Hop Along at the Irenic

Hop Along is a band known for their raw, emotional songwriting brought forth by lead singer Frances Quinlan’s mighty vocals.  The Philadelphia-based quartet began in 2004 as a solo project of Quinlan’s and later developed into a four-piece consisting of her brother Mark Quinlan on drums, bassist Tyler Long and former Algernon Cadwallader member Joe Reinhart on guitar. Hop Along has been a dynamic figure in folk rock in the post-2010 era, emerging even before Philadelphia was hailed as the capital of new indie with the 2012 release of their album “Get Disowned.”  As their 2015 release, “Painted Shut,” gathered even more praise, Hop Along became a band known for emphatic songwriting laced with expressive riffs.  

Taking the stage at the Irenic to promote their most recent release, “Bark Your Head Off, Dog,” the band worked to translate the powerful sentiments expressed on their record into a fulfilling live show.  The rustic backdrop of hanging lights against wood gave the show a homey, backyard-jam feel. Clad in a mix of shorts, baseball caps and t-shirts complete with a few cans of beer, the band’s natural chemistry effectively loosened the mature crowd.  Beginning the show with “How Simple,” the band had everyone swaying, with a mix of foot stomping and head nodding. They continued into “Kids on the Boardwalk” and “Fox in Motion,” pausing to address the crowd about the extremely high temperature in the room that had us all sweating in gross unity. What followed was a fan-requested rendition of “Powerful Man,” a personal story of Quinlan’s about the time she saw a man abusing his son in public and her inability to confront him.  A few times, Quinlan mentioned how the show was taking place in a church, proclaiming, “it’s weird to sing a spiritually questionable song in a place such as this” before going into “What the Writer Meant.” Finishing the set with album closer “Prior Things,” the group had the crowd bowing their heads rapturously. Returning onstage for an encore, the band played three older songs highlighted with a riff in “The Knock” that had everyone holding their breath. Closing with “Tibetan Pop Stars,” (once hailed by Blink-182 bassist Mark Hoppus as “the most painfully beautiful song ever”), the band retreated humbly, leaving a storm of applause in their wake.  The crowd responded appreciatively to every bit of light the band gave off, basking in the essence of comfort that permeated through the room. Amidst a room of scene veterans who probably had to put effort into attending a Sunday night show, Hop Along made the experience easy and worthwhile.

Two views of a concert

Fog. Hearts Racing. Silence. Lights. Screams. 5 Seconds of Summer. House of Blues San Diego.

Working as a photographer for a 5 Seconds of Summer concert was a unique experience for me. Having seen them previously for Vevo Certified Live in 2015 I was amazed at how much the fan base had grown together alongside Luke, Michael, Calum and Ashton. The most apparent emotions to me when I looked at every single fan I saw were nervous, excited and anxiousness. Some, I’m sure, were anxious to finally see the band again after their last tour Sounds Good Feels Good for their second album in 2016. Fans were beyond ready to see their favorite musicians on stage for the first time in two years.

The dedication of the girls I had the chance to speak to at the front of the line at House of Blues San Diego was so inspiring. Some of them had slept outside to keep their spots in line and make sure they could experience the concert in the very front, to hopefully get noticed by their favorite in the band. That moment when Luke, Calum, Ashton or Michael look you in the eyes is life-changing. I cannot even begin to describe how much I understand the needs of every fan in line to see 5 Seconds of Summer. I can tell you that I have blasted their music in my room and sang at the top my lungs to all their songs. The sad songs, the happy songs and everything in between. Getting the chance to see your favorite band in a smaller venue like House of Blues San Diego is a dream for anyone passionate about music.

View from the barricade:

Before the show I was lucky enough to become friends with a few of the other fans. We chatted from 7 p.m. when the doors opened until 5 Seconds of Summer came on at about 8:45 p.m. It was such a heart-warming experience to become instant friends with people I had known for less than an hour, especially when I only knew two other people at the venue (who I got separated from). Standing in the barricade was an unbelievable feeling. I couldn’t believe that shortly 5 Seconds of Summer would be less than two feet away from me. How was that even possible?

As I stood in front of the stage I again looked at all the faces. It was starting to get pretty warm with 1000 other people in the room. House of Blues security was prepared with ice water and cups for fans to keep them hydrated and healthy. In the front of the crowd I could see the roses, signs and crowns that fans held in hopes to give to 5SOS. Just to steal one moment and finally make the connection in person. To look them in the eyes and sing back the words they have alway sang to them. Priceless.

​Five minutes before they went on I could feel my own heart begin to race. Wow. This was really happening and I was going to capture it all with a camera. I was lucky to have received some pointers from 5SOS’ tour photographer Andy DeLuca. He told me what to look out for during the set. One of the best bits of advice Andy gave me- “you need to wear ear plugs.”

When 5 Seconds of Summer walked out the screams were loud. Incredibly loud. The music was not as loud as the fans. Right away my body started moving and following the different band members and trying to get the best angles possible. It was such an interesting experience working in the barricade with other photographers and being right next to them trying to get the best pictures possible. My favorite moment was when Luke leaned right into the camera during the concert. I screamed a little on the inside. It was so cool singing along while taking pictures. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

View from the pit.

After taking the photos I left the barricade and went to the side to check out some of the photos. From then on, I was able to enjoy the concert in the pit with all the other fans. 5SOS from another angle. LETS GO!

One of the most memorable moments for me was when Calum said that San Diego was a special place for him. He went soul searching here a few years ago and said that it was a beautiful city.

It was humbling that Calum felt comfortable enough to share something like that at such an intimate venue. This lead into the song, “Amnesia,” and fans started singing so loud that he stepped away from the microphone and tossed his hand towards the crowd as if to say “Why am I singing when you already know the words.” The crowd did not falter, and Calum came back into to finish the verse. Undying support.

I was surprised by how many fans knew all the words to the songs that hadn’t been released yet. There were, however, fan videos posted online,teasing the new music. There was so much love for the track “Valentine,” during which some fans held up red hearts. The fan favorite had to be “Jet Black Heart” because the song was originally written for 5SOS fans and during the song, you could feel the love 5SOS had for every person in the venue. 5SOS was back but had never left.

“Jet Black Heart” had a huge response but it was “Young Blood” that got everyone hyped again toward the end. Everyone was bouncing.  “Want You Back” was the perfect way to end the concert, reviving the energy and the fans’ first love off the new album. 5SOS had matured and was reveling in the new music and the response from fans. Ashton did not forgot to mention they would be back in October at SDSU performing at the Cal Coast Credit Union, and he expected everyone present to be there. I am so excited to see how much they will grow in that time.

5 Seconds of Summer could not hide the love they had for their fans. Luke was the official hype man of the band and constantly had his hands in the air inviting fans to be as loud as possible. 5SOS is unique in that they expect a lot from their fans, and their fans expect a lot from them. Some of the best moments of the concert were when the band smiled at each other, showing how strong their bond is. There was so much bromance.

Their set up was so different from 2015. It was more theatrical. There were so many different colored lights: blues, yellows and reds. The lights were very reminiscent of their “Want You Back” music video. 5SOS is not only changing their sound but they are changing how they present it to fans as well.

This is the first concert where I pulled out my phone for all of about three pictures. After I put my phone away, I really experienced the concert first hand. Up close and personal with my favorite band. It was also nice getting noticed by Michael during one of the songs. I was shouting the lyrics and he looked right at me and we were singing to each other. I felt like I was singing in the shower in my room and hitting all those notes, waving my hands and dancing. I never put my hands down once. I was so comfortable and happy. I was at home. It was an inspiring concert for me personally because I am an aspiring artist. I hope I can receive the same support as 5SOS when I make it big.

5SOS sings, in “Waste the Night” “I don’t wanna waste it, don’t wanna waste it.” This was so apparent for all the fans present on Thursday, April 26.

 

Japanese Breakfast at The Irenic

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​Japanese Breakfast is an experimental pop group formed by Michelle Zauner formally of Little Big League. The project began in around 2014, when Zauner began recording solo music, but the group didn’t release an album until 2016. Since the release of their first record Psychopomp, the band has received critic attention, and released their second album Soft Sounds From another Planet in the summer of 2017. In support of the album, Japanese Breakfast has kind of been on a non-stop tour, and once again they are back in California in support of their debut Coachella performance. The show began two 30-minuteopeners, one being And And And from Oregon, who are longtime friends with Michelle Zauner, and Snail Mail, which is fronted by 19 year old Lindsey Jordan. And And And sang about divorce, and love and the journey one faces through these. Snail Mail then took the stage, and although facing technical difficulties, the group showed up and delivered a set to hype the crowd. The instrumentalists then left, leaving Lindsey and her Fender Jaguar alone to perform a solo song to end the set. Finally, Japanese Breakfast took the stage shortly after the stage crew moved things around. The band played a mix set, including hits from both albums, as well as a few ballads with only Michelle and Craig (her drummer/backup singer) on synthesizer. Halfway through the band set, a fan yelled “I heard you like wings, do you want wings?”, participating in a long running joke that Michelle Zauner loves chicken wings. Michelle replied “Um yeah” and continued to talk. The fan then proceeded to the stage and handed her a box of chicken wings. The two shared one together, and the show continued. The San Diego crowd shocked Michelle with how much love and appreciation they had for her as she shared her anxieties with touring. The band then closed their set with their most popular song “Everybody Wants to Love You”. After two solid minutes, of the crowd cheering “encore! Encore” and “one more song!” the band came back out and delivered an enigmatic cover of Dreams by the Cranberries. I can truly say that Michelle Zauner is the only one who can give justice to Dolores O’Riordan’s insane vocals. Overall the night was filled with an ode to rock, and experimental music through the music of the two openers, and most importantly Japanese Breakfast.

Japanese Breakfast will be back in San Diego in June at the Observatory in North Park.

A Concert to Remember: Alejandra Guzman vs Gloria Trevi

On April 13, Mexican singers, Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzman, performed at their second to last concert of their tour together. Alejandra Guzman vs Gloria Trevi was a successful tour, and their concert in San Diego did not dissappoint. They came out with an enthusiastic vibe that had the audience screaming, laughing, dancing and singing along with them. Their outfits were stunning and would sparkle across the stage. They gave all they could at their performance and were amazing, but my experience at their concert wasn’t as great as it could have been.

First of the use of the big screens behind them were not used wisely. Gloria Trevi and Alejandra Guzman are obviously not to blame for this, since this was a fault of the technicians. The reason why I say the screens were not used effectively is because most of the time what spectators would see on screen were special effects, and not Trevi or Guzman. This made it difficult for the audience in the back high seats to enjoy the show at its full potential because all they could see was a human dancing on stage. Its no fun to pay to see a singer sing, when you can’t even distinguish if it is them. The goal of screens in concerts is not necessarily to create a fun background, but to better the experience of the audience by allowing them to see the performer. You need to make the audience feel connected, and up close to the performer, and the use of big screens plays a big part on this.

Another reason that diminished my experience at their concert was the behavior of some people in the audience. My friend and I, bought the tickets to the show knowing that we would be the youngest or if not part of the young people among their fans, since Trevi and Guzman began their careers during the late 80s. So, as we had predicted the day of the concert we were indeed some of the youngest people in the concert, which unfortunately became a conflict with our engagement in the concert. As a concert goer I have always been the person to stand up and dance and sing to the music, and I have never had any complains…. until now. As Guzman began to sing “Eternamente Bella”, my friends favorite song, we decided to get off our sits and start dancing and sing along. Well, apparently the older man behind us didn’t approve of our actions and thought it would be a great idea to softly scratch my friend in the back to tell him to sit down. I then intervened and told the man that it was concert and it was normal for people to stand up and dance. Apparently, the man had never been to a concert or was at a stage in his life where he didn’t care and had the guts to tell us to move seats. Obviously, we didn’t move because: 1) We paid for the seats we were at, 2) I was not going to go seat in someone else’s seats and then get in trouble for it. As we decided to ignore the man he continued to scratch my friends back. Finally, we sat down since my friend didn’t want to argue about the situation with the man. This left a sour taste to our mouths and killed our vibe for the night. And as much as we wanted to enjoy the show all we could do was wiggle in our chairs.

Due to my experience I will probably never go to a concert of theirs again, and not because of Trevi and Guzman because as I mentioned before they were amazing. But a third of their crowd are at an age where they think concerts are to go sit down at a stadium and look at a screen. I’m sorry, but If that is what your idea of going to a concert is, please do everyone a favor and stay at home and watch the concert through YouTube videos instead.