In the midst of all the motorcycle madness that is the Republic of Texas Rally, or ROT for short, the scene kids came out to Red River despite the overwhelming biker crowd. Hawthorne Heights, one of the biggest groups in the alternative/emo world, hit Emo’s Sunday night with some of their Midwestern friends. Touring to support their latest release, Skeletons, the emo heavyweights returned to The Live Music Capital to an eager crowd.
Upon my arrival, Hawthorne Heights’ Dayton brethren, The Story Changes, took the stage. Formerly a four- and three-piece in their early days, The Story Changes are only Poppy on drums and Mark McMillon on guitar and vocals. Poppy has a Macbook beside his drum set to handle the loop effects used to bring the studio-like sound to their live set. Just as the crowd was warming up to their sound, their set was over. The Story Changes played some tracks off their new Analogies split and a couple of earlier tracks. They were a good warm up for what was to follow.
The Chicago-based scene pop-rock band The Audition was next. The younger front row, composed of teen girls and shag-haircut guys, came to life as the band started. Touring to support their new release, Great Danger, the Victory Records recording artists stepped up the energy level and kept things interesting with the between-song banter. Lead singer Danny Stevens is quite the personality and apparently sensitive to his touring mates being referred to as “pussies” by old metalheads.
The best part of their set was when Stevens told this story about the first band playing on the outside stage across the way at Emo’s outdoor, which he claimed was a “shitty metal band.” According to Stevens, an old “gray-haired, Guns N’ Roses drunk said ‘We have real metal’ over here and not over there.” So to said metalhead, Stevens had the crowd in attendance give a big “fuck you” to them, middle fingers in the air and all. He made sure to mention he was bigger (in physical size) than that first metal band that played on the opposite stage and that “no one messes with my friends.” Musically, the highlight of their set was when The Audition pumped up the young crowd with “You Ruined This.” It was all just weird and at times awkward to watch, but their fans in attendance were perfectly happy with everything. Two lucky fans even got to do shots with The Audition on stage.
After The Audition, the headliners everyone came to see took the stage. Interestingly enough, Story Changes guitarist Mark McMillon was the fifth member of Hawthorne Heights for the night, joining his friends to play guitar. I was pleased because Hawthorne Heights was originally a quintet. While they are not replacing the late Casey Calvert, at least they let McMillon fill in for this tour to bring audiences the full Hawthorne Heights live sound.
Early on, Hawthorne Heights performed new songs off of Skeletons. This was when lead singer and guitarist J.T. Woodruff decided to put in his two cents on the subject of their new music. “I know you don’t know the words yet to the new shit, but if you listen to it over and over again then it becomes the old shit,” Woodruff said. Very true.
Still, we all know the kids wanted to hear two songs: “Ohio Is For Lovers” and “Saying Sorry.” It was evident he knew it, with the “old shit” remarks. For me, that personal interaction was what made the show different from what I expected. We all know you could count on singalongs, the token front row fan with bubbles and parents in the back who brought their teens or tweens to the show.
It was great to see all performing bands stick around to sign autographs, talk to fans and take photos with them after the show. Along with the young age of the bulk of their fanbase, this is why these bands will have staying power. Too often, bands disappear out of sight after shows and leave without signing one CD or poster, without taking one picture with an eager fan. That’s getting it wrong, but these bands get it right.
Hawthorne Heights, The Audition and The Story Changes played at Emo’s in Austin on June 13, 2010.