The Academy Is… at The Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton, MA – August 10, 2010
I’d forget everything in my life without my planner. Sure the back cover fell off months ago, but I have my life scheduled down to the minute in that thing. Which is why when I opened it Monday morning to look at the week ahead, I noticed the show I’d completely forgotten about scheduled for Tuesday night.
Northampton is in the middle of nowhere Massachusetts, about 2 hours away, so I snuck out of work early (justified by my 50 hours last week) and stayed straight on the Mass Pike for 77 miles. I met up with a girl I’d met at a Cobra Starship show almost a year ago, we made some new line friends, and we ended up standing about two feet from the stage.
The show felt like a VFW hall show. The upstairs room is a cavernous space with a horrible soundboard, and the small crowd was full of local kids. Combine that with the fact that the three openers were local rock and I would have sworn I was watching a high school show.
The first band up, The Smokey Wambas, practically bled Massachusetts rock. Not Boston rock, not Jersey rock, but Massachusetts local rock. I can’t describe the sound, but two songs in and I’d bet money those boys either shared a stage with Four Year Strong or spent a ton of time going to their shows. There’s just a sound and a feel intrinsic to suburban Mass. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t helped by the soundboard.
Us Against the Archers were my favorite of the openers. They were fun and they got me moving, and that’s what an opener is there for. Their guitarist was great and he reminded me of someone I know, though I just can’t put my finger on who.
Gone by Daylight was the last opener and they were also good, standard local rock. They had a bunch of fans in the crowd (as did the others) and they played a fast, hard set. Too bad they had tech problems, from a broken E string (oh that’s not important at all) to a broken bass strap (because you can play while supporting the guitar with your knee, right?) They handled it well, especially when the lead singer had to dash and find a new guitar, by jamming on stage. A+ boys.
Finally, The Academy Is… It was my fourth time seeing them and the sound was by far the worst, but I had the most fun. Give me dark clubs and music so loud that I can’t think and I’ll be happy. We were super close to the stage, but all the way to the right, so there was breathing and moving room around us. The sound was muddy and I couldn’t hear a word William Beckett sang for the first three songs, but both the crowd and the band were having fun. They played a good mix from the three full lengths and it was the first time I really appreciated anything off of Fast Times at Barrington High. I’m usually more of a Santi and Almost Here girl, but I was feeling it last night. Though they missed some good songs, they played “Checkmarks” and “The Phrase that Pays,” two of my absolute favorites. I was disappointed that they didn't play anything off of the Lost in Pacific time EP, as I'd hoped live versions would let me love those songs too.
The show ended on “Big Mess,” they walked off stage, and the crowd died. No calling for an encore, no clapping, no nothing. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen. My friend and I tried but everyone was just walking out. The lights came on and that was that. I haven’t seen an encore-less show without an explanation in a very, very long time, maybe ever. I bought a t-shirt, because it had cupcakes, and it’s the first piece of merch I’ve bought at a show since 2008. I seriously think I was transported back to a local high school show. Awesome, but out of place.
I love late night driving and so powered by caffeine and the buzz of the show in my head I drove the 77 straight miles back with a smile on my face, searching FM for voices talking on the radio.