Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Brings Metal Head To Tears


Ok we’ll keep the intro short and get down to business. Night Riots started off the evening with a set which took me by absolutely surprise. Coming out of a flu and ear plugs jammed in I thought I was just suffering residual effects of my recent binging of bands like FUN and CRUISR. Lead man Travis had me double taking for a familiar voice but after a couple minutes I realized I had in fact confused these guys for, them. Hearing songs like Contagious was a treat to say the least. My interaction with bands from behind a lens often puts me into tunnel vision and the songs blur. But this opening set had me envying the fans who got to jam out while Night Riots this show. Stage presence and vocals were spot on to the studio recordings, which for me is always a sigh of relief and great delight. Now, for a more music savvy reviewer’s take on the rest of the night.

Second to take the stage was Australian group Atlas Genius. The group strolled onto the legendary stage with a sense of power and confidence yet didn’t come off as cocky. If anything, they seem humbled by the fact that they were opening for a band like Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. They also seemed more than appreciative of the nearly sold out crowd that was singing along to majority of their songs. With a couple of hits songs here and a couple of catchy singles there, it was clear that, even with only two studio albums out, these guys have made a mark in the music scene. Throughout their forty minute set, there were bursts of energy from the band that were then juxtaposed by a sense of calm. It was amazing to watch how easily they could explode into a wall of sound but quickly escape back in the a fortress of what may be considered ambiance. Even during the upbeat songs that made you want to dance, including their hit song “Trojans”, there was no denying a true beauty to it. Sometimes that beauty can be masked by bands as they jump and try to get the crowd going but it wasn’t lost on these guys and that made them a stand out act of the night.

Headlining the show was Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. This group is fronted by Andrew McMahon who is formerly of Jack’s Mannequin and, before that, Something Corporate. Since 2014, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness has been the name of the game for him but, in my heart, he will always be that amazing frontman from Something Corporate. Something Corporate was a great band but, let’s be honest, without Andrew McMahon, Something Corporate would have been “just another band”. I remember watching their segment on the DVD and just thinking, yeah, that will be me someday. As a piano player, I found Andrew to be a bit of an idol. He could sing with a voice of beauty and get the crowd going with his endless stream of energy all the while playing on an upright piano. He wasn’t just playing simple filler crap either, this guy could play and obviously had talent. I worshiped him (in a non creepy way of course) and even with a couple of band changes and a completely new sound, I would still consider Andrew McMahon one of my idols.

With the recent release of their second studio album, “Zombies on Broadway”, last night promised to be a night of some new music and some old music from this group along with the chance for some older, true throwback songs from Andrew’s previous groups. I wasn’t sure what the night was going to hold as far as the set list went but I knew I was excited.

Andrew McMahon came out on the stage and started up with the first song of the night, “Fire Escape” which just so happens to be one of the only new songs that truly hits me right in the feels. Within the first string of lyrics I found myself with tears running down my cheeks for no damn reason. Sure, I could make up an excuse and say it was just my exhaustion catching up with me and I’m sure that didn’t help but I know deep down I wasn’t crying because of exhaustion. It was because nothing about this guy has changed other than the music. Seeing him sitting behind that piano and hearing that voice was enough to push me over the edge.

After the first song was spent bawling my eyes out, I pulled it together and braced myself for another impact. The set with on and, since I’m not an avid listener of Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, I had no emotional connection with the actual songs so it was smooth sailing. Even though I didn’t know the songs well enough to sing along to them, I was getting the feeling I would get if I was watching a band that I currently worship. That’s truly a rare thing for me. If I can’t sing along, I find myself either spending more time at the bar or more time socializing but something about last night was different and I had no desire to go to the bar or talk to my friend. I just wanted to be there, watching Andrew McMahon and his wonderful band, enjoying a concert.

As I was listening to this new material from the band, I realized just how great the songs actually are. I had been so resistant to the band for such a long time. I think it hit me last night that there will never be another Something Corporate show and Jack’s Mannequin is never getting back together. This is what Andrew is giving the world right now and, as I stopped sipping on the haterade and actually opened my ears, I realized that it’s not half bad and, although it has changed, it’s still Andrew. As soon as I had settled into the idea that I actually like these guys now, Andrew introduced the next song, “Dark Blue” (a Jack’s Mannequin song) and I knew that the streams of dried tears on my cheeks would quickly turn into rivers again.

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness played for damn near two hours. With only three Jack’s Mannequin songs and no Something Corporate songs, I was a bit bummed but it also helped me find a new appreciation for this project. The amount of energy that Andrew had last night matched the energy that I watched countless times on that 2002 Warped Tour DVD. It was clear that, even after a battle with cancer and a growing family, nothing has really changed. He still seems like that genuinely great guy with a true talent and a true love for what he does. I think realizing that hit me a bit harder than the nostalgic sounds.

The first time I heard Andrew McMahon’s voice was in the early 2000’s. My hair was a bright shade of pink, I was working in a head shop, and life was pretty easy. Now the year is 2017. My hair is in it’s natural ginger state, I have a 9 to 5 day job, and being an adult is not as glamorous as I thought it would be. Not many things have stayed the same in my life other than my love for music. Even within that love, my tastes haven’t stayed the same and many bands have dropped off my radar. I refuse to accept the fact that some of the bands I grew up with are still putting out music because it is so different and I want them to forever be those pop-punk bands I worshiped back in the day.

It hit me last night, as I stood there watching one of my idols stomping on the keys of the grand piano that was front and center of the stage, that I’m old now. I’m not that teen with the pink hair and these musicians aren’t the boys with the bangs in their eyes and skinny jeans. Things may not look the same way they did back when I found myself getting into this world of music but one thing hasn’t changed- the passion. Not only do the musicians I grew up with still have a passion for the scene, so do I and that’s all that matters.