Here are my favorite photos of bands I caught at Warped Tour in Dallas, TX on June 27. Click on the photo to see more of each band. See all photos on flickr.
All photos from Wolf Alice’s show May 19 at Holy Mountain in Austin, TX can be viewed here.
Halfway through Wolf Alice’s 12-song set, I find myself with a huge smile on my face when I soak in the reality of the moment. “Storms” is not the soundtrack to this moment. Packed into sold-out 200 capacity Holy Mountain with fans jumping and head banging, it is the moment.
There is a special feeling to hearing music performed live – the raw, unedited vocals, distorted guitar, the sound of fingers running up and down the strings, the thumping bass and the tinging cymbals. If the atmosphere is right, it is magic. It’s easy to get lost in it. Smiling to myself, that was my realization. It’s such a dream-like state, you forget it’s real. A 12-song set turns into hours and with the blink of an eye back into a second.
For the time being, Wolf Alice transported me to the place where all that mattered were the vibrations ringing in my eardrums. Some people say Rock ‘n’ Roll is dead. But Wolf Alice is gives me hope that it very much alive. Wolf Alice is a young band, no doubt, still solidifying their sound. But they are talented.
Starting out as a a folk-tinged pop project, “Leaving You” was the first glimpse we saw from Ellie Roswell and Joff Oddie in 2010. Followed by “Fluffy” in 2013, with the addition of drummer Joel Amey and bassist Theo Ellis, they formed their rock roots. The end of 2013 also brought us Blush EP, showing off a mix of driving drums and grunge guitar distortion on “She” contrasted with hauntingly delicate vocals and resonating guitar progression on “Blush.” Creature Songs EP, released May 2014, displays different sounds still – more guitar distortion, more hard-hitting rock beats, more driving bass, and overall more play with vocal expression and distortion.
Wolf Alice’s songs translate well in the live setting, emphasizing the grunge appeal. The four-piece are outfitted in Dr. Martens and ripped skinny jeans. Oddie uses a pedal board that looks like it could control the starship Enterprise. And Roswell adds another mic for distorted vocals. It’s a ragged act that could use some cleaning before hitting the big stage, but surely, their sound will command the audience at the many festivals they are playing this summer and fall, including Austin City Limits Fest’s second weekend. Listening to “Moaning Lisa Smile,” I can feel myself surrounded by tens of thousands of people singing and jumping along with the sun bearing down on my shoulders mid-day at a festival.
With the many different sides Wolf Alice has shown, there is much anticipation leading up to their debut album release My Love Is Cool on June 23 (US). Most recent singles “Giant Peach” and “Bros” establish that roller coaster sound that we are likely to hear on the album, from soft and tender to driving and powerful. It is one of my most anticipated albums of the year.
Future Hearts Tour stopped in Austin, TX on April 29 at ACL Live’ infamous Moody Theater. State Champs, Tonight Alive and Issues opened the night for All Time Low. All photos can be seen on Flickr.
Starting the show, State Champs brought the energy to the stage, jumping around and head banging across the stage, never standing still. Fans reacted by cheering and jumping, giving the same energy back to the band. Singer Derek DiScanio slowed down the set for one song, performing “If I’m Lucky” solo on acoustic guitar. Fans got out their phones and turned on their flash lights to light up the Moody Theater. Fans roared as The New Yorkers ended the set with 2013 hit “Elevated” before handing the stage over for Tonight Alive.
Tonight Alive delivered an impressive pop-punk set. Jenna McDougall’s vocals ring out in a surprisingly clean and powerful tone, giving a unique face to the music. The band came on stage in all smiles, and remained that way throughout the set. Half way through the set, McDougall made the crowd repeat after her: “From this day, I refuse to live in fear of someone else’s judgement.” After several repetitions, she dedicated the song to the crowd before jumping into “What Are You So Scared Of?,” a 2010 release. From her delivery and the reaction of crowd, it was clear this song meant a lot to her and to Tonight Alive fans. Before the end of the set, she asked in her Australian accent, “Is anyone else feeling that good energy in the room tonight? It’s running through me.” The crowd cheered loudest of all, pushing the energy back at her before Tonight Alive ended the set with “The Edge.”
After signing to Fearless Records in 2010, Tonight Alive has gained huge popularity among pop-punk fans. At this rate, they are sure to stick around for awhile longer.
Issues continued the hype, brining hardcore to the otherwise pop-punk show. Clean vocalist Tyler Carter and unclean vocalist Michael Bohn ran around stage, taking turns singing and screaming. Bassist Skyler Acord was an impressive whirlwind of head banging and jumping, never standing still for more than a second. At one point, Bohn asked to see a circle pit, but with Austin’s laid back mentality, it was hard to tell whether that was a reality or not.
Nine years after releasing Put Up Or Shut Up EP and five albums later, All Time Low’s Future Hearts album went number one in the US. Released April 7, the album also went number one in the UK, number three in Canada, number four in Australia, and sold the most vinyl copies in the US and UK, gaining them the title of number one album in the world.
The Future Hearts Tour production was bigger than anything All Time Low has done in the US before. Their stage set-up and lights show surpassed their previous productions. While Moody Theatre feels like an intimate venue, the stage still powers over the audience. Banners hanging from the ceiling, several stories high, served as the backdrop for the show. During song changes, the top layer fell down to reveal a new layer with a new image, featuring images like the Future Hearts cover and the band members. All Time Low are known for their lights show. And thanks to their light engineer Jeff Maker, the light show went above an beyond, swallowing the stage in colors from green to red to purple and white.
For just having released Future Hearts, All Time Low’s setlist was surprisingly typical of the band. Opening with “Satellite,” the set featured only four other songs from the new album – “Runaways,” “Missing You,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Kids in the Dark.” The rest of the set was filled with all of the usual hits and fan favorites like “Weightless,” “Damned If I Do Ya,” “Lost In Stereo,” and “Six Feet Under the Stars,” among others. And of course it wouldn’t be an All Time Low show if they didn’t close with “Dear Maria.” As of April 21, it was announced that “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” So Wrong, It’s Right (2008), is now certified platinum, despite never receiving radio play. This comes after the news that “Weightless,” Nothing Personal (2009), went gold in Nov. 2014.
Despite the average setlist, All Time Low delivered the same, lively and fun set as always, interspersed with comical commentary from singer Alex Gaskarth and guitarist Jack Barakat. Bras, letters and hats were thrown on stage as gifts for the band. All the while, fans sang their hearts out, and jumped at the opportunity to be pulled on stage during “Time Bomb.” There was so much love in the room from and for the band, that there wasn’t a soul in the crowd that didn’t go home satisfied.
Austin, you crushed all my expectations tonight! So good; Like sex n' candy.. And other Marcy's Playground songs.
— Alexander William (@AlexAllTimeLow) April 30, 2015
Matt and Kim played at Stubb’s in Austin, TX on April 23 with support from WATERS. Their current U.S. tour is in support of their album New Glow, which released earlier this month. All photos from the show can be seen here.
The first time I saw Matt and Kim was at Stubb’s in 2012. I remember them bringing the party to the big stage, and I must say three years later, they’ve still got it.
The 2,000 capacity sold out show packed in people of all ages from young teenagers to moms and dads. The concert goers at the front of the crowd had been waiting for hours in 80 degree weather and humidity so high it felt like you stepped into a sauna. WATERS opened the show and brought the fun. It was hot. It was sweaty. And it was a dance party. The stage was adorned with flowers on each mic stand and in vases spread across amps. Keyboardist Sara DaMert also brought out a bouquet of flowers and handed it out to crowd members before starting the show. They rocked their set with a San Fransisco sound reminiscent of Grouplove’s good vibes. Frontman Van Pierszalowski even commented that he hardly saw anyone distracted by their cell phones. Instead the crowd’s full attention was captivated by WATERS.
Austin was a special show. You could feel the energy the crowd had before Matt and Kim even started. Audience members were singing and chanting as the anticipation rose. One of the security guards even commented, “this is going to be a fun crowd.”
Finally an ecstatic Matt and Kim took the stage to a wild, roaring crowd. Kim Schifino ran around the stage, waving and smiling at different parts of the audience, while Matt Johnson waved a Matt and Kim t-shirt above his head before throwing it into the audience. Ascending an elevated stage that seated them high above the crowd, Matt and Kim mounted their keyboard and drums to start the first song with a bang. From that moment until the end of the hour and a half set, there wasn’t a sweaty body in the crowd that wasn’t dancing.
Matt sang in his quirky voice and played the keys while Kim banged on the drums, never stopping from smiling and yelling with the crowd. Already after the first song, the duo stopped to talk to the crowd before entering a dance break. Matt, laughing to himself, asked the sound engineer to turn down his in ear monitor and explained that the crowd that they have monitors so they can hear the crowd, but Austin was already so loud on the very first song that they didn’t need the extra amplification. Matt played a recorded dance track before shooting confetti at the crowd, all while Kim danced.
The rest of the night continued in more high energy antics set to new songs with a couple oldies here and there. Multiple times both Matt and Kim stopped between songs to talk to the crowd, repeatedly saying how insane the crowd was. Austin has always been a favorite city of theirs, and they expressed how thankful they are to be able to play sold out shows on all of their Texas dates. Matt said to come back to a city like Austin and have a crowd like that is an amazing feat for any band, and they are grateful for it.
One of the loudest crowds I have ever witnessed, it was no lie that Austin really was a special show for them. The pure energy exuded from the band and the crowd was larger than anything I’ve felt at a show in a long time. When the two left the stage, the night was far from being over. With the crowd chanting “Matt and Kim,” they returned for an encore that was almost more epic than the rest of the set. Matt explained that the two agreed on this tour not to do what they were about to do, but if it felt right they would. Going in, they both knew Austin might feel right, and it did. So for the encore Kim climbed on top of the crowd to dance, for a minute of booty shaking and head banging. For the final song, Matt and Kim both took their shirts off, a rarity for Matt, and asked the crowd to do the same. The duo hardly wanted to leave the stage when the show was over, taking time to say good-byes and toss memorabilia into the crowd.
At the end of the night, every sweaty body in the crowd left wanting to continue the party. That show wasn’t just one for the books, it was one to remember for a lifetime.
The Ting Tings stopped in Austin, TX on April 22 at Emo’s on their U.S tour with support from KANEHOLLER. See all photos from the show on Flickr.
I was able to catch The Ting Tings twice at SXSW, and both times they played an energetic set. Their music is so carefree that it just makes you want to dance. Of course the crowd favorites were “That’s Not My Name” and “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” their early hits. But my favorite is the 10-minute-long live version of “No Hands” that loops what feels like forever in a trance of guitar and drum build-ups and bass drops.
Their performance at Emo’s was somewhat disappointing compared to the sets I saw at SXSW. That is not to say they did not perform well, but their lights show was severely lacking from the potential it could have to take their show to the next level. The show was not sold out either, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made the crowd different from the times I saw them. It was mainly adults who came to watch, and hardly dance. It always changes the dynamic when people aren’t interacting with the music in a positive and energetic way.
Flor, stylized flor, is a project that is bigger than any one of its four members. To label each member as only a singer or bassist would undermine them as creative individuals. Flor is Zach Grace, Dylan William, McKinley Kitts and Kyle Hill. When they come together as Flor, they are artists.
A year ago Grace began to play around with a computer program in his free time, creating random synth sounds he says he never thought would work in a band environment. But William found that he could build tracks around it. And it worked. “I find a synth line that I’m really into, that works really well with some weird chords, and then if everything is going perfectly, the melody just kind of, like, floats on top of it all,” says Grace. He comes up with vocal melodies, singing random sounds as placeholders for lyrics. With the combination of the synth phrases and vocal melodies, William pieces together the songs. It’s an idea so crazy that it almost shouldn’t work, but it somehow does. The two channel percussion and guitar sounds, transforming chaos into music. “And we started getting these new batches of songs that were unlike anything we’ve ever done,” says Kitts. “But it was so cool, and it had something special to it.” For once, says Kitts, it felt like they were doing something right. They found their sound – not a sound that fit into any genre, or a sound that anyone was telling them to be. “We feel like we’re part of this wave, this new generation of music,” says Kitts. He calls it an energetic, young, new way of 80s synthesizer-inspired music. Grace says it’s an optimistic outlook on music.
And they’re not alone. The band sites artists like Halsey and Years & Years who are on the same wave with them. While they all draw inspiration from the same place, they interpret it differently. “The sound made sense for everyone, but it’s all independent,” says Kitts. As music started coming out this year they realized they fit right in. “It… feels comfortable and, like, not too derivative of itself. But it still… fits together,” says Kitts.
Last year, after struggling to find that sound with a different project, the four boys from Hood River, Oregon took a leap of faith and moved to Los Angeles, California. Grace thought he’d hate the move, being from such a small town, but he knew it was right for the band. “Everything just kind of worked out,” says Grace. “We found the right people. We connected on a deep level within ourselves and within these… new groups of people.” The change in location brought about new revelations for them. “I think it’s a big part of realizing it’s not necessarily where you are, but who you’re with and we kind of found a family down there,” says Kitts. Musically, he says, it changed everything. William found his niche as a producer, working with Halsey and other artists. Even more than that, Flor probably would not have happened if they hadn’t move to L.A. “[L.A.] was like the mother to our father (Oregon) that gave birth to Flor,” says Kitts.
But Flor is not just a band. Expressing their emotion in sonic and visual art, Flor molds the two to become synonymous. “It’s important for us to have a cohesive image that compliments itself musically and visually,” says Grace. Grace’s life is like a color palette, says Kitts. Grace laughs along and explains that he writes the best songs when there is a visual compliment to it, as if he were writing music to narrate a story in his head. It doesn’t always work that easily, but when the art pushes the story, and it’s stimulating, he knows he’s doing it right. “We want things that kind of assault you in a way, but also work with the music,” says Grace. As Grace talks, I can see the wheels spinning in his head, like he is full of ideas that beg to be expressed in the art.
In July 2014, before any of their songs were released, Flor started to post 3D visuals with music snippets on their Instagram account, and continued to do so for several months. The band collaborated with Jade Ehlers, a photographer and designer they met after moving to L.A., to create the visuals that accompanied the music ideas. Fast forward four months to November. Flor released their first song “Heart” on SoundCloud. It was something different. And the first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. Poignant, hammering synth opens with Grace’s sing-song voice. Each verse is stripped back for a smooth and resonate vocal delivery. The choruses open into a syncopated wall of sound, of instrumentals and synth. With such a complete sound, it is hard to believe the song started off as fragments of synth ideas.
Since February, the band has added three more songs to SoundCloud, completing an EP. And more recently, they’ve had the chance to play a handful of live shows. Producing the sound live has been a challenge since playing the synth lines live would entail more serious equipment and manpower. For now, the band figured out a way to play all of the instruments and vocals live, while the synth track plays with them on a computer program. And it translates well in the live setting. The indie rock influence stands out, something I missed on their recordings, and brings the songs to life. “Every time we play, we are getting more in line with where we want to be,” says Grace. “We have huge dreams with what we can be doing.” It can be frustrating to set the bar so high, says Kitts. Being held back technologically and monetarily forces them to focus on perfecting their live performance. And while opening the show doesn’t warrant a great display of lights, they hope to someday have illuminating visual projections to bring home the art that is synonymous with their songs. “We want it all to be tied in with this one burst of art when we play,” says Kitts.
More than that, Flor is searching for their community of like-minded individuals. Grace dreams of a family-like environment where people can connect with the stories and art. “I’d like people to be able to connect with our songs, and feel with our songs,” says Grace. And not just as a fan, but be a part of something bigger. “[It’s] more than just, like, music. [It’s] like a living, breathing organism that we can all… be a part of,” says Kitts. “It sounds a little weird.” Sitting on the dimly lit stone steps of Stubb’s outdoor amphitheater, with live music droning in the background, it does sound a little weird. But listening to Grace and Kitts talk about their dreams is refreshing. The passion in their voices is clear and piercing. It’s apparent that they wholeheartedly believe in every word they say, and it makes you want to believe in them, too. Hearing them talk about their dreams feels a little less weird and a little more real. I can tell Grace views his goal as far off in the future, but finding a close-knit network may happen sooner than he thinks. They’ve already found it in L.A. – the group of friends, family even, supporting each other’s creative endeavors. They come to the shows and each time there are a few more people, says Kitts. It’s growing organically.
Online they hope to reach people through social media. The numbers of plays on SoundCloud show that there is someone out there who cares, and probably more than just someone. “That means people somewhere are connecting to the music,” says Kitts. “And that’s kind of all we can ask for.” With Flor being about more than the music, they have to maintain a certain image on social media. “I guess it’s important to guard that aesthetic, cause we don’t want it to lose that magic,” says Kitts. “Cause that’s what music is– it’s magic. And people that get the music and really relate to it– I think magical is really the only word to… describe that feeling when you connect with music and connect with other people.” Hopefully their magic is strong enough to foster a community where people can go and not be distracted by the ephemeral things. “When you go to Flor world, you’re there,” says Grace.
See all photos on Flickr.
New Zealand’s brother and sister duo Broods stopped in Austin, TX on their last night of their US tour on April 2 at Emo’s. While the show was not sold out, many endearing fans and adults packed the house for a night of music. See all photos from the show on flickr.
Broods worked with Joel Little (Lorde, Sam Smith) on their debut Evergreen. The sound is akin with Lorde and Chvrches manipulation of synth and instrumentals. With “Bridges” and “Mother & Father” on the radio, expect to see and hear more of Broods around.
See their Instagram post about the tour. Original photo by Jenna Million.
See all photos from the show on flickr.
I arrive at The Parish on a warm Tuesday evening. It’s always weird to see 6th St. not overrun with massive crowds of partygoers, but even with the street empty, there is already a line at the venue of eager fans waiting for the show.
I meet their manager in the back alley and we go into the venue through the back door. Vinyl Theatre is hanging out in a small lounge area with food and drinks. The manager introduces me to the guys and singer Keegan Calmes offers me a water bottle before we sit down and start talking. The guys mention how much they love Austin, as it’s their second time here. The first time was with twenty one pilots, but this time around they’re on tour with Magic Man.
I dive into the interview with the four-piece band. Hailing from Milwaukee, WI, singer and guitarist Keegan Calmes, keyboardist Chris Senner, bassist Josh Pothier and drummer Nick Cesarz knew each other growing up and many of them played instruments from a young age, but they officially formed the band in 2012.
They explain how they first found exposure on the Internet. Says Cesarz, he had the idea to release singles on SoundCloud, a music-streaming platform, over a period of weeks, allowing for each song to trend from continuous plays. “Almost unexpectedly we, like, cracked the algorithm,” says Calmes. Not only did the SoundCloud tactic cater to Vinyl Theatre’s online fan base, but it allowed them to reach new listeners from their songs trending on the site.
Around the same time, Fueled By Ramen expressed interest in the band and flew out to see Vinyl Theatre play in Cesarz’s parent’s basement. “We were just scared out of our minds,” says Pothier. “It’s the place we practiced for years and then these hot-shot record label people were just sitting there in front of our practice space just listening to us.” With a lot riding on this one performance, they say they could see their fate in front of them. “We kind of knew after that meeting that this could be it,” says Calmes. “It was kind of exciting and terrifying at the same time.” It’s a huge milestone for anyone to be signed to a label with artists like FUN. and Paramore. But Vinyl Theatre didn’t get there over night.
Their initial set up was unconventional, to say the least. With Senner and Cesarz going to college in Wisconsin and Calmes in Colorado, the three wrote over Skype and sent each other song files that each would contribute to separately. “I’d have no say in what happens with the drums,” says Calmes. “It would just come back with a full drum track done, which was cool ‘cause it was always a surprise.” Sometimes that was it, and sometimes they went back to the drawing board. They made the long distance work but knew it couldn’t stay that way if the band got serious. In the back of their minds they were prepared to pick up and leave everything to dedicate their pursuits to the music. “Eventually, the passion between the three of us became so strong for the songs that we started to believe in them and believe in each other that we’d all quit,” says Calmes. The guys all nod in agreement, each reflecting on their personal experience and the unspoken pact that Calmes says bonded them. And the pact ultimately led to where they are today.
With the addition of Pothier, and Calmes moving back to Milwaukee, the writing process also became more seamless. “We started to write with that whole one-minded feeling of, you know, everybody spellchecks for everybody else, and we give each other great ideas,” says Calmes. After signing with Fueled By Ramen in 2014, the band returned to the studio to record Electrogram, their first full-length album. Coming in with more experience, the band was able to give more attention to the songs, creating what they noted as a more mature and intricate sound.
The four each bring different musical tastes and influences to the table from The Killers to Blink-182 to electronic dance music. They all learn from each other and are able to craft their electronic pop-punk sound. Their sound defies genres, fitting more along the lines of twenty one pilots, a new wave of punk and electronic infused rock. “Our feeling of creating something original in a world full of noise is really tough,” says Calmes. “You just kind of find solace in the fact that whatever you do make, you share it with a unique group of people.”
Electrogram is representative of the band – it tells the story of their bond and their passion for music, something they hope to share with fans. “We want people to get excited about life and their passion, cause so many people will chase after something half-heartedly, and… we always feel like you should go all in,” says Calmes. Clames says the band would not have felt true to themselves if they didn’t stop everything else to make Vinyl Theatre their focus.
As a band that hadn’t done much true touring, opening for twenty one pilot’s Quiet Is Violent tour in 2014 was a big accomplishment. “We couldn’t have asked for a better tour to be part of right off the bat,” says Senner. “They treated us, just, extremely well.” And not just as friends, but as touring professionals. It came with a bit of a learning curve, but they were helped by twenty one pilots’ band and crew who taught them how to interact with people at venues and on tour, and to always be efficient, on time and courteous. At the end of the day, they’re there to put on a show for the fans.
Wrapping up the interview, I look forward to the show that night. An hour later Vinyl Theatre takes the stage with smiles and an energy they like to call their own. While touring will give them the experience they need to fine-tune their performance and channel their energy to reach the crowd, I look forward to hearing how their sound will be presented in new music. For now, Vinyl Theatre has an upcoming tour with Smallpools and a few radio shows on the calendar. The guys say they have a lot of new material to narrow down and look forward to a headlining tour in the future.
Before The Maine heads out on their U.S. tour in support of their new album, American Candy, they stopped in Austin, TX for a showcase at South By Southwest. Night Riots and Pianos Become the Teeth joined them for a night of rock music. Go here to see all photos from the show.
Fans eagerly lined up hours before doors to get a spot at the free show at Emo’s. Pianos Become the Teeth, a Baltimore-based punk rock band opened the show, serenading the crowd with Brand New-esque vibes.
Dressed head to toe in black, Night Riots took the stage for an energizing set of alt-rock anthems. Their up-beat sound and use of synthesizers and poppy guitar riffs, along with driving drums and bass-line gives their music a playful undertone. Charismatic frontman Travis Hawley commanded the stage in his jean jacket and leather gloves, flipping his hair and dancing. Hawley’s hauntingly sweet vocals add a unique face to the music, akin with bands like The Killers and Muse. Guitarists Nick Fontinakes and Matt DePauw shared their turn in the spot light, shredding the guitar during solos. Even fans of The Maine were impressed, leaving the show with a new favorite band to listen to.
Finally The Maine took the stage to play old songs for adoring fans, and showcase new ones. Starting out with “Miles Away,” a recently released track off of American Candy, fans went wild, singing every word. The Maine went straight into some old favorites, mixing it up with two new ones “Hair” and “English Girls.” As always, The Maine delivered a solid set, showing off their maturity and refined rock sound since their earlier pop-punk days.
With Pioneer (2011) and Forever Halloween (2013), The Maine crafted a guitar-heavy rock sound. From the sounds of “Miles Away” and “English Girls,” they will keep the rock ‘n’ roll vibes, embellished with signature distorted guitar riffs. American Candy is sure to please fans, and hopefully will open new doors for the band to reach new audiences.
American Candy is set to release on March 31 and is available for digital, CD and vinyl pre-orders here.