• Mahall’s not “Loveless” in Lakewood

    This show was the hottest on earth not just because it was a sold out show, but also temperature-wise. It may have been the hottest concert I have ever attended, including Warped Tour. 

    Loveless brought their world tour to Mahall’s in Lakewood, Ohio on May 19 and this sold out show brought energy not only from the band, but also from the fans in the crowd. It was not a joke, everyone was dripping in sweat just standing in the crowd. The difference in temperature from the lobby to the concert room was crazy, and adding in all the people did not help. Throughout the night, Julian, the lead singer kept talking about how hot it was, how the stage was full of sweat and that the front row was the “splash zone.” The temperature of the room was a recurring theme throughout the night because it never cooled down.

    Loveless has grown in popularity over the last year or so largely due to TikTok. The group has gained a following through their videos on the app, which has resulted in the group selling out many of their shows on this tour and their fanbase growing exponentially. That was seen in full force at this show. The room was packed wall to wall, front to back. Fans filled the side risers and several stood on the benches on the side to get a better view of the stage. 

    Vocalist Julian Comeau was struggling with his voice after losing it at the first show, so he was sipping on tea in between songs and doing his best to not let it stop him from giving the audience the best show he could. He powered through and still sounded fantastic throughout the entire set. He had strong energy from start to finish, not letting anything put a damper on the set. 

    The set started off high energy with “Haunting Me” and the crowd wasted no time singing along to every lyric. The band brought high energy and was ready for a great set, and of course noticing right away how warm it was. Other songs on the set list included the hit “Worst Case Scenario”, “Better”, “Killing Time” and “If You Have My Voodoo Doll, Give Me A Hug.” They also played “Someone Else,” their song with Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens, and before his part Comeau said, “You guys can be Kellin.” This got the crowd involved with the set and to show off how good we know the lyrics to their song.

    There was not a down or slow moment. It was just banger after banger. Every song grabbed the crowd’s attention and had people singing along, dancing, clapping, and just living in the moment. Little time in between songs, with short introductions, left no time to breathe. Loveless was there to play a show and get us moving and singing and they delivered. 

    Instrumentals sounded fantastic with Dylan Tirapelli-Jamail on guitar and Stephan Haaker on drums. They brought energy and kept the show moving and the crowd excited. Tirapelli-Jamail and Haaker may have not interacted with the crowd as much, but they still added an extra level of energy and fun to the show. 

    The band interacted with the crowd, having us put up phone lights during “Lighthouse.” During “IS IT ME,” a fan held up a sign with the lyrics for Julian to read off of to make sure he was signing the right lyrics. I guess he has struggled with those before, so the fans got his back and helped him out. That demonstrates how strong of a fanbase the band has.

    Those who are familiar with the TikTok videos will be happy to know that Julian did say “thanks” after every song, just like how he closes his TikTok singing videos: the most polite concert ever. Those little touches can really make a concert feel more personal and unique to a band and give a little nod to the fans who have been following the group more closely. Those who may not follow the TikTok may not be familiar with that little touch, but those who do love it. 

    Instead of choosing to exit the stage and then come back on for their encore, the band decided to just stay on stage and play their last few songs. I like the trend that bands are doing nowadays with ditching the typical encore scenario of walking off stage and coming back on. Nowadays, everyone knows that they will be coming back, especially if they have not played their biggest hit yet. I am all for keeping the show moving. Maybe it could mean an extra song or so by cutting out the time of “leaving.” I am all for a chance to hear more songs.

    Loveless closed the set with “A Thousand Reasons” and what a new song that seems to be titled “Sick,” according to a setlist. The band gave it their all for the last few songs and the crowd did the same. Singing at the top of their lungs and moving and showing their love for the band on stage. Not wanting the time to end. 

    The group took a bow and exited the now sweat filled stage to hopefully cool off and rest before the next show. Loveless brought it all to the stage. Julian may have been struggling with his voice a bit, but he did not let it show. The whole group pushed through the outrageously hot temperature of the room and made the crowd feel special and made it a show to remember. Trust me I was struggling in the crowd, I can only imagine how hot it was under the lights on stage and moving around.

    Overall, Loveless is a fun band to watch and will not let anything stop them from putting on the best show for their fans. They are just getting started and I know they are only going up from here.

    Loveless is currently on tour and tour dates and tickets can be found on their website.

  • Jackson Wang brings his “magic” to Wintrust Arena

    He isn’t a mystery, but he isn’t just magic. Jackson Wang is talented, generous and perhaps a little bit tragic.

    Wang brought his globe-trotting Magic Man tour to Chicago’s Wintrust Arena on May 4. Opening the show with “100 Ways” set the tone for the first half of the show with a romantic melancholy. While it made for a bit of a slow start to the show, Wang performed them with a deep sincerity and that soaring, soulful voice of his. Magic Man really kicked off the moment he asked the audience’s consent to make the show a little hotter. Songs from his Magic Man album like “Champagne Cool” and “Drive It Like You Stole It” kept fans on their feet with their funky grooves and Wang’s unabashed confidence.

    Without much exaggeration, Wang is a true chameleon. For songs like “Cruel” and his latest single “Cheetah,” he prowled across the stage with his impressive crew of backup dancers. For “LMLY,” he recreates the set from the music video so he can cavort amongst his crew as they perform happy couples completely ignorant of his pining. A motif that admittedly felt a little overused was the magic elevator, which rose and fell as each section of the show began and ended. While a creative idea that goes perfectly with the tone and title of the tour, watching the transitional object eventually got repetitive. The part that made it feel more natural was Wang himself, who believed every step he took and every word he said in way that could be felt from the third row.

    In fact, the show was almost uncomfortably personal at points. Wang gave lengthy speeches about the purpose of the show and the hardships he’s endured during his time as an entertainer, but the songs tonally clashed with these speeches often. Many of them were about lost love, including the excellent “LMLY” and “Blue,” which That being said, when the show transitioned into the more overtly sexy numbers, it did make for a jarring experience at times, especially when Wang decided to bring out an entire bottle of Hennessy.

    These aren’t the actions a man takes when everything’s alright. While he did share the whiskey with his bandmates, it was clear throughout the show who the majority of the bottle went to. It’s a total rock star move, but it’s more than slightly concerning within the context of Wang’s speeches expressing a growing distaste for the industry he spent so much of his life in and the sense of a deep, gutteral loneliness one can only experience in that position. Even more indicative of this are the literal mascara tears he painted down his cheeks: it’s one part circus, one part sadness. It’s brilliant and heartbreaking in the same breath.

    The moments Wang brought fans onstage with him weren’t just highlights for those lucky chosen two. During “The Moment” and “Dead,” a young woman with pigtails and a fishnet crop top Wang chose fully understood the assignment. While she did visibly fawn over Wang like any fan in that audience would have, she took her moment by the hair by dropping it like it’s hot and actively playing along with and into the fanservice. What happened when they entered the magic elevator doors closed and it filled with smoke? That’s between her and Wang.

    The encore was easily the best part of the entire night – rather than come back to perform more songs, he simply came out dancing to remixes of “Blow” and “100 Ways” while bringing more and more people onstage with him. It was here Jackson seemed well and truly happy to be there: comfortable clothes, no makeup and his signature black beanie made him look less like a sex demon and more like just a regular dude who just wants to party. It’s clear he’s spent a great deal of his life being who he needs to be, as a common thread of the show was his journey to become who he wants to be. Let’s just hope he’s taking care of himself as he goes along that journey.

    Jackson Wang is a consummate entertainer with an eye for detail and a deep admiration for his fans. Whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s already made them incredibly proud. Let’s hope, one day, he’ll see that for and within himself.

    The North American leg of Jackson Wang’s Magic Man tour wrapped up on May 11 in New York, New York. The tour’s final stop will take place in Mexico City’s CDMX Arena on May 25.

  • Agust D burns down Allstate Arena

    ARMY came prepared with gasoline knowing Agust D would be spitting straight fire.

    Agust D, also known as Min Yoongi or Suga from BTS, took over Allstate Arena on May 3, 5 and 6 with his D-Day tour. This review covers only the May 3 show, which was a particularly delightful treat considering what he said right at the end of the show:

    “Coming from New York, I had one rest day. I think I was in the best condition today.”

    As someone who has now seen him both as BTS’s Suga and Agust D, it’s safe to say he’s correct. From the opening chords of “Haegum,” the crowd was on their feet and ready to fight. The title “Daechwita” literally refers to traditional Korean military music and keeps true to that meaning with it’s confrontational beat and the repeated insistence to “play it loud.” Following closely is his self-titled track “Agust D,” which contains lyrics including “my seat is business/yours is economy, forever behind me kissing my ass” and “you wasted rappers should be grateful that I’m an idol,” among other insults and clap backs to anyone who’s said his music isn’t “real hip-hop.”

    Yoongi’s technical skill and talent are accompanied by a deep pain that doesn’t need to be translated or dissected to be understood – he leaves it all to his performance. That being said, if you do look into English translations of these lyrics, you’d better be ready to peer into a raw wound with fresh stitches. One example of this is his latest single “Amygdala,” which puts his deepest traumas in no uncertain words. Pouring out everything from his mother’s heart surgery to his father’s liver cancer, “Amygdala’s” chorus contains repeated pleas of “save me” and “let me out.” It’s transparently clear, while what didn’t kill him made him stronger, the way Yoongi seemed close to tears during this song that it still fucking hurts.

    A theme that’s become pervasive throughout Agust D’s work is the battle he faces against more powerful, corrupt versions of himself. In the music videos for “Haegum” and “Daechwita,” he murders versions of himself as a mafia boss and a Joseon-era emperor respectively. It’s particularly interesting not only considering these are the two songs he chose to kick off the concert, but this theme persisted in the VCRs. One such example is when Yoongi is seen sitting in a motel room when someone knocks on his door. Pulling back from the peephole through a fisheye lens puts you in the perspective of the person on the other side of the door: Agust D, with a gun pointed straight into the peephole. Even if the trigger warning at the beginning of the show didn’t give it away, you sure knew what happened next in that moment.

    The set list also included a medley of sorts, composed of his verses in BTS tracks “Cypher 3: Killer,” “Cypher 4,” “UGH!,” “Ddaeng” and “HUH?” The energy between Yoongi and the audience was particularly powerful during this medley, especially watching him bounce excitedly as he spits bars like cherry pits into the audience. However, his performance of “Interlude: Shadow” was enthralling not just because of his soul-baring delivery or technical prowess, but because of his own complicated feelings with his own success. Putting it plainly, he worked his way out of poverty doing what he loves, but still experiences dissatisfaction. Yoongi draws directly from BTS’s debut track “No More Dream,” he seems to mock himself with the line “you have a big house, big cars, big rings/all the things you wanted, you’ve got it all/so, what’s the problem?”

    The slower moments offered a reprieve from the aggressive, high energy tracks but were no less intense. His performance of “Snooze” was particularly moving with the preface of a heartfelt tribute to the late Ryuichi Sakamoto, whom he collaborated with the song. From an acoustic version of “Trivia: Seesaw” to the piano ballad “First Love,” as well as the closing performance of “The Last,” Yoongi maintained a firm grip on the audience’s attention without fail. From his masterful storytelling to his hair-trigger flow, his stage presence and talent made for one of the best live shows in recent memory.

    Min Yoongi put his shattered psyche on display for all of Chicago to see – and he did nothing to make it pretty but everything to make it entertaining. No matter what you call him – Suga, Agust D, Min Yoongi – this is who he is regardless of whether you can handle it.

    Agust D’s D-Day tour wraps up the North American leg at Oakland Arena on May 17. The second leg of the tour begins on May 26 in Tangerang Regency, Indonesia and ends in Seoul, South Korea on June 25. His D-Day album released on April 21 and is available on all streaming services.

    All photos were taken by Penny Rae Hawkins and edited by Jon Knoell.

  • Weathers answer the question: Are We Having Fun?

    Love, heartbreak, reflection, anger and sadness: all topics and feelings that many deal with it over the course of their life. Also not very fun feelings to experience. But these are all topics that are discussed in the songs on the new album by Weathers Are We Having Fun?

    Alternative rock band Weathers released their third studio album Are We Having Fun? on May 5 through Sumerian Records. This album discusses all the struggles, conflicts, ups and downs of relationships. Everything from losing friends, watching your ex move on, realizing how toxic a relationship was and more. Through emotional vocals, synthesizers, roaring guitars, strong drums, groovy bass and powerful lyrics, the group tells clear stories throughout the album and creates a cohesive sound that will have you putting the album on repeat. 

    On Are We Having Fun? Weathers have evolved and grown as a group and create a strong, well produced and cohesive album that showcases their talent as a group. From songwriting, to production, and everything in between, Weathers have shown they are a group to be watched and stronger than ever. This album feels like they were discovering their sound and they can only go up from here.

    The themes of the tracks all center around relationships and the ups and downs that come with love and heartbreak. Sonically, the songs are cohesive in that they all have strong instrumentals and emotional lyrics, however, the songs do not all sound exactly the same. Each song has at least one unique element that differentiates it from other tracks. Some have a more dancey, pop feel. While others like “Where Do I Sign?” (a top five favorite of mine) have a dark, heavier rock sound and others have a groovy sound. The album takes your ear on a journey and keeps you interested and engaged to see what else the group will bring to the table. 

    The band manages to tie the different parts of the album together in a small way that you may not catch right away. Following the track “She Hates Me” is “Interlude,” which takes the melody of the previous song and flows into another melody that we will hear later on. Leaving the listening wondering, how this interlude will connect to the rest of the album. We learn that the melody is from the closing track, “Little Castaway” creating a complete circle from the beginning to closing a – small little detail that adds just a little something extra to the record. 

    My top song on the album, which has been on repeat since it dropped, is “ALL CAPS (feat John The Ghost).” This track has an extremely catchy chorus that will have you singing along after one listen. Lead vocalist Cameron Boyer and John The Ghost’s voices sound fantastic and compliment one another during the few moments we hear them together. The pre chorus features drums and guitar that feel like you are running and rushing you to a finish line, creating an anxious feeling as the chorus hits. Then it tones down and goes right back to full instrumental. This use of dynamics goes along with the theme of the song talking about a rocky relationship where you have this distrust of a partner and lack of communication. The sound has this dancy feel to it, but the lyrics are full of anger and frustration, but yet sonically that dance sound works to imitate that feeling. 

    Two of my other favorite tracks on the album happen back to back on the album. The first track is “Carsick.” This track brings a more darker sound and feel to some of the other moments on the album and can hear some of the more emo, rock, grungy influences on the track. On this song, Cameron Boyer sings about watching an ex move on and how hard it can feel. At the same time thinking about how that person was not good for you, but you still have feelings and would go through it all again. It is a very guitar and drum heavy song, with some strong electronic guitar lines towards the end. Boyer’s vocals are laced with pain and longing, bringing the painful, and relatable lyrics to life, even a subtle scream moment right before the closing line, to emphasize the frustration.

    The next track, “Drama Queen” is a contrast to the previous. This groovy bass and synthesizers with the acoustic guitar create a bouncy and cool sound that will have your head bouncing. This is a sassy track that talks about someone who was in your life that caused trouble and drama and you are happy is gone. Once again, Boyer’s vocals add the tone of the sound with a bit of sassy undertone. The line, “I think if the good die young then you might live forever” sums up the overall theme of this song completely. The little moments of dropping the instrumental and vocals lower for a moment then bringing it back up for the chorus or the soaring guitar moment with driving drums really tie the song together. It is a fun song that is the perfect song to scream along to while driving or rocking out alone. 

    A stand out song on the album is when the group slows it down on the track “Goodbye To My Friends.” This track finds the group exploring a more acoustic sound with a very emotional vocal from Boyer. On this track, the lyrics talk about letting go of people, specific friends in your life. Boyer sings about wondering if his friends are better now and if they still think about him. Instrumentally, it is simple with some light drums, guitar and bass in the verse. The chorus adds in some extra kick, but still simple, letting the lyrics tell the story. The sadness and questioning is heard in Boyer’s vocals brings the song to life. Adding in a soaring guitar solo in the bridge adds an extra level of emotion to the song which is paired perfectly with the ending of the song having Boyer repeating, “it’s okay, I’ll see, I’ll see you again” as the song gets quiet and drifts off into the final track.  

    Further emphasizing the diversity of sound on the album is the opening and closing tracks. “Little Castaway” is fast paced, full of funky bass, synthesizers, and dancey melodies. The lyrics discuss the person in your life who you let get away who you cannot stop thinking about. It feels almost like a party song that is meant to get you moving. The groovy bass and guitars and almost clappy drum beat cannot help but make you move. Whereas “One Of A Kind” is a more mellow, mid-tempo song with a more somber feeling. The chorus feels larger with in your face guitar and drums that is meant to emphasize the emotions behind the lyrics. Boyer almost feels like he is screaming at the lyrics discussing feeling like giving up and wondering if there is a version of him that is happy. Overall, you just picture a dark, somber image as you are listening.

    Weathers gave it their all on Are We Having Fun? The group demonstrates their evolution and growth as musicians, as well as where they can go. The band answers the question that no, the events and feelings behind these songs are not fun and detail why in their lyrics. Across all 12 songs, the listener can draw a connection to their own life and relationships.

    Are We Having Fun? was released on May 5 on Sumerian records and is available on all streaming platforms. You can purchase a physical copy of the album on the band’s official website.

  • Op-ed: Peak Time finale a bittersweet victory

    From the beginning of Peak Time, I was rooting for Vanner.

    Since early 2021, I’ve been a devoted VVS. I attend fan meetings, buy video calls and even followed them on tour last year. So, even with other groups I enjoy competing, I wanted Vanner to win the global showcase, an album and 300 million won (roughly $225,479.14). As you can imagine, the feeling was indescribable when I watched the tears of joy stream down their faces as the host announced they had won it all. Taehwan holding the big check while Younggwang and Hyeseong held bouquets of flowers made it feel like their hard work paid off and my votes made a difference.

    Vanner wins Peak Time - Hyeseong and Youngkwang hold flowers at each end while Taehwan (center) holds a big check
    Vanner takes home the top prize.

    Yet, something was missing. Not something, but someone: Team 23:00.

    Anyone watching the first episode of Peak Time was impressed with Team 23:00’s cover of TVXQ’s seminal K-pop classic “Mirotic.” From immaculate vocals and choreography to their obvious joy and charisma, it’s no wonder this performance went viral. When they followed it up with an adorable and show stopping cover of “Shine” by Pentagon, I realized I would be okay with Vanner taking second place only if DGNA were first.

    Throughout Peak TIme, Vanner was open about their struggles as “part-time idols.” Team 23:00 was not so open, which was understandable if you knew who they were going into the competition.

    Known as The Boss/DGNA, the boy group debuted in 2010 with 5 members under Open World Entertainment. For those who have been into K-pop for a while, just the name of that company sends a chill down the spine. Considering the sensitivity and severity of the scandal, I won’t relay the details here. However, I encourage you to watch videos from Chaennie Lisoo or Midnight Theories if you’d like more information.

    The most important factor in this context is the heinous crimes of the company’s CEO’s lead to the dissolution of the company and halted the activities of DGNA and labelmate X-5. X-5 would later sign with a different company and debut under the name LU:KUS, while DGNA would focus on Japanese promotions since they were still signed with Sony Music Japan. However, as the group explained in the first episode, their contract expired in 2017 and their group activities came to an end.

    “Without this chance, gathering and showing our dance and song will not happen anymore,” Karam said in an interview. “We put our life on it and try it.”

    Despite their hardship, they never considered themselves disbanded. Karam, Jay and Injun came back together after five years to put on one stellar performance after another.

    Unfortunately, their delightful “Chamomile” stage would be their last Peak Time performance. Team 23:00, The Boss/DGNA, was removed from the competition after private photos of Karam partying with Japanese adult video actresses were leaked online. Regardless of the invasion of Karam’s privacy, he and his members faced consequences. Despite a track record of excellent performances, they would no longer compete on Peak Time.

    This decision was not only devastating, but infuriating. They were consistently among the Top 6 groups week after week, often coming in second place on fan votes alone. Considering the timing of the leak and account was only created in February 2023, it feels like deliberate sabotage from the Twitter user. Not only that but, at least from my perspective, the photos were not all that scandalous. Considering Karam is a man in his early thirties, it’s completely justifiable to spend his free time partying with friends regardless of their professions. The photo of him smoking a cigarette isn’t what I would consider flattering, but it’s not something that should potentially cost him his career.

    Regardless of the user’s motive or the legitimacy of the scandal, the damage was done. After private discussions with each other and the production team, DGNA made their decision. Their exit from the program was graceful, apologizing profusely to the production team and the competing teams while thanking them for the opportunity. On April 12, Karam posted another apology on his personal Instagram.

    Thankfully, this won’t be the last audiences will see of DGNA. On April 19, the group announced a fan meeting would take place in South Korea on May 20. This is both exciting and not surprising when you look back at the group’s introduction on Peak Time:

    “We will not give up on our dream until the end,” Karam said. “We also want to show you there are some boys who have been working hard.”

    Vanner’s victory is one I plan on celebrating every day for the foreseeable future. I only wish DGNA was on that finale stage with them.

  • Bite-Sized Beats: Arrows in Action have their “Head In The Clouds” on new single

    Arrows in Action leave negative energy behind and stay high. 

    Arrows in Action have released “Head In The Clouds” off of their upcoming album Built To Last due out May 26. This upbeat song is one that will be on repeat for the sunny day drives ahead. This upbeat and groovy track will have you dancing, nodding your head and singing along in no time. 

    The lyrics on this song discuss the struggle of working hard, wondering about success and feeling like you are stuck in a repetitive circle. However, you can abandon that mindset and choose to live in the moment. The chorus sings, “I’m just gonna stay high, I/Think I’m gonna be alright/Every day a little more alive/With all that I leave behind,” which speaks to leaving the negativity behind and believing that everything will work out. It finishes with the chorus: “I got everything I need now/Think I’m done looking down/Got my head In the clouds.”

    Behind the lyrics is an instrumental that brings a feeling of warmth and hope that things will be okay. A nice clapping beat mixes with acoustic guitars to create a sound that will have you out of your seat and feeling you are up in the clouds. Throw in a touch of electric guitar that leads into the almost-a cappella at the end and you will be left feeling light and ready to take on the world by the closing of the song. It feels airy and is not overdone with lots of layers and added effects. The acoustic guitar is what brings the overall vibe of the song to life. It has the summer, feel good feeling to it that you cannot help but smile listening to it. “Head in the Clouds” shows that sometimes keeping it simple with a catchy chorus and toned back instrumentals is all you need. 

    This track is different from the others the group has released from the album thus far. It shows the group’s ability to change it up, but still stay true to who they are as a group. It still sounds like Arrows In Action, but their positive, groovy, upbeat side. 

    “Head In The Clouds” was released on April 14 and can be streamed on all major streaming services. You can preorder Arrows In Action debut album Built To Last on their website.

    Check out the music video below!

  • Waterparks defy genre and religious trauma on new album

    If you think the band has done it all, just you wait for what Waterparks have in-store on their newest release.  

    Waterparks are back with their fifth studio album INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, the follow-up to their 2021 album Greatest Hits. Just like previous albums, the group does not hold back. From start to finish, this album will have your ears peeled and listening to what extra sounds, affects, and hidden moments within the tracks. The more you listen, the more you are able to pick up on and add to the listening experience. 

    INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY centers heavily around the theme of religious guilt and how it has affected the way he lives his life. It ranges from sexual guilt, to mental health, to just living everyday life. This album was a way to grow past the guilty feelings and defy the things that many may have been taught growing up. This idea of religious guilt is why many of the songs on the album have hypersexual undertones and themes. In an Instagram post on the Waterparks account, Knight explains the message behind the album and artwork. 

    This album features roaring guitars, pounding drums, a plethora of electronic effects, playing with vocals and the music itself cannot be classified in one genre. It takes rock, pop, dance, and everything else you can imagine and throws it into the album. But the way it is arranged, produced and presented works, which is not new to the group. Every album they push the boundaries and experiment and release music that provides variety sonically and is genre bending, and make it work. 

    Each track has many layers to it. Vocals are manipulated to be higher, lower, warped and more. Elements like background sounds, electronic drums, taking just sounds that Knight makes or you find in everyday life and manipulating them to create some cool and unique electronic beat or sound that transforms the song. The band even uses the voice of Kurtis Conner on the closing of “END OF THE WATER (FEEL).” The more you listen to and dissect the songs, the more you find. A single listen will not do the songs justice. 

    Like most Waterparks albums, Awsten Knight is not subtle in his lyric writing. When you listen to a song, you know exactly what message he is trying to convey. With lines like “I know your dying wish is to be baptized in my spit”, Knight is not afraid to be blunt in his lyric writing. With songs like “FUCK ABOUT IT” featuring Blackbear discussing a relationship where sex is used as a way to avoid confrontation and “Self-Sabotage” talking about purposefully ruining a relationship on purpose due to your insecurities. 

    Throughout the album those themes are executed in ways are times are in your face and maybe in more subtle ways, with “RITUAL” opening with an audio clip talking about sex before marriage. The opening track “ST*RFUCKER” contains the line “Jesus Christ, don’t text me back,” tying back to the religious themes of the album. The song “BRAINWASHED” has more straightforward lines pointing towards the hypersexual themes but can be inferred that Knight is dealing with guilt for feelings he is experiencing as heard on lines “What if I pray? Hoping you’ll stay into the daylight/Wait, what am I saying? I feel insane/It’s only been a couple days,” Knight references praying for what he wants and also talks about how the way he is feeling and talking is unfamiliar to him and almost feels wrong. Lyrically and sonically these tracks are different but are connected in a way that helps develop the story of the album, allowing for a smooth listening experience.

    While this album tells the cohesive story and theme, not every song sounds the same. That may sound confusing, but that speaks to production and album creation of the group. They were able to provide a variety of song styles, while still making the album. The album is also one of their shorter releases with only 11 songs and coming in at just over 31 minutes. However, you do feel like you have heard a complete story in a short amount of time. The group brings a sonically diverse set of songs that showcase the groups abilities vocally, instrumentally, lyrically, production wise and just over how they have evolved as a group. This album demonstrates how the group has grown more comfortable but also how they can still continue to push themselves. 

    You will also find tracks like “2 BEST FRIENDS” that have more light, playful sounding songs with some more typical pop elements, being balanced out with lyrics that when analyzed, are definitely not happy. “2 BEST FRIENDS” is about trying to go out to forget about someone and failing. The instrumental being composed of repetitive guitar riffs and drums gives the dancey feel to balance out the heavy lyrics. The lyrical content is what ties the song to the rest of the album, once again proving that while not obvious at first, every song on the album serves a purpose. Even if the sound is different from the other tracks, it is not a random addition. 

    “RITUAL” is the heaviest track on the album. Knight shows off his fast-paced rap style vocal that is a staple of Waterparks tracks, and the drums on the tracks create a feeling like you are running. It is a constant pounding underneath everything else that is going on, creating a feeling of urgency, almost imitating the feeling of your mind racing. The vocals contrast with high-pitched singing in the chorus and then later on it goes into scream like heavy vocals. Throw in some lines in deeper vocals like “like a ritual” and you have a stand out Waterparks track. Again, no other song on the album sounds like it, but it still works in the context of the album as a whole. 

    While there is not necessarily a slow or acoustic song on the album, the song “CLOSER” is probably the closest thing to it. This song is more toned down than some of the others. Still has many elements that make the song feel fuller. The opening of the track is an acoustic guitar but has layers of sound that sound almost choral, piano and overall angelic feeling. This song is not full of extra beats, lots of sound effects, bits of talking or electronic effects. It is more focused on the vocals and instrumentals, but still creating the atmospheric world that is created throughout the album. The vocals on the track bring out the emotion behind the lyrics. Knight has almost a pleading sound in his vocal delivery, while the lyric style almost sounds like he is giving a speech. With the closing of the sound having less instrumental, it is tamed down, bringing out the emotion. 

    The production on the album is what ties it all together. Everything mixes well, the layering of instrumentals, vocals, background effects, electronic elements, everything feels like it belongs and makes each track feel complete. Even when there is a lot happening on the track and it may feel overwhelming, it is done in a way that creates the atmosphere on the track, and elevates the listening experience. This can be seen on the closing track “A NIGHT OUT ON EARTH.” This track takes everything from the entire album and summarizes it into one track. It talks about fame, mental health, and overall what it is like to live in the world today. Mix the relatable, straightforward and heavy lyrics with electronic effects, groovy instrumental moments, warped vocals, and guitar solo with heavy drums at the end and you have one of my favorite closing tracks. Your ears are full of sound and transported into the world of the song. If you need to know what the album is like in one song, this is it.

    From start to finish, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY sounds cohesive while also allowing each song to have its own unique sound and story to tell to complete the full story of the album. Once again, Waterparks demonstrate that they are not afraid to push boundaries. They are not able to be put into a category and will continue to surprise their listeners.

    INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY was released on April 14 and can be streamed on all major streaming platforms.

  • OnlyOneOf entices and excites Park West

    The line outside Park West was separated into four tiers, but they all had one thing in common: LyOns left the cubs at home for this concert.

    LyOns waiting outside Park West (Source)

    The four tiers – VVIP, VIP, T3 and T4 – denoted not only extra perks, but also access to the venue. The two VIP tiers were treated to a hi-touch with the group as well as a group photo, the top two tiers only separated by a fan sign held hours before the event. Some fans walked up and down the line to hand out freebies: pictures of the members, homemade beaded bracelets and pride flags of every color passed out to a line that stretched down the block and around the building. There was no difference between waiting to meet the group or waiting for a spot at the back of the balcony. LyOns were just excited to see their favorite K-pop group perform.

    And perform OnlyOneOf did: from the beginning of “seOul drift,” the crowd roared from tops of their lungs. With chocolate-colored leather outfits and fire in their eyes, the K-pop band exploded onto the stage with unfettered determination. They performed as if it could be their last show ever, despite a minimum of eight cities left to visit. “Gaslighting” was another standout, with a sinister beat and sexually-charged choreography fans lost themselves in with every synchronized chest pop.

    One of the best performances of the night came from KB, whose performance of his solo track “be free” showcased way more than his impressive physique. The guitar line bounces and flows with the husky silk of his voice singing seductive lyrics like “oh my god, your smell” and “I just want to taste your lips.” Highlighted by a charming dance number with Yoojung, whose solo song “begin” ties in with KB’s sunshine in a bottle performance showcased a level of class of and showmanship more evocative of a classic entertainer than an idol.

    Nine displayed a sensual solo performance with his song “beyOnd.” If the performance wasn’t already hypnotizing due to his smoky voice and Hershey bar abs, bringing Mill onstage for some incredibly suggestive floor work undoubtedly left the front row in shambles. Both solo performances incorporated the rest of the members as de facto backup dancers as a delightful way to keep the entire group onstage while featuring the members’ solo tracks from the undergrOund idOl singles.

    A very close second for the best performance of the night was “skinz.” The direct successor to “libidO,” “skinz” is a plea for honesty and vulnerability steeped in desire. With production, it’s an ear worm. I’m also a sucker for any choreography that includes Mill jumping over other members.

    Undoubtedly, the show-stopper was always going to be their breakout 2021 track “libidO,” a dark anthem to unapologetic sexuality with a mysterious and forbidden vibe. Even if you don’t speak Korean, it’s effortless to understand when the band prowls towards the crowd on their hands and knees or sing lines in English like “want you to sing on my body” and “leave it to libido.” The Korean lyrics are even more explicit, some translating to “your teeth it’s like a fantasy” and “when I see you I can’t breathe, my pupils expand.” Even with the tight production and slick vocals, the song maintains a rawness that allows “libidO” to maintain a dangerous edge.

    When they returned to the stage for their encore, they were much more casually dressed. Donning tour t-shirts and jeans, they surprised fans by ending the show with “blOssOm” instead of “a sOng Of ice and fire.” Not that is was an unwelcome change as a bright song explicitly for and about LyOns. After a snapshot session with the members, fans waited outside the venue to see OnlyOneOf off in their tour bus. Even then, interactions with the group were as genuine through tinted windows as they were in the venue.

    These “Pick-a-Pose Snapshot” tickets were exchanged for Polaroids with fans’ chosen member(s)

    As they drove away from Park West, I couldn’t imagine a better ending to the evening.

    The remaining dates for OnlyOneOf’s Grand America World Tour can be found here. All photos have been taken by Penny Rae Hawkins and edited by Jonathan Knoell unless otherwise noted.

  • Strange Aeons dissects My Chemical Romance’s reunion tour, eviscerates nostalgia culture in new video

    Nostalgia works hard, but My Chemical Romance works harder.

    On March 31, the YouTube channel Strange Aeons posted a video titled “A Deep Dive Into the Return of My Chemical Romance.” In a cool 59 minutes and 30 seconds, channel runner Teya unpacks the ideology and symbolism presented in the band’s wardrobe of their 72-show global reunion tour. Citing Tumblr user jetstar, Teya described MCR fans following this tour on sites like Tumblr and Twitter as “sports but for gay people” due to the band’s long-standing relationship with the queer community.

    For fans, arguably the most key part of following this tour has been cataloguing frontman Gerard Ways’ eclectic collection of stage outfits. Tragic or controversial women in history were a common theme Teya pointed out, with Way making visual references to figures ranging from Princess Diana to Joan of Arc and even court outfits worn by female followers of Charles Manson.

    The late Princess Diana seemed to be the muse for Los Angeles on October 14, 2022 (Source)

    Critiques of the military were another common theme, with Army green and even hot pants suspected to be military silkies, making repeated appearances. These are similarly not uncommon, with the band making anti-war statements in the past, including theming the music video for “The Ghost of You” after the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.

    One of Way’s most unique outfits was worn on May 19 in Milton Keynes. Dubbed “Metaman,” Way wore an all-white suit covered in fake blood with the Meta logo drawn on his forehead, which was covered by a white mask. The look was interpreted to represent the single artwork for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” but it was also interpreted to represent something more anti-capitalist.

    “It is pretty blatant to splatter yourself in blood and write a company’s logo on your face,” Teya said.

    “We deserve to live in a real world with real people and real faces,” Way said. “We don’t want your metaverse.”

    As with any tour, the stage dressing was designed to . MCR changed the drum heads on tour nightly and tied them directly to Way’s stage outfits. In Tacoma, Wa. on October 3, the drum head read “I want to see you turn into a werewolf” while Way donned a Twilight Team Edward t-shirt. The Twilight shirt is interpreted as a specific reference to that time they were asked to contribute a song to the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, later inspiring the track “Vampire Money” from their 2011 album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.

    “Their variety of creatures and vampires did not really align with Twilight’s,” Teya said. “Doing something for Twilight wasn’t really authentic to who they were, wasn’t really what they wanted to do. They were offered exorbitant amounts of money and they still refused to sell out.”

    When Way dressed in an office worker uniform on March 14 in Brisbane, the drum head read, “Here comes the airplane.” Teya theorized this was a reference to Way witnessing 9/11.

    “In 2001, he was an intern at Cartoon Network living in New York City,” she said. “He said in a 2013 interview, ‘I did see the buildings go down, from I’d say fairly close. It was like being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film. You didn’t believe it. You felt like you were in Independence Day. It made no sense. Your brain couldn’t process it.”

    One of the most impactful moments of the video came when Teya dissected MCR’s performance at the 2022 When We Were Young festival. Dressed in their Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge uniforms with old-age SFX makeup, the band only performed the hits without any new material, b-sides or fan favorites. This was the only time they recreated an iconic look or excluded lesser-known songs, as well as their 2022 single “The Foundations of Decay,” from their set list.

    From left: Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Ray Toro

    “It’s like, ‘this is what we could be doing for decades,’” Teya said. “We could be elderly, watching elderly MCR dress up in their old clothes and play their old songs, and is that what any of us want to be doing: with the glory days of youth behind us, basically admitting that we’re already dead?”

    She continued to praise the band for their commitment to healing, as well as their refusal to make their views on the festival unknown or easy to digest.

    “It’s so good,” she said. “It’s so uncanny. It’s the way that it forces the audience to look at themselves. It refuses to be comforting and nostalgic and goes for your fucking throats.”

    She goes on to explain the significance of bassist Mikey Way being the only one not in uniform or makeup. This is possibly due to his death in the “Ghost of You” music video, after which he is interpreted by some to have become a vampire. If not a direct callback to that music video, it’s certainly a stark reminder of the possibility of a much darker timeline.

    Photo Credit: Matthew Oliver (source)

    “I think it must have been important to them to play this show and then to pull this stunt critiquing the premise of the entire festival,” Teya said. “Because, to them and a lot of others, holding up that era in their lives and their work is – it’s insulting because, honestly, that era was not ideal. That’s clearest I think when we look at Mikey, who’s been open about his life-threatening struggles with addiction and mental health and how these things were exacerbated by a lot of what happened in the early years of MCR. [sic]

    I believe Mikey is sober now and is recovered, but there’s a timeline where the band didn’t end MCR in 2014 because they needed to. Because it was bad for them, because it was something that was comfortable and profitable and maybe Mikey didn’t recover in that timeline. [sic] Of course they’d passionately have a problem with a nostalgia-based concert, because they were kind of miserable and their lives were messy back then, and they were heavily commodified by a subculture that wasn’t always kind to them.”

    Teya noted MCR was not the only band to bring up issues with the festival. During Paramore’s set, frontwoman Hayley Williams similarly looked back at the early-2000’s emo scene.

    “The scene was not always a safe place to be if you were different,” Williams said. “If you were a young woman, if you were a person of color, if you were queer, and that’s really fucked up when you think about it because this was supposed to be the safe place.”

    My Chemical Romance closed their set with “Vampire Money,” spreading thousand-dollar bills with vampires on them throughout the crowd. Beyond the apparent protest against the festival, the performance seemed to encapsulate one message throughout the entire tour:

    “MCR wants us to know that they are happy and healthy now, and still capable of creating excellent art.”

    The band’s reunion tour wrapped up on March 26 in Osaka, Japan. What’s your favorite reunion tour look? Check out the full video below!

    All photos used are screenshots from the video unless otherwise stated.

  • Magnolia Park bring high energy headlining tour to Lakewood, OH

    The room is packed wall to wall: people crowd near the front of the stage and cover the side risers and filter towards the back of the room. They file in from the bar and outside, getting their tickets checked and receiving their wristbands. The show is sold out and the amount of energy that radiates from the crowd emphasizes it. People push through the crowd to try and find a spot in the crowd.

    The first band of the night is getting ready to take the stage and the excitement is growing. The room is dark, lights shine on the set stage, ready for the show to begin.

    On March 21, pop punk band Magnolia Park brought their headlining Baku’s Revenge Tour to Mahall’s in Lakewood, OH. The tour is in support of their album Baku’s Revenge released in November 2022. Supporting the band on this tour is First And Forever, Poptropicaslutz, and Arrows In Action.

    First and Forever

    First up for the night is First And Forever. This emo and rock inspired band was a stand out performance of the night. From their original songs, to their “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance cover to their overall stage presence, everything worked together to capture the crowd and get everyone ready for the night ahead. The lead singer Alex Ryan brought the songs to life, climbing parts of the stage to sing for an extra level of performance. Towards the end of the set, he joined the mosh pit to close out a song. This band was the perfect way to start the night. Their harder, rock, emo sound brought the energy up and their set was a go from the start. The theatrics, strong vocals, killer instrumentals and just overall stage presence was perfection. It is a band to watch, and definitely gained fans after their set.


    Next up was Poptropicaslutz. This group is a newer one on the scene and takes elements of hip hop, electronic, and pop punk and mixes it all into one. Their set was not over the top, but still brought the energy up in the crowd. They had people jumping around during their sets, arms moving, and overall held the attention of the crowd. They did a good job of using the stage and hitting each part of the crowd. It was a good contrast to the other acts of the night. They had the pop punk and rock elements, but had the electronic and hip hop sound to add an extra level. They are definitely an act to watch.

    Arrows in Action

    The last opening act was Arrows In Action. This band has been gaining a following so much of the crowd were familiar and were fans of this group. They are a fun group to watch on stage for sure. They look like they are having a great time and enjoying what they are doing. Mixing that with sounding great as a live band, created a killer opening act. This three piece brings a pop punk sound with a twist, creating a different sound then the other acts. They have played this venue before, and it showed. They sounded great and owned the stage. At one point the lead singer of Magnolia Park, Joshua Roberts, joined the group on stage to sing their new song “The Credits” which features Magnolia Park and the band Loveless. When bands on a tour collaborate on stage, it is always a fan favorite moment.

    By the time Arrows In Action took the stage the crowd was excited. You could feel the ground moving when everyone would jump, people were clapping, screaming the lyrics, and just living in the moment. The band was getting the crowd involved, joking around and just enjoying themselves. Ending the set with “Uncomfortably Numb”, the energy was high and everyone was ready for the main act of the night.

    Magnolia Park

    Then it was time for the main act of the night: Magnolia Park. From the minute the band took the stage, the crowd was ready for the night of their lives. The pit opened and mosh pits were full blown. Everyone was ready to let loose and enjoy the night. The energy was reciprocated by the band. They were ready to put on a great show, feeding off the energy from the crowd for sure.

    One of the best nights of the night was the crowd doing the “O-H-I-O” chant after one of the songs and catching the band off guard for a second. Someone in the crowd started the iconic chant and the crowd was quick to follow. If you are from Ohio, you know the chant. It is almost a law that if someone says “OH,” it must be followed by “IO.” It gives cult vibes, but it is an Ohio tradition.

    The band opened with “Feel Something” off Baku’s Revenge. Other songs played off the new album “Addison Rae,” “Misfits,” and “Radio Reject,” among others. Each song flowed perfectly into the next, taking breaks to interact with the crowd and joke around. They knew how to get the crowd moving: encouraging opening up the pit, clapping hands, hands waving in the air, jumping around to feel the ground shaking. It was high energy, no time to rest.

    The set also brought out another collaboration between acts on the tour with some nostalgic energy. The band covered the iconic and fan favorite Fall Out Boy songs, “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down,” which was very fitting as their new album was dropping that Friday. Magnolia Park got the song started, people were singing, dancing, moshing and just living in the moment. The lead singer of First and Forever joined the stage and finished off the song with the group. Which made this one of the best moments of the night. Adding on to the already epic moment was when Joshua Roberts climbed up and hovered over the crowd. Just adding another level of connection, fun and energy to the show.

    Another favorite moment of the night was when they performed “Don’t Be A Racist.” The crowd was instructed to be up their middle fingers for the song, and people happily obliged. As a song with an important and relevant message, it went hard. Everyone held up their middle fingers high and sang the lyrics loud and proud.

    Magnolia Park brought exactly what you would expect and need at a pop punk show and more. It was non stop moving around, anger, jumping around, loud screaming along to songs and just being yourself. This being the band’s first headlining tour, you could feel the happiness and excitement from the group. They owned the stage and left it all on there. From vocals to roaring guitars and pounding drums, everything, worked together to create a night the audience will not forget.

    You could feel the love from the audience and how excited they were to see the group on stage. They felt passionate about the songs, and were happy to get to see them brought to life on stage. The fanbase is strong and gave their full support to the band from start to finish.

    No breaks at all, just going full speed the whole time: Magnolia Park and the fans.

    Baku’s Revenge can be streamed on all major streaming platforms. Information about future Magnolia Park tours and performances can be found on their website.