Screaming women and a high energy crowd welcomed John Ondrasik and Five for Fighting Sunday, March 10th to Recher Theater in Towson, MD. It is unusual for an act to sound better live than in the studio, but Five for Fighting pulled it off – the show was great.
Ondrasik’s sound, a combination of dynamic vocals, acoustic guitar and keyboards was strengthened by relative newcomers Curt Schneider on bass guitar and vocals, Peter Thorn on the lead guitar and vocals, and Jason Smith on drums. The acoustic, bass and lead guitars all mixed for a sound that was rich and heavy, a harder rock and roll feel than is found on the album, America Town [Aware/Columbia Records]. When asked if the heavier sound was a sign of things to come, Ondrasik said “I think that it is the nature of the difference between live [music] and records… live performance is more energy and feel in the gut…we are a rock band. I know most people realize…that from “Superman”.
During the 47-minute set and two song encore, 400 fans unabashedly sang along with Ondrasik to “The Last Great American”, “Easy Tonight,” “Jainy,” “Superman” and “Love Song.” Enthused by the fan’s response, Ondrasik said, “You know, for a relatively small crowd, I don’t think I’ve had as much fun in a long time as I’ve had tonight…they had the energy of 5000...After tonight, I’m pretty sure we’ll come back.”
After the show, Nighttimes.com caught up with John and Curt backstage.
NT – Were you feeling the energy from the crowd tonight?
JO – This is one of the best crowds we’ve had. It is kind of how I pictured it. A lot of the time you really can’t see the people (because) you are too far away...You could really feel the people tonight, which was great.
NT – You said that the crowd sounded good…were you serious about that?
JO – They were great! I’ve never heard people singing “Love Song” so loud before in my life. It was amazing. We came through [G Street] before Christmas, and I got a sense of the passion [for] the music [in the area] and I was convinced tonight.
NT – Are you getting tired of the road yet?
JO – Yes and no. Nights like tonight I love every minute of it. But it’s tough. When you live in an airplane or a bunk or in a hotel room, you have no sense of home.
NT – Getting to the hockey theme… What is your favorite team?
JO – I’m from LA, so I’m a Kings fan. We played the All-star game this year.
NT – When you were young, did you play street hockey, ice hockey?
JO – I was just a huge sports fan. I went to see Lakers games. I saw Magic and Kareem. And obviously, I was going to Kings games and saw Gretzky play… I taught myself to play hockey when I was an adult… I was horrible, I could barely skate. It just so happened that we took the Five for Fighting moniker from hockey, but it could easily have been basketball.
NT – You mention in your bio that Led Zeppelin is a big influence. For Zeppelin, it was all about the music – that’s what they lived for. Do you live for the music too?
JO – I love music, but I also think that there are a lot of themes beyond the music… I’m interested in the world. I’m interested in politics. I’m interested in culture. I’m interested in talking with people. I love jumping up and down. I love singing. I love writing songs. But I’m not some ouzo head. I wouldn’t be sitting in my closet writing songs my whole life… I’d rather watch a Lakers game or something. Going around the world internationally was very cool because I got to talk to people and see their perception of us… Frankly I think a lot of their perception is misconceived. That’s what interests me.
NT - (To Curt) – How do you like working with John?
CS – Getting used to it! No, I really like it. I like it because (of) where his head is. (To John) Especially like you said… music isn’t all there is to life. I really think that this is the case. Besides, having a balance makes music more important, better, more powerful.
NT – Did you click quickly as a group…did the sound come naturally?
CS – It’s constant work, actually. Even if it sounds simple, it’s constant work to make the simple things sound great.
JO – We knew when Curt walked in that he was the guy. He’s exactly right. It’s like simplicity is hard. I’ve learned in song writing that the best stuff is really simple, but sometimes it’s hard to achieve. Look, we want to be the Who, we’re never going to be, but we want to be. We still feel we have a long way to go and it’s still early…
CS – We’re just starting.
JO – It’s been overwhelming to see the response from music fans, not just pop fans, [but] music fans. …the nice thing [is that] this band is showing the next generation something that I was shown.
NT – I saw a little Elton John out there tonight.
JO – Of course! A lot more than a little, I’ve ripped him off my whole life. I have one song and Elton has sixty that you guys can sing all the words to. But I think it’s important there is a place for adolescent pop music and there is a place for something more. You’ve seen more singer/song writers come around the corner... It’s about time we had that.