Photo of Waterparks by Josh Howell
Waterparks, As It Is, Chapel, and Sleep On It brought a good time to the Hawthorne Theater in Portland earlier this month.
For whatever reason, I had read the door time wrong for this show, so I rolled up right as Sleep On It was taking the stage. As I’ve written before and as most of you know, I’m disabled and use a wheelchair when attending shows. Arriving this close to show start meant that people were already standing in the ADA area because it’s not clearly marked. There’s also a monitor that blocks the view of half of this section, so I couldn’t really see for the majority of Sleep On It’s set. (I talked to the venue’s production manager after the show, so accessibility changes are in the works!) Regardless, I really enjoyed singing along to Sleep On It’s new songs. The band just put out their debut full-length, Overexposed, and it’s easily one of the best pop-punk albums to come out this year. One of the singles, “Fireworks,” features Derek DiScanio on the record, so when they played it, they brought out Patty Walters from As It Is to sing the guest vocals. It’s definitely one of the best songs on the album, and was just as great live. Towards the end of Sleep On It’s set, vocalist, Zech Pluister, took a moment to acknowledge the current state of the country, and more specifically the music scene. He asked everyone to put their phones away and enjoy the present moment of being at the show for two songs. He had prefaced it by saying he doesn’t normally like to “get preachy” on stage, but I applaud him for doing so despite his hesitation because it’s important, now more than ever, for artists to be using their platforms for good. In response to his request for people to put their phones away, someone held up their flip phone which received high praise since they feel like an ancient memory in 2017. Sleep On It’s set went by quickly, and I look forward to seeing them again whenever they come back.
I thought my view was bad during Sleep On It, but it got significantly worse during Chapel. I honestly couldn’t see anything their whole set which is too bad because my friends said that drummer, Kortney Grinwis, was mesmerizing to watch. Chapel is a two piece (guitars/vocals and drums) and they have a lot of electronic elements tied in as well which makes their sound feel full. Before each song, vocalist, Carter Hardin, would usually mention what the song was about. So, before one of their songs, he said, “This song’s about f*ckin’ y’all’s teacher.” The audience was primarily underage girls, so many, in fact, that the bar was closed for this show, and the whole floor was all-ages. It just felt like a really ignorant thing for him to say given the current state of the entertainment industry. As a woman in music, it feels tiring to even have to mention it, but it’s not that hard to pay attention to the world around you, and not use your platform to perpetuate the idea that a teacher having relations with a minor is funny or acceptable, especially when you’re speaking to a crowd of young fans.
On a much more wholesome note, after Chapel’s set, staff asked the people around me to move out of the disabled section for the third time, and I was able to see well the rest of the show! This was my first time seeing As It Is on the Okay. album cycle, so naturally I was stoked. The band played a very solid mix of songs from the 2017 album as well as from Never Happy, Ever After. There’s definitely distinct growth that happened between the two releases, and it was especially noticeable live. Their lyrics are more mature, and they pushed their sound in many new directions. “Soap,” both on record and live, sounds like it could be a part of a mystery movie soundtrack. Fan favorite, “No Way Out,” shows a much more aggressive side of the band’s sound which adds some variety to their live set. My personal favorite song the band has released, and played live is “Pretty Little Distance.” Patty puts a lot of energy into his performance, but on this particular night, he had forgotten to wear a belt, so he said that he couldn’t jump as much without his pants falling down. Suddenly, an audience member held up their own belt and offered it to him, and he happily borrowed it the rest of their set. He interacted a lot with the audience, and between songs he had to ask that people stop grabbing at his feet, and then apologized for coming off snappy, and proceeded to emphasize the importance of shows being safe spaces and that everyone needs to respect each other. As It Is is a great example of a band using their platform to make a positive impact on the music community.
Waterparks played one of the most entertaining and intimate sets that I’ve seen in awhile. Seeing this band earlier this year is what reeled me into loving their sound, and the more I listen to them the more I find to love about their music. They played almost all of the songs from Double Dare, with this being their last US tour on this album cycle.
A lot of things got yelled at the band between songs, and Knight, genuinely wanted to hear each person who was talking to them which made the room feel a lot smaller, and made their set feel more like a whole bunch of friends hanging out and rocking out. Even when someone asked for a hug between songs, Knight helped pull them up on stage, and a glorious, love-filled hug ensued. He also made a lighthearted comment about everyone asking for picks saying, “Wow you guys get really excited over these little pieces of plastic,” and then explained that he couldn’t give them all out in the middle of their set because he obviously needed them to play.
Since Waterparks is a group of three (no bassist), they had a lot of room to move around, and guitarist Geoff Wigington had a mic on each side of the stage which added to the intimate, inclusive feeling during their set. Knight occasionally told stories. The main one he told on this particular night was about a time overseas when drummer Otto Wood was trying to fix something, and Knight had a couple awkward minutes to fill, so he sang “Wonderwall” in a Kermit the Frog voice, and by popular demand, he imitated it for us.
Waterparks played their new single, “Blonde,” from their upcoming sophomore LP, Entertainment. Codie and Nova (fellow SS writers), and myself have discussed how in the lyrics of “Blonde” we see Knight opening up more in his writing. He’s allowing himself to be more vulnerable, and it’s definitely resonating with fans. It makes us excited for what’s to come on the new release.
For the encore, Knight came back out with an acoustic guitar and played “Powerless” and “21 Questions” which transitioned into full band at the end, so they went into “Easter Egg,” for the last time ever according to the screen behind them. Speaking of which, earlier in their set, vocalist/guitarist Awsten Knight realized he never gets to watch the screen behind them when they play, so everyone encouraged him to play backwards during one song, so he could experience the cool production effects that come with having a sponsored tour. After “Easter Egg,” Waterparks closed the show with “I’m a Natural Blue.”