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Blue October! Always an amazing show!!!
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Knox Hamilton on stage next at the Radio 104.5 Block Party show!
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Radio 104.5 B-Day Show #2 Featuring The Killers

Day #2 of the Radio 104.5 Birthday Show was a hot and sunny day. Here’s a view of the lawn with the Philadelphia skyline in the background.

Radio 104.5 held Day #2 of its 10th birthday celebration shows on Sunday, June 11th. What a contrast to Day #1! Day #1 (held May 13th) was cold, wet and dreary. Day #2 (held June 11th) was hot, humid and sunny. The headliners were completely different as well. Day #1 gave us Kings of Leon, who is a good old-fashioned rock band. Day #2 gave us The Killers, who are more of an alternative/pop band.

Before I go into a review of each band, I’ll share some overall thoughts about the show. As with previous Radio 104.5 Birthday Shows, for the first several acts (for Day #2, it was the first three acts) the seating is all open and general admission. For the last four acts, everyone must go to their designated seat. In the pit, they ask everyone with a pit wristband to raise their hand and allow those people to stay. Everyone else must exit the pit. For the seated areas in the pavilion, everyone must exit and then re-enter to go to their seat. Trying to make this transition for the Day #1 show was a mess. Everyone packed into the concourse and you couldn’t move. Day #2 went much more smoothly. The better weather on Day #2 helped, and I think they were much clearer in the directions and letting people know this was going to happen.

As for the mix of the bands on Day #2, I thought it was a good mix. I thought the line-up for Day #1 was stronger, but as I wrote in my review of the Day #1 show, I felt that Kings of Leon as the headliner didn’t quite fit with the rest of the line-up. For Day #2, The Killers was clearly the band most people were there to see, and the crowd stuck around through the whole show.

Now for a review of each band.

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Andorra

Local Philly band Andorra warmed up the crowd for the day long concert event.

Local Philly band, Andorra, opened up the show. Andorra is an alternative rock band named after a neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia. They are very active on the local music scene, and have made appearances several times on Radio 104.5 birthday shows, block parties and studio sessions. They are made up of Kevin McCall on vocals/guitar, Jordan Petrellis on drums, Michael Trycieckyi on bass/vocals and Dante DiLoreto on guitar. Their musical style is a heavier alternative rock (think Pearl Jam), and they really got the crowd going with their energy. If you live in the Philly area, these guys are definitely worth checking out. They just released a new EP in May. Check out their website at https://andorramusic.bandcamp.com as well as follow them on social media to keep up to date on scheduled shows.

Here’s a video of one of their original songs that they played at the show.

 

Marian Hill

Marian Hill featuring Haverford High School graduates Samantha and Jeremy.

While billed as a “national act”, Marian Hill is a local Philadelphia band as well. The duo is made up of Samantha Gongol (vocals) and Jeremy Lloyd (production artist) who met at Haverford High School in the Philadelphia suburbs. The name of the band is derived from the two main characters in the musical “The Music Man” – Marian Paroo and Harold Hill. I would describe their music as electronic dance music with a bit of a hip hop beat to it. They opened up their set with “Down”, which is a song that is currently getting a ton of radio play.  Download Down here.

As an added touch, on certain songs the band also features jazz musician Steve Davit, whose saxophone skills are amazing and adds a unique sound to their music. As with any electronic dance music act, I always find live performances to be a bit of a challenge. I think Marian Hill needs to work a bit on their live performance. Samantha has a fantastic voice, but she seems to sometimes struggle to know what to do on stage – particularly when she isn’t singing. For a very short set in this type of music festival setting, they were fine. However, it’s hard to picture them pulling off a full headlining show.

You can catch Marian Hill at various shows and festivals this summer, including a return to the Philadelphia area at the Made in America Festival on the Ben Franklin Parkway over Labor Day weekend. They will also be touring in Europe this fall. For more information on their debut album, as well as upcoming tour dates, check out their website at www.marianhillmusic.com.

 

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness created a total party atmosphere during his set.

The next act up was Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. Andrew McMahon has actually been performing since the late 1990’s under various names. It all started with his band “Something Corporate”, which recorded and toured between 1998 and 2006, with a short reunion in 2010. From 2004 to 2012, McMahon decided he wanted to keep some of his new music separate from Something Corporate, and recorded and performed under the name “Jack’s Mannequin”. In 2014, McMahon announced to his fans that he would begin recording music and performing under the name Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

McMahon also has an intriguing personal back story. In May of 2005, he was forced to cancel his upcoming live performances due to a case of laryngitis that wouldn’t seem to go away. After undergoing further medical testing, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He received a stem cell transplant from his sister in 2005, and was back playing his first concert in December 2005. He founded The Dear Jack Foundation in 2006 to help raise funds for cancer research.

McMahon opened his set with his latest hit single “Fire Escape”.

McMahon is clearly a showman. His strong voice, partnered with a ton of energy, made his set a lot of fun. Shortly into the set, a huge inflatable rubber duck came out. McMahon climbed in and went out into the crowd, riding the arms of the fans in the pit. He also had several giant inflatable wacky waving guys on stage that came to life at a couple of different points in the set. Towards the end of the set, a bunch of beach balls were launched into the crowd. The crowd was into the music and the entertainment, and having a great time.

For his second to last song – “Synesthesia” – McMahon took off into the crowd and went back to the lawn. It’s always great to see an artist go out to the lawn and make sure the people out there know they are appreciated.

McMahon wrapped up his set with his hit single “Cecilia and the Satellite”, which he wrote about his daughter. More of a mellow song than the other upbeat songs in his set, the song showed off McMahon’s vocals and what a talented pianist he is.  You can download Cecilia and the Satellite here.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is touring throughout the U.S. this summer, including opening a few dates for Billy Joel as well as several major music festivals. To see where you can catch them near you, check out his website at www.andrewmcmahon.com.

 

Kaleo

Kaleo surprised me with their hard rocking, blues based set.

Sometimes when you see a band live, they turn out to be nothing like what you expected them to be. At Day #1 of the birthday show, that band for me was Empire of the Sun. At Day #2, that band was Kaleo. The only songs I was familiar with by Kaleo were the two songs that play on the radio – “All the Pretty Girls” and “Way Down We Go”. Both are mellow songs, and I pictured Kaleo being a “soft rock” type of band. I was surprised when I heard the rest of their music, which is hard rocking with a kind of bluesy style to it.  Download Kaleo’s Way Down We Go here.

Kaleo is based out of Iceland, and consists of JJ Julius Son (vocals/guitar), David Antonsson (drums), Daniel Kristjansson (bass guitar) and Rubin Pollock (lead guitar). The band was formed in 2012, and has released two albums, with their hit song “Way Down We Go” getting lots of radio air play since August of 2015.

Kaleo opened their set with slow and bluesy “I Can’t Go On Without You”, which really showed off JJ’s distinct voice that fits beautifully with that bluesy style. The set continued to alternate between slower bluesy songs and really hard hitting rock songs like “Alter Ego” and “Hot Blood”. Towards the end of the set, they finally played “Way Down We Go”, which was the song that was recognizable to most people in the crowd, and that brought the biggest response.

After playing their radio hit, Kaleo went right back into their more obscure hard rocking music with “Backdoor” and “Texas”, which had a rockabilly sound to it.

Kaleo wrapped up their set with “Rock ‘n’ Roller”, once again proving that there was much more to the band than “All the Pretty Girls” (which they did not include in their set).   I was very impressed with the music and surprised by what I heard. JJ very much reminded me of Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam early in his career. When I first saw Pearl Jam in 1996, Eddie just wanted to play his music and seemed disinterested in the crowd. Since then, Eddie has become one of the most prolific front men of his time, who knows how to put on a show. I think JJ needs to learn to be a little more of a showman if they want this band to become big on the concert circuit. However, the quality of the music can’t be questioned. (Note: After the show, JJ was actually briefly hospitalized because of illness, so that may have explained him being a bit lower in energy during the set.)

Kaleo is playing a few more dates in the U.S. (including the Firefly Festival in Dover, DE) before heading to Europe for most of the summer. They’ll be back in the states at the end of the summer and into the fall. Check out their website at www.officialkaleo.com for upcoming tour dates. They are definitely a band worth checking out live.

 

Bleachers

Even with a NY Mets baseball jersey on, Jack Antonoff and Bleachers won over the Philly crowd.

You know a guy has guts when walks onstage for a Philadelphia show, with a NY Mets baseball jersey on. The energy and pure joy exuded by the band quickly won over the crowd, however, and I didn’t hear any boos or heckles.

Bleachers is the stage name that Jack Antonoff goes by. For those of you that are familiar with the band “Fun!”, Jack is a member of that band. He began working on the music for Bleachers in secret while on the road with Fun!. Bleachers’ style of music has a lot of ‘80s pop influence in it. In fact, Jack talks about his music being inspired by all of the John Hughes’ movies of the 1980’s (think Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink).

Bleachers opened up their set with “Shadow”, which is a very poppy and danceable song that got the crowd going.

After running through several of their original songs, Bleachers went into a cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic hit “Go Your Own Way”, which got the crowd singing along (at least those of us over the age of 40!). They then moved into two of their radio singles “Rollercoaster” and “Don’t Take the Money”. Both were full of energy and got everyone out of their seats and dancing.

They finished up their set with another hit single – “I Want to Get Better”. Once again, Jack’s energy was contagious. He even attempted to stand up on top of the rail and shake hands with people in the pit. He seemed to have no fear, while security precariously hung onto the back of his pants to prevent him from falling into the pit. They then had to help him crawl his way back up onto the stage. With a smile and a laugh, Jack finished off the song on his back and thanked the crowd for their support.  Download I Want To Get Better here.

Bleachers is out on tour this summer, including various festivals (they will be at the Firefly Festival as well). You can find their tour schedule on their website at www.bleachersmusic.com.

 

Foster the People

In my opinion, Foster the People was the highlight of the entire line-up.

The final act to come on stage before the headliner was Foster the People. In full disclosure, this was the band that I was most looking forward to seeing, and they did not disappoint. In fact, in my opinion, they should have been the headliner rather than The Killers.

Based out of Los Angeles, the band consists of Mark Foster (vocals), Sean Cimino (lead guitar), Isom Innis (keyboard) and Mark Pontius (drummer). Foster the People is one of those band that has a lot more hit songs than you realize. Mark Foster’s distinct voice and their catchy tunes lead to the kind of songs that get in your head, and you find yourself singing them the next day. In fact, I’m still singing “Pumped Up Kicks” a day after the show.  You can download Pumped Up Kicks here.

The band opened up their set with “Helena Beat”, which is one of my favorites. Mark’s vocals were strong, and I could tell from this opening song that this was going to be a great set.

The band then moved into two new songs – “Pay the Man” and “Doing it for the Money” – the latter of which is currently getting a lot of radio play. They then went back into their past music, including recognizable hits “Coming of Age” and “Don’t Stop”.

Of course, the highlight for me (and a lot of the rest of the crowd) was when they played their biggest hit – “Pumped Up Kicks”. Mark had the crowd singing that recognizable refrain right along with him. They wrapped up their set with another big radio hit – “Houdini”. In their much too short set (only 9 songs) they managed to play most of their hits. I would have liked another hour worth of music from them, but in this sort of setting, you only get a quick taste of everyone. That’s a good thing when the band isn’t good or not a favorite, but leaves you wanting more when a band like Foster the People is limited to such a short set.

Foster the People is a fantastic band live. They are a band I would go see every time they came around, and I look forward to seeing them do a full set soon. They are currently heading to Europe for several shows this summer, before they come back to the U.S. at the end of July. They have a new album coming out soon. Check out their website at www.fosterthepeople.com to stay on top of all their news.

 

The Killers

The Killers headlined the show, but left me a little disappointed.

The final band to take the stage was The Killers. A lot of people had told me about how great the band was live, so I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The Killers are based out of Las Vegas and have been around since 2001. Led by frontman Brandon Flowers, the band also consists of Dave Keuning (guitar), Mark Stoermer (bass), and Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. (drums). The band has had huge success over the years – both with selling records and with touring.

While the band has been around since 2001, they have only released four studio albums during that time. They have taken multiple extended hiatuses as a band, and several of the members (including Brandon Flowers) have done solo and side projects throughout the band’s existence. Their fifth studio album is set to be released soon, and they played one of the new songs from that album during their set.

You can download The Killers’ new single The Man here.

When I see a band live, I want them to sound pretty close to the way they sound in their recorded material. If the quality of the music and the vocals isn’t the same, I have a hard time getting into the live performance. It may have been an off night, but while the music was good, Brandon Flowers’ vocals were severely lacking. He seemed to be talking/shouting a lot of the lyrics rather than singing them. While he hit several notes well, others were just off key. He also seemed to be out of breath often and struggling to sing all the words. That might be due to them not touring much lately. Maybe Flowers was out of shape. I think a good vocal coach might do Flowers some good.

The band opened with what is probably one of their most popular songs – “Mr. Brightside”. Judge for yourself in the below clip on Brandon Flowers’ vocals.

As “Mr. Brightside” seems like it might be a difficult song to perform live vocally, I decided to keep an open mind. Unfortunately, the singing didn’t get any better. And while Brandon had a lot of energy and was well-engaged with the crowd, the rest of the band seemed a bit flat. They didn’t move around, didn’t engage much with Brandon or the audience, and just seemed to not be into the show.

During their 15 song set, The Killers ran through their library of hits including “Human” and “Somebody Told Me”. They also did a cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay”.

The set wrapped up with a 4 song string of hits – “Read My Mind”, “Runaways”, “All These Things That I’ve Done” and “When We Were Young”. While it was fun to hear the hits and sing the songs, Flowers’ vocals continued to make it difficult for me to really appreciate the music. I also found it a bit odd that the band went off stage after “When We Were Young”, and that was the end of the show. There was no encore.

The Killers are heading to Europe for the summer, before coming back to the states to perform at Lollapalooza in August. With a new album coming soon, I would expect to see more tour dates being announced for the fall. There were a lot of people in the crowd that were clearly big fans of the band, including the couple in front of us. I hope that Brandon works on his vocals, and the band gets their tour groove back soon. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be spending money to see them again. You can keep up with news on their new album and potential fall tour dates at www.thekillersmusic.com.

 

All in all, the two Radio 104.5 birthday shows this year were a fantastic way to kick off the summer concert season. I saw a lot of great bands that I normally wouldn’t seek out and see individually. Looking at all of the bands from the two shows, the three highlights for me were Bastille (Day #1), Kings of Leon (Day #1) and Foster the People (Day #2). The biggest disappointments were The 1975 (Day #1) and The Killers (Day #2). But, any time I get a full day of live music is a great day for me, so I’m glad I got to experience it all!

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

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