Album Review: The Classic Crime’s Phoenix

Phoenix by The Classic Crime

Released August 14th—Independent

When a band fulfills their contract with their label they are faced with a choice—do we re-sign or try something new? After the release of 2010’s Vagabonds, The Classic Crime was faced with the same choice—do we stay with Tooth & Nail or do we go independent? While the freedom of being an independent artist is tempting, it comes with extra hurdles as well; namely, finances. Without a label backing your album and covering the costs that go into making a record how will you fund your music? As many others have done over the last few years, The Classic Crime turned to their fans for support via Kickstarter. To make a long story short, not only did The Classic Crime’s fans respond and fund the album completely (a $30,000 goal), but they contributed an extra $56,278 to the project. As a result of their fans support, The Classic Crime has presented us with Phoenix.

The brooding “One Man Army (Intro)” sets the tone and, along with album closer “I Will Wait (Outro)”, serves as a bookend for the entire album. “One Man Army” slowly builds into a massive chorus before fading into the groove of “You And Me Both”. As with many of the other songs on this album, the choruses are especially strong and great for singing along to, especially on the group vocal refrains. The anthemic and straight-forward “Young Again” follows the jammy “You And Me Both”, and the contrast between the two tracks works well.

The Jekyll and Hyde tale of “Beautiful Darkside” and the searching “Heaven And Hell” continue with the formula of rock songs that slowly build into massive sing-along choruses. Another hurdle of going independent is proving that you can make it without your label, and The Classic Crime seems to have realized that while making this album. Similarly to the character of the Phoenix, The Classic Crime was issuing a statement about the rebirth of their band. It seems like this motivation to prove themselves to everyone led to choosing to make this album as massive and epic as possible.

One of my favorite tracks from Phoenix comes next—“The Precipice”. Instead of overusing the auxiliary instruments and epic elements of their sound, The Classic Crime practices restraint and subtly uses them to emphasize the song. The addition of strings when vocalist Matt MacDonald wishes he knew how to play violin, orchestral drum hits, and a rolling piano melody form a beautiful and tender ballad that again becomes an epic—only to close with an a cappella chorus.

The bluesy “Let Me Die” stands out due to the electronic squeals found in the bridge, but otherwise follows the same pattern as the other songs. Early fan-favorite “Glass Houses” comes next in the lineup and begins a streak of my favorite songs on the album. The Classic Crime uses familiar metaphors and imagery in a new way to tell this tale of someone who finally realizes that they aren’t as invincible as they thought. The epic gang vocal bridge contributes to this song being a hit in their recent live sets.

While much of this album is reminiscent of the band’s sophomore release, moody emo-rock album The Silver Cord, “Dead Rose” and “Painted Dreams” bear more similarities to the simple alt-rock of Vagabonds. On these tracks the band really shines and is able to show their skill as musicians and songwriters. The soaring vocals, beautiful harmonies, and upbeat music act as a glimpse of sunlight amid the dark remainder of the album.

The album closes with “What I’d Give Up” and “City Of Orphans”, two songs that are very different but work together well to close out the album. In “What I’d Give Up” the band talks about the challenges of life on the road as a touring band, but it seems to be more of a promise than a complaint. Next up is “City Of Orphans”, a tale of loneliness and searching. The light strums of the guitar and the subtle slide guitar in the background serve their purpose of supporting the song—not overpowering it. There is a build as well, and it closes the album on a high note before fading into “I Will Wait (Outro)”.

I think that The Classic Crime has proven they can do it on their own. With this album you can definitely feel the desperation and drive behind the music as they try to do the best they can. As well as funding the album with their Kickstarter, the band was able to fund a two-part national tour which is taking place now throughout the western United States. If you live in one of the cities they’re coming to, I’d recommend checking it out—the band has a great setlist picked out and puts on a great show night after night. (Be on the lookout for my review of their record release/KickstarTOUR kickoff show in Seattle to be posted soon)

4/5 (The lack of variety caused many of the songs to fade together, and many of the songs seemed overpowered by bells and whistles. The songs that showed some variety or didn’t feel over-done really stood out.)

Tracklisting:

  1. One Man Army (Intro)
  2. You And Me Both
  3. Young Again
  4. Beautiful Darkside
  5. Heaven And Hell
  6. The Precipice
  7. Let Me Die
  8. Glass Houses
  9. Dead Rose
  10. Painted Dreams
  11. What I’d Give Up
  12. City Of Orphans
  13. I Will Wait (Outro)

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You can keep up with The Classic Crime on their networks here: https://twitter.com/theclassiccrime  https://www.facebook.com/theclassiccrime

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Show Review: Van’s Warped Tour 2012 in Portland

Van’s Warped Tour 2012

August 5th—Rose Quarter Riverfront in Portland, OR

Van’s Warped Tour has been one of the must-see music events since its beginning in 1995. Each year, tour founder Kevin Lyman and his crew bring a varied group of bands together to tour and play music all across the United States. I was able to attend both the Seattle and Portland dates of the tour this year, and during my two days there my love for some bands was solidified even more, but at the same time I also found some new bands I enjoy.

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(Because I can’t remember the exact layout of the day, I’m going to break down what bands I managed to see based on what stage they played. Otherwise, the bands are listed alphabetically—NOT in order of preference.)

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Kia Rio

Breathe Carolina: While holding my spot for Yellowcard I was able to hear Breathe Carolina’s entire set from a distance, and as I mentioned before they’re very solid live.  I’m not a huge fan of their music, but they have an amazing live show and great stage presence as well as a talented backing band.

Sleeping With Sirens: Due to scheduling issues and the poor layout of the venue I was only able to catch a couple songs from Sleeping With Sirens’ set—however, those few songs impressed me. The musicianship is clear, and they put on a good live show. Vocalist Kellin Quinn’s voice seemed a little strained, and he seemed a little tired (it was the end of the tour and his second set of the day), but otherwise it was very good. Also, getting to see guitarist Jesse Lawson propose to his girlfriend from stage was cool to see—congratulations to them!

Streetlight Manifesto: While waiting in line for water I heard two songs of Streetlight Manifesto’s set. Despite having a smaller crowd than most of the other main stage bands they still sounded great, and their ska-punk songs translated well live.

Kia Soul

Falling In Reverse: I’m not a fan of Falling In Reverse at all, but I have to admit that the band does know how to play their instruments. While walking past the Soul stage I heard a song from their set and the musicianship was impressive.

Four Year Strong: Again, while waiting for water I heard beard-core masters Four Year Strong closing out their set. While the first song was a little lackluster and received poorly by the crowd, the band ended on a strong note with set-closer “Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)”.

Taking Back Sunday: Having already seen Taking Back Sunday the night before, I decided to hold a good spot instead of seeing them again; however, I was able to hear their set clearly from a distance and they sounded the same as the night before (which is a good thing).

We The Kings: So that I could get a good spot for Yellowcard I went to the Rio stage early and worked my way into the crowd for We The Kings as they began their set. As I mentioned in the Seattle Warped Tour summary, the band knows how to work the crowd and sound spot-on live. Even the new songs come across pretty well live, but the highlight of their set was a passionate performance of “Check Yes Juliet”.

Yellowcard: Because of their stellar performance the day before I decided to see Yellowcard again on Sunday, which was a choice I don’t regret one bit. Both the crowd and the band was even better the second time around, and their set was easily one of my top sets for the weekend. If you get the chance to see them, I would suggest doing it—they’ll be on tour this fall, in support of their new album Southern Air, with The Wonder Years and We Are The In Crowd. (Picture of the band performing below)

onster

For Today: I overheard a song from their set as I waited for another band at the Tilly’s stage next door, and they sounded almost exactly like they do on record. I was highly impressed with the quality of their sound live and the band’s talent.

Tilly’s

Funeral Party: Some bands are better live than they are on record, Funeral Party being one of those. In preparation for the tour I had listened to their album and wasn’t overly impressed by their indie-dance music, but they really did sound good live and I can see why many people enjoyed their set over the summer.

I Fight Dragons: After missing most of their set the day before, I had to see their entire set and see what other tricks this chiptune-rock unit had up their sleeves. Their live show tricks and toys were very enjoyable live, and worked remarkably well within the music.

Vanna: I’m probably not the best person to review music similar to the Vanna, but from what I could tell they were pretty good—they had an energetic live show, solid musicianship, and good crowd interaction during the one song of their set I saw while walking by.

We Are The In Crowd: I ended up seeing most of the bands I really enjoyed in Seattle again in Portland, and We Are The In Crowd fit into that category. On the band’s side of the equation they were even better in Portland than in Seattle, with endless energy on-stage during their flawless performance. The crowd was very sleepy during the entire set though, but the band did a great job of not letting the poor reaction get to them.

House of Marley

Tomorrow’s Bad Seed: I heard a song from this reggae group’s set as I walked through the venue, and similarly to Vanna these guys did a good job—it’s just not my thing. They had a good turn-out though and the crowd seemed to be enjoying their show a lot.

Kevin Says

Captain Capa: I caught the closer of Captain Capa’s electro-pop, and it seemed like it had been a good show. Lots of energy on and off-stage and the music was very accessible and catchy. I would’ve liked to catch more of his set if given the chance.

I Call Fives: This was another repeat set from the day before, but it was definitely worth it. They put on just as good of a show the second time around, and being familiar with the setlist made it an even more enjoyable experience. Despite playing during the hottest part of the day the band gave 110% for the entire set.

Matt Toka: Another set that I sat through so that I had a good spot for the band playing after. Toka’s backing band was extremely talented, and Toka himself had a lot of energy and interaction with the crowd. Not really my thing, but they seemed to be having a lot of fun playing and I can’t hold that against them.

Tonight Alive: Tonight Alive actually was one of the last bands to play in Portland, and it was the best way to close out my day. Just as good as the night before, and an absolute blast from start to finish. One of the set highlights was guitarist Jake Hardy getting into the most pit during their “Little Lion Man”. Oh, did I mention he continued playing guitar while in the most pit? Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Twin Atlantic: I began and ended my day at the Kevin Says at the Portland stop of Warped Tour. Scottish alt-rock band Twin Atlantic was the first band of the day for me, and having never heard them before they blew me away. This is a talented group of guys who know how to put on a show and how to play their instruments. Their lead guitar player was especially fun to watch as he shredded up and down the fret board.

Ernie Ball

Born Of Osiris: As with Vanna and Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, I could tell BOO was doing a good job, it just didn’t appeal to me. For a band on the Ernie Ball stage they had an impressive crowd, despite playing against metalcore giants Miss May I.

Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!: I caught the same part of their set as I did the night before while on my way to a different part of the venue. I was impressed again with their live presence and showmanship. Even though I’m not really a fan of the metalcore genre, they are one of the more accessible acts in that scene.

Fireworks: In the distance I could hear part of Fireworks’ set, and they sounded really good. The vocalist was especially spot-on during their performance. Unfortunately, I only got the chance to hear the one song from their set.

Transit: After seeing Transit on the Glamour Kills tour I was won over. Playing a blend of early 2000’s Midwest-emo and modern pop-punk this band puts on a great show and writes some great songs. I walked in a few songs for their set, but did manage to hear most of the songs I was familiar with. The picture is of Transit’s vocalist surfing on the crowd during their set closer.

Acoustic Basement

Kate Morgan: This Canadian singer-songwriter was a nice break during the day as she performed her acoustic-pop songs to a growing crowd within the Acoustic Basement. Even though her set was briefly shut down for safety reasons (more on that in the end) she and her band managed to keep a positive attitude and put on a good show.

Koji: On my way past the Acoustic Basement I heard a song from Koji, and stopped to listen for a while. He’s a very talented songwriter and he put on an engaging acoustic show for a pretty good-sized crowd.

Onward, Etc: I spent a good amount of time in the Acoustic Basement, and one of the acts I saw during that time was Onward, Etc. Describing themselves as “rowdy folk”, Onward played a lively set to a packed tent (possibly because they played immediately before Yellowcard?). By the end of their set most members of the audience were bobbing their heads and clapping along to the beat.

Sleeping With Sirens: I was really looking forward to this acoustic set, but after getting forced out of the tent by fan-girls I decided to explore the venue instead. The one song of their set I did hear sounded pretty good, but lacked the energy of some of the other acoustic sets played that day.

Yellowcard: Seeing one of my favorite bands play less than a yard from my face was a priceless experience. Playing a song from each of their past releases (not including One For The Kids), Yellowcard put on an intimate and memorable set for a tent packed with fans young and old.

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Between both days, I managed to see almost every band I had wanted to see, along with seeing some new bands as well as double sets from some of my favorites. A big thank you to Kevin Lyman and the Van’s Warped Tour staff, the staff at both venues, and the bands for making this a summer to remember for people all over the States.

I do however have a complaint about the Portland stop of the tour. Both the location and layout of the venue was terrible, and if possible should not be used in the future. Due to over-crowding and lack of open space many people were turned away at the gate and the entire event was almost shut down for being unsafe and a fire hazard. On top of that, the poor layout made it impossible to cross the venue (about two blocks length) in less than an hour until the day had begun to end.

Besides that one problem, this was a great day and I can’t wait for the festivities next summer!

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If you went to Warped, what date did you go to? And what bands did you see? What bands blew you away, and what ones were disappointing to see? Leave a comment in the replies with your thoughts!

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Show Review: Van’s Warped Tour 2012 in Seattle

Van’s Warped Tour 2012

August 4th—White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, WA

Van’s Warped Tour has been one of the must-see music events since its beginning in 1995. Each year, tour founder Kevin Lyman and his crew bring a varied group of bands together to tour and play music all across the United States. I was able to attend both the Seattle and Portland dates of the tour this year, and during my two days there my love for some bands was solidified even more, but at the same time I also found some new bands I enjoy.

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After volunteering with Hopeless Records to earn my ticket (big thanks to them for that), I had a little free time to check out the venue and figure out my schedule before doors opened. If you’ve ever been to Warped you know that one of the first things that you need to do is find the inflatable schedule and decide what bands you want to see. After planning our day my friends and I headed towards the Kevin Says stage for the first set of our day—I Call Fives.

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In my opinion I Call Fives released one of the best pop-punk albums of recent years with their self-titled, full-length début (released July this year). Playing a mix of songs from their new album as well as some older songs, I Call Fives gave their all during their set—and it caught on. As they took the stage, only about 15 people were there to see them, but by the end of their set the crowd had at least tripled, and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves.

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After IC5 had finished their set, we wandered around for a bit and caught part of sets by Oh No Fiasco (dancey indie-rock), Alabaster (local Seattle band—Paramore-esque), and We The Kings. I really liked We The Kings’ first and second albums, but I haven’t really enjoyed their recent releases. However, I have to say that they sounded spot-on live, and they know how to control their crowd.

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The next full set we caught was We Are The In Crowd on the Tilly’s stage. The entire band was excellent—they sounded great, they had a great stage presence, and the setlist was a perfect mix of old and new songs. Even though the crowd was pretty calm, everyone seemed to be having a great time, especially the band. Immediately after WATIC’s set ended I ran over to the Monster stage so that I could get a good spot for Mayday Parade—and while waiting for Mayday Parade I caught the last couple songs of Title Fight.

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Even though I really like Mayday Parade’s music, I had never seen them before. Everyone had said that they are incredible live, so I was looking forward to seeing them for the first time and to see another good set; I was not disappointed. They sounded amazing, and their stage presence was outstanding. The energy and passion onstage was contagious and the entire crowd caught on quickly.

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After Mayday Parade, I headed back over to the Tilly’s stage to catch the first song from I Fight Dragons—they put on an extremely fun show, and I decided that if I had time I’d check them out again tomorrow. On my way from their set to the Kevin Says stage, I caught a song by Skinny Lister—an English folk band. Back at Kevin Says, I got a spot in the front for Tonight Alive.

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Tonight Alive, hailing from Australia, were one of my favorite sets of the day. Again, the musicianship and stage presence made this a set worth seeing. Playing a set made up of mostly the singles, as well as their cover of Mumford And Sons’ “Little Lion Man”, Tonight Alive made the most of the small crowd they had and played their hearts out.

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After Tonight Alive ended, I had an hour free, so I walked around and caught little bits of various sets, listed below:

  • Blessthefall—Listened to “Promised Ones” and then moved on. They sounded pretty good.
  • Every Time I Die—Had heard a lot of praise for them, so listened to one of their songs. Not my kind of music, left after one song.
  • Cherri Bomb—Not familiar with them at all, but was surprised to walk past their set and see four high school girls on stage. Sounded very solid, and I plan on checking out their album.
  • A Loss For Words (acoustic)—AL4W was one of the bands I had really wanted to see, but because of conflicts I missed their electric set and most of their acoustic set. I did however catch them playing “Pirouette” (my favorite song by them) and “So Contagious” (an Acceptance cover). Sounded very good—Matty’s voice is extremely good.
  • Chasing Vegas—Caught a few songs by this local Seattle band on the Digitech acoustic stage. They sounded really good, so I picked up their album later. They played a cover of Maroon 5’s “Payphone”, and the harmonies they did sounded sweet.
  • Larry & His Flask—Walked past as they played on the Digitech stage. This folk group is really talented and was fun to watch for a few minutes.

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After my break of just wandering the venue, I made my way back to the Kia Rio stage in the amphitheatre. On my way back, I caught a bit of sets by Sick of Sarah and Fireworks, who both sounded pretty solid—especially Fireworks—but I didn’t stick around long. I found a seat in the amphitheatre just as All Time Low kicked off their set. While some of the banter dragged on and was slightly annoying, All Time Low puts on a great show and sounds great—I definitely enjoyed watching them from a distance while relaxing. I had to leave a few minutes early from their set so that I could make it across the venue in time for one of the bands I was anticipating the most: Yellowcard.

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I got to the Kia Soul stage a moment before Yellowcard began, and managed to get on one side of the stage at the barricade. Everything I had been told about Yellowcard’s live show was true, as they played through a combination of very new songs and older cuts. Every member of the band is a fantastic musician, and you could tell they were really enjoying themselves. The sound was excellent, and watching them play was a blast. Despite a pretty sleepy crowd, the band did their best and tried to get as many people as active as possible—especially violinist and hype-man Sean Mackin, who wowed the crowd by doing a back flip during one of the songs.

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My destination after Yellowcard was back to the amphitheatre for Breathe Carolina, but I stopped by the Tilly’s stage and caught Man Overboard closing their set with “Montrose”—which is one of my favorite songs by them. After that, I stopped by the Ernie Ball stage and checked out the first half of the set by Paris’ Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!. Leading up the tour I had heard a lot of praise for their live show and their set, so I decided to see what they were like. Even though their music isn’t my style, I gained a lot of respect for them after seeing their show. Finally, I made it back to Kia Rio for the middle of Breathe Carolina’s set; they have great energy and stage presence, but their music doesn’t do a lot for me. I left their set as they began so that I could make it back over to Kia Soul in time for Taking Back Sunday.

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Taking Back Sunday are some of the heroes of the modern music scene—screamo, pop-punk, and alternative rock all look up to them for inspiration. It was great to hear some of their classic songs as well as a few newer songs, and the band was great. Vocalist Adam Lazzara’s vocal performance was iffy, but he more than made up for it in bravado and stage presence. To make this performance even cooler, Dan O’Connor of Four Year Strong, Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, and Geoff Rickly of Thursday (who are now broken up) contributed their vocals to various songs in place of John Nolan.

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On our way back to the amphitheatre for Pierce The Veil, who closed the show that night, we walked past the House of Marley stage and heard a bit of Mod Sun’s set. It was alright for a rap artist, but nothing I was interested in hearing more of. Once back at Kia Rio, we found a good seat and watched as Pierce The Veil played their “mexi-core” songs to a large audience. The band put on a great show and sounded awesome—to the point that I was impressed enough to pick up their new CD. Over all, it was a great way to relax and close the night out.

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So, the night at White River Amphitheatre for the 2012 Van’s Warped Tour ended. It was a long day, filled with a lot of great music and time with friends. One of the best things about Saturday was that even though I had missed some of the bands I was looking forward to seeing because of conflicts (A Loss For Words and New Found Glory) I still had another day to try to see them. Expect a review of the Portland Warped Tour date to be up soon.

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SUMMARY:

Top 5 Sets: Yellowcard, We Are The In Crowd, Tonight Alive, I Call Fives, Mayday Parade

Biggest Surprises: Chunk! No, Captain Chunk!, I Fight Dragons

Bands I Had To Miss: A Loss For Words, Transit, New Found Glory
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If you went to Warped, what date did you go to? And what bands did you see? What bands blew you away, and what ones were disappointing to see? Leave a comment in the replies with your thoughts!

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Artist Spotlight: Emily Danger

Most bands have something unique about them, some aspect that helps them to stick out. New York City’s Emily Danger’s stand-out quality is their background in opera, classical, and cabaret music. Combine this with dark indie music, and you have a concoction that’s part Eisley and part fun. with a little bit of Evanescence stirred in. Emily Danger was started as a duo by vocalist Emily Nicholas and guitarist Ryan Nearhoff in 2011, but it wasn’t until six months later that Colin Lime on drums, Cameron Orr on violin (and “a host of other instruments”), and bassist Coyote Anderson joined and the band became complete.

Now a quintet, Emily Danger (their name comes from Lime’s nickname for Nicholas) is preparing to head out on a nationwide tour in support of their début EP, Paintings. On each of the four songs on Paintings, Emily Danger proves their proficiency with their various instruments while creating music that is both haunting and atmospheric.

You can listen to Paintings or check out their upcoming tour dates on their websites: https://www.facebook.com/emilydangerband  https://twitter.com/emilydangerband  http://emilydangerband.com/Emily_Danger/Home.html

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Artist Spotlight: The Mid-Summer Classic

Things seem to be looking up for Louisiana’s The Mid-Summer Classic. Since the release of their début album—Good Times & Goodbyes—last November, they have toured all over the country and been featured in a handful of magazines (Substream and Alternative Press in particular). With energetic songs full of catchy choruses and sincere lyrics, TMSC’s first full release was packed full of pop-rock gems.

Then just this week, they released a new song that they had worked on recently, “We Had It All”. The new single features the same soaring vocals and melodies as their earlier songs, but on this song they’ve taken it in a slightly heavier direction. “We Had It All” is very reminiscent of bands like Ivoryline, Acceptance, and Anberlin. As mentioned above, Robert Dobbs’ vocals truly shine on this track. Eric Hebert and Aaron Trahan’s guitar riffs on this song are much more aggressive and in-your-face this time around—the contrast between smooth lead picking and chugging power chords works well within the song. As for the drumming, courtesy of Dylan LeBlanc, the verses are built upon simple beats which then build into massive fills in the choruses.

You can check out “We Had It All” on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, or wherever you listen/buy music. Also, the band plans on releasing a lyric video for the song, so keep an eye out for that.

Also, be sure to follow the guys on Twitter and Facebook if you like what you hear. https://twitter.com/tmscband  https://www.facebook.com/themidsummerclassic

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Live Review: Relient K, Hellogoodbye, William Beckett, and House Of Heroes

Relient K with Hellogoodbye, William Beckett, and House of Heroes

July 22nd—Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the opening night of Relient K’s current headlining tour—featuring support from Hellogoodbye, William Beckett, and House of Heroes—at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. The main band I wanted to see at the show was Relient K; they’ve been my favorite band for years so I jump at every chance I get to see them live. Besides them, I was also looking forward to seeing House of Heroes and Hellogoodbye for the first time; I really enjoy both band’s music, and had heard great things about their live shows. And then I was interested to see what William Beckett post-The Academy Is… was like. In my eyes, this was a stacked lineup.

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After a short wait in line and in the venue, House of Heroes took the stage. They opened their set with “Remember the Empire” and “Out My Way”, both songs from their most recent release—Cold Hard Want. Despite poor crowd participation they still brought a passionate and energy-filled set. As well as playing four songs from their new album (the other two were “Touch This Light” and “Dance (Blow It All Away)”) HOH played a song from each of their past releases. “Serial Sleepers” represented 2006’s Say No More, fan-favorite “Code Name: Raven” represented The End Is Not The End, and the hit single “God Save The Foolish Kings” represented Suburba. The band’s performance was flawless, especially in the vocal department. Vocalist Tim Skipper’s voice is extremely powerful, and he hit every note perfectly; the harmonies were also expertly executed by the rest of the band. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing House of Heroes again in the future, hopefully with a larger setlist and more responsive crowd. If you’re going to one of the remaining shows on the tour, make sure to get there early so that you don’t miss these guys.

Setlist Link: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/house-of-heroes/2012/crystal-ballroom-portland-or-4bdc8b5e.html

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William Beckett came next. As mentioned above, I had been a casual fan of The Academy Is… and his new solo project for a while, but I was mainly looking forward to seeing how he was without his band. With just a pair of acoustic guitars and his band-in-a-box (his laptop), William played through an assortment of songs from both of his new EPs, as well as a song from The Academy Is…’ Santi. Surprisingly the best part of his set was his TAI cover, “Everything We Had”. With nothing but a soft acoustic guitar to complement his smooth croon, “Everything” came alive. The songs from the Winds Will Change EP were the next best songs as they translated live better than songs from the Walk The Talk EP. My only complaint was that some of the pre-recorded beats and tracks overpowered everything else. I’d like to see William again with a full backing band to support him instead of the tracks. Even though a few parts of his set irritated me, William’s set was relaxing and fun to listen to.

Setlist Link: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/william-beckett/2012/crystal-ballroom-portland-or-43dc8b53.html

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After only a few minutes, Hellogoodbye was ready and began their set. I was somewhat familiar with a few songs by them, and I knew that each of their albums had very distinct (and different) sounds, but beyond that I was clueless. The band kicked off their set with “Getting Old”, a track from 2010’s Would It Kill You? Hellogoodbye’s brand of bright indie-pop was infectious, and the crowd began to become livelier as their set progressed. The band followed “Getting Old” with two more songs from WIKY, “When We First Kissed” and “Finding Something To Do”. Those songs, plus the other two WIKY songs seamlessly translated to a live format, and the passion and joy of the band made each song they played even better. During songs the band expertly controlled the crowd, and in between songs they interacted and talked to members of the audience. On their older, electronics-heavy songs the guys had a lot of fun goofing off and adding new parts. As well as playing songs from both of their releases the band played two songs from the record they’re currently working on. All in all, Hellogoodbye put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. Go listen to them, then go see them, and if you like their music you can get a digital copy of WIKY for free in their webstore or pick up a physical copy at the show for a few dollars.

Setlist Link: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/hellogoodbye/2012/crystal-ballroom-portland-or-53dc8b5d.html

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Then it was time for the band everyone had come to see: Relient K. Being my favorite band of all time, and having seen them 8 times now, I can say that this was one of the best performances I have ever seen by them. They kicked off their set with the title track of their latest release, Forget And Not Slow Down, and from the opening chord it was clear why so many love Relient K. The band followed with “Be My Escape”, which had the entire crowd singing along. The band pulled out a song I would’ve never expected: “The Only Thing Worse Than Beating A Dead Horse Is Betting On One”. Barely clocking in above a minute in length this burst of energy, strongly dependent on Ethan Luck’s drumming, was just one of many surprising set choices to come. Set usuals “The Lining Is Silver” and “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been” came next, and sounded great as always. The band then took a moment to tell everyone that they had been working on a new album (release date still unknown), and then introduced a new song titled “Boomerang”. You can see and hear their performance of “Boomerang” in the video below.

The band then asked the crowd if it would be alright if they could play some older songs, and they jumped into a medley of “Mood Rings” and “In Love With The 80’s (Pink Tux To The Prom)”. After explaining that they hadn’t played the next song in years, the band kicked off “Pressing On”. At one point in the song everyone surged forward to get closer to the front when Matt Thiessen stepped out onto the barricade to sing with the crowd. “Pressing On” was one of the best crowd responses any of the bands got throughout the night. Relient K played “High Of 75” next, an energetic song that is almost better live than recorded. Seeing the band running around on stage and having a blast was contagious, and by the end of the song the whole crowd was getting into the song. The band then introduced another new song, “When You Were My Baby”, another tune that sounds great. To close their set, Relient K played fan-favorites “Sahara” and “Devastation And Reform”. Before the lights had even dimmed, the crowd was chanting for the band to return for an encore.

The encore began with guitarist Matt Hoopes playing the signature intro to one of Relient K’s most well-known songs, “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, before the rest of the band joined him. This was the high point for the crowd as everyone sang along and chanted the “oh-oh-oh”s in the chorus. The band then introduced a third new song, “Collapsible Lung”, a song all about getting old. (You can see a video of them playing the song at Creation NW below.) Then it was time for them to play their final song. Throughout their set members of the crowd had called for the mellower and poppier “Savannah”, which seemed to be an odd song to add to their live show. To my surprise, Relient K actually closed with “Savannah”, and it turned out to be great live—even better than the recorded version.

Videos:

Boomerang:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bD-A4NLaJM

Collapsible Lung:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAxriy1Cuq8

Setlist Link: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/relient-k/2012/crystal-ballroom-portland-or-bdc89ce.html

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Once Relient K had finished most of the bands were out at their merch tables, so I got the chance to talk to most of them. All of them are great guys doing what they love, and they’re making awesome music along the way. So, if there’s a date of this tour coming to a city near you I’d absolutely recommend checking this out. I guarantee you won’t leave disappointed with the performances you just saw.

The remaining dates are:

July 24 — Ace of Spades Sacramento, CA
July 25 — The Filmore San Francisco, CA
July 27 — House of Blues San Diego, CA
July 28 — House of Blues Anaheim, CA
July 31 — House of Blues Las Vegas, NV
Aug 1 — The Marquee Tempe, AZ
Aug 2 — Sunshine Theater Albuquerque, NM
Aug 3 — Tricky Falls El Paso, TX
Aug 4 — Rock The Desert Midland, TX
Aug 5 — Emo’s East Austin, TX
Aug 7 — House of Blues Houston, TX
Aug 8 — House of Blues Dallas, TX
Aug 9 — Cain’s Ballroom Tulsa, OK
Aug 10 — Juanita’s Little Rock, AR
Aug 11 — The New Daisy Theatre Memphis, TN  (No House of Heroes)

And of course, you can find the bands on Facebook, Twitter, and most other social networks. Check them out, and support the bands you love!

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Album Review: William Beckett’s Winds Will Change EP

Winds Will Change by William Beckett

Released July 17th—Yike Records

In 2011 one of the most pivotal emo-pop bands of the current music scene called it quits. Since 2003, The Academy Is… played their brand of quirky pop-rock to all who would listen and became one of the biggest names in that scene. Now that TAI is over, man-behind-the-mic William Beckett is continuing to press on. To kick off his career as a solo artist Beckett announced that during 2012 he would release a trilogy of EPs. The first, Walk The Talk, was released earlier this year in April, and the second, Winds Will Change, was released just today. Each EP had the same quirky qualities unique to TAI, but this time Beckett is taking it in a more shameless pop direction.

And that’s exactly what these EPs are—shameless, yet sensible, pop music. Winds Will Change begins with “Great Night”, an anthem for nights spent with friends. With a massive chorus, “Great Night” is sure to make its way into my summer playlists. The next track is “Warriors”, which sounds like the pop-rock jams on This Providence’s Brier. The next song, “Scarlett (Tokyo)”, is probably my favorite song out of the four; the sing-along choruses and clever writing showcase Beckett’s strengths and his skills as a writer. Beckett closes the EP with “Dig A Hole”, a song with mellow verses and huge choruses—the surging and crashing of the chorus nicely accent the lyrics . This song perfectly crescendos to end the album on a strong note.

William Beckett really can do no wrong when it comes to writing songs. The songs he penned with TAI are constantly cited as inspiration for some of the best performers today, and his solo project is even more proof of his skills. More than anything, I’m excited to hear all three EPs together, and hopefully a début full length soon after.

4/5 (I wish there was a little more variety in the songs-at times I felt like the songs blurred together.)

Tracklisting:

  1. Great Night
  2. Warrior
  3. Scarlett (Tokyo)
  4. Dig A Hole

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You can check out William on his networks: http://www.williambeckettmusic.com/  https://twitter.com/billbeckett  https://www.facebook.com/williambeckettmusic

Also, William will be heading out on tour with Relient K, Hellogoodbye, and House of Heroes—which begins this Sunday in Portland.

 

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