On Thursday, Sept. 13, I saw one of my favorite bands in concert for the 4th time. I’ve been listening to The All-American Rejects since I was in 7th grade, meaning the band’s been one of my go-to soundtracks for everything from homework to parties for about a decade. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve been listening to AAR for 10 years. That means I’ve been listening since before a good chunk of the band’s fanbase was even born.
I feel old.
The show, luckily, was 18+, though there were a number of underage teenagers there, accompanied by parents. I still remember when my mom took me to see concerts as a preteen, so I can respect parental units being present at concerts as long as they aren’t pushy assholes. (Hell, my mom went to see Paramore on the 2010 Honda Civic Tour with me when all of my friends bailed — it’s cool.) At any rate, the crowd at Thursday’s show was older and pretty civilized — I stood on barricade with my friend for the entirety of the show, next to a girl in a wheelchair, and never once felt as though any of us were in potential danger. That includes the times the guys from Boys Like Girls came down to the barricade to hang out, during and after the band’s set, and when Tyson Ritter climbed into the crowd during “Mona Lisa (When the World Comes Down).”
Yeah, I was surprised too. It was pretty fucking cool.
The Ready Set opened the show at 8 p.m. and while the band was energetic, I wasn’t particularly impressed by their set. It’s possible that I’ve become somewhat numb to the pop-punk phenomenon of the current decade, too attached to the pop-punk babies of the last decade to adopt too many newbies into my inner iPod circle. Anyway, I also wasn’t looking forward to seeing Boys Like Girls for the second time, despite being a huge fan of the band’s self-titled album. (It was the first album I ever played so often that it actually became unplayable. I had to replace it a few months after I first bought it when I was in high school. We’ll come back to this point.) I saw BLG in 2009 and didn’t see anything special.
Maybe there’s magic at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom (it’s one of my very favorite venues), because BLG absolutely kicked ass Thursday night. The band was energetic and entertaining, completely connected to the crowd. The band even brought a fan on stage to sing Taylor Swift’s part of “Second Verse,” and despite her obvious nerves, she did quite well. Hopefully that girl remembers and is thrilled/embarrassed by that moment for the rest of her life. (I would be…)
After the set, Martin Johnson and Morgan Dorr came down to the barricade to take photos, give hugs, and sign autographs for fans. I told both of them the sad-but-true story about my experiences with the first BLG album after asking for hugs and Door seemed utterly shocked. Johnson, on the other hand, asked if he’d managed to play the entire record (since he went into a brief medley of songs that the band didn’t play in full in order to honor the old fans in the crowd), and when we both realized he’d skipped “Broken Man,” one of my favorite songs, he apologized and promised to play it next time. Okay. I’ll hold you to that, man.
When The All-American Rejects took the stage, I was reminded of why I’ve been a fan of this band for 10 years. The first time I saw AAR was on Tyson Ritter’s 24th birthday (in 2009), also at the Casino Ballroom. To this day, it’s one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended (and I’ve attended more than two dozen). Ritter mentioned it specifically during Thursday’s performance, and also asked how many people in the crowd have been fans from the both. I was lucky enough to scream for both. It’s been a while since I’ve actively listened to AAR on shuffle-repeat, the way I used to do for weeks at a time, but after the show, I listened to the band for the entire drive home and on my commute to and from work today. I still don’t quite know what to do with the new record, as it’s so different from previous albums, but it’s growing on me. Why? Because the band played songs from it with so much energy that I can’t help but feel that coursing through my veins when I listen now.
Highlights from the AAR set included a bass battle between Ritter and Matt Rubano (the former bassist for Taking Back Sunday and Patrick Stump and on-stage jumping bean extraordinaire), gorgeous acoustic versions of some of the slower songs, an encore comprised of “Move Along” and “Gives You Hell,” and songs that I still love, 10 years later. (“My Paper Heart” will probably always be my favorite AAR song, as I told bassist Alex Wiese of Jocelyn, who spoke to us about his band before the show).
I have absolutely no complaints about Thursday night. It was an amazing time at an amazing venue with amazing company. I went to work this morning absolutely exhausted because I didn’t get home until 2 a.m. and I’d packed in a full day of activity after very little sleep before attending the show. My voice was shot each time I got on the phone to page for an associate and I had to drink a ton of water to recover my throat. But it was worth it. Totally worth it. I honestly can’t wait to see AAR for the fifth time — or, admittedly, BLG for the third. (The Ready Set, on the other hand, I think I can live without. Sorry, boys.
The guitarist was pretty cute though.)