Written by Killian O’Neil
It had been 572 days since I had been to a real concert since the pandemic hit. Yeah, I’ve seen some acoustic sets and “drive-in” shows but nothing like I was about to witness. It had been over a year and a half that I was able to be amongst people belting out lyrics, at the top of my lungs, getting lost in the music. Not only was it my first show back, but my fourteen-year-old self was freaking out because I was on my way to see Hawthorne Heights, Senses Fail, and Bayside for their 21 Years of Bad Luck Tour.
The night kicked off with The Bomb Pops, an American punk rock band from San Diego, California. Their 20-minute set, which truthfully felt like an eternity, and the only thing I was able to make out was when she started to say “sh*t” and “f*ck” while engaging with the crowd. They sound exactly as you think they would when it comes to punk rock.
Shortly after that, it was time for Hawthorne Heights to grace the stage, and the emo began to penetrate the air. The lights dimmed and the light show began. Watching them take the stage and the crowd reacting like little children on Christmas was a beautiful thing to bear witness to. Hawthorne Heights opened with “This Is Who We Are,” which brought back every memory of teen angst I could remember.
Everyone in the band was giving 100% and more on stage and it was quite clear that they were beyond happy to finally be playing in front of real live human beings like every other living breathing musician out in the world.
Hawthorne Heights wound down the set with frontman, JT Woodruff, talking about how everyone in the crowd was about fourteen when they first started to listen to them during the years of ‘hating their parents and hating school’ and now everyone is in their thirties, having children and learning other ways of coping and now life is better.
It honestly was a crazy transition that was happening as the entire energy of the venue shifted into a time machine. It was as if at that moment, we weren’t in our late twenties or thirties, but instead, we were all scared teenagers looking for someone to understand what the hell we were going through.
They closed out the set with “Ohio Is For Lovers” and the entire building erupted in unison singing and chanting the lyrics everyone so dearly holds onto. Even after all these years, nobody missed a beat and the energy was high.
Twenty minutes seemed to be the magic number when it came to set breaks because, at exactly twenty minutes on the dot, Senses Fail came out.
There are far and few words in between for me to describe the next portion of the night because I was so blown away by the performance that Senses Fail put on. I wasn’t really sure what to expect because the last time I saw them I was fifteen and squashed like a sardine in a sea of people at a Taste of Chaos show. The only thing I could recall from it was that I was trying to breathe.
Boy was I pleasantly surprised, they have officially made it to the top five live performances that I have ever bared witness to. Senses Fail opened the set with “Choke On This” and from there on, I got lost in the music and emotion of it all.
Every single member of that band brought a whole different type of energy and vibe, frankly at one point I asked myself, “Is this a Senses Fail show?” James “Buddy” Nielsen, the lead singer, was going above and beyond. He reminded me of Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday with everything from his stage presence to his crowd interaction. At one point during the set, he did a cartwheel across the stage and continued to belt out at the lyrics while the crowd was singing to him. Every last member of that band put on a performance that was unforgettable and jaw-dropping.
Towards the end of the set, Senses Fail went down with the sickness and click click boom and somehow rounded back to one of their own songs, it was insane, to say the least. I’m still in awe of the way they commanded the stage and cannot wait till they grace Philly again.
It was finally showtime for Bayside and I was anxiously awaiting to see what they were about to bring to the stage after what I just witnessed earlier in the night with both Hawthorne Heights and Senses Fail.
As Bayside came on, they opened with “Already Gone” and everyone practically lost their sh*t and went under an emo trance if I’ve ever seen one. Bayside carried different energy that night. It wasn’t anything like Hawthorne Heights or Senses Fail. It had a more subdued, low-key vibe. It was complete night and day from watching the excitement of Senses Fail and now watching Bayside perform.
The entire crowd was engaged and mesmerized, holding onto every last lyric that was being sung. The drummer, Chris Guglielmo, was killing it beyond words while the vocalist, Anthony Raneri, belted out each and every note with every ounce he had.
At one point, Raneri said, “We started a band because we were insecure and in need of validation, so thanks for helping out.” The crowd erupted into nothing but screaming and clapping. They still couldn’t hold a candle to Senses Fail from earlier that night.
When I looked up, I saw numerous people leaving while they were still on stage. In all the years of going to concerts, I have never seen so many people walk out of a venue while the headliner was still performing. I even asked someone what they thought of Bayside and the response was, “I liked their older stuff” and that was it.
Bayside is a band that is such a keystone in the “emo” community that it’s okay not to be bouncing off the walls with energy. As far as I’m concerned they’re just a better band to listen to on a record than seeing live and that is perfectly okay. All in all, this was a kick-ass show and if you can ever get out to see any of these bands, I would highly recommend it.
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Connect with Hawthorne Heights