There's not much that's better in life than going to a show, having relatively low expectations, and having the bands blow you away. It is one of the only times that I like being wrong. On February 15, 2002, The Juliana Theory played a show at the Webster Theatre (yes that is spelled correctly) in Hartford, CT with Vendetta Red and Damone opening (Fearless record's artist Brazil had dropped out of the line up because they couldn't make it to the show). In most of my past experiences at the Webster the shows have almost always been horrible, usually for reasons outside of the bands' control: the biggest problem being the crowd. The majority of audiences at this particular club tend to hover under the legal driving age, as well as be highly inconsiderate of their fellow concert goers. This goes for virtually every show I have seen there, whether it is Goldfinger or Static-X, the crowds tend to care more about beating someone up in the pit than they do the music. So when I showed up to see that the club wasn't utterly packed, and also that most of the crowd appeared to be almost able to vote I was rather pleasantly surprised. But that was only the first of many surprises for me that night.
Arriving just in time to catch the first openers, Damone (formally Noelle) from nearby Waltham, Mass, I was expecting to see the next major label Avril Lavigne try to rock an audience that wasn't interested in them. I was only half-right. After hearing their new RCA release From the Attic my expectations fell somewhere between horrible cross between the aforementioned Canadian youth and Blink-182, but damn was I wrong. Fronted by a cute 17-year-old Noelle, Damone possessed a lot of genuine talent, at least in their live performance. Occasionally bands can fake "talent" when they record, calling it "production," but it turns out that Damone actually has what it takes to be a quality rock band. Damone, played a short, nine song set, almost their entire album in under 40 minutes. Each track, catchier than the one before it, you are almost guaranteed to be singing again and again after they leave the stage. They closed their set with two of their most captivating tracks, "Your Girlfriends," and "On My Mind." Unfortunately, the crowd wasn't completely feeling their set, which is a shame, because it isn't often in the craptastic world of today's mainstream music that you see a band like this (or anyone that can even conceive of playing a double headed guitar). With the major label support that RCA can throw behind this band Damone looks like they are going to be the next big thing out of Massachusetts. Damone was my second pleasant surprise of the night.
What might be able to be considered a modern day "hair band" took the stage next, Vendetta Red. I knew very little about this band before their set, and I know only a little more about them now, except for the amount of energy this band posses is comparable to sticking your finger (or any other extremity) into a light socket. The second band of the evening stepped away from the power-punk sound of Damone's set and ventured into the post emo hardcore arena (yes amazingly that is the first time I said "emo"). They came on stage and didn't waste any time kicking Hartford's ass. The crowd immediately picked up on the intensity that Vendetta Red exuded, and they were into their set from start to finish. Since this was my first experience with this band, all I can say is "Wow." There is nothing like a good hardcore band to put a smile on everyone's faces. This is a band everyone may want to try to hear about, or check them out live if you ever get the chance (I believe this summer's Warped Tour will be as good of a time as any). Good openers all around was surprise number three.
Surprises four though one hundred all occurred during The Juliana Theory's set. The last (first) time I saw The Theory live was in 2000, at a little club in New York City that doesn't even exist anymore, where they popped my proverbial emo cherry.
At the time I was astoundingly impressed by the different sound (coming from Connecticut, I was rather emo sheltered), and blown away by the true rock star stage presence of lead singer Brett Detar. Between him, the band, and the music itself, The Juliana Theory is, in itself, a true, straight up rock and roll band. Even though, in the past, they have been labeled the "Pink Floyd of Emo," there is a lot more to this band than any category they are placed in and they more than proved it at the show.
The Juliana Theory took the stage and immediately exploded into their first song, "To the Tune of 5000 Screaming Children," off of their Tooth & Nail Album EMOtion Is Dead. The continued their set by playing, "Emotion is Dead," and "If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?," also off of EMOtion, and the crowd was feeling every second; and the band was just warming up. With the next two tracks ("Repeating, Repeating," and "DTM") the band began one of the hardest things in the music industry; playing your new songs to an audience that most likely hasn't heard you're very recently released album (in this case Love). Fortunately, the crowd was completely into hearing new music, and none of the shows energy was lost to short attention spans for songs you can't sing along to, a true feat if you ask me. The Theory continued on threw their set, mixing up tracks off of Love, EMOtion is Dead, and they even played some crowd favorites off of Understand This is a Dream. They finally finished their set with "Constellation." Their encore jumped from the slow and emotional track "August in Bethany" to "You Always Say Goodnight, Goodnight," where each member of the band had a chance to showcase their talent one last time before the band said "Goodnight."
In comparison to the last time I saw The Theory, they proved that they are very much like a real band, and good wine, both of which only get better with time. Some bands aren't able to make the jump from playing in a small, intimate club, (in Connecticut's case, I think the last club that TJT would have played is the Hanover House, which has been long since closed) to a 1,000+ concert venue, but this is one band that doesn't miss a beat in the transition. Bret Detar can command a room, no matter what size it is, and he couldn't lose his stage presence if he had to. Even though he is an amazing front man, talking only about him would not do justice to this band. Chad Allen and the three Joshs (Fielder, Kosker, and Walters) all come together to give this band a sound that sets them apart from the crowd, and ensures them a long future in this business. Their talent on instruments is also something that needs to beheld live, or else you lose out on the guitar spins, and cartwheels that the musicians have perfected giving this show not only auditory power, but also a visual element that can be matched by only the greats.