[13 May 2011]
PopMatters Events Editor
When All Time Low (ATL) took the stage following Yellowcard during a recent stop of their Dirty Work Tour in Cincinnati, it felt as much like a passing of the torch as it did a headlining performance. The Baltimore pop punk outfit All Time Low is almost a spitting image of the Yellowcard that splashed into the MTV mainstream almost seven years ago and made a name for themselves with fast pace, youthful, rock sounds and just enough bite to separate themselves from the rest of the alt rock radio pack. No, All Time Low doesn’t utilize a violin and certainly isn’t trying to ride anyone’s coat tails, but they have just enough swagger and more than enough musical chops to take the pop scene by storm in 2011. Indeed, All Time Low may be about to unleash their own Ocean Avenue with the release of Dirty Work this June, their first on Interscope.
All of this isn’t to say that Yellowcard is old news—far from it. It’s just that the dynamics of the Dirty Tour lineup encompass everything from the old guard of pop punk to bands on the verge of making their own splash in the scene. The night started well enough with semi-newcomers The Summer Set, a Scottsdale, AZ, band that released a handful of EPs before dropping their debut full length at the end of 2009. The youthful, sugary sound of the band plays well into their strengths and they buzzed through their short set with very few hiccups. The band is set to release their second album Everything’s Fine this summer and could very well be headlining their own tours sooner than later, especially if they can harness the potential found on songs like “Boys You Do (Get Back at You)”.
Florida natives Hey Monday were next to hit the stage. I’ll spare you more of the Paramore comparisons that seem to pop up relentlessly every time this band is mentioned and simply let you know that this band isn’t the rip off than some would lead you to believe. They began getting attention a few years ago when Pete Wentz signed them to his Decaydence record label and even gave them the opening slot on Fall Out Boy’s Believers Never Die Tour, both in the states and abroad and the band has been progressively growing closer to breakout status since. The most important thing to know about Hey Monday’s performance is that Cassadee Pope can sing. The songstress powered through several numbers from their 2008 debut Hold on Tight as well as tracks from last year’s slightly poppier outing Beneath it All. Much like The Summer Set, Hey Monday is a young talented band that is clearly on the verge of stardom if they can manage to break out of the over-saturated scene they’re currently apart of.
Before Yellowcard took the stage, I was curious as to what the reaction would be. The band’s heyday was the better part of a decade ago and after recently returning from their 2008 hiatus, I questioned whether current fans of the scene still held the interest they once did. My questions were answered minutes before they took stage as the entire sold out crowd began chanting their name. The place erupted as Yellowcard burst out of the gate with their opening number “Lights and Sounds” before transitioning seamlessly into one of their best tracks, “Way Away”. It’s clear that the short hiatus may have been just what the doctor ordered for Yellowcard as the band sounded revitalized as they ripped through a set that included tracks from their past four albums.
Vocalist Ryan Key was spot on throughout the set, sounding especially terrific during a performance of the band’s latest single, “Hang You Up”. Whether it was the amazing work of violinist (and birthday boy) Sean Mackin, guitarist Ryan Mendez, newcomer bassist Sean O’Donnell, or longtime drummer LP, there was no doubt that every member of the band was in top form. Having recently released their comeback album, When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes (oddly enough, on All Time Low’s former label, Hopeless), the band’s live performance is sounding better than ever. It’s true, Yellowcard’s TRL-level of fame days may be behind them, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening to them - the band’s new album is some of their best work to date. Yellowcard, now closing in on 15 years of existence, is clearly setting a standard that other bands on this tour should be taking note of.
It’s clear that All Time Low is the “it” band right now in the pop-punk scene. The sold out Cincinnati crowd exploded when the band took the stage with their newly released track “Time Bomb”, a song that most of the crowd already knew the lyrics to. Before the band could even stop to introduce themselves three songs into their set, guitarist Jack Barakat already had somewhere around ten bras from adoring female fans hanging from his microphone. The number would increase as the show went on. There’s no denying that the guys of All Time Low have the “cute guy” factor playing well into their hands. Whether it be the cool haircuts, the innocent smiles, or the endorsement deal with clothing line Glamour Kills, the guys in All Time Low are just the type of poster boys that bring every girl with a scene haircut and a neon belt out of the woodwork to scream their name.
But don’t let their good looks overshadow their talent. All Time Low is an extremely talented band. They’ve shown as much by becoming tighter at their craft with each release over the past five years. Lead man Alex Gaskarth has the type of voice that you think couldn’t sound near as good live as it does on tape—but it does. Gaskarth’s voice carried strongly through the monster set as the band hit some of their bigger tracks such as “Poppin’ Champaign”, “Damned If I Do Ya, Damned If I Don’t”, “Jasey Rae”, and their newest single, “I Feel Like Dancin”. The band’s stage presence was full of energy, consisting of plenty of jumping, fist pumping, and gang vocals—everything you’d expect to find at a punk rock show except for an agenda that consists of more than having a good time. The band capped off the night with an encore of their two biggest tracks, “Weightless” and “Dear Maria, Count Me In” as the sold out crowd screamed out every word.
Whether it be their recent signing to Interscope, their currently large and growing rabid fanbase, or the early released tracks from their forthcoming album which seem to be loaded with crossover potential, All Time Low seems to be on the brink of being the next big thing. People love to talk about how there’s nowhere left to innovate within the pop-punk genre—it’s all been done before. That’s what people said before Yellowcard broke onto the scene, before Fall Out Boy exploded, and before Paramore took over the airwaves. There’s still room left for something fresh and new, and if that something happens to be All Time Low, the pop punk scene is in good hands.
All Time Low