Goodnight Hiroyuki: A Night with Justin Courtney Pierre

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“I went to the show last night. It was like shitty Beach Boys.” – Justin Pierre

Tonight was the first show of Justin Courtney Pierre’s first solo tour. Seeing Motion City Soundtrack live half a dozen times over the years, I am familiar with Pierre’s stage presence. Tonight was something new. Pushing through nerves, Pierre spoke at length with the crowd between songs and gave those in attendance a night just for them. His tour will undoubtedly get tighter by the end of its run. But on his first solo show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Justin joked to the crowd the best summary of his entire solo venture.

“I’m incredibly nervous. I talked to my daughter before the show, and she said, ‘You’ll do great, dad!’ I said, ‘Shut up, idiot.’”

Opening the show was surprise darling, Pronoun. I had never heard of them before, but like many others tonight, I’m a fan for life. It says a lot about a band when, after the show, more people are holding their vinyls instead of the headliner. Surprisingly simple, their songs contain an insane amount of melody.

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Pronoun

Pronoun, headed by singer/ guitarist Alyse Vellturo, are what rock stars are made of. Watching them play, I couldn’t help but think of the manga Nana, and seeing character Nana Osaki bend rock music to her will. Each song swam with a full, rich sound that made it seem like twice as many musicians took the stage. Despite Vellturo nervously telling the crowd, “This song only uses two chords,” (or “This one uses three!”) Pronoun are remarkably talented.

If nothing else, Pronoun played a song that “they hoped to record some time.” I assume it will eventually be a single. Though unsure of what the title of it is, it’s the type of song that can instantly turn a small band into a sensation.

By contrast, Justin Courtney Pierre was loose. He warned the crowd before the first song, “Some of the melodies and words might change. That’s not on purpose.” Where Motion City maintained a tight, coordinated live show, Pierre allowed his solo work room to breathe. The band had only practiced a hand full of times before hitting the road. Music stands were placed front and center, with Pierre eyeing pages of lyrics and/or sheet music before and during songs.

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Justin Courtney Pierre

In The Drink was played in its entirety, broken up with a great mix of songs from Pierre’s career. An older song written for a gay youth site, “Everything That Hurts” was played alongside a new solo song, complete with surfer rock vibe (see the ‘Beach Boys’ quote above) that will be released on an upcoming EP, My Girl Margot.

More than anything, Pierre had the chance to talk to the audience and try something new. Between each song, he’d talk at length with the crowd, changing topics and regularly filling the room with laughter. After one interaction asking about asthma medications, when someone from the crowd shouted, “Doctor says yes!”, Pierre instantly shot back, “You’re not a doctor!”

This solo tour allowed Pierre a chance to play anything. Rushed to learn the songs, the band flew through three Farewell Continental songs, including one called “Tossing and Turning” that he hopes will be on FC’s next release. When it came time for Motion City Soundtrack, Pierre took the stage alone. He wanted to play “without feeling like he was cheating on MCS,” and only played songs that he brought to the band in the first place. Requesting the audience to help sing, he played through intimate versions of “It Had To Be You”, “When You’re Around” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die”.

At this point, it’s impossible to tell if the rest of Justin Pierre’s solo tour will follow the same path, or if this truly is a chance for him play with his live shows and look for something new each night. But if this was him at the height of his insecurities on stage, Pierre is about to start something truly special.

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 just realized he was petting a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. Boooooo.

Review: Hellogoodbye – S’only Natural

Hellogoodbye has become an indie darling through a daring evolution of synth pop. Hellogoodbye mature each album cycle into something new. However, the risk is that sometimes these projects have mixed results. S’only Natural, the band’s newest album, is an infuriating record that I loved and hated in equal measure for the first two weeks after its release. However, after seeing Hellogoodbye live, I can finally appreciate the album in a way that otherwise may not have been possible.

Hellogoodbye played the Subterranean in Chicago two weeks after the release of S’only Natural. I have seen the group live twice before, and am familiar with the energy of their performances. However, this show lacked the stacked keyboards and intimacy of a ukulele. Instead, a glitzy golden sheet flowed across the stage with the words “Club Forrest” emblazoned on in in bright neon. Singer Forrest Kline strode across the stage in a lounge suit, dancing with a relaxed swagger. That’s the moment that S’only Natural finally clicked.

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Hellogoodbye

S’only Natural is a disco record. It is arguably the best instrumentation of Hellogoodbye’s career. The bass lines are extraordinarily melodic (“S’only Natural”). The guitars are restrained, but flesh out a full-bodied sound encouraging the listener to dance. The keyboards take their time and play a more integral, natural element to the music (“Let It Burn”). Additionally, the percussion is relaxed, but rich. While no song finds the frenetic pace of past records, the beats find a healthy balance between dance numbers and somber tones that perfectly match the bass (“Hang Loose”).

Trumpets, violin, and piano also take center stage at key points. Both “Overture” songs, which start and end the album, are primarily gorgeous violin ballads that sound straight out of the 1950’s.

One of the key things about S’only Natural is that it is a full, single piece. Many songs seem to bleed into the next, or end in such a way that it sets up the next perfectly. It keeps the album moving, but also can cause many songs to sound remarkably similar if you’re not paying attention. The music is amazing, but it lacks the variety of past records. It’s not until after the album is already done that you really see the crescendo of the first half and the soft ballads that swell to end the record (“Mysterious You”).

The most off-putting part of the album is singer Forrest Kline. For a singer who is so full of creativity, he takes zero chances with S’only Natural. Every song is sung in the same quiet pitch, with a backing track of himself almost whispering. Each song, I expected him to finally put a bit of effort into his voice, but instead maintains the same tone and quiet drawl. It’s maddening and beautiful at the same time. At times, it almost renders the lyrics useless.

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Hellogoodbye

After multiple listens over several weeks, I still had no opinion of this album. It was fun and boring, vibrant and bland at the same time. Which is why it seemed so odd to watch Forrest confidently strut in front of the mic stand. There was far more energy here than anything on the album. Opening the set with album closer “Honeymoon (Forever)”, Kline crooned over the soft taps of the snare and a keyboard, “I will come away with you / You look like you know what to do / Missing both your shoes, disheveled and amused / I’m in love with you”. Gliding over the gold blanket, the lounge jacket buttoned tight, the soft nature of his voice made absolute sense. Even during faster, poppier songs when the percussion and keyboards picked up volume to a staggering pitch, such as “Put It Out”, Kline simply crooned. “You were the autumn that bathed me in gold / And I’m a fool that thinks you were a flame I could hold”.

Almost the entire setlist of the live show was from S’only Natural, with only a few select favorites and fan requests from other albums peppered throughout. By night’s end, S’only Natural finally made sense to me. The instrumentation was the true star of this record. While the band’s music evolved over past records, Kline’s voice and lyrics always seemed to take center stage. This album is a jam. It wants you to dance. It wants anyone listening to be able to sing along with minimal effort. The confidence to play mostly new songs live plays straight into the album’s strength. And while past albums became poppier, S’only Natural looks back at the classic sounds and styles that influenced today’s music. The result is a romantic blend of current dance beats and crooner swing.

S’only Natural is an anomaly of an album. It’s soft, restrained and bursting with energy all at once. Though the lyrics are catchy, they’re a device to bring more attention to the music itself. This era of the band is just as progressive as it is classical. The mountainous bass lines eventually give way to gentle ballads that culminate in a rich album that forces listeners to discover the band’s music in a completely new way. S’only Natural isn’t an album for everyone, but it rewards anyone willing to put in the effort.

3.5/5

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 realized Forrest Kline was standing behind him watching the opening band. When Kyle introduced himself to Forrest, he said, “We’ve actually met before in Columbus. You grabbed my nipples [because I complimented Joseph Morro instead of you].” Forrest looked shocked, took a drink and then danced away into the crowd. He is literally the best people.

 

Holding It Down with Noah Kahan in Indianapolis

The first time I heard Noah Kahan, he was featured on a mixtape my boyfriend made for me in the early days of our relationship. “Hold It Down” has always held a special place in my personal music history; although it isn’t a love song, the beautiful, honest lyrics always elicit the nostalgia associated with building my relationship. Now, after almost two years of following Noah Kahan’s music (and dating the same boyfriend), I was so excited to attend this show at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis.

Noah Kahan

Noah’s discography hosts a collection of singles, and his five-song EP, Hurt Somebody, released in January 2018. Although they all vary in theme and tempo, every recording speaks to Noah’s authenticity as a songwriter. Listening to all of his music in the lead up to the concert, I was looking forward to how that would translate in a live setting.

Noah Kahan took the stage and immediately set the tone, calling, “Are you ready to hear some sad songs tonight?” He certainly did not disappoint on that front, but his set was so much more interesting than just a loop of sad songs. The raspiness of Noah’s voice does not come through in his recordings, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear it when he sang “Hallelujah” and covered “Jolene” by Ray LaMontagne.

The audience was invested, too, bouncing along to the driving acoustic guitar and sing-along chorus of “Fine” and “False Confidence”, which was recently featured on Spotify’s Pop Rising playlist. Noah’s band added so much to the performance, too – everyone was obviously having a great time. The bassist held it down while drinking a few Indianapolis-native Sun King beers, and the guitarist had an awesome solo jam at the end of the main set. Noah mentioned he would be the “Jewish Ed Sheeran” without his band, which was a hilarious and probably very true statement.

Noah Kahan

Noah’s storytelling ability was highlighted in both his singing and set transitions. He told his backstory as an artist in small-town Vermont, posting under a pseudonym on SoundCloud so people wouldn’t make fun of him at school. Noah recounted meeting his future manager in a public place with this parents, “just in case he was a pedophile.” He talked about getting high in New York with someone he barely knew, then writing about it just because he “needed a new single” (“Come Down”). I walked away more invested in Noah’s music, especially due to the dry humor he uses to talk about it.

Noah finished the show with “Young Blood”, singing about the early days as a struggling artist: “four years of driving across the country / For empty seats at their shows”. But, in a true testament to his music, the room was full of fans singing along with him. I felt lucky to be a part of this show, in a small bar venue in Indianapolis, at what I believe is only start of an amazing career for Noah Kahan.

by Katie Baird

kiel_hauckKatie Baird is a lover of music that firmly believes transitions between songs on playlists matter, albums are made to be listened to in order, and songs that don’t mention the title in the lyrics are just *better.” Her music obsession began with classic rock records and has evolved to include all genres, with a soft spot for alt pop. While she could talk about music all day, this is her first time writing about it.

The Devil Wears Prada Turn Back the Clock for Anniversary Tour

The Devil Wears Prada have been a part of my life for over a decade, first as a kind of scene-core guilty pleasure and later as a band that expanded my heavy music palate. Attending the 10th anniversary tour for the band’s third studio album, With Roots Above and Branches Below, serves as a reminder of how far the band has evolved and how much I still enjoy those cheesy early moments.

I remember hearing Mike Hranica’s shriek of, “I know a ghost!” followed by the br00talist of breakdowns while attending Warped Tour in 2009, thinking this was what heavy music was supposed to sound like. In a matter of two years, the band’s Zombie EP and Dead Throne would make tracks from With Roots Above sound silly. Even so, revisiting the album leading up to the show and witnessing the anniversary tour itself reminded me how much fun these songs really are.

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In support of the tour, Prada brought along noise rockers ’68, featuring Josh Scogin, formerly of The Chariot and Norma Jean, and Fit For a King, another metalcore act currently five albums deep into a run with Solid State Records, the new home for The Devil Wears Prada. Both set the table well for a night of guttural screams and bass-heavy breakdowns.

After a five song introduction, which includes the band’s recent cover of Julien Baker’s “Sour Breath”, Prada kicks into Roots. What I’m first struck by is how fun it is to sing along to these songs, particularly guitarist/clean vocalist Jeremy DePoyster’s parts. Midway through opening track “Sassafras”, the crowd joins as a choir for Depoyster’s lines of, “What should we ask for? Who should we turn to / If all we know is burning bridges?” It’s a wonderful blast from the past and a delightful preview of what’s in store.

The Devil Wears Prada

Indeed, the crowd is invested and involved, especially for tracks like “Dez Moines”, “Danger: Wildman”, and even the band’s softest track, “Louder Than Thunder”. Each of the album’s 11 tracks features at least one moment that brings the crowd alive – a clear signal of what makes an album special 10 years after its release.

While it’s true that the band would never write parts like the goofy keyboard interlude on “Big Wiggly Style” or default to such cringeworthy song titles post-2009, With Roots Above and Branches Below still serves as a time capsule, marking the moment when The Devil Wears Prada stood atop the scene. Their later work would explore the boundaries of modern metalcore before investigating more ambient and experimental rock sounds, pushing them beyond the Warped Tour crowd and placing them amongst new peers.

It’s almost hard to believe that the band I remember discovering as a group of hungry teenagers is now six full length albums and two EPs deep into their career. While I’ll never hesitate to dive into whatever The Devil Wears Prada releases, I’m grateful for a night allowing me to travel back to an album I had largely written off, forgetting that sometimes it’s okay to head bang to a silly breakdown with a smile on your face.

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.

Jukebox the Ghost Jumpstart the Fun in Indianapolis

In college, when I became president of a student organization, I needed to collect around 75 phone numbers. To make the process of adding contacts less monotonous, I asked each member to send me their name and their favorite song of the moment. I listened to every song that was sent to me and responded with my thoughts; I had a lot of really fun conversations about music and made some new friends. Right away, though, the members of this organization knew two things: I like music, and I like to talk about music (good things to know, in all honesty).

And that is how I discovered “Girl” by Jukebox the Ghost.

Jukebox the Ghost

I was so excited to see Jukebox live. Their recent performance at The Hi-Fi in Indianapolis was a scream-every-word, dance-along, feel-good show; overall, a show I would return to again and again. I love Jukebox for their old-meets-new pop sound. They use keyboard settings that sound exactly like a classic piano, which feels both nostalgic and fresh in a sea of electronic-only pop.

The beginning of “Jumpstarted” is a perfect example; the huge keyboard build of the first 30 seconds culminates in a dance-worthy beat and high-flying vocals. Ben Thornewill (vocals and piano), Tommy Siegel (vocals and guitar), and Jesse Kristin (drums and vocals) tag-teamed noteworthy performances of “Everybody’s Lonely”, “Postcard”, “Time and I”, and “Stay the Night”. I wouldn’t say JukeBox’s lyrics are particularly groundbreaking, but the songs are so catchy. In my opinion, that combination makes great pop music.

It was fun to see a band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. While Jukebox has a discography that could easily fill entire set, they opted to cover some really fun songs. From Electric Light Orchestra to Shania Twain, I was always on my toes and had a great time dancing along. I particularly loved when Jesse, the drummer, stepped out from behind the kit for a cover of “Havana” by Camila Cabello.

Jukebox’s humor and self-deprecation was also a highlight of the show. The keyboard was out of tune, causing the band to restart mid-song at one point. Ben forgot a few lyrics during the encore; he took an audience suggestion of “Victoria” instead. The band members took all of these bumps in stride. It was refreshing to see them laugh and banter during a show in a way that’s not robotic, a risk of some long-term tour shows that can come off a little scripted late in the run.

The Greeting Committee

I also have to give a huge shout out to the opener, The Greeting Committee. I saw them live in Cincinnati about a year ago, and I was absolutely blown away by how much they have improved as musicians. I really appreciate the bands that don’t rest on their laurels, continually working to bring a better sound and show to the audience. Brandon Yangmi’s riffs were spot on and Addie Sartino voice brings an almost grungy, rough-around-the-edges sound.

While it did not make this particular setlist, my favorite song by The Greeting Committee is “Someone Else”. Judging by their newest single, “Don’t Go”, I would definitely recommend keeping an eye out for their new album dropping at the end of this year.

by Katie Baird

kiel_hauckKatie Baird is a lover of music that firmly believes transitions between songs on playlists matter, albums are made to be listened to in order, and songs that don’t mention the title in the lyrics are just *better.” Her music obsession began with classic rock records and has evolved to include all genres, with a soft spot for alt pop. While she could talk about music all day, this is her first time writing about it.

A Night with Paramore on the After Laughter Tour

I have a concert bucket list. This may not be a surprise to anyone, but it’s true. Bands like Turnover, Pianos Become the Teeth and Switchfoot all made the cut and have been successfully crossed off. The band at number one? Paramore.

I’ve been unsuccessful in catching a Paramore show ever since I can remember, but I finally made it. I have now seen virtually every band I’ve ever wanted to see except for bands that are no longer active (My Chemical Romance *sigh*) and the new bands I find and become obsessed with (Off Road Minivan). I’m hoping to catch a Death Cab show later this year.

I don’t really know why I had never made it to a Paramore show. They’ve played Boston plenty of times since I’ve gotten into them but I’ve just always missed it. Usually it’s because of other shows or, if I’m being honest, because ticket prices are sky high. Well, June 20th rolled around and my schedule was free and tickets were approximately $35 (which, when Paramore is involved, is basically free). So I drove two-and-a-half hours to Gilford, New Hampshire, with lawn tickets in hand, prepared to have the best night of my life.

Soccer Mommy and Foster the People were the opening bands, but as stated above, the long drive caused me to miss Soccer Mommy and most of Foster The People’s sets. I got my ticket scanned to the sultry bass tones of “Pumped Up Kicks”. While we were waiting for Paramore to start playing, we heard through the pavilion grapevine that they were upgrading tickets for free. Instead of our lawn tickets, we ended up finding seats closer to the stage to watch Hayley and Co.’s set.

Paramore was incredible. Their concert experience is legendary, akin to fellow Fueled By Ramen acts Twenty One Pilots and Panic! at The Disco. Don’t know what that label is doing, but whatever it is, it’s right. Paramore opened with “Grudges” from their latest full length, After Laughter. It set the tone wonderfully and it was almost tear-jerking to hear Zac Farro, prodigal drummer returned home, sing the background vocal, “Why did we wait so long?” to Hayley’s reply of “To stop holding on”.

The setlist was a really great range of old and new tracks. Noticeably missing, per the usual post-2015, were any tracks from their first album All We Know Is Falling. A highlight was a re-imagined version of “crushcrushcrush”. I actually texted Kiel while they were playing it, saying they’d “After Laughter-ed” it. It had less of the punk sound and they added some 80s synths, which brought a cool new feel to what must be, at this point, an overdone track for the band to perform.

The acoustic portion housed another great set of choices. They played their BBC One cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit”, then “Misguided Ghosts” from 2009’s Brand New Eyes, and finished with “26” from the new album. It was, in a word, poignant. A lot of After Laughter’s songs are full of heavy content, and even though they disguised that aspect with energetic music, it was hard to ignore the evident pain Hayley feels when singing “Forgiveness”.

Another interesting choice was the addition of “No Friend”. This was a spoken word track on After Laughter performed by Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou. Paramore used it as both a jam session and a water break and it was basically epic.

There were several traditions that were kept. One was Zac’s performance of one of his side project songs, which is definitely worth checking out. The other was the choosing of audience members to finish “Misery Business”. These were things I’d only heard about and they were just as wonderful in real time. The band had a three song encore and ended with the lead single from After Laughter, “Hard Times”.

In short, it was the best night of my life. Completely worth the wait, but I left wondering why I hadn’t just gone for it sooner. I can’t wait until they come around 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.

The Unmatched Urgency of Underoath on No Fix Tour

Before last week, I’d never set foot in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and although my sightseeing while inside city limits was minuscule, it did offer an opportunity to keep things fresh. My attendance at the No Fix Tour represented my 8th time seeing Underoath live, now in six different cities.

I say this as a biased fan, but also as someone who has now attended more concerts that I can easily recount: Underoath consistently puts on one of the best live performances on the planet. Their latest stop at Piere’s Entertainment Center, a relatively nondescript mid-sized venue in the middle of Indiana, was still cause for wonder and respect, even after all these years.

Underoath

Even aside from my own fan-boy outpouring, the spectacle of Underoath’s live performance is well documented. What often seems to go unspoken is their ability to stack the bill. Over the years, I’ve seen Underoath bring along bands like As Cities Burn, Every Time I Die, mewithoutYou, letlive., Saosin, The Devil Wears Prada, and the list goes on. The build-up to the main event is always worth watching.

The No Fix Tour once again provides a fresh group of faces for Underoath fans. Limbs, Veil of Maya, and Dance Gavin Dance all provide a worthy warm-up for heavy music fans with a diverse set of sounds. The early rounds are truly won by Dance Gavin Dance, a band in the midst of their own renaissance, ready to drop a new album this year as they roar into their second decade.

PODCAST: Listen to our interview with Chris Dudley of Underoath on the band’s No Fix Tour

Yet, once again, Underoath has a way of making the lead-up feel pedestrian as they take the stage to flashing lights, shadowy synthesizers, and scattered images flashing across the screen behind them. When Spencer Chamberlain takes the mic, unleashing the opening screams of “On My Teeth”, pandemonium ensues.

Underoath

What makes this latest trek for Underoath so exciting is the potential for exploration. The band’s Rebirth Tour focused on two albums from 2004 and 2006, while this current tour celebrates the release of Erase Me while still making room for tracks from other albums like Lost in the Sound of Separation and Ø (Disambiguation). The night is structured around new tracks, but is littered with fan favorites and unsung tracks from the past.

For a band so tied to the nostalgic memories of fans, it’s a treat to watch the crowd sing along to new songs like “Rapture”, “No Frame” and “Bloodlust”. Even unexpected performances of tracks like “A Moment Suspended in Time” and “Paper Lung” elicit delight from the crowd. For a band with such a deep well of diverse tracks to draw from, it makes every performance fresh and exciting, no matter how many shows you’ve attended.

While it’s true that golden oldies like “Writing on the Walls” and “Reinventing Your Exit” still steal the show, there’s no denying that this new incarnation of Underoath is moving forward. Their shows consist of polite nods to the past coupled with a renewed energy to expand their sound and their audience – all while playing with a sense of urgency that is unmatched by their peers. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be a while before I tire of seeing Underoath live.

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 Contagious Joy of Echosmith on Inside a Dream Tour

There’s just something about watching someone do something they truly love that’s genuinely rewarding. It brings a smile to your face and fills your heart. It’s familiar and it can even instill you with confidence about yourself and your own aspirations. That’s the feeling I got watching Echosmith on stage at Old National Center in Indianapolis last week.

Even without a promised new full-length, Echosmith has managed to maintain the steam they generated in late 2013 with single “Cool Kids” and the success of their debut, Talking Dreams.  Last year’s promised new album turned into an EP titled Inside a Dream, which may have been one of the most overlooked releases of 2017, harnessing the band’s charm with the introduction of well-executed synth-pop.

Echosmith

With those new dance beats now in their arsenal, Echosmith’s live performance has morphed into a therapeutic party of excitement and release. As the band took the stage to “18” from their recent EP, singer Sydney Sierota’s smile lit up the room. The band, consisting of siblings Sydney, Noah, and Graham, parted with their eldest brother Jamie in 2016 when he stepped away to care for his newborn. In his absence, the band has carried on without losing a step on stage.

Despite their early success, it’s these unheeded new tracks that steal the show in the band’s live performance. Yes, it’s easy for onlookers to sing along to Talking Dreams tracks like “Let’s Love’, “Terminal”, and “Bright”, but fresh performances of “Future Me”, “Get Into My Car”, and “Hungry” breathe excitement into the crowd. The best moment of the night includes a stirring performance of “Goodbye”, complete with exploding balls of confetti that rain down on the bouncing congregation.

Echosmith

The tracks on Inside a Dream succeed in tackling the frustrations of youth, regret, and heartbreak while operating atop sparkling synth sounds akin to 1989 or the latest release from PVRIS. It’s a juxtaposition that harkens to the band’s early days while providing a look at what it means to say goodbye to your innocence.

All of this is what makes the smile on Sydney’s face as she sings such a joy to watch. At one point during the evening, she asks the crowd who came to the concert alone and invites those nearby to put arms around their shoulders and sway to the song. It’s a communal experience, which makes sense, because Echosmith has continued to so confidently convey what it means to grow up. Does it hurt at times? Of course. But there’s something to be said for finding comfort in those that journey alongside you.

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: Hiding in The Subterranean

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Underoath, appearing in Chicago for a secret show to celebrate the release of their new album,Erase Me, brought with them a day of sacrifice. Freezing temperatures and strong winds mocked those waiting outside The Subterranean for hours for one of the few entrance wristbands, and then again later in the evening just to get inside. However, the effort to make it was rewarded with a short, intimate set with the band that couldn’t have happened any other way.

Small, dark and doing its best to look like a basement, The Subterranean is a small venue. The stage rises just above the crowd and leaves little room between the performers and their fans. It is a perfect venue for cutting out the negative space as much as possible. For those in attendance, it was hard earned.

“I got here around eleven this morning to get a wristband, and the line was already back here,” one guy said as he pointed to the entrance of a Starbucks down the street from the venue. A particularly cold gust of wind caught everyone off guard, but he just shook his head at us. “It was colder this morning.”

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For all of their effort, Underoath appeared and rewarded the crowd of 200 with a short, brutal set. With the audience leaning directly on the stage, vocalist Spencer Chamberlain figuratively, and then literally, stood on top of them.

The secret show was a reward for the diehards. Starting with “On My Teeth”, the 40-minute set traded singles off of Erase Me (“Rapture”, “No Frame”) with some of the most popular songs of old. Announced as dedication for their older fans, Underoath jumped straight into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” and “Reinventing Your Exit”. “Writing on the Walls”, the only song from Define the Great Line closed out the evening.

Keyboardist Christopher Dudley traded smiles with the crowd. Guitarists Timothy McTague, Grant Brandell and James Smith bounded with what limited movement they could muster on the tiny stage. Aaron Gillespie, hidden in dark and masked with fog and shining lights threw all of his energy into decimating the drumset.

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Short, sweet chaos.

For fans, spending the day waiting was worth it. Everyone seemed abuzz with how amazing it had been, all whispers of the cold long forgotten. “I waited 15 years to finally see them,” said one person waiting to retrieve their coat, “I can’t imagine a better way to have seen them for the first time.”

There is an excitement that swallows fans when a band reunites that wraps them in nostalgia. But the energy that follows a new release is something else entirely. If the excitement they showed Chicago to be in full motion once again is any indication, the future of Underoath is promising a lot of great things to come.

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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 got into a Secret show. He is officially cool. Don’t take that away from him…. Please?

Tonight Alive Level Up on Get Free Tour

If you read my review of Tonight Alive’s latest release, Underworld, you’ll know that I thought it was fantastic. It’s poignant, energetic, and everything I was looking for. When they came to Boston, I knew Tonight Alive was a band I wanted to experience up close and personal.

The Get Free Tour started at the beginning of February, and Boston was one of the last dates of the tour. There were four bands in the lineup: Picturesque, Broadside, Tonight Alive and Silverstein.

Tonight Alive

The night actually flowed pretty well, with only about 10 minutes in between sets. I moved around the room a little bit to try to get a better view of the stage (Paradise Rock is set up weirdly) and did manage to find a good spot. Broadside is a band I was excited to see, as their 2015 release Old Bones was a summer favorite of mine. The crowd was into the set, but frontman Ollie Baxter’s attitude and stage presence distracted from the band’s performance, similar to Picturesque’s set before them.

As Tonight Alive took the stage, the band’s progression from a young, scrappy act to seasoned professionals that have come into their own became clear. The band showcased the balanced, energetic stage presence that comes with experience – moving as one unit with everyone equally playing their part.

Tonight Alive

If there was ever a doubt that vocalist Jenna McDougall can sing, it only took their acoustic version of “Oxygen” to dispel the myth. Tonight Alive were high energy and McDougall  really engaged with the crowd. She was attentive to the other guys in the band and the friendships between them seem strong and genuine.

One thing I really appreciated was how McDougall used the entire stage. It’s not a big stage and doesn’t cover the entire length of the floor, but she was intentional in making sure everyone, from the left side of the stage to the balcony, was having a great time and felt like they were part of the experience. She used the time in between songs to drive home a message of freedom and self-esteem.

Tonight Alive

As a newer fan of Tonight Alive, I wasn’t quite as connected with the band as older fans are. They played a lot of tracks from their older albums. I assumed that the majority of the set would be from Underworld, but that wasn’t the case. Each song flowed well and it was evident that they were diligent in choosing their setlist. I chuckled upon realizing that McDougall appeared to have the lyrics to Lynn Gunn’s verse in “Disappear” written on her hand.

Having to sit through the opening sets to get to Tonight Alive’s awesome performance was totally worth it. I hope I can catch them again when they come around, because their energy is completely infectious. The ideas of empowerment and the ability to change the world by changing our thought patterns are so important in today’s culture. Tonight Alive deserves every bit of acclaim they’ve received.

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.