Concert Review: Envy on the Coast at Culture Room

Categories: Concert Review

theaudition.jpg
The Audition

PacTour: The Audition, Envy On the Coast, Danger Radio, Another Day Late
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Culture Room

Better Than: Dealing with the sweat and rain of an outdoor summer punk festival.

I’m pretty certain that anybody who’s anybody at a South Florida high school was at the all-ages PacTour on Saturday night. Much to their chagrin, some of their parents insisted upon coming along, too. Sure, Mom and Dad were lingering “unnoticed” in the back, immersed in their iPhone touch screens, but that had to bring the coolness factor down a few notches for one or two freshmen.

Regardless, it didn’t seem like these kids, meticulously outfitted in studded belts, scarves, Vans sneakers, backpacks and tonight’s best offerings from the merch table, cared who was performing. They were out of the house, which meant countless camera flashes to obtain new, exciting MySpace photos, chain-smoking cigarettes and heavy make-out sessions in the corners. Yes, this might as well have been the best house party around, and, oh yeah, some bands were playing, too.

Don’t get me wrong, just as soon as the opening act Another Day Late came onstage, the girls all screamed right on cue, and the guys partook in inappropriate, off-beat moshing, while the melodic punk rockers from California did their thing. Their thing, as it turns out, is a watered-down blend of Circa Survive’s vocals and cerebral lyrics, along with the gritty manic force of he Mars Volta. The most outstanding aspect of ADL has to be the bleeding-heart energy of singer Kohl Heggman. The smug-looking frontman, wearing dark-rimmed glasses, a T-shirt and jeans, has undoubtedly taken performance cues from Circa’s Anthony Green, but is more audience-involved and less dramatic and spastic – this could also just be so his glasses won’t fly off.

Second on the bill, Danger Radio, are spirited dance punk-poppers from Seattle, who have a sound reminiscent of Cobra Starship’s light fun, the Rapture’s off-kilter guitar rhythms and beats, and a strong affection for Motown grooves. The frail-looking De Torres manages to stir up a scene using only his big grin, Stevie Wonder-infused vocals and fast, frantic moves. Danger Radio’s upbeat disco rock is mostly highlighted by catchy keyboard tunes that Maroon 5 might envy. The sextet was certainly the most distinctive band on the tour’s lineup. “I wanna see everybody go nuts!” announced De Torres. And they did. The band ended their set with “Party Foul,” the funky feel-good track from their 2007 EP Punch Your Lights Out.

The fact that the bands moved their own gear on and off stage gave this tour a DIY vibe and made entrances less rock star, and more like the startling ovation that cast members of a sitcom get when they enter their first scene. Fans began screeching when Danger Radio singer Andrew De Torres walked onstage to set up his mic, and the screams continued as the band started playing.

Next, Long Island-natives Envy On the Coast took the show in another direction – rambunctious emo rock. The dynamic presence of dread-headed singer Ryan Hunter was surpassed only by uproars from the mass of fans crunched against the front of the stage. EOTC has the kind of head-spinning, repetitious choruses that can be seen as either: a) obvious and tiresome, or b) captivating and memorable. This audience was definitely onboard with choice b. I, on the other hand, was more aligned with choice a. Despite my ho-hum opinion, the crowd was going crazy, singing along to every word. There were moments when Hunter’s theatrical delivery style was like that of Thursday and Panic! at the Disco, but most of the time he just shook and squirmed frantically. ETOC closed with “The “Gift of Paralysis,” and the whole venue appeared to echo back the lines.

Just when this line-up was climaxing like the perfect emo-punk-pop firecracker finale, the Audition took the scene to a more mainstream [read: super boring] place. I can’t recall the last time I was more annoyed by a lead singer’s performance style. Wearing a navy sweater vest, button-down and jeans, singer Danny Stevens looked more like he was going to head a student council meeting rather than an emo-rock show. He peered through his long stringy hair with exaggerated eyes and cheesy macho expressions, á la ’80s glam rock. By this time, quite a lot of the crowd was leaving the venue, and I couldn’t blame them. Though there were a few less onlookers, the remaining fans were completely enthralled in this preppy jock version of the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

This Chicago quintet may have been the most polished – in sound and dress – but they were by far the least interesting band of the night. Safe, expected choruses and melodies are the bulk of what this group uses to build their songs. You know it’s bad when the band says, “This is our last song,” and you pray to god there isn’t an encore. Thankfully, there wasn’t.

The PacTour was like a punk show 101 for most of this audience. The bill could have easily been flipped, with the Audition opening and Another Day Late headlining, and things would have probably been more exciting, or at least more climatic. Nonetheless, teenage girls jumped around (literally as if on pogo sticks), wildly out of rhythm and giggled loudly throughout the performances. Guys tried to play it cool by just standing around or striking up a mosh pit, just for the hell of it, even when the music clearly didn’t call for it (that’s what they do in all the Fuse videos, right?). Overall, it seems like the PacTour served its purpose – getting kids out to a show to hear some indie punk, buy merch, meet the bands and hang with friends – all without the day-long commitment and sponsor distractions of a major festival. OK, so now promoters just need to figure what to do with those pesky parents.

– Monica Cady

Critic’s Notebook:

Personal Bias: Sweater vests worn over button-downs should be strictly reserved for indie rock shows – and seem really inappropriate in emo-punk settings.

Random Detail: The brainchild behind the PacTour is Another Day Late drummer Josh Hubberman. Hubberman worked at a PacSun store, had the idea for a tour and presented it to the company’s higher-ups. (Now, if only he had the brilliant idea to have his own band headline.)

By the Way:The Audition’s sophomore album the Champion is due out January 22nd on Victory Records.

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