Words and Photos by Erin Mathis
This past Sunday I traveled to the great city of Philadelphia for Radio 104.5’s last block party of the summer. This season’s concert series had already featured some pretty incredible bands (Misterwives, New Politics, and Matt & Kim to name a few), but this final one may have been the greatest one yet. The lineup: Good Old War, Joywave, The Front Bottoms, The Wombats, and Panic! At The Disco.
I tuned into 104.5 on the car ride over, and listened to Wendy Rollins dispel rain rumors. However, her wishful thinking wasn’t strong enough to stop the clouds from rolling in. When I got there at 2:00, the rain was coming down, not too hard, but unfortunately just enough to make me keep my camera safe and dry inside its bag, where it missed out on taking photos of the opening band.
There wouldn’t be a more proper way to kick off a Philadelphia concert, than with a Philly-native band. Good Old War performed for a crowd that was, despite the rain, upbeat and eager to jam out. GOW’s set featured some of their catchier songs, like “Coney Island” and “Loud Love”, which were perfect for the audience to easily jump in and sing along to. I feel the need to mention that something quite magical happened during “Loud Love.” As lead singer Keith Goodwin sang the line “Do you remember, when the sun was out”, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. Quite a few audience members were stunned by the coincidence, and looked around at one another to confirm that this serendipitous moment did in fact occur. And though I wasn’t able to get into the photo pit at this point, I was able to snap a few far away shots of the band as they ended their performance with a fast and heavy acoustic guitar solo, and also a message for the audience to “Have a good one!”
I’d also like to make note of radio 104.5’s fantastic DJ, DJ Reed Streets, who kept the atmosphere alive in between sets with tracks from bands like Passion Pit, MGMT, Misterwives, and others. He brought out some fun remixes and mashups, and knew exactly how to keep the crowd happy. Right before Joywave took the stage, he put on Twenty One Pilot’s “Tear In My Heart”, and made the smart decision to let it play to its very end, as the crowd was belting it out, and would have surely turned on him if their dance party was cut short.
Next, I need to commend Joywave, but at the same time question their sanity. They were riding on about two hours of sleep, having performed at Lollapalooza (that’s right, the one located in Berlin, Germany) just the previous day. Whether they downed 5-hour ENERGY shots before taking the stage, or were simply energized by their love of performance, it was unclear, but they sure got the crowd hyped up. All of the songs they played were off their debut studio album How Do You Feel Now?, which was released in April of this year. They opened with “In Clover,” followed by “Now,” and then took a dark and sexy turn with “Destruction.” Then, lead singer Daniel Armbruster asked, “Philadelphia are you ready to jump?” and brought the crowd right back up with “Parade”. Finally, they closed their set with their dance track “Tongues,” which they thanked 104.5 for, “playing the shit out of,” and announced that they would be back in Philadelphia on October 15th, performing at a small venue called Boot & Saddle.
By the time Joywave walked off stage, and the crowd dispersed, the weather was cloudy, windy, and feeling a bit too much like fall. I felt a pang of sympathy for the many teenage girls rocking crop tops and high waisted shorts. It’s hard to be trendy and comfortable at the same time, and for those girls I’d like to say two things. One: “I feel you,” and two: “the struggle be so real.”
I got in the photo pit rather early for The Front Bottoms, and got a clear sense of the crowd before the band even came on stage. It was a rowdy bunch, with dozens of people already crowd surfing their way to safety. The band’s walk on was hilarious, as drummer Mat Uychich was wheeled in on a gurney, while holding not one, but two beers. Then, when Brian Sella casually walked on stage, also with a beer in hand, the crowd lost all sense of order. “Flashlight” was the first song to be played, with a notable change in lyrics: “I got your last three emails. Monica, I’m sorry, I was sorting some things out.” They also played their newer song “Laugh Till I Cry,” which is off their upcoming album Back On Top (stay tuned for an album review). Other songs included their quirky track “Bathtub,” “Skeleton,”and “Maps.” They lengthened their shorter song “Au Revoir” with a fun drum breakdown, and then played one of my favorites “The Beers,” before of course closing with their most popular song, “Twin Sized Mattress”, which they changed up in tempo here and there in order to keep it sounding fresh. Not only does their album drop this Friday (September 18th), but they’ll be back in Philadelphia at The Electric Factory on November 28th.
Next up was a band that I was eager to check out, The Wombats. They played some of their older songs like “Moving to New York,” “Techno Fan,” and “Tokyo,” then played songs off their new album Glitterbug like “Greek Tragedy,” “Emoticons”, and “Give Me A Try”. They had slight technical difficulties, but made light of it, joking that: “There is always one fucking band.” Whatever problem they were having was quickly solved, and they finished their set on a positive note, as the crowd danced and the sun dipped further down into the city skyline.
Finally it was time for the band everyone was waiting for, Panic! At The Disco. I have nothing to say other than that they absolutely killed it. Their set included a great mix of old and new: “Vegas Lights,” “Time to Dance,” “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” “Hallelujah,” “Let’s Kill Tonight,” “Girls/Girls/Boys,” “Ready To Go,” “Nicotine,” and more. Brendon Urie hit those ridiculous notes like only Brendon Urie can, and switched from his sound pad to a guitar for “New Perspective”. He then introduced “Miss Jackson” as “a song about a girl I used to fool around with, but then she fucked me over.” There was a really beautiful moment during “Nine In The Afternoon,” where the entire crowd had their hands swaying back and forth in unison, making the atmosphere very nostalgic of our middle school years. Urie got to show off his piano skills with their cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a song which pleased both the young fans, as well as their exhausted parents standing along the outskirts of the venue. Then Urie switched back to electric guitar to finish the set with “This Is Gospel,” followed by “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.”
As I walked back to my car, passing the long line of minivans waiting with their blinkers on, and feeling the cool fall breeze creep its way in, I felt a tinge of sadness. I realized that my music-filled summer was quickly coming to a close. Still, I felt musically satisfied. Radio 104.5 put on their most successful summer block party concert yet, and I honestly can’t wait to see what bands they put on the bill for next year.