Hawthorne Heights

support Brigade
author PP date 29/08/06 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

As I was waiting for my heavily delayed friend (due to a strike by South West Trains, thanks a lot assholes!) at the Angel tube stop near the Islington Academy, witnessing the prospect crowd members unloading off the tube en masse, a simple one word question kept reappearing and circulating in my mind: 'WHY?' The question is clearly multi dimensional, where one part of the question is me wondering what the hell went through my mind when I actually purchased a ticket to see Hawthorne Heights other than the possible great support bands the band was guaranteed to bring along, and the other part is why the hell would anyone ever dress up like the presumed Hawthorne Heights fans? Not only did a recent comment on AP.net hit it spot on ("HH fans are all 15 year old fat teenage girls"), but the concept of "emo-dressing" or "looking scene" was certainly redefined tonight. I'd be damned if the average age of these 'fans' exceeded 15, but even so they were frighteningly consistent in their shades of black, strange coloured striped-shirts, piercings, lame band shirts (I was *this* close of saying 'Please, never go out in public with that shirt again' to an unidentified female wearing an Aiden shirt) and tight-ass clothing. To return to my original philosophical question (leading me into seriously misantrophic thoughts by now...) and to follow-up on it, Hawthorne Heights themselves never showed up on stage wearing 'scene' clothing, butt-tight clothing, 32 piercings on their faces or in odd colored hair or hairstyles. Indeed not, and instead they stepped up on stage like a bunch of normal guys in a band would do, wearing jeans and t-shirts (the kind you wouldn't be ashamed of wearing even in a club-like atmosphere)... but enough rambling, and lets focus on the actual show review.

Everyone these days knows Charlie Simpson, if not from his new band Fightstar's debut album "The Grand Unification", then from his earlier cheezy pop-rock outfit Busted. But how many people know Mr Simpson's younger brother and his band Brigade? I'd be willing to bet not many, but I was fortunate enough to have advance warning and research in the form of an excellent review of their debut album by our scribe TL, and had an idea of what and how they would sound like. It turned out I wasn't quite prepared for such a grand sonic explosion the band presented in the smaller than it sounds 800-capacity Islington Academy. Their long, open-ended riffs, often taking advantage of repetetition and simplicity, dominated the venue, transforming it to feel almost like an arena-size venue. The riffs were immeasurably vast - the kind that give you chills - down tuned power chords flying across the small venue, bouncing back from the many walls nearby, amplifying the sound to surround the listener from every side as if to say "surrender, bitch, I am your lord and you will obey by nodding your head and moshing up and down the venue". When this was all complimented by commanding drumming, all was set for a great show, both sounding and looking like Disco Ensemble meets Amplifier live.

And it wasn't just the raw, 'please don't produce me more or it will sound too produced' sound that gave the crowd chills. The band pulled of a performance as tight as a band like Moneen is renowned to do live. Despite the colossal riffage the band kept themselves close together, not moving much, though occasionally exploding into passionate outbursts of energy straight from the heart, demonstrating the band's true love for their music and their ability to relay it to the crowd, hypnotizing them into a sweet oblivion and into thinking 'Oh God I wish they don't stop anytime soon'. I was, to say the least, surprised. Brigade pulled off a performance of the kind you'd expect a band onto their third or fourth album would do, and somehow I sensed future superstars on stage tonight.


(I was lying about the rambling part) ...And then Hawthorne Heights came on, shooting straight into "Life On Standby". Now I don't know if it's the much publicized, ongoing lawsuit between them and their label Victory, or because their last album was even more cliche than their debut (honestly, I didn't think that could've been possible before I heard it), but the band seemed awfully loose and uncoordinated on stage, especially when contrasting to Brigade's earlier confined stageshow. Sure, the screams were far, FAR better than on record (the guys actually CAN scream, why don't they do it properly on record instead of that 'I can't really scream so I pretend like my throat is aching'-style?) and sure, the band was incredibly energetic on stage with simultaneous headbangs and jumps invigorating the set, but still, I couldn't get the word "pretentious" out of my mind. It seemed as if the band was trying far, far too hard and the otherwise enjoyable stageshow was instead boring and even more cliche than their albums. What fortified the feeling was how their frontman, towards the end of the show, stated "This is where we normally walk backstage and come back to play two more songs, but that's bullshit so we're just gonna stay on and play two more songs". OK so you're basically saying it's too trendy to do an encore and you want to try to be different? How about trying that on your albums first?

It didn't help either that he kept cherishing Aiden on stage throughout their set and told everyone to go see their shows in the UK which coincide with the HH dates, something I took to be an honest appreciation of the otherwise hated band until the last hit song "Ohio Is For Lovers", where Aiden's frontman appeared from backstage to do the screams. The previously mentioned word "pretentious" was already dangerously overused within my thoughts, but now the glass didn't just tip, it was smashed with a baseball bat.

Another extremely curious fact was that the band had three guitarists on stage. Did you know Hawthorne Heights had three guitarists? Because I sure didn't, it definitely doesn't sound like it on record, where all the guitar parts can easily be done with two guitars, and this also showed live. Most of the time the third guitar was completely redundant on stage, with the guitarists taking alternating turns on who skips a couple of riffs on their guitar while the other two play. Perhaps the background chords wouldn't sound as strong, but that's just a matter of production and sound levels live, although the band should most definitely not touch a production board for the next few hundreds years, as especially their new album is so overproduced I almost have to throw up while listening to it. This showed through in the crowd reaction when the band played "Silver Bullet" from the old album and "We Are So Last Year" and other new/old song combinations: during the "The Silence In Black And White" material, the crowd was moshing for their lives and the band actually put on an acceptable atmosphere inside the venue, unlike during the "This Is Who We Are" songs where I felt like stabbing myself with a kitchen knife in the eyes rather than watching the band (poorly) execute the (recycled) riffs while the crowd (pretended it) was having fun.

Just like both of their albums, the show was incredibly average and thus showed far too many signs of being dull. Based on the critique I've spewed out on this review, you'd probably expect a much lower grade for the band, but to be honest, when they played "Ohio Is For Lovers" or "Niki FM", they weren't bad at all. Yet I still fail to understand how the band are so huge in the states when the genre is packed with bands ten times more original, talented and even more 'scene' than them. However, I do understand why after three years, they are still stuck playing the Islington Academy in the UK with no improvement in sight...


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