By Sydney Shaw & Kim Ilkowski
Opinions Editor & Review Editor
Wacky inflatable arm-flailing tube men, vicious mosh pits and broken equipment — and that was just the opening acts. The College Union Board’s 2014 fall concert featuring We The Kings, The Front Bottoms and New Politics cranked the volume up to 11 in Kendall Hall on Thursday, Oct. 9, for a show filled with beloved songs — old and new — screaming and a hint of debauchery.
Opening the night was We The Kings, whose breezy attitude and contagious energy persisted throughout the band’s nearly hour-long set. Frontman Travis Clark, bassist Charles Trippy, guitarists Hunter Thomsen and Coley O’Toole and drummer Danny Duncan exuded effervescence as the high school friends played hits like “Skyway Avenue,” “Say You Like Me” and “We’ll Be A Dream.”
During “I Feel Alive,” the band filmed the crowd “sorority squatting” and flailing their arms like wacky inflatable tube men during the chorus, footage which was posted on the members’ YouTube video blogs and will be used in their upcoming music video for the track.
In an interview with The Signal, Clark discussed how the band has evolved since 2007, when it released its self-titled album filled with vibrant pop hooks. Six years later, the band produced “Somewhere Somehow,” complete with electronic elements and hip-hop influences. Clark attributes the musical transition in part to an evolution in the band’s roster. Trippy and O’Toole officially joined the band during the release of 2011’s “Sunshine State of Mind” and have since contributed their own unique musical styles to the band.During “I Feel Alive,” the band filmed the crowd “sorority squatting” and flailing their arms like wacky inflatable tube men during the chorus, footage which was posted on the members’ YouTube video blogs and will be used in their upcoming music video for the track.
We The Kings closed out the set with its 2007 bubble gum rock single “Check Yes Juliet,” a song that propelled audience members right back to their days of middle school crushes and Myspace mirror selfies.
“‘Check Yes Juliet’ was one of our biggest songs ever, but I don’t want to write that same song over and over again,” Clark said. “I want that to live in the present of where it was and just be the song that people fell in love with.”
Next to take the stage was indie-rock unit The Front Bottoms, returning to the College after making its debut at the Rathskeller in February 2012.
Vocalist Brian Sella slid around the stage, acoustic guitar in hand and rainbow socks on his feet, as he belted out songs off the sophomore disc “Talon of the Hawk” such as “Skeleton” and “Tattooed Tears.” The band — comprised of Sella, drummer Matthew Uychich and touring members Tom Warren on bass and Ciaran O’Donnell on keyboard, trumpet and guitar — also performed “12 Feet Deep” and “Lipstick Covered Magnet,” tracks originally on the unmixed and unmastered EP “I Hate My Friends.” The songs were professionally recorded for the band’s latest effort “Rose.”
“I think in the beginning, me and Matt didn’t know so much about how it was supposed to be done,” Sella said. “We didn’t really know how to mix and how to master. We didn’t have the equipment or anything, but I remember we always felt very strongly, like, ‘These songs are good as hell. Who cares if they sound shitty … We’re not going to be famous or on the radio, so who cares? Let’s just let the people listen to it.’”
The band performed in front of its own version of wacky inflatable tube men, as well as giant “TFB” blow-up letters as they sang about inconvenient love, regretting tattoos and other emotionally charged lyrics with enough teenage angst to make your parents roll their eyes.
During the band’s final song of the night, “Twin Size Mattress,” a female student burst onto the stage to sing along with Sella. What seemed like an isolated occurrence turned into an absolute riot as students flooded the aisles to climb onto the stage. The passionate final verse was shouted over an uncontrollable crowd. Several particularly rowdy students had to be escorted out of Kendall.
With such fiercely loyal fans, it’s no big surprise they turned out this way.
Such a dramatic finale was hard to match, but headliners New Politics managed to wrangle the crowd right back in with its set of dynamic songs and impressive break dancing skills. Vocalist David Boyd and guitarist Søren Hansen moved to New York from Denmark in 2009 after being signed to RCA Records. Long Island native Louis Vecchio joined the band shortly after their arrival.
“When we suddenly came to America and we didn’t know what direction we should take the second album in, the only thing we knew was that if it doesn’t mean something, we were gonna scratch the song,” Hansen said in the pre-show interview.
After trying to pen hundreds of different tracks, the trio finally settled on one that meant something: “Harlem.”
The band played other songs from its album “A Bad Girl in Harlem” including “Overcome” and “Goodbye Copenhagen,” a tribute to Boyd’s and Hansen’s hometown. The set also included two tracks that had never before been performed in front of an audience — “Everywhere I Go (Kings And Queens)” and “Loyalties.” The latter was co-written with Fall Out Boy, which the band opened for during the summer Monumentour with Paramore.
“It’s really inspiring to see where (Fall Out Boy has) taken it, if you just believe in yourself and work hard for it,” Boyd said. “They’ve been a band for what, 10 or 12 years? Sometimes we have rough days and it’s nice to see it all pays off at the end if you work for it.”
After the animated finale, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” students went home with ample amounts of sweat, life-long memories and bruises — lots and lots of bruises.
*This story was originally published in The Signal.
Thanks to our friends at Lions Television, TCNJ’s campus television station, for recording the interviews!