I’ve only been to a handful of shows at Rock Island that have been sold out: Fear Before the March of Flames’ CD release show with Lenore in 2004, My Chemical Romance with Harrison Bergeron in 2004, and if I remember correctly, A Static Lullaby was sold out with Hawthorne Heights, also in 2004. But I never would have imagined on my way to Rock Island last night, that there would be a giant “SOLD OUT” sign posted on the outside of the venue for The Academy Is… and Mae. As I stood in the will-call line, several disappointed fans passed by in the opposite direction warning all of us in line that we were wasting out time, that the show was sold out.
Upon my entrance, I immediately noticed the group of high school aged girls standing in a giant huddle right in the lobby are, overly-’80s and over-accessorized, all sporting layers upon layers of Urban Outfitters get-up. But I guess that’s the way it goes: the poppier the band, the trendier the fans. Well, all trendiness aside, this was one of the more entertaining shows I’ve been to in a long time. Despite the fact that the openers, Days Away and Jamison Parker, didn’t leave too much of an impression on my memory, The Academy Is… rocked the house.
Singer, William Beckett, shows the same wrist snapping, hair shaking, clap-inducing mannerisms comparable to Taking Back Sunday’s singer, Adam Lazarra, and for anyone who has ever seen TBS, you know how just watching Lazarra dance around can be the most entertaining part of the show. It’s that kind of stage presence that can make or break a band. If the music is good but they’re boring to watch, who wants to go to the show? And if they jump around too much ignoring their music by acting like jackasses, then no one wants to go see a band that sucks. The fact is, Beckett has that adorable, innocent, younger version of Lazarra type of lead singer look that girls dig, and he pulls it off well with his clear-as-a-bell, angelic voice. I can’t blame the girl who crowd surfed her way up to the stage just for the chance to kiss Beckett’s cheek upon her arrival. If I were 17, I probably would’ve done the same thing.
The Academy Is… maintained something that a lot of bands forget about while they’re on stage: a connection with the crowd. Sometimes this connection is the most crucial part to a band’s performance. No one wants to go stand in a crowd of people to watch a bunch of rock stars with their backs facing the crowd play their songs like they’re practicing in their basement. Incorporating crowd participation to any band’s live performance is a must. As close-knit friends of Fall Out Boy, and with a very similar sound, it would be extremely surprising if this group of young hopefuls doesn’t blow up the same way that Fall Out Boy did. The Academy Is… well… is definitely the “next big thing,” and for the kids who were there to see them, they definitely got their money’s worth.
As for the fans of Mae, I’m not so sure about that. Mae was no doubt the reason the the show was sold out, however, I didn’t feel the energy with them like I did with the Academy Is… Their music was lethargic and slow, which left several people, including myself, searching for a spot to sit on near the side wall or in the bar. Musically, aesthetically, and in their overall vibe, Mae was just a bit too clean cut for me. There were a handful of church kids bunched together who jumped up and down to every hit of the snare, but that seemed to be about the extent of the crowd participation. To those whose music exposure is limited, I’m sure Mae’s performance was nothing to criticize, but to the music critic, or anyone involved in the scene beyond the surface, non-organized, youth group outing sort of way, Mae didn’t offer much more than noise in a crowded room.
Photography, Randy Mickulesku