Once you begin your descent into adulthood after college, concerts become a thing you long for. You stare at tickets online and wish for something affordable that won’t have you out too late. Life, in general, becomes so bogged down with responsibility and an impossible to ignore reality that you think of all the concerts you’ve been to in the past ten years with a wistful nostalgia.
This is how I found myself weaving through the overcrowded streets of Manhattan on a balmy April evening. I’d sprinted from work to Webster Hall, a venue I’d heard of but never visited, all in the name of the Lovely, Little, Lonely World Tour. The headlining band, an Arizonian quintet called The Maine, was one I was embarrassingly familiar with and the reason for my attendance. I knew that, if anything, they would make the trip from Brooklyn worthwhile. If you’re familiar with The Maine, you’re without a doubt familiar with 8123, a family of friends and music label. 8123 is what brought my attention, along with many others, to Beach Weather, one of the opening acts. The lead singer and guitarist, Nick Santino, was previously the frontman of A Rocket to the Moon (a band I used to adore) so I was intrigued to see him in a band I had just started getting into. The Mowgli’s, an infectiously upbeat band from Los Angeles, were opening as well. For the past few years, the group of around six, sometimes more, has been my go-to on rough days when you just can’t seem to get happy and I practically fell out of my seat when I saw they were touring with The Maine.
Almost all of my previous The Maine concerts found me smashed between bodies in the pit, sweaty and voice strained, but incredibly content. Since Webster Hall’s Grand Ballroom is quite sprawling, I found a small spot behind the sound techs upstairs that gave everyone who didn’t want to be crushed to death a bird’s eye view of the stage. Looking down at the literal sea of people below me, and more and more people filling in around the balcony, gave me a surprising pang of pride. As a longtime fan I remembered the first few shows I’d attended were barely full, despite their tiny venues, and I couldn’t help but feel proud of how far these five men have come.
The quick flash of light from behind the stage left curtain signaled the sound technicians in front of me the concert was about to start. Almost immediately, the men of Beach Weather trotted on stage, grabbing their instruments before the house lights had even gone down. Opening with the popular “Someone’s Disaster,” Beach Weather certainly opened the show with a bang. The first thing I noticed was that the former threesome had added a member, giving their set a fuller sound, both musically and vocally. “Swoon” followed and if anyone in the crowd was on the fence about Beach Weather this performance certainly turned the tide. The audio recording of “Swoon” is smooth and sensual and those elements held true when performed live, but it was a little bit frantic, a little less chill in the way Santino sang and the drums pounded. From there, Beach Weather’s set was mostly populated by songs off of their 2016 album Chit Chat, including “Goddess” and “Tremors,” until they played “New Skin” off of 2015’s What a Drag. This was definitely the song I had been waiting for, as it’s a favorite of mine, and somehow they made it sound even better than it usually does. “New Skin” was when I saw the more stubborn concert goers below loosen up and dance. Their set ended with “Sex, Drugs, Etc,” wrapping up in a flurry of lights and a screaming Nick Santino I hadn’t seen perform like that before. You can tell in the recording that the final chorus is wrenched from Santino’s vocal chords but production and layering fades it into the background of the song, whereas live we got the full sound.
The Mowgli’s were up next and after the stage was set they bounded out, opening their set with “Bad Dream” off of their 2015 album Kids In Love. As I’d hoped and expected, The Mowgli’s worked their trademark optimism and contagiously buoyant magic on the crowd. It’s hard to pick stand-out songs when each one was executed almost perfectly, creating a haze of happiness upon the concert goers. “4 AM” and “Whatever Forever” seemed to be crowd favorites, along with “Say It, Just Say It.” After a quick Killers inspired snippet–that included a short but incredible guitar solo from Colin Dieden–Katie Mowgli, the lone female in the group, gave a heartfelt and impassioned speech about the band’s philosophy. The Mowgli’s believe bringing more compassion into the world will make things feel a little bit better and problems will be solved faster than they are now. What really struck me about Katie’s short speech was her call for starting that process by loving ourselves better and caring for ourselves the way we need to be cared for. Her words were a perfect intro into “I’m Good,”one of the songs The Mowgli’s are best known for, before ending the set with “San Francisco,” another fan favorite.
After being woke up by Beach Weather and energized by The Mowgli’s, the entire venue seemed alive. Bodies upon bodies, jittery with excitement, watched the stage being set up. This time around, The Maine’s stage looked like a dream forest, complete with grass turf and spindly trees with twinkle lights. When the lights finally went down, it felt as if everyone held a collective breath that was only released when familiar figures took their positions on stage.
“Black Butterflies and Deja Vu” began and screams erupted throughout the ballroom as everyone, even those who’d previously stood stock still, began to move. A wonderful thing about The Maine is that they continue to evolve, even though, this year, they’ve been a band for ten years. I’ve seen them play upwards of ten times at festivals and concerts, as openers and headliners, but this was the most in unison I’d ever seen them. Even though the set list included everything from “The Way We Talk” to songs off of this years Lovely, Little, Lonely, every song bled into one another and the tight sound never faltered. After a few songs, including “Like We Did When We Were Young” from Pioneer, John O’Callaghan greeted the crowd with a call to “loosen the fuck up,” which had myself and those around me chuckling. On a more serious note, O’Callaghan told us simply to “leave all your baggage outside those doors. It’ll be waiting for you when you leave here.” I looked around me, at fans of all ages, and saw them take a moment to really hear what he was saying. This is why we go to concerts, why we go to the movies. There are real problems in our lives. In this world. Which is why I was pleasantly shocked to hear O’Callaghan (explicitly) address that fact (even calling out our president, instead of dancing around him) when the band has always been very quiet about (socio)political issues. His point was: this is your time to put down that load on your shoulders and just fucking dance it out, sing yourself hoarse, or just sway to the music if you want, he didn’t care. It seemed like all O’Callaghan cared about, in that moment, was for everyone to know this was for them, this space is where you can free yourself from worry for a few hours. It definitely was a Lovely, Little, Lonely kind of mentality we were all put into; that life was now and no other time.
The speech ended and we were pulled into the opening riff of “My Heroine,” a favorite off the Pioneer album that showcases the exceptional talents of lead guitarist, Jared Monaco. Without a hitch, they went into older favorites “We All Roll Along” and “The Way We Talk,” which, if my memory of past shows serves, is a hilarious song about an ex-girlfriend of one of the 8123 family. At one point the house lights went up and the entire ballroom yelled “8123 means everything to me” to the band. From my perch on the balcony, I watched as everyone danced and sang wildly to “English Girls” and “Take What You Can Carry.” Hundreds of arms in the air made the night feel like a vital, living thing. That feeling of pride hit me again when I spotted Argentinean and Brazilian flags being flown, a reminder that these five men have reached people from all around the world.
The only quiet part of the evening was “Raining in Paris,” from the 2013 album Imaginary Numbers, a bittersweet song that O’Callaghan promised would be the “only emo one.” We were quickly brought soaring back with “Girls Do What They Want,”a song younger fans simply danced to while the rest of us screamed the words to the high ceilings. “Diet Soda Society” and “Bad Behavior,” the first single the band released off of Lovely, Little Lonely, kept the mood high and our feet moving. It was here that O’Callaghan let it slip that they would return to New York City in the fall, presumably for another tour, which caused the crowd to reward them with some truly deafening screams. It seems no matter the set list for this tour, The Maine always closes with “Another Night On Mars.” It’s a tradition I think they should continue for coming shows. “Another Night On Mars” has always been like a more mature sounding “We All Roll Along,” an ode to the family 8123 has cultivated and welcomed us into.
When the song was over, and the guys bid us good night, everyone seemed to take a pause. The show had kept us all in high spirits, buoyed by the music, the company, and the personal nature of each set. The seamless night made the show feel, at least for me and a few of those around me, almost too fast. The common post-concert depression quickly loomed. We were all suspended there, frozen in a moment, not wanting it to end just yet.
Then the herds below started moving towards the doors. The Maine have always gone outside post-concert for pictures, hugs and silliness and New York was no exception. Some of us meandered into the basement studio for the Make America Emo Again After Party. The Maine always inspires their fans to hold onto those last threads of the night, anything to keep it going a little bit longer, and we love them for indulging us. I know I’m not alone when I say, “I am already counting down till the fall.”
You can visit www.themaineband.com to see where the Lovely, Little, Lonely tour is coming next this Spring.
Photo Credit: Guadalupe Bustos (http://lupesphotography.com)