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.

Review: Panic! At The Disco – Viva Las Vengeance

Viva Las Vengeance is a shockingly brilliant album. Brendon Urie and Panic! At The Disco have conquered almost everything there is between the emo scene and the glitzing echelon of the pop world. Instead of trying to outdo quite possibly his best album, Pray For The Wicked, Urie swerved and presented us something far deeper, angrier, and more personal than anything he’s released thus far. Viva Las Vengeance is a Broadway fever dream that channels the sleepless nights when everyone who has done you wrong haunts your dreams with the whimsical beauty only Panic! could deliver.

Viva Las Vengeance is a low-key answer to the band’s divisive sophomore album, Pretty. Odd. This is what Panic!’s second album could have been if they had stylized themselves after classic glam rock instead of The Beatles. 

You can buy or stream Viva Las Vengeance on Apple Music

Because of that, Viva Las Vengeance sounds like Hellogoodbye tried their hand at channeling Queen, adapted it into a Broadway show, and then let Brendon Urie run loose vocally. He shows off the extent of his vocal range while exorcizing demons he’s held since the age of 17 and writing a semi-concept album.

The record is stripped back in terms of what Panic! has written previously. Production lacks the over-the-top glamor and polish associated with a worldwide headliner, but it is astoundingly clean. Every instrument shines through with absurd perfection. Orchestral parts proliferate the album, from swirling violins and frantic trumpets (“Something About Maggie”) to the tambourine almost acting as the main instrument during the chorus (“Local God”). People talk in the background. The results are a lively album that breathes and swoons.

Urie also went off the deep end with time changes and thematic tonal diversions from song to song. After the second chorus in “Sad Clown”, for example, the music tempers itself while the violins and piano swell, almost as if it were the music played during a fight in Final Fantasy. Or in the case of “Something About Maggie”, the music is constantly interrupted by the deep voices of inner conflict before the heavily orchestral pop song sways to become the sound of madness for 15 seconds before resuming the cheery atmosphere it previously bore.

Viva Las Vengeance will be something that people either absolutely adore or hate, much like a stage show. Either way, it feels more personal than anything Urie has ever written. Sandwiched between the lyrics “‘Shut up and go to bed,’ she said,” Urie gets the grievances that have followed him for years off his chest during his rise to fame. Everything on the album is what keeps him up at night.

I saw Panic! perform as an opening act for Blink-182 just a couple of weeks after songwriter Ryan Ross’s departure. Urie stood still on stage in a suit, looking stunned and dejected, as if he were lost. Just a couple years later, he was one of the biggest names in the world, backflipping topless across the stage. At the pinnacle of his stardom, Urie finally seems to have let go of the anger he’d been holding back all along.

It’s in the appropriately named title track that Urie kicks off his ode to Pretty. Odd., Ross’s dream album. “Someone did me wrong, stole my favorite song / Yes, it really hurt”, he sings before chiming, “I don’t wanna be a diva, I just wanna be free / On a sofa with sativa, living the dream.”

“Local God” addresses Ross directly (“You had so many chances to become a star, but you never really cared about that”) as well as the hard early days of the band (“We signed a record deal at 17, hated by every local band”). 

“Sad Clown” goes through the struggles of either Urie or possibly former drummer Spencer Smith with addiction and the need to break free (“I pop a pill to feel euphoria / Five minutes, 10 minutes to half an hour / But not the rest of my life / Leave me alone”). 

Meanwhile, “Say It Louder”, a thunderous rock anthem, shows the stresses of having achieved the fame Urie always set out to gain as he sings, “Everybody hates you now, but don’t you let it break you down / Breakin’ out of your small town, show them what you’re all about”.

In the midst of everything, there’s also possibly a conceptual story involving a ‘God’ (“Local God”, “God Killed Rock and Roll”), a ‘King’ and playing music for the downcast (“Star Spangled Banger”), but looking too deep into it made my head hurt. All I know for sure is that “Star Spangled Banger” is the first song Panic! has ever released that I hope to never hear again. 

Viva Las Vengeance is astounding in many ways. It attacks and overachieves at the idea of what Pretty. Odd. could have been. It’s angry and resentful. It’s elegant, beautiful and so over-the-top that it’s impossible to take seriously as anything other than absolute magic. Panic! At The Disco continue to experiment and remix themselves so deeply it’s hard not to be in absolute awe of the results.

4.5/5

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 is curious how early is too early to put up Halloween decorations in good taste.

Podcast: The Return of Anberlin and the Upcoming Return of Paramore

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We’re back! And so are some of our favorite bands! Since we’ve been gone, Anberlin returned with a new EP titled Silverline, their first new music release in eight years. Nadia Alves joins Kiel Hauck to break down the release and why it feels so surreal to have Anberlin back in our lives. Then the two discuss the upcoming return of Paramore. We know there’s a new album coming, but we don’t know when. We actually don’t know much, at all. But Kiel and Nadia read the tea leaves and speculate about what could be a monumental moment for Hayley Williams and company. Take a listen!

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

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.

Review: Anberlin – Silverline

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We’ve reached the time of year where I begin to put my favorite Anberlin album into heavy rotation. There’s something about the back half of summer that just makes Dark is the Way, Light is a Place sound perfect. It’s an album that marked a sonic change for one of the aughts most revered rock bands, a notion that aligns perfectly with the feelings of coming change that are in the air this time of year.

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You can buy or stream Silverline on Apple Music

Over the course of what we thought were the band’s final three albums, Anberlin leaned hard into new territory, experimenting heavily with influences that they had previously sprinkled throughout their nearly bulletproof discography. By the time Lowborn arrived in 2014 as the band’s swan song, I couldn’t help but wish that there was another chapter or two to explore.

But as we’ve come to find in this scene, nothing is ever really over, and Anberlin is no exception. After a smattering of live performances in 2018 and 2019, the band embarked on a livestream series spanning their full catalogue before finally giving fans a taste of new tunes late last year with “Two Graves”. And now, Silverline, the band’s new EP and first proper release in eight years is here.

I’ll sheepishly admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of “Two Graves” upon its release, but here as the opener to Silverline, the track is kind of perfect. What isn’t quite apparent within each of these tracks alone, is that as a whole, the five songs serve as a fine blend of Anberlin’s past three albums. It’s in the bridge and outro of tracks like “Two Graves” and “Nothing Lost” that you can truly feel the rich textures of sound that the members of Anberlin can so brilliantly build. Credit to Christian McAlhaney and Joseph Milligan for bringing their A-game throughout.

The smooth intro of “Nothing Lost” is everything I’ve been missing from this band. Anberlin have always had a knack for implementing anthemic elements of decades past into their songs, and this song simply soars, particularly once the chorus hits with Stephen Christian singing, “Say nothing is ever gone / Stay here tonight / Stand down, you’re never lost / On the right path, wrong road”. By the time the bridge arrives, the rest of the band is ready to bring the house down.

Perhaps it’s because of this opening one-two punch that the next track, “Body Language”, seems like a slight letdown. It’s a stark change of pace and tone that continues into “Asking”. In a recent interview with Chorus.fm, Christian mentioned that two Silverline tracks were originally Anchor & Braille songs that were held back because he “heard them sonically and lyrically as Anberlin.” It’s easy to see the connection, although the back half of “Asking” begins to crescendo into something familiar to the best parts of Lowborn.

Silverline’s final track, “Circles” is classic Anberlin closer material, full of energy, emotion and a well-deserved sonic payoff that leaves you wanting more. If we’re lucky, maybe this is a new beginning for a band that never really felt like it was ready to call it quits in the first place. For nearly two decades, Anberlin has been a mainstay in a rock scene that felt like its walls couldn’t quite hold what the band was capable of building. Silverline is a worthy new entry into a catalogue full of delightful and unexpected twists and turns.

4/5

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.

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.

Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

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I originally wasn’t going to write anything about the new Emery album, Rub Some Dirt On It. Anyone who has followed my pieces here on It’s All Dead knows my love for Emery and I think I’ve written or talked about almost every one of their albums in the five years since I started contributing here. I just kind of felt I had nothing new to add to the conversation. But where I was lacking inspiration, Emery stepped up and filled in the blanks for me.

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You can buy or stream Rub Some Dirt On It on Apple Music

Rub Some Dirt On It is Emery’s hardest hitting album to date. I think one of the privileges of being a band for 20 years is being able to drop the filter and really lean into the art you want to make. Over the past few years, the scene has often been up in arms over the members of Emery’s podcasts, or artistic choices with album art, or the shift in their lyrical content. A few years ago, they released a song called “People Always Ask If We’re Gonna Cuss in an Emery Song” for God’s sake. They’re basically an ouroboros now, just devouring the criticism and turning it into more incredible and thought-provoking art than ever before. Just when you think it’s quiet on the Emery front, they release a single like “I Don’t Know You At All”, and you’re sucked right back in. If Emery has anything going for them 20 years into their career, it’s their talent for constantly staying in the back of the scene’s mind.

For Rub Some Dirt On It, I wrote off the title as an uber-masculine dude-fest at first, but Emery is at their most vulnerable here. The songs detail church abuse (“Stranger”), the way faith falters over the years (“You Stole God From Me”), and just the regular old guy/gal songs we know and love from South Carolina’s post-hardcore darlings (“You Said Enough”). And just in case we get too overwhelmed or in our feelings over it, they end the album with “Lovely Lady”, a complete turn-around musically, but a cool picture of just how well they mesh as a band, and a fitting closer to a very deep and personal album.

The album has some of Emery’s most interesting instrumentation, and more cutting lyrics than even in their edgy era when they were young. The 20+ years together have only tightened their sound and refined their artistic presence. They were a force to be reckoned with in the scene when they began, and they’re even more of a force now.

The band recorded this album in one take on a 2-hour livestream spectacular, and other than some minor tweaks here and there for recording’s sake, gave us the album as it was originally performed. I’ve said this before, but Emery really took the independent release format by the horns and completely flipped the script. Every time they’ve released something in their indie era, it’s better and fresher than what they did before. It’s almost like they challenge themselves to try something new every album cycle, and we’re privileged enough to come along for the ride.

5/5

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.

Review: Valleyheart – Heal My Head

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Well it’s time, folks. Time to talk more about an album I haven’t been able to shut up about: Valleyheart’s Heal My Head. It’s finally out in the world, and it’s just what I’ve needed. This is an album perfect for spring and summer, and it is the perfect offering to usher us into sunnier days.

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You can buy or stream Heal My Head on Apple Music

What drew me to Valleyheart initially is their lyrical honesty and fresh take on the alt genre. Their first album, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved, hit me deeply in a way only a kid who grew up in New England churches can get hit. In a part of the country affectionately known by other religious areas as the “frozen chosen,” what Valleyheart had to say about church and the way that kind of upbringing tosses you into adulthood with little else but questions really resonated with me.

Their new album, Heal My Head, feels like defrosting. The sounds are lighter, the chords are major, and it’s all around giving me a chance to catch my breath. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Klein and the guys have focused on time, and the way it ebbs and flows. We get songs about their success, songs about hoping for more, songs about friendship. There’s something here for everyone.

From the initial notes of “Birth”, a soft entrance through the door of this house Valleyheart built, we are pushed into the lead single, “The Numbers”. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year thus far, and a great representation of what we can expect here from the rest of this piece. This song is about Spotify stats at its core, but it really is about more than that: It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a song about gratitude. 

“Warning Signs” is the most different track, a very pop heavy song that was instantly a favorite for me. It’s catchy, and it breaks up the album just enough to keep things interesting. I fell head over heels for their harder rock sound, but tracks like this, along with “Back and Forth” and “Vampire Smile” are reminders that this band can do whatever they want and make it sound incredible, while keeping it congruent with the rest of what they’re trying to bring forth.

I love this album more every time I listen to it. Each time there’s something new for me to find or to think about. There truly are no highs or lows here. Every track has been chosen and placed with the steady hand of a master, and everything fits together like the pieces of the clock in the album art. The album is filled with joie de vivre. As I’ve spent time with it, I’m struck more and more of how this came at the perfect time for me. I am continually in awe of when things in my life completely sync up with a band’s releases, and this album has already begun to feel like home to me.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new band to obsess over. 2013 began my love for From Indian Lakes, in 2015 came Pianos Become the Teeth, 2020 brought Gleemer. 2021 up to now and far into the future has brought me Valleyheart. A band close to home and now close to my heart and soul. Heal My Head is an album that will stay with me for a while, to say the least. It feels like coming up for air.

5/5

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.

Hayley Williams and Billie Eilish Steal the Show at Coachella

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If you had told me a year or so ago that Hayley Williams would be performing alongside Billie Eilish, one side of my mouth would say, “No way”, and the other side would say “Makes sense”.

“No way”, because, what a pairing. “Makes sense”, because, what a pairing. Two of the top women in alt music on stage together is nothing short of exciting. And it’s a hell of a way for Hayley to make her first Coachella appearance. But of course, as we’ve come to know, Hayley is always one for surprises.

The afternoon of Coachella Weekend 2, I saw a tweet that said something to the effect of, “Billie is bringing Hayley on stage tonight.” I didn’t think anything of it, not being a particularly heavy Coachella follower, and knowing the Paramore rumor mill has been positively swirling with P6 news. An early morning (or I suppose a late night, depending on your relationship with sleep) for myself was punctuated by the news that Billie in fact did bring Hayley onstage. The rumor was real. I woke Jeremiah up I was so excited. I said “Oh my gosh Billie Eilish brought Hayley on stage and she sang ‘Misery Business.’” It didn’t receive the reaction I expected, being 4 a.m., but any hope of getting back to sleep that night for me was gone.

Someone on TikTok joked that Hayley sang “Misery Business” because MGK’s cover was so terrible. Having not played the track since 2018, I think we can all agree it was a shocker. But I think it’s not only because Hayley is ready to move past these last few years and get back to the crux of Paramore that she brought it back around. I think she chose it specifically to perform with Billie. From what I can see she has taken Billie under her wing in a sense, and I think it’s because Hayley can see her younger self in Billie. She was 14 when she first started Paramore and Billie was 13 when she recorded “Ocean Eyes”. In these later Paramore years, Hayley has been brutally honest about her relationship to fame, and quite honestly her disdain for it, and I think this was her way of letting people know not to mess with Billie.

Whatever the motivation behind it, it was an incredible ending to Billie’s first headlining Coachella set, and an incredible beginning to Hayley and Paramore’s walk back into the public sphere.

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 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.