Concert Review: Hit The Lights & more – GK Holiday Festival

1555298_10151756327105736_703802040_nThe old age saying is that the show must go on. The Glamour Kills Holiday show was originally supposed to be on January 3rd, 2014. However, due to a blizzard in the Northeast that weekend, the show was postponed to January 11th. I don’t think Mother Nature wanted this show to actually happen, as it was raining on and off that whole day. That rain turned into a downpour before VIP and then again before doors. Everyone involved with planning this show would not let a downpour get in the way of what was going to be quite a memorable show.

Due to the show’s postponement, two of the bands on the original line up (Misser and Elder Brother) could not make the new date. However, two acts were added in their place. Now the lineup for the Glamour Kills Holiday show looked like the following – Hit the Lights, Handguns, State Champs, Vinnie Caruana, and No Good News. Even before the show even started, if you got a ticket to this show, you already knew it was going to be memorable. Hit The Lights was going to be playing their second album, Skip School, Start Fights front to back for the first time ever.

No Good News was the first band to go on. I’d seen them before and I knew they were pretty good live, but this was the best I had ever seen them. Frontman and bassist Chris Regan’s vocals sounded effortless and clean, and Kevin Burke looked like he was having the time of his life up there with his guitar. Their short set won over a few new fans, had one person singing along to every song, and even called for some crowd surfing/stage diving during their last song. The Long Island-based pop-punk quartet definitely set the mood for the rest of the night.

Vinnie Caruana was up next. The former Movielife and current I Am the Avalanche frontman was going to perform a selection of songs acoustically. To me, it seemed weird to go from a full band set to an acoustic set. I’ve heard some songs before from the numerous bands Caruana had been a part of, so I was anxious to see how they would translate to an acoustic setting. Despite not really knowing any of his songs by heart, I fully enjoyed his set. He talked about the new IATA record, Wolverines (due out in March), and how excited he is for it. He ended his set with “Brooklyn Dodgers,” the only song I really knew. That song got most of the crowd singing along and even got some people finger pointing.

State Champs were up next. In an effort to save time, they started setting up after No Good News’ set, which was a smart move. In the past year or so since I first got into them, the Albany band had become one of my favorites. I knew how good their live sets were, whether from seeing them myself or hearing about them or some other way. Opening with their single “Elevated,” the crowd immediately spat back the amount of energy State Champs had.

Vocalist Derek Discanio knows how to entertain a crowd, and with his killer vocals, he’s not afraid to show it either. ­People were crowd surfing and stage diving while following Discanio’s every move. The band’s set, which was mostly songs from their debut The Finer Things, was jam-packed with songs that demanded as much energy from the crowd as it did from the band. At some point during their set, two of their microphones randomly blew out. Discanio made a comment about how the crowd needs to continue singing the harmonies, but they were “killing it” anyway. There was never a dull moment during the band’s set. One person even was hanging from a beam set from the venue’s low ceiling. Ending their set with crowd favorite “Critical” from 2012’s Overslept, I knew that the bar for most energetic performance for the night had been set.

Next up was Handguns. After numerous attempts to get into them, I decided they were a hit or miss band. I knew some of their songs, but I couldn’t really get into others. I didn’t know what to expect from a Handguns set. As soon as the five-some started their first song, I knew the energy and adrenaline of the crowd would not die down anytime soon. The crowd seemed to adore the band, and for good reason. Like Discanio, frontman Taylor Eby had an unfathomable amount of energy that just seem to attract the crowd. Chugging out songs like “Early Retirement,” “Stay With Me,” and “Song About You,” the amount of people crowd surfing and stage diving just grew exponentially.

Guitarist Brandon Pagano’s twitter bio includes ‘guitar and yelling,’ and his occasional yelling accurately captured the band’s definitive angst. During their set, two things happened. First, the band gave out a few PropertyOfZack shirts to random members of the crowd. The second was that Eby announced that this particular show was going to be the last time they played a show for a while, as they were going into the studio to record a new album. The crowd showed no signs of slowing down their relentless energy, even during Handguns’ last song. I was thoroughly impressed by their set, and immediately thought of giving them another listen.

The only thing that could have made this show better was if the lineup that made the album was there. Missing in action was drummer Nate Van Damne, which at this point wasn’t a surprise. For whatever unannounced reason, he hasn’t been behind the kit for over a year. The band’s current fill-in is Just Surrender drummer Steve Miller, who is just as great as Van Damne. Also missing was bassist Dave Bermosk, who couldn’t make it out to New York for the show. Mark Metzger, bassist for The Fight Within, replaced Bermosk for the evening, and it looked like he was having the time of his life up there.

With all this energy coming out of the crowd for State Champs and Handguns, I thought there would be none left for Hit the Lights. I was so glad I was wrong. Introduced by Gunz from The Gunz Show, the band slid right into playing Skip School, Start Fights in full for the first time. “Count It,” the short and moderately slow intro, was pretty much the calm before the storm. The next three tracks were arguably the album’s crowd favorites. As soon as the guitar driven intro for “Breathe In” started, no one in the crowd was safe. People just starting moshing, and the crowd moved in every direction possible. Others were stage diving and leap-frogging off of people’s shoulders just to get on top of the crowd and right up in Nick Thompson’s face.

If there was a song to describe last night, it would be “Stay Out.” The whole show just felt like one big party filled with fun times and people that were definitely not going home disappointed. To no surprise, the whole room erupted when Hit the Lights played “Drop the Girl.” Rabid fans were rapid fans and would just not stop stage diving or crowd surfing during those three or so minutes. “Tell Me Where You Are” was a real treat. While it wasn’t the first time they played it live, it just was so nice to listen to. The crowd calmed down for a bit, trading stage dives for slight swaying and finger pointing. That didn’t last long, as “Hangs Em High” kicked in, demanding energy, followed by “Back Breaker.” Hit The Lights were just crushing their set in the best way possible. Like “Tell Me Where You Are,” “Don’t Wait” calmed the crowd down just enough to conserve their energy for the next few tracks. “Cry Your Eyes Out” was able to get the crowd pumped up enough for the live debut of “Statues.” This is my favorite track off the album, and due to the high energy of the song itself, I had high hopes for the band as well as the crowd. Disappointment was nowhere to be found as, once again, the crowd ate up every single line and beat of that song. The next three songs, which were also the last three tracks on Skip School, Start Fights, were making their live debut as well. The crowd calmed down a bit, probably due to the amount of energy they were now lacking. There were some people that did stage dive, but most of the people were just trying to relax.

With the last note of “On and On,” the record had reached its end. However, Hit the Lights were not done. I had seen the set list as the band was setting up, and three songs were left. When they started playing “Her Eyes Say Yes,” it just felt weird due to the nature of the lyrics, but it was an old crowd favorite. It looked like Hit the Lights only had time for one more song, however. Total shocker: Hit The Lights ended the night by playing ‘Body Bag,’ one of their biggest hits and crowd pleasers for old and new fans alike. I’ve seen Hit The Lights five times before this particular show, and each time, they’ve played that song, but they gave their best performance of this song at this show. They gave this entire show everything they had and then some, and the crowd just completely went insane in the best way. Derek from State Champs even came out towards the end of the song, stole a mic, and helped the band end the night with a bang.

Now you may or may not be asking why I’m taking about the crowd so much. Here’s the thing – The crowd was at least 10 times louder than the whole band. Hit the Lights, as per usual, were almost flawless. Nick sounded great, hitting every note he could with such precision. If you’ve ever seen them live, obviously their live show is filled up to the brim with as much stage banter as possible. Heck, someone from backstage came up and kissed Kevin Mahoney on the lips during their set. The band didn’t have to perform this record front to back, but they did, and I guess this show was for the fans. Shows of any kind are 50% fans and 50% bands, or something like that.

Some people have maybe fallen off the Hit the Lights bandwagon, which is completely okay. It is hard to find fans of them, but not impossible. In this 300 or so capacity venue in quite possibly the busiest and biggest city in the world, I had seen a sold out show go completely crazy over an album that was put out by a band most people had thought vanished into thin air. Bands, no matter how big or small they might be, wouldn’t be where they are in their career without their fans, and to see a site like the Glamour Kills Holiday show was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Rating: 8 out of 8 pizza slices.
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See our other post related to this show:
PSA What Not To Do At Shows by Captured by Claire

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