I drove to Milwaukee on a work night and waited an hour between acts. That’s love.
I always think of shows in this venue (what we lovingly refer to as The Crack Den) as being kind of high school-y, and I assumed that it was because I’ve only ever seen teenaged bands here, but nope. It’s because it looks a junior high multipurpose room. It’s a little ratty and the stage is small. Somehow, they make the stage settings that looked professional and impressive yesterday now look like the theater department is putting on a show. That or we’re about to witness the world’s most depressing prom.
There’s a point in this show where Brendon runs to the back of the room and plays an acoustic song. Since this venue has no balcony or anything, they’ve blocked off a little slice of the bar that I’m pretty sure is for that purpose. But because it’s the bar, it’s currently surrounded by tri-state area moms drinking beer. This is gonna be great.
Foxy Shazam: Whoa, the teenagers of Connecticut love this band. There is a higher percentage of people excited about this band than there were last night, including three adorable tweenaged girls right in front of me. Since Foxy is a band that just feeds on a crowd, this will be special.
To be shallow for a minute, last night, when we were front row, we realized that with his glasses off, Daisy, their guitarist, is a stone fox. Tonight, Aaron, their drummer, has taken off his shirt, and under his buttonups? Nothing but muscles and ink. Yum.
Last night, Eric didn’t try his famous cigarette trick (simultaneously smoking a handful, then eating them while lit). I opined that it was probably because Panic’s still-magically-teenaged fans don’t have cigarettes to give. Tonight, he tried it and we all watched as one cigarette was carefully passed forward hand to hand. Sad.
During the last song of the set, the knuckle of baby bros up front attempt to start a mosh pit. It’s kind of adorable.
fun.: You can tell that their frontman, Nate, isn’t hip to the idea of opening. He was previously the lead singer for The Format, a band with a ridiculously rabid fanbase (I regularly saw The Format open and then take a quarter of the room with them when they were done) and fun. was headlining the week they formed, so this, playing for people who haven’t memorized his lyrics, is clearly new. Not that there’s not a fair number of fun. fans here, but asking us to sing along to the first song?
Also worth noting that the teen girls behind me, who were swayed into the cult of Foxy, find Nate’s antics kind of embarrassing. He then leads the world’s failiest moment of silence for the Oprah Winfrey Show.
They are very good and rapturous if you’re into them, but they’re not my favorite and this is the exact moment when the heat gets to me, so mostly this set feels unending. As soon as it’s done, I sit down and am soon joined by another dozen people sitting. I’m a trendsetter!
Panic! At the Disco: First, an aside for the teenaged boys dancing like dumbasses and rolling up their sleeves. I love them. I will only have kids if they are promised to turn out like those boys or the tween girls.
The lighting is terrible. I can’t see the band, but I can see everyone in the crowd. The hell?
One of the most interesting things about this stage setup (a sort of Frankenstein-meets-Phantom courtesy of The League of Steam) is lost on a stage this small. Brendon’s keyboard and Spencer’s drums are built into setpieces at the back of the stage. That encourages the “temporary” band members Ian and Dallon to take full range and run around and the audience to really appreciate them. But this is a high school multipurpose room, so the keyboard is free of its setpiece and Brendon is centerstage always. (Oh, I lie. The organ is still in the setpiece, he just needs … more keys.)
The thing I really like about this lineup, Panic 3.0, is the energy, the fact that they all run around, seem to like each other and like us and love playing and it just drips off the stage.
Brendon manages to make it back to the bar for the interlude in the middle of this show where he plays “Always” acoustic. It manages to manufacture what feels like a truly unique, intimate moment even in a huge room.
They break into “Your Body is a Wonderland” and Brendon alters a line to be about copulating with his bass player. To introduce Brendon, Dallon then cribs a couple of lines of Les Miserables. How did Brendon find this boy? (They also treat us to a chunk of “Careless Whisper” and The Smiths’ “Panic,” then most of the encore is “Carry On My Wayward Son.” I love boys who love music and I love love boys who are talented enough to show it off.) Oh, then Brendon sings half of the first verse of “I Write Sins” with his face pressed against Dallon’s. Dallon seems slightly more tolerant of the gay than Ryan Ross was and the fangirls eat it up equally.
The Verdict: This is one of the few shows in the last few years where I haven’t thought once about the time, about getting home to sleep, about the way my feet hurt or anything. I would stay in this room forever. And the best part is that this is the first week of the tour, so if you don’t have tickets, you still have time! Do it!
We accidentally get here in time for Casey Spooner. I don’t mind, having really enjoyed Fischerspooner, but it turns out those feelings are misplaced. He’s singing alone in front of a white drape, accompanied by an unceasing tape that I imagine was put together in GarageBand. His singing is exactly good enough to go under the flashy sounds and slick production of Fischerspooner. This format, with nothing to look at or focus on except him, and the man himself not dancing or moving at all, forces the listener to pay attention to his voice, which is not strong enough to stand up under that kind of scrutiny. I am sitting down by the wall. I forgot how much I hate this venue. It’s a big concrete warehouse down by the river. Why is it so humid? It’s not even hot! Just wet.
The band’s roadies are amazing: one almost perfectly round guy with a classic mullet, one older gentleman with a braid to his butt. Now these are roadies!
DJ Sammy Jo whatever is adorable, and he’s djing off CDs, which feels intentionally throwbacky, like vinyl. He’s clearly from the same era of New York that the Scissors are.
There are two teensy women behind me, which makes me feel bad, as I’m probably 6’1″ in these heels.
I don’t know how much of it is a function of the primarily dance/rave crowd they draw here, but one of the reviewers of this place on CitySearch said that it was impossible not to get bumped into and jostled. Another said that getting jostled was the point. Anyway, I’m definitely experiencing the jostling and disliking it. The problem is that the entrance runs the length of the space, with the stage to the right and the bar to the left. This means there’s no back to hover at. You step in and everyone fills in, forming the crowd around you. You’re fucked.
The biggest hit of Sammy’s set is La Roux’s “Bulletproof.” Insert surprised face.
I always thought that the reason I didn’t wear heels to shows was one of comfort. Turns out, it was actually because of an innate law of physics: if this crowd starts moving and I get shoved, I’m going down.
The backup singers are skinny redheads, like Ana. I wonder if that was in the job description?
Ana announces their intention to run for mayor as some sort of quinpartite entity. Their platform is the repeal of the cabaret laws so we can dance wherever we want.
There are several songs that Jake and Ana treat as solos. She drops back to sing with the backup girls while he sings “Skintight”, dedicated to his boyfriend, then he leaves the stage while she and the girls do a sultry, perfectly choreographed version of “Skin This Cat.” It’s not something I’ve ever really seen from a band before, with the exception of the horrible Plain White T’s. In that case, it was very much a fame grab by the lead singer. Here, it feels more like they respect each other enough as artists and feel secure enough in their place in the group that it doesn’t matter who is and isn’t onstage. (Luckily, the gorgeous Del Marquis is always on stage. Yum.)
HIP WADERS HIP WADERS HIP WADERS. I figured the encore would be an excuse for a costume change, but that is no reason for Jake to come out in what appear to be hip waders with the sides removed.
The Scissors are falling into the Metric problem of playing the weakest new songs after the encore break. This is the time when I need to be distracted from the pain in my feet! I guess if I was doing ecstasy and grinding on a stranger, I could deal with the tom solo and recorded Sir Ian McKellen monologue. But as it is, I just desperately want to go home.
But, it all comes back together, ending the set with their huge, party-in-five-minutes rendition of “Filthy/Gorgeous,” complete with Ana ripping her top off and confetti cannons. Everyone goes home happy.
The Whigs are visually arresting. The lead singer plays with his guitar up under his armpit so he can lift his knee to waist height and hop around on one foot. The bassist looks like a young Iggy Pop. The drummer has teenage waster hair, the sort made famous by Shaun White. He looks like he should be loitering in front of a 7-11. Their music starts out a little bland, and gets quiet for one piano-driven song, but then they ramp up to a huge, rocking finish. Their undeniably Southern sound makes for a good match with the Kings, but their songs aren’t as smartly crafted, so my mind wanders.
The audience is adults of all ages. Lots of couples. But right in front of us is a bunch of skinny middle-aged women, the kind who proudly refer to themselves as MILFS. Their obnoxiousness speaks to a pride in who they are, a statement that, yeah, they’re hotter and more fun than everyone else. It makes me feel like I’m in not the right place. I’m 28, black, single, and live in a major city. I have nothing in common with these people except a shared love of this band, and with middle-aged couples, I can’t tell if they love the band or if it’s just an excuse for a grownups’ night. And I know that the other people at this show haven’t given me a moment’s thought. This is diametrically opposed to the way I felt at last week’s teen-heavy Empires shows. There, I know that the crowd loves the band in the intense way that only high schoolers can, but they are judging, looking for interlopers and sneering in the way only teenagers can.
I guess my long-winded point is that I never feel like I belong at shows, until the music starts, and then I stop giving a shit.
I can tell it’s going to be bright because the drums and all of the amps appear to be on a lighted riser. But then the backdrop falls and reveals a wall of old, rusty spotlights. I dig for my sunglasses.
The show starts with red plumes of fire and an outpouring of red smoke, and then their traditional opera entrance music. Then there’s more red smoke behind the band.
This show is horribly lit, but beautifully shot. There have to be six cameras either mounted on the stage or with cameramen and they’re shooting amazing close up black and white footage.
Dear Caleb Followill: Is your mom still cutting your hair, because it’s getting a little Ben Frankliny.
The first new song sounds like their older stuff, bouncy and grungy. I love it. It fits in the canon and no one can argue that they’ve changed or sold out.
The sunglasses come in handy when the wall of lights finally get going during “Molly’s Chambers.” Also, I remember when that song came out to a wall of indifference from America. It’s weird to have 5000 people screaming along with it.
So glad I didn’t wash my hair this morning. I’m gonna need to wash the smell of pot out of it tomorrow.
Matt Followill is wearing a plaid shirt with a hood. It looks like this is Seattle and 1996 and he’s running away from home.
The next new song they play has a real element of the 1960s teenage death song, with the swingy guitars and tight rhythm. A little departure! The one after that is a proper hard rocker. Jess and I are excited for the new album.
Caleb pleads vocal trouble on “4 Kicks”, which is worrisome because this is the second show of the tour.
He asks us to sing “Sex on Fire,” probably because he loathes this song, but ends up doing it himself.
For the final new song (for which the big array of lights opens and shit), which is a song about the South, they bring their buddies The Whigs on to play with them.
The encore gets raucous, with respectable members of the community losing their shit around us and the man in front us demanding we dance and the band playing their hearts out. At the end, little white fireworks pop oit of the lighting rig, probably to suggest the old fashioned klieg lights exploding from the sheer force of rock. And then I realize that nothing I can type will compare to seeing this band live and letting yourself have the time of your life.
I got an Infection once where it seemed that my heart had swollen and was beating against my ribs. It felt just like this.
I didn’t mean to liveblog this, and it wasn’t even supposed to be a concert really, but then it started and I needed to share.
Kristeen Young opens. It’s like if Bjork replaced Amanda Palmer in the Dresden Dolls. She’s wearing a body shaper under a sort of paper doll dress made of cut out body parts from magazines that have been laminated into a sheet. There’s a matching pointy hat. While I probably wouldn’t buy an album of her hooting and electronics, the point here is obviously the live show.
Also, I deeply covet her keyboard tricked out to look like the front of a classic car.
The crowd is doing that fill-in-from-the-back thing, which is awkward, as we are standing up against the stage.
Between the acts, I was thinking about why women don’t do the high spectacle of drag. The next performer is Cherie Lily and she does something called Houserobics. It seamlessly blends the mediocre songwriting of gay house with the timelessness of “Let’s Get Physical.” If she were a drag queen instead of a Jap from the metro area, this would be awesome. Also if she was a Real Housewife and this was her single, totes awesome. As it is, underwhelming. But her dancers are amazingsauce. And everyone on stage is wearing head to toe American Apparel. This isn’t surprising; I usually can’t figure out what anyone would wear AA for *besides* 80s themed aerobics. But because of the revealing-and-lycra-ness of AA’s clothing, we the audience get way too intimate with the group’s sacred spaces. Awks considering it’s barely 9pm.
I dared not take notes during Jujubee. I whispered my love of her to my friend Steven and she caught me. I got the evil eye. She made up for it with the fabulous eye later. She did Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” and Whitney’s “It’s Not Right (But It’s Okay).” She taught me volumes about how you can look smaller through big hair and poofy skirt and she was fantastic.
If you are unfamiliar, the premise of Hoodwink, traditionally held the night before Bamboozle festivals, is that bands pick a favorite, different band, and play a set of their songs. I, who loves cover songs, love Hoodwink. Because some people (me) have real jobs, I missed the first few bands. I am told that Eye Alaska, who did the music of Kanye West, stagecrashed the set of The Summer Set, who were doing Taylor Swift. So Eye Alaska wins at life.
All the Day Holiday plays The Beach Boys: they have dressed in costume, which is adorable. Blue oxford shirts, black trousers, sunglasses, hair neatly combed. It almost makes up for the terrible sound mix. It’s about 80% too loud treble, underscored by just enough bass to rattle my ribcage. The really weakness in this set is their insistence on using as much falsetto as the original band. It takes a real man to admit that his falsetto isn’t ready for prime time. Also, thanks to this band’s popularity, this is the first time I’ve seen kids running and dancing wildly at the sound of the Beach Boys in … ever.
The Maine plays Everclear: From the first song, they are excellent. (To be fair, the source material is way easier.) But the Phoenix-based Maine has the right laid-back SoCal angst for this band’s repetoire.
Hmm, as they go on, it becomes apparent that they frontloaded the set with the songs they were good at. The lead singer’s grip on the lyrics collapses after the second song.
Say Anything plays The Misfits: Okay. Loud. Par for the course.
Motion City Soundtrack plays Nine Inch Nails: I suppose anyone who thought about it a moment would realize that MCS would be the best band at Hoodwink this year. They picked source material that was strong and adapted it to their strengths rather than trying to force themselves to be an electrometal band for a night. But it still shows a new side of them, which I think is the secret aim behind the Hoodwink concerts. This is awesome, hard as hell rock. Plus, they use their techs to their full ability, so at one point, there are seven guys playing on stage. Plus, no one except drummer Tony Thaxton seems to be the only one allowed to play just one instrument. It’s positively Arcade Fire. But it is amazingly worth it, if just for the three dueling synths + Moog closing of “Closer.”
The way frontman Justin Pierre throws himself around the stage, I think this might be the closest I ever coming to seeing Trent Reznor himself. It’s almost worth the horrible pain in my eardrums from the WAY TOO MANY amps.
When they start “Hurt”, there are at least a dozen real lighters in the air. That is more than I’ve seen at a show in at least ten years. Also, my favorite people here are3 the nice middle-aged mom with the string backpack and her husband, who is having a religious experience.
Andrew McMahon plays Bar Classics: He starts with a Dylan impression. Progresses to “Rocket Man,” a deep Simon & Garfunkel cut, and a quarter-speed version of MGMT’s “Kids.” Time to go home!
We wandered up and Young Veins frontman? Ryan Ross was standing outside, trying to get in. The Studio smelled strongly of Lysol, which I’m taking as a good sign. This late in the year, coat check is closed, but there’s a coat rack. We hide the nice coats under the cheap coats. I actually quite like this venue. It’s small, reception is decent and drinks are reasonably priced!
I also like that the basement at Webster is a little warren of lounges and powder rooms and cafe tables, which makes it a haven for parents! Downside: it warms up when it gets full, which is bad when you are wearing an acrylic sweater, like me.
We stake out a spot in the back by a bench! I like benches! Within moments, we are surrounded by Jon Walker, of The Young Veins, Tom Conrad, of Empires, and Alex Suarez, of Cobra Starship, all separately having conversations with people. It’s distracting as hell.
Bad Rabbits: Like Foxy Shazam, the headliner, this band is seriously entertaining. Think Gym Class Heroes in the 1970s. This band has a sincere appreciation of their funk roots, and they’re having fun up there, which is more than I can say about most bands. That alone makes them fun to watch. Bonus: their frontman is a FRONTMAN. For all he dresses like Mos Def, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came out with a cape to drape on him.
Bad Rabbits are done and the first band’s frontman? is still at the bar. This doesn’t bode super well.
But I have a moment to talk to you about the crowd! It is random. There are several pompadours, a couple of guys in skinny hipster suits, a couple of guys in proper banking business suits, a lot of guys that would look right at a funk revival show in Brooklyn, white dudes with shaggy jewfros and track jackets in intentionally dated colors.
The Young Veins: The soundcheck does not fill me with hope. The teenaged fans shriek when Ryan appears and when he soundchecks his mic, it sounds like pre-pubescent Bob Dylan being punched in the gut.
I would like to describe their asthetic as This Is Ivy League with a drinking problem, but that makes no sense. Did you ever read Harriet the Spy, where her best friend’s dad is an alcoholic sportswriter in the 1960s? This is probably how he looked at work. A little too thin for his suits, hair a little straggly, just enough to start whispers around the office. Also, it looks like Jon Walker bought his suit before his wasting disease sets in.
They are better than I expected! The harmonies need a little tightening up, but it helps that they got a lot of really confident musicians (ex-Bright Eyes, ex-Tilly and the Wall, unless that’s the same guy. I can’t remember) to fill it out. Also, my grandma would yell because Ryan is chewing gum while he sings. The songs are pleasant and diverting, like the background of a film set in the 60s. But, tucked between the funk stylings and high energy of Bad Rabbits and Foxy Shazam? Ryan is currently asking us to slow dance. For. Reals. They would be an excellent opener for Rilo Kiley or Feist, perhaps. The trouble with what’s left of the emo scene (i.e. Crush Management, the thing these bands have in common), is that they aim everything at their established emo/pop-punk fanbase, built on the backs of Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco. But when bands come along that are good in different ways, they make no effort to market them out in those spaces. They just shove them at the teenagers until it sticks, or doesn’t, and then move on. By which I mean that it is likelier that they will open for Gym Class Heroes than Feist.
Anyway, the net net here is that I would kill for a seat right about now. This is sitting music. And after Bad Rabbits, it’s jarring.
Jake Shears is dressed like the motorcyclist from the current incarnation of The Village People. (Ana says he looks like he’s in the musical version of Cruisin’.) They look gracefully older. I like it. It matches how the audience has aged. I think I expected gay club kids, the Goldfrapp audience, but what I got is a hugely pregnant lady and some muscle men cruising past 50 and a lot of really square people reliving their dorm dance parties of five or six years ago. I don’t think I’ve been in a crowd this inclusive since … ever.
The second song is “Laura” and we lost it. Their moms in the balcony lose it.
“Sometimes in New York, you just want to sit and fan yourself with your sunglasses and make people prove themselves worthy, but tonight isn’t about that. Tonight is about dancing like nobody’s watching.” -Ana
The third song is the first of many promised new ones. It’s dirty, but super fun.
Fashion highlight is obviously Del. I do love a man in a sharp jacket. And even though he obvy grew the facial hair to stop getting carded, no one else would be able to pull off that faux primitive look. Fashion lowlight? One of the two backup dancers is wearing a leather dress with a v neck to her navel, filled in with black illusion netting. Just no.
Fashion update: During “Tits on the Radio,” Ana ripped off the front panel of her dress. A+ look. (Also, honey has lost a ton of weight. It looks like she and Jake have been muscle building.)
We’ve never had so many drinks spilled on us, including one from the balcony! New. Exciting. Strangely unangrifing, because I know they’re spilled out of love from dancing too hard.
I cannot tell who I love more, the slightly rhythm challenged Trey Anastasio clone or the tall, awkward, in love math major boys grinding during “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing.” I’m not poking fun. I honestly love them, because they are dancing like no one’s watching. We’re all a little older, a lot squarer, but we have this in common and you can’t mock love.
New songs verdict: Like the later works of the Pet Shop Boys, the songs are getting a little darker, maybe club life isn’t so fun, but rather than attempt to make the same album they made seven years ago, to recapture lightning in a bottle, they’re making music that reflects their own maturity and changing situation, and that’s bound to work.
This might have been my last time seeing The Used, but I doubt it. I always end up back there, don’t I? The half of the band that cares is so compelling that it’s easy to forget that the other half doesn’t. Also, the Starland Ballroom is a fucking fire trap, but I fully appreciate the work of the horde of security guards that were seriously on top of the action.