Sunday, August 4, 2013

"Stronger than the Storm"

Train, The Script, and Gavin DeGraw at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ

When my mother told me she bought tickets to see Train, The Script, and Gavin DeGraw for night two of our week's long vacation, I was mildly excited. We spend a week in Ocean City, NJ almost every summer, and as much as I truly do love the Jersey Shore and OC in particular, walking the boardwalk six nights out of the year, every year, can get a bit old. A concert would be a change of pace, even if I didn't particularly love any of the musicians, and even if it did end up taking about two hours to get to Holmdel. 

I found out later that Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket would be performing at the Susquehanna Bank Center on the same night, and I died a little bit inside, because I do particularly love all three of those acts. But, I tried to look at the bright side: I've seen Bob Dylan, Wilco, and Jim James, so the concert in Holmdel would be a new experience. Plus, I'd never gone to a concert with my mother and both of my sisters, so this would be an all-out family affair, and that's generally fun and/or interesting.

At the concert, however, there was literally no "bright side." It poured on and off during the entire show, and for us lawn goers, things got a bit messy. In the end though, I felt the rain and thunder and gigantic streaks of lightning added to the spectacle, and I now know both New Jersey and I are really "stronger than the storm."

As for the acts themselves, I was pleasantly surprised by all of them. Although Gavin DeGraw only played for about 40 minutes, his soulful sound warmed me up to the idea of standing in the cold rain. I wouldn't necessarily rush out to see him live again, but he pleased the crowd, and my middle school self definitely got a kick out of singing along to "I Don't Wanna Be." 

Actually, the concert on the whole concert appealed to my middle school self, who had a fleeting stage of obsession with The Script, because she read something about them in Seventeen Magazine. When The Script first came out on stage, they played this strange video that I still don't quite understand. Lead singer Danny O'Donoghue turned me off almost immediately when started repeating "here we go" over and over. Cheesy. As they got into their set, they started to work their magic on me, using their good looks and Irish accents to their advantage, but I'm not complaining. 

During "Nothing," one of their many break up songs, O'Donoghue asked an audience member for her phone and had her call an old boyfriend, to whom he sang the song, so I give them credit for being creative and fun. I don't have too much to complain about, aside from the fact that they pushed their Twitter and Facebook pages a little too hard. We get it, you want people to like you, but fans should motivate themselves to take that extra leap into online commitment. (Learn from your break up songs.) 

Train was the highlight, far and away. I went in a fair weather Train supporter and left an almost die hard fan. With each of their songs bringing something new to the mix, be it blues, reggae, or rock, Train proves their uniqueness and talent. Although it was a bit difficult for a PA girl to hear how much lead singer Patrick Monahan likes his NJ crowds, the level of audience interaction made you feel appreciated and a part of the experience, rather than just a bystander. At times, however, the audience interaction may have felt a little intrusive to the music, as Monahan snapped pictures with guests who joined him onstage for "Mermaid."

Still, Train raised the bar musically, and made up for any small flaws by covering songs by The Beatles, Macklemore, Bob Marley, and others, offering each rendition their alternative rock viba. In one short segment, the band played a recorded mash-up of a bunch of popular pop and electronic songs, welcoming every genre into their performance. 

Ashley Monroe, who joined Train in singing their new single, "Bruises," won audiences over with her comical love song "Weed instead of Roses" and brought in a stronger country vibe. 

The end solidified my new-found love of Train. After getting goosebumps during their encore performance of "Drops of Jupiter," Gavin DeGraw, The Script, and Ashley Monroe joined Train in singing "The Weight" by The Band, with their voices harmonizing to perfection. 

Lesson learned: always be open-minded. Go see shows or read books or watch movies or do something you don't particularly love, because you just mind find yourself to be a new fan. 

Follow me at @AW_Reporter. 

A sold out crowd! (Pictures were difficult to take from such a distance, as you can tell.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rick & MC: business men, family men, rock stars

As part of my continuing series on local musicians, I spoke to acoustic eclectic rock band Rick & MC. With Rick Toure on guitar and lead vocals, and Mike Carlin on drums and backup vocals, Rick & MC prove themselves to be a powerful duo performing all around the Philadelphia area.