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A Rocket to the Moon

(8 Feb 2010: Highline Ballroom — New York)

The Take Action Tour (tourdates running through March 2nd) has always proudly touted its charitable endeavors. The brainchild of Hopeless Records and its non-profit branch, Sub-City, the Take Action Tour (going strong for nearly a decade) has continued to raise awareness on a number of key issues plaguing the music community and young people. To date, Sub-City has raised almost two million for over 50 different non-profit organizations.


This year, a portion of sales from tickets, merchandise and the tour’s popular compilation CD, will benefit Driving For Donors, a charity started by 14-year old Patrick Pedraja, who suffers from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The tour, which encourages fans to make donations and this year, register with the National Marrow Registry, has become increasingly pop-oriented in recent years.


In an attempt to target a younger demographic, The Take Action Tour once fronted by hardcore and punk rock acts like Anti-Flag, Lawrence Arms and The Bouncing Souls - all bands communicating their messages through music - has gotten more up-tempo, mainstream acts with little to nothing to say to back the tour. The transition from Poison the Well and Throwdown type bands to more commercial, repetitive sounding acts is no doubt aimed at the youth market in particular, who are major consumers of emo-punk radio bands.


Point in case being the 2010 Take Action Tour. This year’s lineup is simmering with popular emo punk acts Stereo Skyline, A Rocket to the Moon, There For Tomorrow, Mayday Parade and We The Kings, all sweet, quiet and still looking young enough to get carded on a beer run.


Each band on this tour has successfully harnessed the power of the Internet to capture the hearts of tween girls and in turn have gone from unknown and/or unsigned bands to Take Action Tour headliners tossing up an assortment of infectious songs. Each band played a set that averaged 35 minutes that became more musically intense as the show went on.


Stereo Skyline, a band that made a name for itself on MySpace is a three-piece, power-pop band from Long Island, NY. They played a set full of beguiling melodies drenched with sweet, heartthrob lyrics, that sent the teen hearts in the crowd into a flutter. The more polished There For Tomorrow, a power-pop band from Orlando, played a set of toe-tapping songs that blended power chords, guitar and loads of energy into the crowd.  There for Tomorrow’s set was pounding with heavy drums, moody guitar riffs, assertively firm yet sometimes screechy vocals from lead singer Maika Maile.


A Rocket to the Moon, another band that can credit their rise to web-friendly female fans, played a more alternative-pop sounding set that bordered on monotonous. The set was like one long song about missing girls, played as if they were going through the motions of being in a band. There was no depth, soul or drive to the performance. Lyrics like the ones sung by this band do nothing to set them apart from their Fueled By Ramen equals. It’s just a bunch of mush from a band whose lead singer Nick Santino, sounds just like the lead singer of a million other FBR bands (see The Cab and This Providence, among other rubber stamped power pop bands).


What was perhaps the best set of the night was provided by Mayday Parade, an emo-punk band from Tallahassee, FL who didn’t play it as safe as the rest of their tour mates. Mayday’s lyrics are a bit more profound for the power-punk world and the polished lead vocals from Derek Sanders offered a variation in sound from previous sets.  Mayday Parade is a band that prides itself on heavy hooks, rhythmically mature melodies and lyrics that are full of serious thought. Fan favorites included “Black Cat”, “When I Get Home You’re so Dead”, and of course the bands break out “Jamie All Over”.  Their set was not only refreshing, but also genuine and not exaggerated like the rest. The current pop-punk genre consists of a thousand bands with an Internet presence, trying to make it big beyond the World Wide Web, but Mayday Parade are pretty much already there.


The headliners and Top 40 radio’s answer to “punk”, We The Kings, returned the tour back to its juvenile vibe with a stretched out set full of sing along choruses drowning in mediocre lyrics. Of course that didn’t stop the crowd from singing along like a church audience to its choir. They performed with genuine sincerity, but a youthful energy that was overly cheerful and at times hokey.


The band’s front man, Travis Clark, who resembles a young Carrot Top, told a number of stories to the crowd of underage females, that left him looking a bit ostentatious and probably had them confused. Point in case being the tale of his recent trip to Atlanta where he found himself in the “ghetto”, and feared he would be shot or killed. He went on to encourage kids who should find themselves in a similar situation, to throw up a We The Kings “gang” sign. The set took another turn for the worse when the band bludgeoned Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle”. Luckily they ended on a higher note by playing their friendly and crowd-pleasing song “Check Yes Juliet”.


On the bright side, this tour alerts kids to major issues and inspires them to get active. By purchasing t-shirts, CDs, and concert tickets and even through texting (bands encouraged the crowd to text “ACTION” to 85944 to make a $5 donation) they’ve all made a difference. Even the bands, who partnered with one of the tour’s sponsors, Hot Topic, visited a number of children’s hospitals during the day to meet with leukemia patients.


At its worst, this tour’s lineup doesn’t even resemble a modicum of what it used to be and it’s hard to tell which bands are in it for the sake of being in a band, and which ones actually want to be true musicians that possess a deep understanding of just how much influence they have.

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