Last Saturday, a friend treated me to the Paramore show at Kool Haus (a venue that is anything but Kool as far as I’m concerned), along with the perk of attending a pre-show meet and greet with the band at the Hard Rock Cafe. With the exception of the venue security staff and their piss-poor attitude towards anyone who was not an underage skanky-dressed girl, the entire day was an incredible experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a show and enjoyed all of the openers and the band with enthusiasm and gusto. Thus, settle in for a bit of a long haul, as I espouse on the virtues of Paper Route, Phantom Planet, Jack’s Mannequin and of course Paramore.
Let’s kick things off with the meet and greet shindig: Paramore offers fan club members access to tickets that are not only cheaper than Ticketbastard, but also come with the perk of either entering early (and thus securing the best spot on the mosh pit rails) or a meeting with the band. Paramore actively follows along with their Livejournal community as well, which makes me happy, being as I’m a long-term LJ addict. Having selected the band meeting, Jared and I assemble just after 2pm and await being beckoned upstairs, where an enormous tray of food (including the ZOMGbest brownies ever made) and the band awaits.
Kudos to the young foursome of Paramore for being so gracious and humble with their fans. Autographs, photos and then a mingle session comprised our gathering, and at no time does one get the sense that the band feels ‘better’ than the fans. It feels like a big house party with a group of teens chowing down on munchies. Hayley Williams, the singer-songwriter driving the group, was only 16 when their debut disc All We Know Is Falling dropped, and none of that fame has gone to her head. She’s the bouncy youth eagerly snatching a brownie from a plate and genuinely touched to hear one of her songs is beloved or comforting in sorrow. She has zero egomania, and neither do the boys who rock out at her side (Jeremy Davis, Josh Farro and Zac Farro). It’s refreshing to see and fairly rare, to be honest. Photos and signatures collected, brownies devoured, we launched into the trek to the venue to secure spots in line and swelter in the heat until the doors opened.
The show featured a four-band line-up, with each opener delivering a half-hour set before Hayley et al. arrived to rock the place down. The calibre of openers was astonishingly good and well-suited to the bands style, unlike some openers I’ve seen (Deerhunter, Trent… WTF?). First up were Nashville’s Paper Route, a band that blended ethereal electronic sounds in the vein of M83 with standard indie rock, dashed with a helping perhaps of Pulp (minus the super-cool stage persona of Jarvis Cocker; that was the singer of Phantom Planet‘s M.O., but I digress). From the first song, the audience devoured their offering eagerly. I was impressed enough that I made a mental note to grab their EP later from iTunes. In the first of several on-stage collaborations for the night, members of Phantom Planet and Paramore played back-up to the set-closing jam. The ethereal feel is best captured in this quote from Chad Howat about the band’s beginnings: “There was just this lingering sense of exhaustion in the summer of 2004. I was tired of false starts. Tired of dreaming. Tired of being jaded. Tired of being tired. So it seems fitting that this story begins underneath my bed. You may picture me crawling below my mattress, but in reality my bed is about 6 feet above the ground-enough space for a small iBook and some cheap monitors. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d descend my steps and make music all night. Some bands have LSD, others have cocaine, and our drug of choice seemed to be insomnia.”
Second up to bat was Phantom Planet, a band based out of California. Musically, their moody alt-rock didn’t stand out as much in terms of quality when placed alongside Paper Route, but frontman Alex Greenwald carries the show with marked charisma and showmanship, with a Brit-Rocker flavour a la Jarvis Cocker or Liam Gallagher. In any case, it made for an enjoyable set, particularly tracks from their disc Raise The Dead, which Greenwald describes as coming to him thus: “I studied a lot of the twentieth century cults and their music – from Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Jim Jones to Ti and Do of Heaven’s Gate, Shoko Asahara of Aum Shinrikyo, and Father Yod of Ya Ho Wa 13. What I realized was that if you listen to the songs apart from the circumstances that surrounded their eventually horrific outcomes, their music takes on a completely different, and actually hopeful, joyful meaning…In writing the lyrics for this album, I tried to force the listener to interpret them as saccharine on one listen and sinister the next.”
Third up to bat was the delicious and energetic Jack’s Mannequin, fronted by Something Corporate‘s Andrew McMahon, who near-skipped onto the stage in a frenentic burst and began rocking the hell out of his Baldwin piano, bringing the audience to a perfect fever pitch to greet Paramore. In fact, I know some of us would have been content to enjoy a headliner set from the group. I know I would have. Being a fan of Something Corporate, I had a feeling I would love Jack’s Mannequin and I was most certainly right. I strongly urge you to check them out. The piano and moving lyrics take their work beyond the alt-rock standard to a much better place (see tracks like Dark Blue), and hey, any cancer survivor who whoops this much ass live deserves to be on my special pedestal next to Melissa Etheridge.
At last the main event slid onto the stage, youthful enthusiasm in full force as Paramore proceeded to rock the faces off a predominantly teenage crowd, making this reviewer feel rather old and out of place. However, that was soon forgotten as high-energy, rocking set descended upon the crowd, loaded with tracks from sophomore disc Riot and peppered with a few selections from the (in my opinion) slightly superior debut disc All We Know Is Falling. Hayley and company deliver a rousing set, with plenty of moshing and encouraged crowd sing-alongs, lapped up eagerly by fans young and old. If there is one complaint to be said about the set, it would be that the selections from their first album were, with one exception, lesser tracks not worthy of a select spotlight. Gems such as Brighter, Conspiracy, and All We Know were sat aside for Pressure and Here We Go Again. At least Emergency made the cut. I would also take Franklin over My Heart any day. Regardless, the entire set was a solid effort, with Hayley in good voice and the boys giving it their all, making for a fun night that ended with a high note. Yes, Hayley kinda sounds like Avril Lavigne. YES, their fanbase leans young due to the pop-tinged rock delivered. But Paramore is a thoroughly enjoyable act worth checking out.
Paper Route have an EP available for sale on iTunes. Check out their music on MySpace.
Phantom Planet have a couple of discs available; check out their official site.
Jack’s Mannequin has their official site here; check it out!
Paramore’s official home online awaits you here, complete with cute band bios.
SETLIST: PARAMORE @ KOOL HAUS, TORONTO 8/23/08
Born For This
That’s What You Get
Here We Go Again
Crushcrushcrush (featured snippet of Low by Flo Rida)
Let The Flames Begin
When It Rains
For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic
We Are Broken
Hallelujah (With Leonard Cohen opening)