Throwback Thursday: Scotty McCreery @ SBEC

Last week I found myself at one of my favorite venues, SBEC, which is inside the Sands Casino in Bethlehem. The staff is honestly the best, and I’ve had phenomenal experiences each time I’ve gone to a show there. The first time I ever went to the Event Center, however, will always stick out in my mind as one of my favorites. (Side note to anyone who goes to see a band there: there’s an inside entrance, and you’re almost always guaranteed to run into zero lines on that end. I’ve gotten barricade, or close to it, at every GA show I’ve been to there because the inside doors there are pretty unknown.)

In high school there were a few years when I took the country music genre very seriously. The decision to be such a hardcore fan was definitely not due to the interests of the guys I was hanging out with at the time…or was it? Anyway, Scotty McCreery had caught my attention during his time on American Idol and I absolutely adored his live performance when I saw him in York in late 2013. A year later he was headlining at SBEC and I somehow managed to convince my friend’s parents to let her go with me.

The show was seated and we weren’t front row, but the venue is seriously so great and we still had an awesome view. During “Write My Number on Your Hand” we ran to the front of the stage and Scotty wrote a number on both of our hands, it was the cutest thing ever. It turned out to be legit, and after the show we hung out by the buses and called it to hear a recording talk about his then-current latest single. After about an hour of waiting (in the freezing November weather) he finally came down to greet us, and we got autographs and pictures. His southern accent is adorable, and it was seriously so nice of him to come and chat.

You can check out Scotty’s latest single “Five More Minutes” on iTunes and Spotify, and keep up with his summer plans by following him on Twitter @ScottyMcCreery.

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Music Monday: Paramore/Harry Styles

I’ve been stumped trying to decide what to write about today. Harry Styles and Paramore both dropped new albums over the weekend, causing fans everywhere to frantically try to squeeze everything in and listen to both at once. As I’ve mentioned before it takes a while for me to come around to new music, and I was extra busy the past few days so I didn’t have much time to spare. It would be an injustice if I were to dedicate an entire piece to just one when I haven’t had the time to fully appreciate either, so I decided to just write a few words on the songs that stuck out to me on the first listen.

A lot of my friends are huge fans of Paramore; I know some of the singles but have personally never been hit by the bug. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against them and I absolutely adore Hayley Williams’ sense of style and her attitude toward life, I’ve just never considered myself a fan of the group. I was urged to give the song “Fake Happy” a chance, and it is so hella relatable. The upbeat tempo gives it a fun vibe while the lyrics really dig deep. The entire album takes a raw look at subjects the band hasn’t touched on previously, and the fans I know are totally into it.

On the other side of the spectrum we have “Harry Styles.” Critics are calling it a Bowie-inspired return to classic 70’s rock ‘n’ roll, and, in 2017 terms, has fans “shook.” For me the two standouts are “Sweet Creature” and “Kiwi.” I feel a little biased toward “Sweet Creature” because it’s been out longer than the rest of the album and thus I’ve had more time to process it. Harry said in an interview last week that he “cheated” and released it for fans to hear early, and I feel a little fake claiming it as my favorite. However I’m always a sucker for ballads and the beautiful simplicity of this song makes my heart happy. “Kiwi,” on the other hand, is such a punchy tune, and it’s all I’ve seen posted about on my TL. I’m really excited to see him perform them both live in October, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Be sure to follow both artists on their respective social media accounts to keep up with all the latest on “After Laughter” and “Harry Styles.”

Throwback Thursday: One Direction @ HersheyPark Stadium

Welp. What else did you expect me to talk about today?

Harry Styles is finally releasing his debut album tomorrow (let’s pretend most of you haven’t already listened to leaks), and the online world has been salivating with anticipation. Everyone I know is talking about Harry, whether they were an OG fan of 1D or not. In honor of Throwback Thursday, I decided to revisit the first time I ever laid eyes on the boy IRL.

My first-ever mainstream concert (yes, it was the Jonas Brothers) was at HersheyPark Stadium, so it holds a special place in my heart. One Direction’s 2013 Take Me Home tour date at the venue was sold out, but luckily I copped a pair of extra seats a few days before the show and was able to surprise my mom with tickets. It was right before her birthday, so I guess I gained some brownie points that year.

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Snapped a quick pic with her fav.

We weren’t super close to the stage but it was still a great night. The standout moment of the show was definitely when one girl managed to jump across the barricade and the security pit to the catwalk. Although security grabbed her before she was able to reach any of the boys, her phone fell out of her pocket and Harry snatched it up. “Like a cat,” he said, commenting on her agile move before texting her mom that he had her phone. At least, if memory serves correctly, I think it was her mom. He and Liam had a moment together laughing about it, and of course the crowd went nuts.

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Couldn’t find a picture of Harry but, here’s one I took of my two personal favs.

Obviously One Direction is “on hiatus” right now, but you can check out Harry, Louis, Liam and Niall‘s respective solo projects, and cry over Harry’s split-second appearance in the “Dunkirk” movie trailer, on just about any online platform.

Music Monday: Beach Weather

I’m pretty well known for harassing my friends into listening to new bands as I find them, but I’m awful at following through and taking the time for other people’s recommendations. If you want me to listen, you gotta keep sending me links over and over till I get a chance to click onto it. That’s kind of what happened to me with Beach Weather. Some friends sent me a couple snaps with their music in the background like, “I think you’d really be into them,” and they weren’t wrong. Unfortunately with my kind of attention span it took a little prodding for me to check them out.

The band’s EP “What a Drag” was released in 2015 and I listened a few times right after, and followed them on Instagram, but I didn’t really get into the indie-rock group until late last year. When their newest release “Chit Chat” debuted in November I was all over it. The aesthetic of the EP is right up my alley, and their single “Home Movies” really fit the mood of what I was going through at the time.

I was supposed to see them live with Cruisr in November at The Foundry but the show was moved to January, and when that date rolled around it snowed so my mom put a nix on the trip. I was finally able to catch the group in action last week at TLA when they opened for The Maine and I absolutely adored them! Before their set started a stage tech placed a lit stick of incense on one of the amps, which set the vibe for the chill performance that followed. Their live sound added a grit to the music not heard on either EP, and bassist Reeve Powers brought an energy to the stage that I was not expecting. Overall it was a great evening, and I only wish there had been room for the band to play more songs.

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05/02/17

To find out more about Beach Weather check out their Twitter and Instagram pages @BeachWeather, and listen to “Chit Chat” on iTunes and Spotify. Tweet me @emmegracek and let me know what you think!

Throwback Thursday: Ed Sheeran @ Wells Fargo Arena

ICYMI, Ed Sheeran released a new album a few months ago after a year-long hiatus from public life.  And in case you’re like me and haven’t given it a listen yet, I’d suggest you hop to it! Today I finally decided to stop procrastinating and downloaded “Divide” onto my phone, and it’s obvious to me why Sheeran continues to reign as one of the most popular current recording artists. Listening to the newer songs reminded me of the craziest adventure I’ve ever been on, and it really made me homesick, if you will, for the time I got to see him perform live.

I’ve been an Ed fan for years now, ever since I heard his version of One Direction’s song “Moments,” which he also wrote. One of my favorite bands freshman year was Rixton, and I had become somewhat of a staple (aka, highly well known for embarrassing myself on their behalf daily) fan of theirs online, so when they announced their slot on the Multiply Tour I knew I had to be there. Unfortunately, they weren’t playing any of the dates reasonably close enough for me to get to, so I resided myself to being very upset and possibly hitchhiking my way to Buffalo.

Flash-forward a few weeks and right before they were set to start their leg of the tour I get a message from one of my best Rixton-fan friends. She tells me her friend won an MTV contest and needs a plus-one to go to Iowa and see the guys, and asks if I’d be interested. Obviously I jumped at the chance, and ended up making a really great friend in the process! (Hi, Tammi!) It was extra exciting because it was also my first time on a plane. We had a lot of fun exploring Des Moines; did you know they say ‘pop’ instead of ‘soda’ out in the midwest? For some reason finding that out was the highlight of the trip for me.

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Yes, I took pictures of the sign in the grocery store.

We got to peep soundcheck and hung out with the band for a while before being escorted to our seats on the first level of the arena. It wasn’t my first time seeing them in that size venue, but it still blew me away that they were opening for Ed. His set, of course, was amazing as well, and it is seriously one of the craziest things to ever happen to me. Afterward we went outside to wait for Rixton to come out and say goodbye, and at about two a.m. we realized Ed was outside signing autographs. We raced down the block to where his buses were, and there he was trading shirts with a fan and being an all-around adorable guy. We didn’t get a chance to talk at all, but I remember telling him “you’re amazing!” after I asked if he would take our picture for me.

It was such an awesome night, and I’m so thankful to have been asked to be a part of it. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to see Ed perform again because it really was incredible to get to watch him live. Be sure to check out his latest album “Divide” on Spotify and iTunes, and sign up for email updates on his website to keep up with all the latest from the British singer.

Music Monday: Bleeker

Someone asked me the other night why I was at a show that Night Riots weren’t playing. Am I really that bad that people are getting genuinely surprised when I go to see other bands? (The answer is yes, yes I really am that bad.) I have awful anxiety when it comes to branching out, and I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to get stuck in music ruts. More often than not I go to see artists I’ve already seen before. Knowing what to expect and exactly when to expect it is something that makes me feel safe at shows.

That being said, I’ve been listening to Bleeker off and on since the middle of last semester and have been waiting for them to come play here for months now. I’d been planning on catching them in Philly this weekend, but realized I could sneak in an earlier show when their set at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster was announced. It was a super last minute decision to go, but I’m so glad I decided to ‘yolo’ it.

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Chameleon Club, Lancaster, 04/29/17

The band’s latest single “Where’s Your Money” has a really fun, energetic vibe, but nothing could have prepared me for the fire they bring to the stage. Frontman Taylor Perkins kept the crowd engaged with his never-ending jokes about hockey and golf, and some insane dance moves. The rest of the group kept up the pace with a bit of intense headbanging and wicked guitar playing. Now, don’t misunderstand when I say headbanging; the alt pop/rock group isn’t a scary screamo outfit, just has a vibe that you can’t help but dance along to. I’m not sure how else to sum up the performance but with one word: wow! If you’re looking for something fresh and exciting, look no further.

You can check Bleeker out on iTunes and Spotify, and follow them on all the typical social media outlets @BleekerOfficial. Their East Coast spring tour runs through the end of May, and if you’re on the route I’d definitely recommend you make time to check out a show. (And if you’re in Philly Saturday, come out and support! Tickets are only $10, and you’ll get to watch me have yet another existential crisis at The Foundry in Fishtown.)

Throwback Thursday: 5SOS @ Tower Theater

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Bet you can’t spot me! Photo Source: Ashton Irwin’s Instagram.

Last night I saw myself in yet another crowd shot on Twitter, and it reminded me of the first time I ever snagged a spot on an artist’s social media page: April 24, 2014. I ended up skipping the last half of an advertising final to go steal a glimpse at my one true love at the time (perhaps known to you common folk as Michael Clifford), and ended up having one of the craziest concert experiences of my life.

When tickets went on sale for 5SOS’ first North American headlining venture, I was dumb enough to forget to set an alarm and missed out on the most important tour of a generation. Or so I thought. I tried everything to win tickets to the show but nothing panned out. It was an honest stroke of desperation when I decided to use one of my last few Septa tokens to take the L up to 69th Street that Thursday afternoon, thinking I could peep the band going into the venue and then call it a night.

 

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Tower Theater 04/24/14

Little did I know one of their managers decided to give tickets to a few younger fans whose parents didn’t realize the show was sold out. It was a mere stroke of luck that I happened to be standing there looking about 15, due to my brace-face and an oversized sweater, practically in tears over Ashton waving to me out the window of their SUV a few minutes earlier. Since the tickets were in four-packs the guy didn’t want to split them up, and gave me the extra pass. After that I called pretty much everyone in my contacts list and left screeching messages on all their voicemails. Oops?

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I dared to stand stage right that night, despite my staunch dedication to bassists everywhere.

The show itself was amazing, of course, and I even made a new best friend out of it. (We bonded over our mutual love for Michael and the fact that he spit on our faces during the set…still an accomplishment we talk about to this day.) Although some say outrageous things tend to always happen to me when I’m out at shows, this one will remain the dearest to my heart for quite a while. Until Harry Styles decides to grace me with his presence, anyway…

Music Monday: The Maine

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photo by Guadalupe Bustos

It’s another Music Monday and this past weekend’s been hectic for me. One positive to come out of it, however, was the long-awaited reunion of one my favorite people with her favorite band. (Hi, Rachel!) The Maine, an incredibly popular, incredibly talented alt-rock band from Arizona, is coming back to Philadelphia next week, and nothing gets me more pumped to go to a show than hearing fun stories from earlier tour dates.

I saw The Maine at Warped Tour last summer and the set was absolutely insane. I can’t claim to be an expert on the band, but their fifth album, American Candy, was basically my personal soundtrack last spring. Most of the replays went to “24 Floors,” which is one of the two slower tracks on the album. The song is written as if the singer is imagining a conversation with someone, but also comes across as if he is speaking directly to the listener. This distinct choice leads me to believe that the band is not only aware of the kind of impact their music has on fans, but that they also seriously care about the messages they’re putting out there.

“Take one more breath to clear your mind, every moment’s relevant, bittersweet and delicate, tomorrow may not come again.” This message is so important, especially to someone who suffers from anxiety, suicidal ideation and mild depressive states like myself. The reminder to treat every day with value is something that I try to make a constant, and this song is phenomenal in relaying that thought. I don’t have a problem sharing some of my personal struggles with others, and I really appreciate that The Maine decided to share what I consider to be such a powerful track with their listeners.

The band just released their latest record Lovely, Little, Lonely a few weeks ago, and are currently out on tour with Beach Weather and The Mowgli’s. You can find tickets to the remaining dates here, and follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Spotify to keep up with all of their latest news.

Throwback Thursday: YRS @ The Troubadour

It’s Thursday, which means a slew of #tbts are covering my Instagram feed. This week is a particular hit in the gut for me, though, as it’s the six-month anniversary of my first-ever trip to LA. The official story is, I went out for a campus tour at USC and to do some sightseeing to get a feel for the West Coast. Which I did, and the whole experience was absolutely surreal. I also hit up a couple shows at the Troubadour while I was visiting, and ran into some folks I’m lucky enough to see on a pretty regular basis.

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Insane.

Young Rising Sons, an alt-rock band from North New Jersey, played a co-headlining gig with The Moth and The Flame at the Troubadour on Thursday October 20, 2016. I showed up to the venue on Santa Monica Boulevard about half an hour before doors and made it inside without being spotted by any of the band members (which was my plan!). I later found out from Andy that he “had a feeling” I would be at the show; my not-so subtle tweets must have tipped him off. Nevertheless he gave me the biggest grin when we made eye contact after he hopped on stage.

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10/20/16

He continued to smile slyly to himself every time he turned toward my side of the crowd, and even jumped over an amp to hold my hand during “Undefeatable.” My favorite part of the night, however, was when he pointed me out during “Turnin’.” Not sure if the group actually knows it’s my favorite track of theirs, but I like to pretend he did it on purpose because of that.

“Sometimes it takes some patience, Sometimes it works first try, But I know that this is worth it, Cause this dream’s too strong to die.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the song on repeat for hours because the message is so important. And have you heard the bass line? #Stellar.

It was an amazing feeling to get to see one of my favorite bands play a show 3,000 miles away from home, and it’s definitely a night I won’t soon forget.

Although Sons aren’t touring right now, they are gearing up for the release of their first full-length album sometime later this year (right, guys?). You can check out their latest single “Carry On” on Spotify and iTunes, and follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up future announcements.

 

*featured image by @astoriasarah

Music Monday: Rad Horror

photo: jesse deflorio

Happy Music Monday! The past few weeks I’ve been stuck inside rental cars shuttling myself between classes, Philly and Jersey (thanks, Night Riots), but the upside to that was the amazing sound system in the cars I had. One thing I can’t stand about driving long distances in my parents’ van is the CD struggle. Even if I manage to shove a bunch of albums into the glove box it’s pretty much impossible to switch them out while behind the wheel. On top of that I don’t have access to a physical copy of every album ever made, which doesn’t really work with my attention span. I’m a big fan of Apple Music and the shuffle button.

Luckily the new age wave of rentals come with a USB hookup for the stereo, and I was able to flip between singing along to U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and blasting Harry Styles’ latest release. However none of that really compared to jamming out to Rad Horror’s debut album Before You Got Too Cool while driving up the Garden State Parkway.  The North Jersey natives released their first full length last December and are currently stationed out West playing shows in a LA residency-type format.

My current favorite song on the album is “I’m a Loser;” the opening track portrays a heartbreaking sense of worthlessness in a way that makes the listener really feel the emotion behind the lyrics. “Am I real or am I dead? Or am I at my bitter end?” the song asks, while backed by instrumentals that are surprisingly upbeat. Despite the message of slight self degradation the song turns into an anthem of sorts by the end, which is what really drew me to it. While many equate being called a loser with failure, Rad Horror embraces the title and has created a piece that is both relatable and profound.

“Queen of Hearts,” and “I Don’t Wanna be Your Boyfriend” are two of the album’s other standout tracks for me, but be sure to check out the full set of songs for yourself over on iTunes or Spotify. You can find the band on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep up with tour dates and future releases.