Sunday, February 7, 2016

Concert Review: Marianas Trench with Mainland @ The TLA - Philadelphia, PA 02/05/16

Even though I may have been the only person there that wasn't a female, a teenager, or a parent of a teenage female, it does not mean that I didn't have a good time.  Especially given the night's 80's theme. Pop is a genre that appeals to every age.  That's its allure.  It is universal.  Tonight was a great example of that.

I thought I had a good idea of who Marianas Trench's fan base was but I wasn't sure.  That was until I saw a few of my 15 year old son's classmates waiting in line in an alley as I was walking towards the TLA.  Fortunately for me the awesome staff at the TLA did not make this press pass holding media geek wait in line with them.  I went inside to the barricade and mingled with the other photographers while the crowd filtered in.  Teenagers in the front and parents in the back.  I have been to many shows at the TLA and usually, it doesn't matter who the opening band is the place does not start to get crowded until the headliner is getting ready to come on.  This was not the case tonight.  I wasn't the only one to notice it either.  The place was already packed by 7:30.  Were they also here to see Mainland?  We would soon see.

Mainland is a four piece out of NYC.  They recently dropped an impressive EP called Outcast that is full of jangly guitar garage rock/pop.  Other than that I do not know anything about them.  Their website and Facebook page share nothing more than what I just told you.  With how good their EP probably nothing else matters.

When they hit the big stage they were not afraid to use it.  They were not afraid to interact with the crowd either with their lead singer diving in on the very first song.  They were comfortable.  They looked like they belonged here.

I was concerned about how long their set would be with only a four song EP under their belt.  Surprisingly they had enough music to fill a forty minute set.  It was good too.  Really fucking good.  The crowd knew it too.  You could tell by the amount of people that were singing along and knew the lyrics.

They were tight, fun, and entertaining.  I really liked the material that I didn't know.  When can we hear this???  I have read that an album is in the works.  I am looking forward to hearing more from this band.

They ended the set with their new single "Outcast".  I am sure it's not easy to pull of opening for a band with a dedicated fan base like Marianas Trench but the did it.  The crowd was into it.  So was the band.  That's what this is all about isn't it?  It's a fresh take on early 90's indie alternative.  A time when band like The Lightning Seeds, The Stone Roses, and Depeche Mode ruled the airwaves.  If you get the chance check them out.

After Mainland left the stage they quickly started to prepare for Marianas Trench.  We had heard during sound check they were shooting for a 9:05 start time.  Their elaborate stage set was prepped and they were priming the audience with a slew of 80's music before their arrival.  "Ghostbusters", "Eye of the Tiger", and the interesting choice of "Playing with the Boys" by Kenny Loggins had the audience singing along.  When Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" came on the crowd new what was going to happen next.

Lead Singer Josh Ramsay took the stage and started to belt out the opening track to their new album Astoria.  It is a concept album based on the movie "The Goonies".  That is a big undertaking.  This album takes their sound in a more theatrical direction.  

Instead of the pop sensibilities of songs like "Pop 101" and "Haven't Had Enough" (which drove everyone crazy during the encore), this release was filled more of of a theatrical score.  How would their dedicated fan base receive it?

They absolutely loved it!  It's hard to imagine but once your hear the songs in context with their their greatest hits they seemed to be a thread that ties them all together.

One thing that Josh is highly skilled at is writing pop.  After all, we did turn Carly Rae Jepson's folk song "Call Me Maybe" and turn it into a pop classic.  These songs are no different although you may not here it at first.

Their stage set and light show were incredible.  The back drop was able to into songs with short video clips or change their entire set to appear as though they were engulfed in flames.  As theatrical as the music they were back-dropping.  

Josh's vocals were spot on and the band sounded great.  I was concerned that it would be difficult to replicate the super tight production of their recordings but they nailed it.  The band was tight and in rare form.

At times the band stopped playing for entire verses as the audience passionately sang their lyrics.  You could see the pleasure in the bands eyes as they stood there and listened to their songs being sung to them.

Josh was very interactive with the crowd.  He reminded everyone that Philly was one of the last shows on their last tour and one of the first on this tour.

He also gave a shout out to Philly's Cheesesteaks.  I think it was humorous that they left him a reminder for this on their setlist.

One thing is certain, Josh loves the craft of music making.  His early love of Motown and Michael Jackson helped shape him as an entertainer.  From start to finish it was spot on.  It was more than a concert.  It was a show.  Every finely crafted pop song took the audience on a journey.  With each song the intensity grew.  All the way to the final song of the night, "End of an Era".

The stage setting, the music, the execution.  It is something to be admired.  There is a reason this band has a dedicated fan base.  Especially considering you don't hear their music on the radio.  They love the craft.  That much is evident.  If you have the opportunity, don't just listen.  Experience it. You will be glad you did.  It might just make you feel like a teenager again.

See you when the needle drops!



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