By Aaron Collier
At 29 years old, there isn’t a lot of Christmas gifts that bring back the excitement you felt as a kid. Whether it be the Spider-Man toy you told your parents about in July or finally getting that Sega Genesis you wanted all year, it’s hard to capture that again when you grow up and have a job that allows you to either save to get what you want or just outright buy it.
The only other instance I can remember being legitimately excited on Christmas, as an adult, was in my early twenties when my parents and two of my very good friends bought my brother and I an Xbox 360. I remember the pure joy of coming down the steps and seeing that green and white box and stopping in my tracks. I truly did not expect it.
Fast forward to late last year.
Without my knowledge, my wonderful girlfriend, Shauna, had been paying attention to all the bands I had mentioned since we had started dating and decided to take me to a concert for one of them.
Now for most people this would be an easy task, but when it comes to music I’m far from “most people.” My musical spectrum runs in all different directions. It starts at metal and hardcore then darts off to pop-punk takes a hard left towards pop-rock and then jumps into some hip-hop just to throw everyone off. Not to mention everything in between I may stop and have a listen to.
She narrowed it down to two bands with tour stops in Atlanta, GA which is about 5 hours south of where we live: Yellowcard and Norma Jean. Pop-Punk vs. Hardcore.
She called me over on my lunch break at work and she told me her grand plan and how she had narrowed it down. She wanted me to make the choice because she wanted me to enjoy the show, and she didn’t know which one I would want to attend most.
Rule number one anytime you choose a concert is to see who is playing the undercard. Is there another band you wanted to see touring with the headliner that would make one concert better than the other. In this case, it didn’t matter much. Nothing special on the undercard so it came down to which headliner I wanted to see the most which wasn’t as hard as one might think. I’ve seen Norma Jean a couple of times and even though they put on a great show, they don’t play much older material and I’m not a huge fan of their newer stuff. It’s good, but not good enough to want to see live.
Yellowcard on the other hand was playing a full acoustic set of Ocean Avenue, the album that 10 years prior made me stand up and take notice. Plus, they were playing another set featuring songs from their other albums as well.
It was no competition. Yellowcard it was.
I can honestly say, at 29 years of age, I recaptured that childlike excitement again. Music has been a big part of my life and to see a band I never thought I would get to see (they went on a 3 year hiatus) had me super stoked. It’s getting to the point where most bands I listen to are getting older and the chance of seeing these bands live are getting slimmer every year. After the band went on their hiatus, I thought I had missed the boat. Most “breaks” or “hiatuses” never end and the band just dissolves. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and I found wishing the concert was the next day instead of a month I would have to wait.
The day finally came and we were off to The Masquerade in Atlanta to see pop-punk royalty. Shauna has a cousin that lives just a little bit outside of Atlanta that was happy to have us stay with her while we were in town. We pulled in a couple hours before the show and got a chance to visit with her and the family. They were awesome to hangout with and made the trip even better. It’s always nice to feel at home on the road and Teresa made us feel more than welcomed. It’s the little things that turns good trips into awesome ones. I already had a great travel partner and now I had a place to stay that felt like I was in my own home. I knew this was more than a great start and rather a positive harbinger of how great the show was going to be.
Before we arrived at The Masquerade, we stopped and had dinner at Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles in downtown Atlanta. Not only was the food great, but the the 1970s vibe of the place might have been the coolest part of eating there. I could actually imagine Ms. Knight and all her famous friends coming to the restaurant after a show and just shooting the breeze. They also had pictures of all the famous people that had dropped by for a bite. It was a great experience to visit a restaurant that both captured and preserved the Soul music vibe of the time.
We arrived at the venue about 30 minutes before we thought the show started. I emphasize the word “thought” because that was the time listed on both our tickets and the venue’s website. Come to find out that was the time for when the doors would be open for admittance not actual showtime. This wouldn’t have been a big deal if we didn’t leave our jackets in the car and it was more than a bit chilly as we stood outside for a good 45 minutes wondering why they were waiting so close to the start to open the doors.
Lesson: If you ever go to a show at The Masquerade, the time listed is an hour before the actually show starts. I can’t recall a time when when either the showtime was listed by itself or in conjunction with the time the doors would be opening.
We entered a little after 7pm and preceded to stand for another hour before the show started. Standing would be our biggest enemy this night. By the end, both Shauna and myself were hurting pretty bad. For me personally, I found that I still enjoy going to concerts, but my body may not be as enthusiastic about standing that long. Hearing Yellowcard still makes me feel like I’m a twenty year-old driving with the windows down on a warm summer afternoon. Standing at a Yellowcard concert at 29-years of age made me realize my body isn’t that young anymore.
The opener for the show was What’s Eating Gilbert? which is the side project of New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. The project sounds like an old 1950s doo-wop/rock-a-billy hybrid complete with harmonizing backup singers. Gilbert admitted the show would be a bit different due to the stripped down sound an acoustic show gives, but I enjoyed their performance non the less and found myself wanting to see them again with their electric setup. They covered “It’s In His Kiss” and “Pretty Women” which received the biggest reactions, mostly due to everyone being able to sing along. Even though I wasn’t familiar with Gilbert’s material, I enjoyed the whole set with “Lonely Road” and “If You Told Me You Loved Me” being two stand out songs that caught my attention.
Let me clarify the acoustic show. The performances were with a whole band for both Yellowcard and What’s Eating Gilbert. Some think of an acoustic show as the lead singer, guitarist, and maybe the drummer on bongos and that is it. Both bands were complete, but just let the acoustic guitar lead instead of an electric one. This gives both an intimate setting to see a concert in, but doesn’t take the energy away from it.
Yellowcard came out on stage to, as expected, a big ovation. They opened up with some banter as everyone was getting settled in with their instruments. Once all was set to go, the band exploded into “Way Away,” the opening track from Ocean Avenue.
A mark of a truly great live band is how fast they get the crowd to buy in, and how quick they have them participating in the performance. Yellowcard had the crowd in their hands from the first chord. They brought energy and passion and it actually looked like they enjoyed playing music with each other. The crowd fed off of the effort the band was giving to entertain them and in return gave the band energy by singing along, clapping, jumping in unison, and dancing. This is the give-and-give-back effect. This is what elevates good concerts to great ones, and the crowd was trying their best to take the concert to that next level.
The band continued through Ocean Avenue and it reminded me of a veteran boxer showing a new generation of fans how to continue the fight. The fighter may be worn, but he continues to fight and put on a show. Yellowcard may have be performing an album that was released 10 years ago, but the reaction of the crowd mostly made up of 25 and under aged people made it seem the album was released a week before the concert. Combine that with the longtime fans that picked up the album when it was initially released and it made for an amazing atmosphere of old becoming new again.
One of the more surprising things was how the non-singles played to the crowd. I figured that everyone would know the hit singles from the album, “Ocean Avenue” and “Only One,” but the non-singles brought just as much energy from the crowd. Great songs such as “Miles Apart,” “Inside Out,” “Breathing,” and “Believe” were met with just as much excitement as the songs everyone should know. The crowd was singing from track one to the final one and cemented what I already knew: Ocean Avenue is one of the best pop-punk albums of all-time.
After a brief intermission, Yellowcard came back out and played another hour of songs, this time with all electric instruments, without missing a beat. It was incredible how much energy the band brought after only a 30-minute break and the crowd was ready for more. The set mainly covered two albums, 2010’s When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes and 2012’s Southern Air. I’m a huge fan of Say Yes and was glad to hear both “With You Around” and “Be the Young,” two of my favorite songs on the album. Even thought Souther Air is a solid album, it’s not my favorite Yellowcard release, but I did enjoy hearing “Telescope” which has become one of my favorite songs by the band.
At this point the band ordered a circle pit to be formed and the crowd obliged. It was the second to last song and the pit quickly became a mess as people was falling all of over themselves with few stopping to help them up. The one pit rule that must always be followed is to keep your fellow pit participators safe. It’s like wearing a Yellowcard shirt to a Yellowcard show, you just don’t do it (see PCU Rule). Apparently, no one bothered to study up on both rules. The breaking of the t-shirt rule is just annoying, the breaking of the pit safety rule is dangerous and inconsiderate. I stood by and just shook my head in disbelief as people fell and only a few stopped to help them back to their feet. Even the ones outside the pit ended up getting stepped on as the pit expanded very quickly and caught me off guard. Shauna got stepped on and almost fell, but luckily she had a hold of my arm to prevent a fall and walked away with only a bruised foot. I was a bit upset over it to say the least over allowing her to get stepped on and the overall pit etiquette, but fortunately I didn’t let the events that transpired in the last 10 minutes of the show to ruin the whole experience. They closed the show with “Lights and Sounds” and the crowd went home happy, including this kid.
Overall, the concert was great. Yellowcard lived up to the my hype and even exceeded them with basically two performances in one night. I clapped, jumped, and sang along to each song and soaked in the experience of seeing one of my all-time favorite live.
Even though I enjoyed the show, I found during my years of attending concerts and festivals that a concert is only as fun as who you see it with. Seeing Shauna experience her first pop-punk show was just as enjoyable as seeing the band play. Every concert I have seen has been with family and friends which makes the music and concert even better, and this was no different. The music, the band, and her made an equation that equaled a great concert experience.
(Editor’s Note: Top picture from alterthepress.com. All others were taken by Aaron Collier)