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American Hi-Fi and Smartbomb
June 19, 2001
At The Pier
New York, NY

by Amber Gardener
November 2, 2001

There are some bands that can put out an incredibly exhilarating album but still disappoint a crowd of fans when it comes down to their live set. The band I am about to review is NOT one of them. Now let me just say that I have previously seen American Hi-Fi in concert at the HFStival in Washington, DC. They were among many talented acts such as Good Charlotte, Sum 41, Incubus and Linkin Park. American Hi-Fi had the huge outdoor venue on their feet even though the crowd consisted of mostly critical teens. Perhaps they were getting everyone pumped up before the big snooze of the night, Lifehouse, came on.

On July 19, 2001, I was lucky enough to attend another American Hi-Fi concert. This one was free and was held in New York City at an out side pier complete with a ship, mall and an Uno's Pizzeria. I recommend checking out Sam Goody's free concerts because absolutely no one cares or really makes an effort to go, especially if the artist is just making it big. For example, we arrived a few hours prior to the concert and proudly claimed a set of front row 'seats' by the small stage.

After quite a while of exploring the area, American Hi-Fi's opening act Smartbomb finally hit the stage. I usually dislike opening bands who I am not familiar with only because their music tends to sound like one tediously long and annoying song. Smartbomb was very different though. Each song they played had an enjoyable hook which made it a pleasurable hour performance before American Hi-Fi. I will admit that their slightly captivating music did not distract me from sneaking peaks of Stacy and the rest of the band equipping themselves with their instruments backstage. I am an American Hi-Fi fan though. What can I say?

By the time American Hi-Fi came out the crowd was already packed with many onlookers and AHF (abbreviation for American Hi-Fi) fans. There was even a crowd of spectators lined up down the staircase of Uno's. Generally, I had my eyes in one place as I usually do, on the lead singer (Stacy Jones). I think I have a thing for lead singers with long blonde hair. It's been like that ever since 1997 when I gained my first and ever lasting crush on Taylor Hanson. This is most likely the reason why the two rolls of my film were primarily dedicated to photos of Stacy. (Random Fact: Stacy Jones was a drummer for the bands Veruca Salt and Letters To Cleo)

I am not sure of the exact songs American Hi-Fi played but I am positive that they started off with 'Blue Day', one of my many favorites on the record. This is an up tempo song with lyrics such as "I'm not qualified, to answer anyone. If the world can wait, then why can't I?" and a minimum amount of swearing. I can not justify the actions of this bands. Stacy came onstage drinking a bottle of beer but was afraid to say the word "Fuck." When it came time to sing "If you fuck with me, I might blow your mind.", a notorious lyric in the song, he would back off the microphone with a clever grin in order to censor the fowl word. It was rather sweet. He then went on to say "Don't curse. It's bad."

The songs they played flowed perfectly within the set. For anyone who owns American Hi-Fi's album, you probably know how intoxicating each and every track is. Times that energy by ten and you have an American Hi-Fi concert. Between lyrics Stacy would roughly strum the cords of his guitar, his back faced to the audience as he rocked out in his own unsteady world. The rest of the band that consists of Drew, Jaime and Brian stood in their regularly placed spots jamming out on their instruments, occasionally stepping on the shaky speakers to get a closer look at the audience. Most of the set American Hi-Fi played dwelled on many upbeat songs such as Scar, What About Today and Safer On The Outside. When they played a slower piece entitled 'Wall of Sound', my friend could not help but exclaim "This sounds like a suicide song!" She obviously isn't a fan and at the end of the night she stated that Good Charlotte put on a better show. I beg to differ. Good Charlotte puts on a very energized and amazing concert but American Hi-Fi are the band that brings out those butterflies and almost makes you want to scream like a thirteen year old Backstreet Boy fan. I, myself, was able to hold in every pre adolescent squeal even as Stacy held eye contact with me and offered recognition for knowing every last lyric they sang. God, it was hard.

There were many funny moments during the concert. For instance, there were maybe a few feet separating us and the low stage. In-between, there was no security to catch anyone in the crowd if they chose to crowd surf. Apparently some of the teenagers in the back who were working their way up over the hordes of fans were not aware of this. Stacy let out a chuckle and shouted "Those of you who are crowd surfing; There's no one here to catch you so when you get up here you're gonna fall flat on your asses!" The front row stifled a laugh and the surfing fans quickly got down. Later on Stacy made a reference to the Uno's Pizzeria which I spoke about earlier. "I've never played in front of an Uno's Pizzeria before!" He laughed and then continued. "Can we get two large pies and a big bottle of Mountain Dew down here?!" Funny. There was also an odd moment where a young male employee of the pier came onto the stage to fix some wires by Stacy's feet. Stacy took advantage of the moment and began to jam out for the teenage guy.

After playing almost the entire album and an additional song (Vertigo) off the American Pie 2 soundtrack, AHF left the stage. However, they were quickly cheered on for an encore and about eight minutes later they retook their initial places in the familiar setting. Stacy was happy to say that they had never been asked to do an encore before. The band was very unsure about what to play but they settled on performing a brand new song and an awesome performance of My Only Enemy.

I would love to take this last paragraph to explain how transcendent and pleasing it is to see a band devote 110 percent of their passion and drive to a crowd of excited fans. American Hi-Fi played each song with a glow of radiating love for the music and for performing in general. I only hope that I will someday experience an American Hi-Fi concert where the whole crowd is roaring in cheerfulness just as they did when the band played their hit single Flavor of the Weak.

Amber Gardener is a Contributing Writer. Contact her at arud@rockzone.com.

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