A masked intruder enters the stage from behind a curtain, greeted by the screams of those in attendance at the Egyptian Room in downtown Indianapolis. As the anticipation builds, the masked man ignites a box labeled “TNT,” dropping the curtain and unleashing a wave of streamers and confetti as Pierce the Veil rip into rapid opener “Texas is Forever”.

It was just two years ago that the post-hardcore act from San Diego graced this very same stage as I pondered the extended wait for their fourth full-length album. That release came at long last in 2016 with Misadventures, an album that not only lived up to expectations, but deserved another full U.S. trek that has now arrived in the form of the “We Will Detonate!” tour.

Emarosa

But before we get ahead of ourselves, this tour is far more than a victory lap for Pierce the Veil, but also includes a band nearing the top of their game and another band that helped pave the way for the scene as we know it.

Since taking over as lead vocalist for Emarosa, Bradley Walden has been elevating the band’s sound to new heights. Last year’s 131 was a triumph, shedding the notion of what a post-hardcore band could accomplish by embracing pop sensibilities and handling its heartbreaking subject matter with sensitivity and honesty.

Before the opening notes of “Sure” can reach the back of the venue, Walden has jumped into the crowd, where he’ll spend a good portion of the band’s energetic set. Despite the somber tone of some of the band’s newer tracks, Walden and company ramp up the energy of the crowd through their performance. The crowd joins in on the vocal action during single “Helpless” and “Young Lonely”, assisting Walden, whose golden pipes require very little help in belting out every note.

Sum 41

Next up is Sum 41, whose 2016 album 13 Voices finds the band in a sort of resurgence. Although never truly absent from the scene, this collection of surprisingly aggressive material has seemingly breathed new life into the band, which shows during performances of “Fake My Own Death” and “Goddamn I’m Dead Again”.

Deryck Whibley has always been a joy to watch on stage, carrying himself like a true punk elder statesman. Transitioning from smirk to scowl, Whibley leads the crowd in sing-alongs as they rip through their set. Even though it’s a blast to hear new material, there’s still nothing quite like singing along to classics like “In Too Deep” and “Fat Lip”, which sound just as good as ever.

As Pierce the Veil explode into the evening’s final set, it’s easy to see why they remain one of the most electric bands in the genre. Per usual, their stage presence is on point with lead guitarist Tony Perry and bassist Jaime Preciado bounding across the stage amid flashes of light. Vocalist Vic Fuentes commands the crowd from behind the mic while his brother Mike powers the set forward from his drum kit, appropriately mounted atop a giant stack of dynamite.

Pierce the Veil

Something that feels slightly lost in the buzz surrounding Misadventures is the fact that the band recently passed the decade mark, with their debut album A Flair for the Dramatic turning 10 years old this year. Placed amidst hits from Misadventures and Collide with the Sky, the band take time to play classics like “Yeah Boy and Doll Face” and “Stay Away From My Friends”. These moments serve as reminders that Pierce the Veil have been on the rise for a while now, and these older songs are still just as fun to sing along to as they were when the band were sweating out club shows in the late aughts.

Pierce the Veil continue to set the standard for this scene, not only in terms of inventive post hardcore, but with their dedication to extraordinary live performances. I’ve seen songs like “Caraphernelia” and “King for a Day” played countless times at this point, but it’s still a blast to see the energy the band brings to the stage show after show. If we’re lucky, our next wait for new music and another grand tour to show it off won’t last four long years.

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.

Mayday Parade Celebrate 10 Years of “A Lesson in Romantics”

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.

Mayday Parade

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.

Mayday Parade

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_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.

Panic! at the Disco Owns the Spotlight at Jingle Jam

panic-jingle-jam-splash

“Welcome to the end of eras / Ice has melted back to life / Done my time and served my sentence / Dress me up and watch me die”

As 2016 comes to a close, there’s a lot of validation to be felt if you’re Brendon Urie. Earlier this year, Death of a Bachelor became Panic! at the Disco’s first number one album on the Billboard 200, and the resulting success landed Urie his first Grammy nomination just a few weeks ago. As it turns out, taking full creative control of Panic has transformed the singer into a bonafide pop star and creative genius.

With snow and ice on the ground and a mighty chill in the air, Urie took the stage as the headliner for this year’s WZPL Jingle Jam, an annual holiday concert event in Indianapolis. While the previous night saw X Ambassadors take top billing, this evening’s event welcomed up and coming pop performer Daya and hip hop newcomer Jon Bellion in addition to Panic! at the Disco.

Panic! at the Disco

Panic! at the Disco

When I interviewed Urie in the spring of 2011, Panic had just released Vices and Virtues, the band’s first release featuring Brendon as primary songwriter and first without founding members Ryan Ross and Jon Walker. Sensitive and thoughtful, Urie was quick to note his fears and hesitations during the writing process of that album and how he often felt overwhelmed with creative responsibility. It’s amazing to see the same man nearly six years later so full of confidence, belting out, “The crown, so close I can taste it / I see what’s mine and take it” while absolutely owning the spotlight.

In the decade since Panic! at the Disco’s theatrical emergence into the public eye, Brendon Urie has become far more than a pretty face with an even prettier voice. In front of a solid out crowd at the Pan Am Plaza in downtown Indianapolis, he is the main attraction and he knows it. Once a stoic vocalist standing civilly at the mic, Urie is now a full-fledged performer, bounding (and even back-flipping) about the stage with swagger. You don’t dare take your eyes off him.

Panic! at the Disco

Panic! at the Disco

Stabilizing moments come when Urie sings a rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” or when he sits behind the piano for a performance of “Nine in the Afternoon”, the sole song on the setlist from 2008’s Pretty. Odd., which now feels like it released a lifetime ago. Most of the night is spent splashing in the revelry of Death of a Bachelor and even the sensual gloom of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. In an unexpected twist of fate, it is no longer the emo glamor of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” that the crowd clamors for. This new era of Panic is connecting with a whole new audience.

Earlier this year, I panned Death of a Bachelor as indulgence of the highest order. Lines like “I’m not as think as you drunk I am” still don’t excite me, but it’s impossible to not be impressed at how well Urie has played his cards. He has not only weathered the loss of multiple band members and creative contributors, he has taken the reins of a project that could have easily imploded and made it something his own, learning all of the necessary tools along the way to ensure it succeeds.

At times on stage, Urie takes on the character of drunken stupor and carousing that bleeds throughout Bachelor, perfectly executing to the crowd’s delight. He’s the life of the party with seeming ease and you can sense his confidence. There’s no need for makeup or costume – instead, Urie shines simply through self-assured performance, the new Sinatra for the Snapchat era. It’s certainly a bit brash and bright for some tastes, but it has the potential to make the success of 2016 something that repeats itself. Lord knows, he’s earned it.

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.

Copeland: Cracking Nostalgia in Chicago

copeland-splash

The Double Door is one of those classic music venues in Chicago that almost seems like a stereotype – tucked beneath a train line, it could appear to be a graffiti riddled wall easy to overlook. Inside, it shows its age with darks walls, dim lights and the vinyl-gleamed stucco that old buildings brandish like tattoos. This place was made for music, and even though its location seems pushed to the side, everyone in the city knows and respects its reputation.

There couldn’t be a better location for Copeland’s Now/Then tour. A band who has never particularly been directly in the spotlight, they have caught the attention of the highest aspects of the scene, be that vocalist Aaron Marsh’s recommendation plastered on the cover of arena-rockers Paramore’s debut album or gathering powerhouse talents like Ace Enders and Kenny Vasoli to open for their (first) farewell tour.

The Now/Then tour is an ethereal experience that might focus on the “best of,” but it encompasses every aspect of what makes them such a unique brand. Their writing is nearly orchestral in arrangement, which lends to the fact that they’re one of the few musical acts that might actually sound more polished live than recorded. With a tour structured on working backwards through their discography, Copeland have shown not particularly their growth as a band, but how well-crafted their music has been since Beneath the Medicine Tree came out 13 years ago.

rae-cassidyWith the floor filled with talkative hipsters finding the happy medium between a light buzz and shouting conversation, opener Rae Cassidy took the stage. Armed with three violinists and a ukulele, Cassidy set right in, lightly plucking against the swell of violins. Her voice, bright and powerful, seemed to silence the crowd instantly, with a round of shushing sweeping the back of the room.

A mix of pop and indie R&B, her music was a perfect hybrid of someone who seemed influenced by Copeland’s softness, but embraced multiple genres to flesh itself out, unafraid to let the violins and gentle pauses lead the song. Though the music was soft, her voice was beautiful.

Standing center stage like a princess in a summer dress, she sang with command. I couldn’t help but think of a female Kenny Choi from Wolftron (and Daphne Loves Derby) with country and folk influence imbued with the purpose of Lorde. I was left wondering not only how I had never heard of her before, but also how long it would be before she became a household name.

copeland-3While finishing her last song, Copeland took the stage, becoming her backing band while perfectly transitioning from her setlist to theirs. Their first song, “Not So Tough Found Out” (featuring Rae Cassidy!) suddenly became “Chin Up” as Rae left the stage, only to crop back up throughout the night to provide backing vocals. Her violinists remained on the side, adding to almost every song they played.

Split into two distinct playlists, their first set contained music exclusively from You Are My Sunshine and Ixora, including the version of “Ordinary” off of the companion Ixora: Twin album. It was a perfect ploy to lure back the drop-off fans, who listen to nothing but the “classic” albums. It’s easy to say that a band “doesn’t sound like they used to,” but watching them work backwards, it became obvious that Copeland has known their trajectory all along. It was fascinating to hear the crowd singing along louder with each song as they became more familiar with the material.

After an intermission, they returned to play from their better-known albums, In Motion and Eat, Sleep, Repeat. As expected, this set was much more energetic. Not only because the crowd as a whole knew the words to every song, but because it included the few pop songs with Aaron Marsh on guitar, including “No One Really Wins”. Paired against and after their new material, there was a distinct awareness of just how talented the band was in their younger years compared to their peers. Their first albums didn’t sound like a band finding itself, with singles that sound out of place compared to their current material. “You Have My Attention” stood out as it closed the set with Marsh hitting the perfect high note against the rapidly swelling guitars.

copeland-2After stepping away for just a second, Copeland reappeared for their encore: a full six song set from Beneath the Medicine Tree, arguably their most famed record. Featuring “Take Care”, “When Paula Sparks”, “Coffee” and ending on the bittersweet “California”, the band melted the room into an intoxicating atmosphere of nostalgia and profound romance.

Now/Then is a simple, but effective concept that manages to blur the line between a greatest hits tour and a timeline of artistry that shows the complexity and craft of a band unlike anything else in their genre. They may be tucked away from the obvious, but they were built for this all along.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 has now seen Copeland three times, twice awkwardly opening for punk bands, but holding their own. Aaron Marsh once hit the high note in “You Have My Attention” for what felt like a solid minute. He is for sure over exaggerating the recollection, but the crowd lost its mind cheering Marsh on as he tried to hold it as long as possible. Good times. Better than yours.

 

Craig Owens Takes the Stage as badXchannels

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The small stage at the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis looks slightly bigger than normal as Craig Owens walks into the spotlight. On this evening, the proclaimed frontman of post-hardcore fame is not flanked by flailing guitarists or even a drummer. Unaccompanied, Owens takes the stage for the first time as badXchannels, his latest solo persona.

It’s the night before the release of WHYDFML, his R&B influenced debut EP, and it’s difficult to gauge expectations. Owens has rarely failed to produce quality music, regardless of those surrounding him, yet this particular endeavor seems like a risk. Furthermore, with only a small collection of badXchannels songs, is there enough material to make the set pop?

Marina City

Marina City

Before we find out, the night kicks off with Marina City, an unsigned pop rock act from Chicago that finds themselves on the cusp of a breakthrough. Their set is extremely tight for an opener, with vocalist Ryan Argast hitting a groove early on and getting the crowd involved. Before the band finishes, they climb down to the floor for a campfire-ish acoustic number, encircled by a crowd that seems happy to sing along.

Following an energetic set from Marina City comes Colours, an act newly signed to Victory Records. The duo, comprised of Kyle Tamo and Morgan Alley, feels like a true primer for badXchannels – deep bass and crisp synthesizers fill the room as Colours unleashes their own brand of smooth R&B pop. Tamo captures the sultry feel of his songs with his stage presence as he patiently delivers hooky payoff on tracks like “Monster” and “Gone”.

Once the music dies down and the stage is stripped of neon lights and fog, it feels oddly barren. Aside from a small table at the back of the stage for an accompanying DJ, the open space belongs to Owens, who takes the stage devoid of the ski mask he donned for press photos and his first badXchannels music video. Tonight, he’s just a man in a hoodie who has some songs to share.

Gone is the frantic frontman of bands like Chiodos and D.R.U.G.S. – here, Craig Owens is confident and loose during his songs and humble and grateful between takes. This opening night performance feels intimate and personal.

badXchannels

badXchannels

It’s true – the set is short. Owens performs the five songs from WHYDFML with scattered thoughts shared in between. Each track feels vibrant and full of potential in a live setting, particularly the dark, simmering “You Know I Will” which finds Owens crooning, “I mix my vices with vice / It makes the devil on my shoulder seem nice / She’s playing princess, no lie / I won’t stop her, you can save it, I tried”.

True to his word, these new songs share a striking resemblance to the sinful R&B emissions of The Weeknd, both in tone and message. From the quirky beat and syrupy delivery of “Same Thing Every Day” to the delicate movements of “Complicated”, Owens sounds on point. It’s a complete departure from anything he’s ever done, but at this moment in time, it sounds like the perfect move.

From the stage, Owens shares that he considered stepping away from performance to focus on producing, but just couldn’t seem to give up singing. badXchannels clearly offers him that opportunity in an unexpected form and WHYDFML is a pleasant surprise from front to back.

Before ending his set, Owens’ DJ throws on “No Problem” by Chance the Rapper, leading Owens to climb down into the crowd. “Let’s jump!” he shouts as those in attendance join in on the celebration. This new iteration of Craig Owens is up close and personal for now. With the right moves, badXchannels could find its way to bigger stages in the very near future.

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.