Southern Man

Monday, June 25, 2007

Concert Review - Hawthorne Heights, Brighten, and others

Last night Southern Man and his teenage son (hearafter referred to as Hawthorne Heights Boy or HHB for short) trekked to a nearby city (this being the midwest, "nearby" meaning "only a couple of hours driving time away") for a long-anticipated event: a concert by HHB's all-time favorite screamo band, plus four other groups in what is called the "Show Must Go On" tour. In order of appearance, they were

The venue was Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, a popular small concert hall that left Southern Man wanting more. Much more. First off, the security drones at the door said "no re-entry," meaning that Southern Man would not in fact be able to take refuge outside to escape the hordes of emo teens and their triple-digit-decibel bands. These were very large security drones, so Southern Man didn't argue the point. There was no "adult" area to where parents of aforementioned teens could retreat from time to time. There was no food other than prepackaged snacks and little to offer in the way o non-alcoholic beverages. There were certainly no water fountains that Southern Man would touch with any part of his body. There was a side room (called "Sam's") with a few tables and chairs and a bar-and-grill (closed) and a nice projection TV fed directly from the soundboard; it had surprisingly sharp video and good sound (far better than in the actual ballroom) and Southern Man spent a fair amount of time there watching the bands. The Cain's staff apparently has a live-and-let-live attitude about most things, so smoking was by no means confined to the smoking areas (nor, apparently, confined to tobacco), alcohol was by no means restricted to the bar areas, and the tables and floors in both the side room and in the ballroom got nastier and nastier as the evening progressed. HHB later said that Cain's was his favorite concert venue ever; it's way, way down on Southern Man's list.

At any rate, PowerSpace took the stage promptly at seven for their twenty-minute set. They're a fairly straightforward four-man indie-rock / ballad band from Chicago with one three-song EP already released and their debut CD due at the end of this month on the Fueled by Ramen label. Their myspace has a link to download their three-song EP free, so check it out if you want to hear their sound.

Next up was Brighten, an indie-rock trio from Chico, California. Their debut EP came out in 2005 and their first full-length CD, King vs. Queen, was apparently released without the band's knowledge or consent. This may be related to Hawthorne Height's ongoing feud with their (and Brighten's) former label Victory Records ( and one of these days Southern Man will coax HHB into writing an account of that story on this blog. Maybe one of the Brighten guys will see this and tell us what really went on with them, Victory, and Carbon Copy Media ( the band-apparel label formed by one of the Hawthorne Heights guys that actually released the Brighten CD. At any rate, they put on a terrific set and really woke the crowd. Southern Man was watching on the projection TV next door when he caught some fairly vigorous crowd surfing and only later found that it was HHB himself. On learning this Southern Man tried to cadge a video copy of the show from the sound board guys but no joy. However, HHB picked up a copy of Brighten's CD for a friend (female - not a girlfriend, he says, but it has not escaped Southern Man's attention that HHB sprays on a little cologne whenever he thinks he might run into her) and gave it to Southern Man to hold. After the concert Southern Man got all three Brighten guys - Jimmie "I like Cain's Ballroom!" Richards, Justin "Check us out online!" Richards, and Alex "Good Luck" Draper - to sign the CD, which will surely earn him some points somewhere down the road. At any rate, Southern Man conversed with all three for a bit and observed all three graciously signing autographs and posing for photos with their fans and he (as their newest and possibly eldest fan) wishes them well. We listened to that CD all the way home.

Secondhand Serenade consists of John Veseley and his acoustic guitars and had a surprisingly strong following in the crowd. His ten-track debut album Awake was recorded in a rented studio in eight days and through tireless self-promotion Secondhand Serenade has built a loyal fan base and even made it into the iTunes Top 100, which is an amazing feat for an unsigned act. Southern Man saw lots of Secondhand Serenade concert shirts in the crowd. He played mostly ballads to that very appreciative audience. Southern Man really enojed the set and would have purchased a CD and gotten it signed, but the line for autographs and merchandise after the set was so long that Southern Man couldn't get near the table to "interview" him. Southern Man regrets not trying harder; he suspects that John and Secondhand Serenade may go a long ways yet.

Now, the first three opening acts were just fine but much of the crowd was here for screamo and From First To Last did not disappoint. They were (a) extremely loud and (b) extremely animated on stage, which really energized the crowd - which by now nearly filled the entire ballroom floor. Southern Man was particularly impressed with drummer Derek Bloom, who seemed to be quite a cut above the average. They, too, had a pretty fair following and Southern Man saw plenty of FFTL shirts in the crowd. And HHB got in a bit more crowd-surfing during their set as well. FFTL got to play a bit longer than the others and got in nearly forty minutes of high-decibel rock.

FFTL left the crowd primed and ready for Hawthorne Heights, a post-hardcore / sreamo band that most southern men have never heard of (and would never willingly listen to if they had) but Southern Man, due to the influence of HHB, is becoming something of a fan - it's his second HH concert (review of the first is here) and HHB's fourth. Their hour-long set opened with their familiar hit Niki FM and continued with many that Southern Man knew and a few that he didn't. One song was apparently played for a live audience for the very first time this evening. The crowd was extremely pumped and Southern Man saw both fearless crowd-surfing and some fairly agressive tossing of human bodies. They closed with two favorites, Breathing In Sequence and Ohio Is For Lovers, during which HHB (who had worked his way to the very front of the stage and was loath to lose his place) executed his final crowd surf of the evening. He also managed to talk to a couple of the band members once again, one of whom remembered him from last Fall's concert.

Sure, it was nearly a hundred bucks and four hours of driving and we both had to get up early Monday morning for football practice and work, but to hear HHB tell Southern Man that this was the best concert he'd ever been to and to hear him say "thank you for the concert" over and over made it absolutely, 100% worthwhile. And today he's at the mall to spring that autographed Brighten CD on his not-a-girlfriend. So Southern Man would do it again in a heartbeat, and probably will in the not-too-distant future.


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