As Pretty does
You never would have known it was a Wednesday if you were at Exit/In to see Pretty Lights' sold-out show, where the atmosphere was closer to a buck wild, absolutely ape-shit Saturday night than anything even remotely close to a work and/or school night. Elliston Place was mobbed with revelers kicking off their Hallo-weekend early and damn, were the kids ready to tie one on.
We arrived early enough to catch openers Dark Party, but sadly missed their entire set while we were waiting in line to get in. Wait, scratch that—it was more of an amorphous blob with people jockeying for space like they were in the bread line at a refugee camp—we don't really buy into the "death of civility" thing, but trying to get into that show makes us think it may have some merit. We'd like to put in a request with Exit/In for some sort of demarcation—something to separate the will call/ticket holders from the guest list/smokers with stamps, just a little bit of organization before people get in to the door. We think it would be better for everyone involved, especially the door guys—they were really on the shit end of the stick last night. God bless 'em for not punching every motherfucker that tried to push their way through.
Once we got past the gauntlet, it was on—dear Lord, was it on. Exit/In was packed to the gills and ready to party. We started drooling when we saw the Times Square-sized LCD screen, the six monster robot-swirly lights onstage and the barrage of fancy strobe thingies—that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to keep The Spin's attention for an entire evening of knob-twiddling. When the house lights went down and the Pretty Lights logo went up on the screen, the entire crowd—hippies, yuppies, ravers, rappers and hipsters alike—got all sorts of Dave Coulier in the motherfucker. Out. Of. Control.
Now, bear in mind that we were infinitely more sober at this show than when we caught Pretty Lights at Bonnaroo—almost judge-like in our abstemiousness—but we're gonna have to say that Wednesday's show was way more hallucinatory. Maybe it was the vapors from all of the dilated peoples up in that piece, but we were almost delusional with joy. The sound was excellent, with every frequency coming through loud and clear and the new-ish sound rig allowing for better sight lines to the enormous video display. Pretty Lights' Derek Vincent Smith and drummer Cory Eberhard were on fire, coming hard with more charisma and stage presence than we saw from them last time. By the end of their almost two hour sweat-fest of a set, we were exhausted and ecstatic—it was totally worth every minute waiting in that clusterfuck of a line.
We just want your extra time
First things first, though. Buckcherry. What an atrocious band. We were hoping we'd get into the arena late enough to miss these clowns, but the KISS-related festivities on Lower Broad had already wrapped up, leaving us with little option other than to go inside and drink to the tale of the "Crazy Bitch"—a song we're now unequivocally dumber for having heard in its extended live arrangement, which included a verse of Billy Squire's "Stroke Me." Like Poison without the hooks or Firehouse without the balls, they are musically hopeless, generic and predictable. Moreover, singer Josh Todd thinks that the 79 tattoos on his torso suffice for a shirt, and his squealing high-pitched caterwauling makes him sound like a feral cat succumbing to an industrial strength vacuum cleaner. Fuck this band and their Chuck Berry reference.
As we milled about, it seemed like one out of every four or five people had KISS makeup on. Followers of the cult mixed and mingled with your garden-variety heavy metal parking lot crowd, creating a festive rock 'n' roll all night atmosphere. These people all lost their shit when the lights went down and—with a startling blast of pyro—the curtain dropped, revealing the band in all their iconic glory, as they went head first through a one-two punch of "Deuce" into "Strutter"—two of our favorite KISS gems. The show spared no cliché, and we mean that in a good way. We didn't come to the KISS show to use our right brains, we came to let go of our inhibitions and be entertained—and entertained we were.
Let's go down the list. Pyro in the chorus and big finish of nearly every song? Check. The platform shoes and black spandex? Check. Gene Simmons spitting fire? Check. Gene Simmons coughing up blood? Check. Spotlight guitar, drum and bass solos where all other members leave the stage? Check. A spinning drum riser? Check. Bottle-blondes in the audience flashing the band? Check. In other words, all the classic KISS moments with which they defined the arena-rock experience.
Founding members Peter Criss (drums) and Ace Frehley (lead guitar) are not in the current incarnation of KISS, but their trademark Catman and Spaceman makeup designs are now donned by their replacements. For many in the KISS Army this is a deal-breaker, but the arena appeared damn near close to sold-out. The most egregious fake makeup moment came when guitarist Tommy Thayer, playing the part of The Spaceman, took center stage to sing the Ace Frehley-penned "Shock Me"—leaving more than a hint of awk-rawk lingering in the air.
Just as the stage production left little to be desired, so did the '70s-centric setlist, which featured nearly all of the band's most recognizable hits, from "Hotter Than Hell" to "Calling Dr. Love," "Black Diamond" to "Lick It Up" and the inevitable "Rock and Roll All Nite." We'll admit that by the time the band had brought about their "Detroit Rock City" finale, we were a bit fatigued from hearing 25-or-so songs that all sound roughly the same—but after a straight two hours of both ironic and un-ironic headbanging, we praised almighty rock 'n' roll as the lights came up to reveal an arena smokier than a Southern California wildfire.
But it didn't take long for Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams to remind everyone (and their chaperones) who they had really come out to see. The Mother Church, or "the O.G. Opry," as she called it at one point, felt a bit like a regular church on youth ministry night—give or take a giant synchronized light show or two—until it erupted in screams the second Williams skipped onstage. The band came out with a burst and got a feverish response to "Ignorance" before dropping into cruise control. Drummer Zac Farro played with all the subtlety of a gorilla trying to break open a suitcase full of bananas with his elbows, and bassist Jeremy Davis—the only member of the band other than Williams to engage the audience, though he never even spoke into a microphone—jumped about, now and again doing the proto-crabcore headbang dance in sync with new guy Taylor York. At times, guitarist Josh Farro looked like an unhappy statue someone had thrown a guitar on.
Williams spent much of her between-song banter talking about Nashville. She dedicated one song to all the fans who came to their early shows at The End and Exit/In. Since almost no one we could see was old enough to get into either of those clubs, the response to the local-venue shout-out was muted, to say the least. One person who was old enough, though, was the dude to our left, whose combination of bad posture and bad skin made him look like a cross between a rape-y lizard and a white version of the guy in Slumdog Millionaire who burns the little kid's eyes out with acid. Even when he was singing along to the songs he had a weird, dead look in his eyes, and he would raise his camera very, very slowly to his pocked face when taking pictures of Hayley Williams. He took a lot of pictures.
But anyway. For the encore, Williams came out with Josh Farro and did that thing performers do at The Ryman, playing Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough (to Take My Man)" sans amplification at the front of the stage. The crowd couldn't make up its mind whether to return the reverence or shower their heroine with love. Throughout the song, a "Woo!" would ring out from somewhere in the auditorium, only to be answered immediately by a "Shh!" "Woo!" "Shh!" "Woo!" "Shh!" It was the most comical call-and-response we've heard at a show...maybe ever. The band kept it low-key, breaking out more acoustic guitars (but turning the P.A. back on) for a few songs, including a lovely rendition of "The Only Exception." Then it was back to bombast for "Misery Business," which was every bit as good as we were hoping it would be, and our cue to get out while the aisles were still clear.
You thought the pyro was good at KISS? That's nothing. Leonard Cohen. TPAC. Thursday. Just sayin'. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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