In the middle of a festival-heavy summer, Sleeping with Sirens called up The Rocket Summer for the appropriately titled Chill Out Acoustic Summer Tour.
While SWS has experimented with acoustic tunes before, they are well-known for a much heavier sound. If I hadn’t seen them do this successfully in the past, I would have been skeptical walking in, but these guys have adapted their music beautifully.
The lowkey evening opened with tour rookie Kulick, to the delighted screaming of the audience. Despite having released only one track, singer Jacob Kulick played a 30-minute set with confidence. His songs are catchy and relatable, and he even convinced the room to light up their cell phones on only the third song of the night. His original music was solid, but it was the singalong moment to The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” that really won the room.
The Rocket Summer was an unexpected addition to this tour package, but an entirely welcome one. Multi-talented Bryce Avary arrived sans his usual live band to serenade his audience with songs spanning his lengthy catalog.
“This is the lounge singer version of The Rocket Summer,” he said with a laugh, before launching into an impressive beatbox which he then looped to create the “instruments” for his set. It was immediately obvious which people in the audience hadn’t seen Avary play before from the gasps and applause at his looping effects for songs like “Do You Feel” and “FL, CA.”
The screams intensified with the introduction of SWS bassist Justin Hills and drummer Gabe Barham for an energetic version of the normally-subdued “So, In This Hour.” Avary was all smiles during his set, getting the fans singing and clapping along. It’s always such a joy to watch Avary perform and Friday night was no different.
As the crew plugged in the light-up palm trees and set up the tiki bar, the audience seemed to travel back in time to an era of dramatically side-swept bangs and neon band shirts. SWS took the stage to a properly excited crowd with a laidback version of the fast-rocking “Go Go Go.”
When the band released their acoustic EP in 2012, fans were surprised at how well their heavy tunes translated to something softer. With this tour, Kellin Quinn and co. showed their subdued side while still keeping the rocker presence and mentality very visible.
One thing’s for sure- SWS loves being onstage. Quinn is still putting everything he has into reaching the intensely high octaves that made his band famous, while the talented musicians behind him play with the cohesion of stage veterans. Guitarist Jack Fowler spent the set goofing around with both his band and the ecstatic fans in the front row.
SWS cycled through hits from their earlier albums, sprinkling in tracks from their latest album, Gossip. Judging from the increase in volume, “Roger Rabbit” was the night’s winning song, with the fans nearly drowning out Quinn’s vocals. Not to be outdone, he jumped down to the barricade for “If You Can’t Hang” before closing the official set with “Legends.”
While some bands do encores out of obligation, SWS seemed reluctant to ever stop playing. They took a cacophony of requests before settling into “With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear” from their first album, the surprising addition of “2 Chord” and their ever-popular cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris.”
Tempe’s Marquee Theater may not have been a full house, but SWS still has a dedicated army behind them- all of whom couldn’t have been more pleased to spend their Friday night with their favorites.
The Chill Out Summer Acoustic Tour runs through August 9. Tickets are still available on Sleeping with Sirens’ website.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel