Big K.R.I.T at the House of Blues

Another week, another concert to cover. This makes me a very happy person. On Thursday, October 3, 2019, I had the privilege of covering the hip-hop legend Big K.R.I.T (Justin Lewis Scott) at the House of Blues.

Trust me when I tell you that this dude has been in the rap game for a long time and is a walking legend. Starting his career more than 14 years ago, he has a list of accomplishments that are staggering.

As a prominent protestor of many of the racial issues that America faces today, he has become a symbol of motivation for movements like #BlackLivesMatter.

He has performed and spoken multiple times at the BET Hip Hop Awards, and even received three nominations for “Rookie of the Year” and “Best Mixtape” in 2011, where his career really started to pop off. 

Big K.R.I.T has elements in his music that show roots to some of the more classic elements of hip-hop, such as deep soulful beats and tongue-twisting lyricism. Collaborating with big artists such as J.Cole and Lil Wayne attests to his impact and respect within the hip-hop scene.

With all of this said, I was super excited to see this man live and get some fire pictures of him! Unfortunately, I was running a little late to the show at House of Blues San Diego. I arrived at about 9 p.m (the time when the headliner usually hits the stage) and picked up my media pass. 

Literally, at the exact second I walked into the main room, Big K.R.I.T. walked on stage to start his performance. Photographers are only allowed to take pictures in the photo pit for the first three songs of the performance, so I hustled my way to the front immediately. The timing could not be more perfect, because if I was even ten minutes later, I would have missed my opportunity to cover the show.

As soon as Big K.R.I.T took the stage, you could tell he had been doing this for a long time. His energy was through the roof. I looked back at the crowd to see all of the audience in the front row singing every single word. He clearly had a bunch of loyal fans. 

He continued the next three songs that I saw with that same energy, moving and bouncing around the stage, rapping his lyrics with a passion that is rare to see. 

After three songs, security booted me out, and that is all that I saw. Being able to see a legend like Big K.R.I.T up close was really great, and I am happy with the photos that I got. 

Big K.R.I.T will continue his “From the South with Love” tour until his last show on November 16th, in his hometown of Atlanta, GA. Check out his music here.

Written by: Justin Neeley
Photos by: Justin Neeley

Tobi Lou at the House of Blues

Up-and-coming artist Tobi Lou delivered a memorable performance that seamlessly merged rap and melodic pop into one lighthearted and fun show on Saturday, September 28.

I arrived at the House of Blues, the hottest venue in all of San Diego, about two hours before Tobi Lou got on stage. A little too early if I must say, as I sat around for an hour before the employees let me in to the event. The show was held on the smaller stage called “The Voodoo Room” which I had never been to before.

The show began with the artist named Lil Trxptendo who brought a lot of good energy into the early hours of the performance. At the young age of 17, Lil Trxptendo has brought his music into the limelight, a feat that he was very proud to discuss in between songs. At one point, he even invited four audience members on stage where they all danced together and had a “woah” off. For those of you unfamiliar, a “woah” is a popular yet easy dance move that has come into the limelight during 2019.

The next artist to hit the stage was Femdot, a rapper out of Chicago. With the recent release of his project 94 Camry Music, the energy was off the charts. His live performance consisted of a mix of hype songs that had the crowd jumping and smooth, introspective tracks about his struggles. 

As I waited for Tobi Lou to come on stage, I stood outside the venue to get a little bit of a break. Sitting there going through my photos so far, I turned to see Tobi Lou, with his easily recognizable four puffs of blonde hair, himself just hanging out with his squad getting ready for his performance. He was approximately 5 feet away for a solid 20 minutes, and I wanted to say “what’s goooood bro can I get a pic” so bad but felt like that would be annoying right before his performance. Maybe I was just too deep in my own head.

Anyways, Tobi started his performance with one of my personal favorite songs “I Was Sad Last Night I’m Ok Now” and it was nothing short of great. The audience had been waiting a long time and knew all the lyrics to every song. He emits a bubbly, lighthearted, yet confident stage energy that was rare to see from an artist that is still considered “on the come up”.

I hadn’t heard of Tobi before going to the concert, but I actually consider myself a fan now. His style of music is right up my alley, and many of his songs have since been added to my go-to playlist. His “Happy + Extra Sad” nation-wide tour will be continuing until 10/20, where his final show will take place in his hometown of Chicago. If you like upbeat, modern rap music with a taste of bubbly pop, check out Tobi Lou here.

Written by: Justin Neeley
Photos by: Justin Neeley


Have Mercy and The Early November at the House of Blues

Have Mercy and The Early November brought together devoted fans to share a night of raw emotions and moments of nostalgia at the House of Blues.

If you go onto my Apple Music account, you will see a heart next to almost every Have Mercy song. That is how good they are. Have Mercy opened up for The Early November, one of the best 2000’s emo bands, at the House of Blues on September 26, 2019.

I have a best friend and her name is Paige. Paige and I have seen Have Mercy together a total of three times. This is very impressive considering she lives in Pittsburgh, PA. I was the one that showed Paige Have Mercy. The first song I showed her was “The Place You Love“. That song became “our song,” with us playing it almost every single car ride while we were together.

We were lucky enough to see them on two dates of a tour back in 2017, once in Buffalo and once in Toronto. Leading up to the show, we would tweet Have Mercy often, begging them to play and dedicate “The Place You Love” to us. This was at the end of our five shows in six days extravaganza, so we were tired. The Buffalo show came and went, and we did not get our dedication. We kept tweeting them over the next day before the Toronto show. The Toronto show came and they played “The Place You Love”, and was dedicated to us, but as the “twitter girlfriends.” We had to explain to Brian after the show that we are not dating, we are just long distance best friends. Of course, we thanked him and also apologized for our excessive tweets.

Now, if Paige or I go to a Have Mercy show without each other and they play “The Place You Love”, we facetime each other. No matter when or where I hear that song, I always think of my best friend. That is one of my favorite things about Have Mercy.

Have Mercy played nine songs live: “Heartbeat”, “Clair”, “Mattress On The Floor”, “This Old Ark”, “Coexist”, “My Oldest Friend”, “Let’s Talk About Your Hair”, “Dressed Down”, and “So Like You”. The majority of these songs are from their newest album, The Love Life, which came out in August.

This album was, to me, very different than anything they have released before. The album seemed more polished, in a good way. One thing that I really liked about this album was how different each song is from each other. Yet, the album flows so well together and sounds like a whole. I feel like with the two past albums, they have stepped out of their comfort zone and made different music than what they are known for. They also incorporated a lot of drums into this album but stuck to their typical melody.

Every song is super catchy, and I grew to love this album almost as much as I love “A Place of Our Own“. My favorites on the new album are: “We Ain’t Got Love“, “40 OZ” (which I think is my favorite), “Clair“, and “Mattress on the Floor“.

Another one of my favorite things about Have Mercy is how honest they are in their music and in their lives. If you have never listened to a Have Mercy song, now is your time to do so. Their lyrics are so raw and make you feel the same feelings they had when writing the song. I am not going to say that Have Mercy is my go-to crying band, but it really is (besides Safe Bet).

At the show, Brian, the singer, talked about how their drummer recently passed away, and how that affected him and the band. It brought the original members of Have Mercy back together, but obviously, it also brought a lot of sadness. Brian was alone on the stage and dedicated “My Oldest Friend” to him, which was a very emotional performance.

On a lighter note, Brian also talked about his past experience with doing shrooms. He said he was tripping so hard, that he did not notice his contacts fell out. This made him stare into a sink for an extended amount of time, and he convinced himself that this was how he was going to see the world from now on.

Have Mercy opened up for the Early November. If you were alive in the early 2000’s and loved emo music or post-hardcore music, this band is nothing new to you. The Early November formed in 1999, in Hammonton, New Jersey. By 2002, they were signed to Drive Thru Records, played Warped Tour, and released their first EP, For All of This. The following year they toured with Brand New and released their first full length album, The Room’s Too Cold. They continued to tour and released their next album, The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path in 2006. The album debuted at number 31 on the Billboard 200, which is their highest-charting album.

In 2007, they announced they would be taking an indefinite hiatus. Rumors flowed for the next couple of years, and some of the members teased that there would be a reunion. In 2011, the band announced that The Early November would be back and that they signed with Rise Records. They released an album called In Currents, their only release since their last album six years ago. The Early November kept releasing music, such as their fourth studio album, Imbue. Their newest full length album came out on September 27, 2019 called Lilac.

This was my first time seeing The Early November, and they blew me away. This band has been around for as long as I have been alive, and they still can draw out a crowd of die-hard fans. They played a total of 17 songs: “A Stain on the Carpet”, “A Little More Time”, “I Don’t Care”, “Decoration”, “Guilt & Swell”, “Hit by a Car (In Euphoria)”, “Boxing Timelines”, “Ave Maria”, “Tell Me Why”, “Baby Blue”, “The Mountain Range in My Living Room”, “I Want to Hear You Sad”, “I Dissolve”, “Call Off the Bells”, “Ever So Sweet”, and “Narrow Mouth and Frayed in Doubt”. The singer, Ace, asked the crowd who had been fans since their first album. Almost the entire room had their hands raised. It is crazy to me that a band that has been around for 20 years still has this dedicated of a fan base.

I finally sat down and listened to their newest album Lilac, and it was absolutely amazing. This is a band that has released five studio albums, an acoustic album, three EPs, took a hiatus, and came back with a bang. They have continued to put out album after album, and song after song, that not only keeps the old fans listening, but brings in a new wave of fans.

My favorites on the album would have to be “My Weakness“, “Hit by a Car (In Euphoria)“, and “Ave Maria“. The album is very guitar and vocally driven. It sticks to their emo roots but also shows how they and their music have grown over the past 20 years. My only critique for the album is that I wish it was longer! The album is only ten songs, which comes out to about 38 minutes. Other than that, this is another magical release by the Early November.

Give a listen to both Have Mercy’s new album here and the Early November’s album here.

Written By : McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos By : McCaeley O’Rourke

The Hunna and Barns Courtney at the House of Blues

While opening for Barns Courtney, UK band The Hunna performed a crowd pleasing show at the House of Blues on September 25, 2019.

Let’s flashback to 2016. Picture me sitting in study hall in high school with my best friend Emma. We were listening to every single artist that would be playing Wayhome in the following summer. For those of you who do not know, Wayhome was a music festival about an hour north of Toronto. Emma types into YouTube, “The Hunna.” She clicks on the first video, “Bonfire.” I am hooked by about ten seconds in. 

This is the story of how I found and fell in love with a band called The Hunna. The worst part about that story is that their former manager double booked them, two festivals in the UK that were the same time as two festivals in the US. Since this band is from Hertfordshire, England, they obviously chose the UK festivals. The Hunna formed in 2015, and is comprised of singer and guitarist Ryan (Tino) Potter, lead guitarist Daniel (BD) Dorney, bassist Junate (Prince) Angin, and drummer Jack (IK) Metcalfe. 

Now, let’s flashback to 2017. Picture me sitting in my quad dorm at my desk, getting ready to go out for the night. I am playing The Hunna, and I hear my roommate, Adrienne, singing along. I turn around and ask, “are you singing?” She of course responds, “yes,” which has me screaming at her, “you know The Hunna?” That is how I knew Adrienne and I were going to be friends forever.

I finally got to see The Hunna live in April 2018, with Adrienne. They headlined the House of Blues in San Diego. It was one of the best shows I have ever been to, and I got to talk to the band after the show. That day, Tino got a tattoo that says, “Y.D.W.I.W.M.” which is one of their songs. They are genuinely the nicest people, and they even recorded a video saying hello to my mom. My mom is a humongous The Hunna fan. Since The Hunna rarely tour the US, I really did not know when I would get to see them live again.

On September 26, I finally got to see The Hunna again, but this time from the photo pit at the House of Blues. They played a total of nine songs: We Could Be, Fever, Babe Can I Call?, IGHTF, Flickin’ Your Hair, Y.D.W.I.W.M., She’s Casual, Bonfire and D. G. A. F. They stopped to talk about a lot of the meanings behind their songs, or stories that had to do with a specific song. My favorite story that they told that night was about “She’s Casual”. It was the first song they had ever written together. It was written in a shed while they were all stoned out of their minds, and they didn’t believe that they wrote that good of a song because of how high they were. The crowd was going absolutely wild for The Hunna, which seemed to shock the band. Everyone was screaming the words right back at them, which made Tino state that San Diego was the best date of the tour yet. My favorite part of the entire show was seeing all the middle-aged women dance and sing along to them. They reminded me of how much my mom loves them, and made me smile. Their set ended with Tino crowd surfing, which was another highlight of my night.

The Hunna opened up for Barns Courtney, and to be quite honest, I had never heard of him until I saw his name on the bill. Standing in the photo pit before he came on, I did not know what to expect. When he came out on stage, the energy in the room shifted and exuded so much happiness. Barns’ stage presence is something you rarely see anymore. He was wild, carefree, and happy, all while jumping around. He reminded me of Catfish and the Bottlemen, mixed with Yungblud. I really enjoyed his music, and especially enjoyed his stage presence.

The Hunna did say that they will be back early next year, and that music will be released around the same time. In the meantime, you can listen to The Hunna here, and Barns Courtney here

Written by: McCaeley O’Rourke
Photos by: McCaeley O’Rourke