Hellogoodbye in the House (of Blues) with Peachcake, Cute Is What We Aim For, and Ozma
David Jackson
10/27/2006 8:45:41 AM

As The House of Blues in Chicago is a pretty small arena, it was kind of disconcerting to see the size of the enormous crowd that showed up to see Hellogoodbye there Sunday, October 22nd. The line, which started three hours early, was stretched around the block by the time the doors opened around 5:15. Once inside, the crowd packed its way into the concert floors, effectively creating a wall-to-wall mass of expectant fans, pressed tightly against each other while waiting for the opening acts to take the stage.

Peachcake was an unfortunate opener. Dressed in flamboyant, ridiculous costumes, they immediately give the impression of a gimmick band. They danced around with blow-up instruments and other toys, and changed their costumes periodically, but really played very little music. There was no drummer (the band worked from canned beats) and the only instrument usually present on stage was a single keytar. The singer's enthusiasm and overused “be true to yourself” message rang hollow in the absence of compelling songwriting (largely repetitive techno tracks dominated the set) or striking musicianship. Despite this, the crowd was able to use Peachcake as an excuse to get moving again – and to prepare for the next band, Cute Is What We Aim For, to rescue the evening from a false start.

Cute Is What We Aim For nearly stole the show. A new signee on Fueled by Ramen records (better known as the home of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco), Cute released their debut album, The Same Old Blood Rush With A New Touch just this year. You wouldn't know it from the explosive crowd reaction when they took the stage. After the curtain was pulled, frontman Shaant launched into the lead-in to album opener “Newport Living,” letting the crowd shout along to “Everyone's a let down, it just depends on how far down they can go!” before the band came in with a vengeance. The songs on Blood Rush have a highly dynamic tone – using movements between volumes and tempos to make the tracks sound more varied. In a live setting, each of these movements translate to reaction from the teeming mass crammed in front of the stage. Jumping, swaying, moshing and crowd surfing, the fans were a perfect reflection of the music's simple, crazed energy. Sadly, this energy soon took its toll on Shaant, who ran off stage about four songs in, apparently quite ill. He came back to finish the song, but the band had to cut their set short with a humble apology. Even with their shortened set, however, Cute Is What We Aim For was clearly the strongest of the warm-up bands. Neither Peachcake nor Ozma came anywhere close to the establishing the kind of connection that Cute did with the crowd. Consider this band highly recommended.

Ozma’s set was a mixed bag. On one hand, it's clear there's talent in the band. The songs were well-performed, and even passionate. Whether they were discussing true love or the utter, sad, inevitable lack of it (“there's nothing I can do,” the singer laments on “Natalie Portman”) they seemed sincere and clearly cared about performing well. Ozma had one simple, damning problem, however – a complete lack of energy. The band was virtually stationary, and didn't engage in much crowd banter. The crowd responded in kind: They nodded appreciatively, but didn't bounce, or move at all. Many people simply took the opportunity to use the bathroom, buy some merch, or get a drink. It's a shame, but an appropriate reaction. At this kind of concert, being engaged is an absolute must, and a band that can't give the crowd a reason to go crazy just won't get as much attention. There was one redeeming moment worth noting: Ozma launched into one rockin' rendition of the Tetris theme. The response was definitely positive – even people who didn't particularly like Ozma agreed that the cover was one of the evening's high points.

Anticipation was high by the time Hellogoodbye finally got onstage, and they didn't disappoint. The kick-off track “All Of Your Love” from Hellogoodbye's first LP, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! showed how the band's trademark sound, a fusion of three-chord, pop-punk with a smooth, vaguely electronic 80's vibe, comes alive on stage. The songs sounded really smooth for a live show, complete with the keyboards and the same cool vocals that permeate the album. Everyone in the building seemed to latch on to the enthusiastic, upbeat pop songs, singing along and shaking the floor landing from perfectly synchronized jumps matching the bouncy choruses. Crowd surfing was pervasive – not thirty seconds went by during Hellogoodbye's set that another grinning fan was not passed overhead towards the stage. Particular favorites were “Bonnie Taylor Shakedown,” and the LP's first single, “Here in Your Arms,” after which the band left the stage. Forrest, the singer, started the encore all by himself, putting an inspiring spin on one of the album's slower songs by playing most of it alone, singing and alternating between a small keyboard and a guitar. They also did a great job on “Touchdown Turnaround,” a track from the new album that's already a fan favorite.

For about thirty dollars, it was a great evening full of great music. Hellogoodbye and Cute Is What We Aim For were definitely the shining stars of the night, despite being very new players on the music scene. If they can keep it up, there's a bright future in store for both of them. Hellogoodbye will probably need a bigger venue next time they hit Chicago. And Cute, who went on to perform the next day at the Beat Kitchen, will no doubt be back someday on a more star-studded bill, or possibly even headlining their own tour. Some of music's next big things were at the House of Blues on October 22nd, and rock-loving Chicagoans turned out in force. Today, Chicago. Tomorrow, the world? Only time will tell.

Pictured: Cute Is What We Aim For --photo from their website


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