Rock shows reign supreme this fall touring season, with Mayday Parade returning to Phoenix on Thursday with a full lineup of alternative acts.
Oh, Weatherly started early, bringing their brand of light alt-rock to The Van Buren’s stage. Singer Blake Roses’ solid vocals kept the band’s short set solid and fun.
There was some palpable anticipation for former Yellowcard frontman William Ryan Key. The unassuming singer-songwriter played acoustic with light percussion assistance from This Wild Life’s Anthony Del Grosso. He opened his brief set with heartfelt thanks to everyone allowing him to still make music and tour the world after the dissolution of Yellowcard (while still emphatically assuring the audience that this was not to be a nostalgia set).
Key’s solo music is whimsy and clarity, a breath of fresh air in a world of overproduction. With one EP under his belt and another on the way, Key treated fans to songs from both, including a beautiful new track called “Downtown, Up North”, written with Key’s idols in Hammock. His incorporation of tracked instruments never felt lazy, instead, it gave the audience a taste of what Key hopes to bring to future live shows.
Pretending to be shocked by the crowd’s excitement about hearing Yellowcard songs, Key acquiesced and played a reimagined version of the emo classic “Ocean Avenue”.
“We’re the Hot Topic Mumford and Sons!” shouted This Wild Life’s Kevin Jordan, breaking the ice for a set that was in turns playful and melancholy (airing a commercial for “breakup medicine” about their new album before the set was a nice touch).
The Long Beach duo brought their “prescription strength emotional music” to a new level with their live show. They played songs from their newest album, Petaluma, as well as old favorites. Their set was a trade-off between straight acoustic tunes and the addition of Del Grosso’s energetic percussion.
The first thought as Florida rockers Mayday Parade hit the stage was the elaborate stage production they envisioned for this tour. The band covered their stage in a set reminiscent of a childhood backyard leading to the woods beyond.
We snuck a peek at the setlist before the show and Mayday still managed to surprise us. “Jersey” was the second song of the night and the last iconic chorus shook the room. In an homage to their early work, they selected “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People are Never Incinerated by Bolts of Lightning” off the brand new Sunnyland album. Of course, a return to the classics was in order with a high-energy rendition of “Black Cat”.
Mayday’s production soared to another level with the sheer amount of lights they managed to fit on the stage. The colors changed as the set went on to match both the tone of the tunes and to set a mood of being outdoors with the band. Dizzying strobes, blinding beams and countless moving spotlights lit up the entire venue.
Bathed in warm pink light, singer and proud self-professed emo kid Derek Sanders slowed things down for an acoustic medley of Emo Nite staples like New Found Glory’s “My Friends Over You” and My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay”. These sing-a-long jams were the perfect segue into the band’s smash hit “Jamie All Over”.
Mayday played songs from each album of their 13-year career, capping the night with “Three Cheers for Five Years”, “Miserable at Best” and “Stay” all in a row. Tears flowed freely and the crowd’s voices got louder to nearly drown out Sanders on piano and drummer Jake Bundrick’s stellar addition for two-part vocals.
The band closed the evening with a powerful jam session to “Oh Well Oh Well” and audience left delighted with the assurances that their favorites would be back in January for the second 8123 Fest.
Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos by Kyle Dehn