All posts by Liz Pena

About Liz Pena

Liz is a a Florida based music writer, model, and artist who has been surrounded by live music her entire life. Her favorite artists are Jimi Hendrix, Melanie Martinez, and Bayside. She has a passion for travel, the outdoors, and live music of all kinds.

[AltWire Interview] Adam Taylor, Bassist of Iration

AltWire contributor Liz Pena recently spoke to Adam Taylor of Iration at the band's show in Jacksonville, FL

Hawaiian indie-reggae-rock band Iration has topped iTunes reggae charts, gained recognition from Billboard Magazine, headlined countless shows and preformed at festivals such as Lollapalooza and Hangout Festival. Now, their career is blossoming more than ever. Their new single “Fly with Me” debuted just a few months ago and has been positively received to say the least. This summer they have embarked on a massive tour with J Boog and Slightly Stoopid, showing their mainstay status in the rock-reggae genre. Recently, I a chance to catch up with bassist Adam Taylor about the big things coming with their next record, surfing, and their mantra: “All about luv.”

Taylor walked us back through their high-end tour bus, pouring a mixed drink as some of the other crew and band members, including guitarist Micah Pueschel and the group’s lighting director gave their introductions. Despite a youthful smile and radiant energy, there is a touch of grey in his five o’ clock shadow, a reminder of the time he has spent playing music and honing Iration’s sound. His energy and enthusiasm made it clear that he was excited about tonight’s set.

“This tour is like summer camp for us,” he explained. The Movement’s opening set sent melodies wafting through the bus windows. He continued on, chatting about how he had just spent a few days with the rest of the band in Neptune Beach, Fla., surfing and enjoying some free time. As we spoke, Taylor warmed up a little on his miniature acoustic bass (I believe it was a uke-bass). He was excited about his new purchase, detailing with enthusiasm that “you can plug it in!” Unfortunately, he had no plans to use it onstage that evening.

Being from Hawaii, he is used to the heat, but it was an early show and even the islanders admitted it was pretty hot out.

“I’m wearing pants,” he pointed out, elaborating that the band as a whole tries to dress a little nicer than the groups who come out in board shorts and the like, even though they have nothing against them.

When asked about the early set, Taylor had mixed feelings. He’s used to playing after dark or inside, and the group has a killer light show that he said isn’t highlighted as well during these early evening sets. He kept a positive attitude though, telling me how they will roll with whatever. Even despite the sun, their music fits a sunny summer day perfectly. Another unexpected benefit at this show was that the band was given an extra 10 minutes to perform.

Adam Taylor is clearly passionate about the fans. Despite touring with Slightly Stoopid and J Boog, his group tries to take a less obvious 420-friendly approach. He clarified that even though they do not write songs about joints and blunts, they like to use metaphors that could evoke the feeling of being high, but also just the feeling of being in love or waking up on the right side of the bed.

“We try not to pigeonhole ourselves” as stoner music, Taylor said, explaining that they want to be music that everyone can enjoy and relate to.

He was clear with me that the music he makes is for the fans. It makes him feel good to play, but the motivation he has when he performs is what he can bring to others. For him, it isn’t as much of a personal emotional experience but more of an intentional way of creating songs that evoke positivity in others.

Taylor described the writing process as something that has become more collaborative over time. Each group member practices several instruments and contributes different inspirations. For instance, Taylor plays keys, drums, guitar and sings.

“We grew up around this kind of music,” Taylor said when we talked about Iration’s signature sound. Only two of the band’s newer members are not from Hawaii, so that influence will always be present. Their new music is headed in a more experimental direction, adding influences from genres other than rock and reggae. Their relationship with Dirty Heads came up when we discussed these new tracks: The two groups have a great relationship and embrace the similarities they share on upcoming music.

Adam’s final message to fans was something we have heard from the group many times before: “‘It’s ll about luv.’ It is like l-u-v love, nothing too serious, just luv that you can share with anyone.”

[Concert Review] Dirty Heads and SOJA at St. Augustine

Liz offers her take on the recent Dirty Heads and SOJA show at the St. Augustine Ampitheater

The Dirty Heads and SOJA recently brought their unique brand of reggae-inspired jams to The St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

It was a night of explosive positivity and musical diversity. Each group spun their own twists on the reggae genre, delivering everything from heavy alt-rock guitars, to tropical percussive elements, to passionately rapped lyrics. With RDGLDGRN and The Green also on the bill, this event was loaded with big names and chill vibes from beginning to end. Each group brought their signature sound and energy to the stage, but Dirty Heads put on one of the standout sets that the theater has seen this year. They completely surprised audiences by working into funk, EDM, and hip-hop-inspired beats that were true to their sound but totally new for the group and their genre.

RDGLDGRN opened the night. Like SOJA, they are a DC-area reggae group influenced by the area’s local hip-hop with an alt-rock twist. They were then followed by The Green, who brought authentic Hawaiian reggae jams, big smiles and radiant energy. As the sold-out show filled the venue, they delivered a fun and upbeat set. Most of the group’s members sing, and their music embraces each singer’s individual tone while still having an excellent use of harmony together. There are no gimmicks or 420 jokes onstage with The Green. There are no blaring political messages, just good music and an electrifying energy.

SOJA came to stage next. There was an enormous number of loyal fans in the house. Over the years, some fans have complained that “(frontman Jacob Hemphill)’s voice is shot,” but we have always heard those emotional cracks in his voice. There was no live autotune: His vocals are genuine and not over-produced, which is unfortunately rare now.

The entire band clearly loves their fans and their music. They played all their hits for long-time fans to sing along with word-for-word. They also brought forward new, unreleased jams, which had great lyrical flow and powerful, unique content. Their next record is one that fans should be excited to hear.

There is a real bond and interconnectedness fostered by SOJA’s music. The horn section is used with balance. Acoustic percussion keeps things earthy and real. Their set ended with a huge ska/reggae style jam that had almost every musician of the night onstage. It was great to see their set end with such vivacity, because throughout their set, fans could vividly see the wear and emotions on Hemphill’s face. Delivery and connection are clearly important to the band and they give fans all their honesty and energy regardless of the subject or sound of a song.

Dirty Heads began their set with older, slower hits that flowed nicely with the rest of the evening. Eventually, they started dipping into pop sounds, building into a floor-shaking blend of funk, EDM and hip-hop inspirations. There was a smooth transition into their new, more experimental-pop tracks that really took off after megahit “My Sweet Summer.” After this track dropped, shirts were unbuttoned, hair was let loose and Dirty Heads pushed the crowd head-first into a sweaty summertime symbiosis of freak-nasty booty dancing and old school grooves.

Dirty Heads are truly dirty live. They put on a surprisingly heavy and totally wild show. They have morphed their sound into perfect party music. They are like long-haired rock-and-rollers, reggae rudeboys, suave pop stars, jam band hippies, old school funk players, chill hip-hop beatmakers and EDM hitmen all at once. Their light show cast a cannabis-colored fog across the humid night’s sky, cut by violet laser beams and electrified strobes.

This night brought the audience to a place that few would have expected from a chilled-out reggae show, but eventually everyone had let loose. When the musicians themselves are letting loose onstage, playing with that true sense of release and freedom that we all crave, it is easy to radiate that yourself. The opening acts and SOJA made everyone so comfortable that as time flew by through the Dirty Heads’ set, we were all left wanting a second set from the group.

It will be so interesting to see what the future holds for the group. Will they continue to explore all these wild new inspirations and expand their appeal or go back to their roots? My thoughts: this Dirty Heads tour is a turning point for the group and they are about to do even huger things than they are now.

Photos by Abby Lynn Pierce

[Concert Review] Expendables at St. Augustine Amphitheater

I’m sure it was a little surreal for The Expendables to follow notorious punk act The Queers and open for Reel Big Fish (arguably one of the biggest name in ska) but they brought a surprisingly dynamic set to the St. Augustine Amphitheater. Their sound is 420-friendly reggae meets alternative rock with touches of heavy rock, punk, jazz and jam band. They followed The Queers’ simple, all black, punk-as-hell setup with speakers covered in colorful, risquè comic book style graphic art. They are not afraid to get funky and make a little scene.

The Expendables have their own huge fan base, very similar to that of Dirty Heads and SOJA, who had just sold out the same venue two days earlier. This ended up being a drastically smaller show, likely because the original venue was rained out. In turn, fans were treated to a surprisingly intimate event. It was more chill than The Expendables’ beachfront appearance I attended last year at the Seawalk Pavillion in Jacksonville Beach. They had an enormous turn out at that show, but it was also a free beachfront event and the crowd was an intolerable, drunken mess.

The Expendables seem to have a bigger following on the West Coast and in parts of the northeast that are more 420-friendly than Florida, to say the least. They are a big fan of split crowd chants. At the last Expendables show I attended, the left side of the crowd had to chant “smoke weed” while the other responded with “get high.” This time during the group’s major hit, “Bowl for Two,” the crowd was split, half of them singing “I packed this bowl for two” and the other responding “And I wanna smoke it with you.” It is unfortunate at venues in Florida where people were literally getting arrested for lighting up, but on the West Coast, Colorado, and in other decriminalized cities, it is so much more accepted that bands might not realize gimmicks like that can be tricky in the south. Then again, I just don’t like gimmicks of any kind, but they certainly do work.

It is always fun to hear hits like “Bowl for Two” and “Down Down Down” live and The Expendables entertained us with all their hits that night. One thing is certain though: The stand out of the night was guitarist Raul Bianchi, who had me enthralled with inspired and impressive jazz, reggae, metal, funk and classic rock inspirations, his use of pedals and imploring solos. His luminescent riffs and extended jams were a highlight of The Expendables’ set as they wafted through the venue’s warm, humid acoustics. Raul Bianchi is clearly a well-practiced musician, not bound by his genre at all and highly creative live.

The Expendables were probably the most mellow act of night. They still had high energy, but they weren’t pissed off like The Queers’ punk rock set was. They ended up being a cool opener for Reel Big Fish: Not totally punk, not totally ska, and definitely not too obvious. They brought good vibes without exhausting the crowd who would later skank themselves sore for days.

The Expendables were gracious and interacted well with the crowd. Bassist Ryan Demars was kind enough to speak with me briefly after the show. He has a well-honed, funky style as an instrumentalist and a fun onstage presence so speaking with him was a pleasure. The music he plays is written a “little for the fans, a little for me,” he explained elaborating that he would never want to write music that he thinks “is rad and no one else likes.” Ryan later told me that Florida feels “like a second California” to him.

Photos by Liz Pena/AltWire

[Concert Review] Reel Big Fish at St. Augustine Amphitheater

Despite the original location being rained out, Reel Big Fish put on an awesome show at St. Augustine Amphitheater.

Reel Big Fish has an infectious live energy that has to be experienced to be understood. Sweaty, skanking (or ska-dancing) fans that have seen them before are sure to return again and again for beer-fueled dance parties featuring the group’s classic hits, silly, vulgar anthems and surprise covers. Friends of mine have seen the group at least 50 times, and each set of each tour is a totally different party.

On their summer 2017 tour, “The Beer Run,” Reel Big Fish, along with their friends friends The Queers and The Expendables, brought along some of their favorite craft beers. After some typical Florida summer afternoon thunderstorms rained the event’s original location out, the show was moved into the St. Augustine Amphitheater. It is one of my favorite venues locally but it was by far the tiniest crowd I have ever seen there. I have never seen such a small Reel Big Fish show, and even the last time I saw The Expendables, they headlined a huge beachfront festival. Whether it happened because of the venue change or weather, I was still surprised by the small turnout. Reel Big Fish has so many loyal fans who will come out to every show and it was a pleasure to see them in such an intimate setting with so much room to skank.

San Clemente surfers, Tunnel Vision opened the show with their good-vibes, ska-punk sound.

Check out our interview with Tunnel Vision!

They were followed by The Queers, a group who I was deeply surprised to see such an early set from. They brought classic punk with their middle fingers up and an attitude to match. The Queers have been a punk mainstay for longer than Reel Big Fish has been on the ska scene, and it’s cool to see authentic punk and ska.

The night was kind of a sad reminder that the ska and punk scenes have really died down. There were only a few patched-up punks and checkerboarded rude boys in the crowd. The whole thing reminded me of a hole in the wall show more than an amphitheater festival. It was unexpected but completely unforgettable to see these acts in such a close, mellow setting.

The Expendables came along on this tour, diversifying the lineup with a little 420-inspired reggae. Everyone at the show, ranging from the patched-up punks who came for the The Queers to the chilled out and barefoot Expendables fans, everyone could appreciate and relate to Reel Big Fish in a way. They have a real F-U attitude with a sarcastic and less threateningly punk energy. They have a mellow attitude, brightened by enthusiastic brass that makes it easy to dance as the time flies by.

It seems the rain has always just subsided before these St. Augustine Amphitheater shows. When the sun finally went down and Reel Big Fish came to stage, the crowd was well warmed up. RBF pleased fans with expected hits like “Sell Out” and “Beer” and included their signature slew of popular nineties ska and rock covers, including “The Impression That I Get.” These covers are always played with tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm. The band’s outrageously graphic tracks and vulgar chants are always hilarious to see at an all ages show, but the kids were learning to skank right along with us.

Reel Big Fish has an energy that is chill but fun. Their notoriously goofy attitudes are always obvious, despite the lack of onstage gimmicks. They read the crowd’s vibe and gave St. Augustine a more mellow show: Something different for the fans who came out despite the rain. After seeing The Dirty Heads sell the venue out two days earlier, it was weird seeing these huge acts play for us so intimately.

The theme of the day was “beer.” From their BEER-emblazoned gym socks to the crowds dazed but smiling faces, it was a clear success. Even tipsy, you can notice the skill that each musician in Reel Big Fish possesses. The bright brass section takes time for jazzy breakdowns that crescendo into high energy ska explosions. Their shows are not polished but they are a band who has never promised to be polished. What we got was the cool, punk, rude boy attitude and sarcastic brassy beer-fueled fun we love and expect from Reel Big Fish.

Photos by Liz Pena/AltWire

[AltWire Interview] Tunnel Vision

Punk-ska band Tunnel Vision recently sat down and had a chat with AltWire Contributor Liz Pena.

Unfortunately, I missed Tunnel Vision’s set at the St. Augustine stop of Reel Big Fish’s “The Beer Run” tour. Still, the band was kind enough to speak with me a little backstage after their set. Now that I have had the chance to check out their music, I am especially glad we had a chance to chat music, touring, and “playing high.” Tunnel Vision plays a blend of ska, reggae, and punk rock and are some of the most genuine musicians I have had the chance to work with recently.

When I asked if the music is more for them or the fans, they were quick to explain that their music is “for the fans,” and above all else they “love doin’ it for the crowd.”

Despite playing with the intention of pleasing crowds, the band always stays true to their own roots and ideals, explaining that they will always embrace their “punk roots.” At the same time, a lot of their tracks are made to be more “mellow [and] inspired by surfing.”

As for the future, the band says it is still going to be “what we wanna play.”

“We are really cool with [our] label,” said Tunnel Vision. This gives them the opportunity to be able to present something truly genuine to their fans: When a band is loyal to their fans, the fans are able to be loyal to them in return. This eager attitude and true joy when discussing fans’ reactions is unique and will benefit the group more than they can imagine as their career grows.

Sometimes music is the “only way out,” they explained.

One crazy tour story that came up while we spoke was an experience the band had in Africa. The band performed at nearly 19,000 feet, near the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro. The band joked between bites of chips and salsa that it just might make them “the highest band ever.”

Alongside Slightly Stoopid, Tunnel Vision earned the world record for the highest elevation concert.

Even though Tunnel Vision likes to have a good time, they are equally passionate about their charitable work. They support and encourage people to donate to charities such as The Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation and Wildlife First. It was refreshing to hear a group have real details to share when discussing philanthropy, not just vague hopes for the future.

As our conversation closed, they again touched on how much they love touring and how it lends their music a “different, better [and] faster” sound.

Tunnel Vision is Hayden Hanson (vocals, guitar), Jacob Hernandez (bass), Tanner Payan (drums), Matt Risley (keys) and Doug Alani (sax).

Check out our review of Reel Big Fish performing on “The Beer Run” Tour

Connect with Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision’s website


[AltWire Review] Little Geronimo releases debut EP, ‘Kingdoms’

We have had our eye on Little Geronimo ( ) for a few months now. The Jacksonville, Fla. act has a unique take on indie pop rock and a progressive punk sentiment. Their debut EP Kingdoms dropped just a few days ago and shows a surprisingly expansive range of sounds. From vibrant, upbeat numbers to more experimental jams, the EP will appeal to a wide array of fans. Little Geronimo is a band that has a great potential to energize and relate with their fans and the record communicates this well.

The EP’s opener “Postman” begins with dreamy-but-frizzy effects that evoke mysterious, ethereal moods that return in experimental hooks later on. Things move into a more vibrant and energetic place as the track builds. Little Geronimo uses repetition well and has a genuine honesty that is a signature to their sound that is both autobiographical and youthful. The vocal is clear without being overproduced, and hopefully they will maintain that honesty even if they move to a major label. The vocal conveys the story and feeling well. It is not too whiny , too quiet, or trying too hard. It immediately establishes a sense of balance that is fleshed out through the rest of the EP.

“Change” was the refreshingly positive summer anthem we previously reviewed when it was released as a single (read about it here). Since that single debuted, it has been stuck in my head often.

Little Geronimo has such a charming indie pop sound laced with charismatic riffs, decorative effects and bright percussive elements. These are well structured tracks with hooks that work.

What makes them different is their attitude. It will bring happiness to listeners, which has become rare in acts that have a similar sound or fanbase. Their sound is Warped Tour-friendly: Enjoyable rock with elements that will work live. They remind me of early All Time Low.

Still, Little Geronimo is not afraid to get weird. “Inchworm” is similar to tracks other groups would only use as interludes. It includes an interesting use of pacing: The beat is cool and different, setting a backdrop for kaleidoscopic, quirky diversions. It maintains their signature honesty. This is a group that sounds good now and also has strong potential to develop in the future. It will be curious to see if they take a more pigeonholed approach moving forward or continue to toy with as many different musical elements as they do now. They have a real sweetness and charm, which pairs with a solid use of beat and repetition to get songs really stuck in a listener’s head.

”A Secret Ingredient” is another one of my favorites on the record. In this song, there is a build almost reminiscent of The Mars Volta. The intro has a heavier delivery that speeds up into a more punk influenced immediacy. Don’t let “Change” fool you. There is always a little edge to Little Geronimo’s sound. “A Secret Ingredient” is a little more experimental but also a little more punk. Despite punk influence, Little Geronimo doesn not rely on the crutch of short tracks. Alternatively, they never overexpand tracks into wandering jams that hinder playability. You can tell they have an artistic vision but not an overly specific aesthetic.

Not only does the record build as it moves along, each track does the same. “Time Shepherds” is a perfect example of this. It has a mellow ambiance and a sense of gratitude for life that will be extended to fans. Potentially cliche lyrics do not come off that way because of creatively formulated instrumentals. Each tempo affects the details of the attitude extended to the listener. Fresh drums and a melodic chorus with easy to pick up lyrics have a sound similar to Jimmy Eat World. On their own, Little Geronimo is reflective but has shamelessly good intentions.

“Thunder” was a bold choice as a closer to the EP and effectively represents the group’s mission to make inspired music. The whole thing is a little progressive: Effervescent, but with warm guitar riffs. “Thunder” has best imagery on the record. For example, you can hear their influences from groups such as Circa Survive. The track is a playful, exploratory, sometimes faraway sound that would sound excellent on vinyl, while at the same time having interesting storytelling like what you’d hear from Coheed and Cambria.

On Kingdoms, Little Geronimo shows different sides of their sound but they are well executed and expressive throughout. Their simple, relatable lyrics will be easy to sing a long with and the group has a great potential we are eager to watch. The group could easily play as an opener for a variety of big acts. Their music provides for different possibilities live – pits, jumping, singalongs, shoegazing, and everything in between.

Check them out:

[Concert Review] Bayside at Mavericks 05/23/2017

Photos by Abby Lynn Pierce and Liz Pena

I will be honest. Bayside is my favorite band and they have been since I was 11 years old. Their logo is tattooed prominently on my left arm. I listen to their albums on repeat when on flights and roadtrips. When I was in high school and grounded, I got one of my first truly horrible sunburns after lying to get out of the house and watch them play the Zumiez Couch Tour. Being from Queens, NY, Bayside has a huge following in the northeast and a loyal, self-proclaimed cult following worldwide. Since I moved away from Baltimore, the opportunity to see them live has become far more rare. Their appearance at Mavericks was their first time playing as a full band in Jacksonville, FL in years. Fans in Jacksonville had the chance to see a solo performance from frontman Anthony Raneri last year but this was the was a much awaited return for Bayside.

On this tour date, Bayside was joined by Hot Rod Circuit and Say Anything, two groups that, like Bayside, have earned loyal followings of alternative fans through the 2000s. Hot Rod Circuit brought a crowd-pleasing energy to Mavericks that evening. The Alabama based five piece has performed their own take on emo alternative rock music for twenty years now. While they do not make the catchiest or most shocking music, they put on a solid show before Say Anything and Bayside came to stage.

After Hot Rod Circuit left the stage and Say Anything got set up, Max Bemis stumbled to the mic. On this tour Bayside and Say Anything were alternating headliners. It makes sense. They each have had their own cult followings develop over the past couple decades with millions of overlapping fans from emo and alternative scenes worldwide. I went into the show looking forward to seeing Say Anything play. I was never an avid fan but loved tracks like “Wow (I Can Get Sexual Too)” , “Alive With The Glory of Love”, and “Shiksa (Girlfriend)” as I heard them on MTV, Warped Tour Compilation albums, and in Hot Topic. I certainly was looking forward to seeing them perform live.

Say Anything did not play “Wow (I Can Get Sexual Too)”. They did not play their most popular song, not as an opener, not as an encore, not once during the night. Bemis was already sweaty and obviously drunk when he came to stage. Apparently he has a history of this, going as far as throwing up on stage in the past. Sometimes alcohol can make people funnier, more outgoing, and more enjoyable to be around. Max Bemis was more like someone’s drunk uncle that no one talks about-the one who firmly believes day shift at the strip club is the best place for a buffet lunch. His performance suffered because of this. The vocal was not good.

Somehow, no one seemed to care. Say Anything’s fans loyally sang along, laughing and cheering at Bemis’ weird racial comments (“I’m Jewish. If my voice is too Jewish for you, Anthony from Bayside is Italian. That is kind of like Jewish.”) He thanked the crowd, slurring that he knew he was in Florida but not what city and that he was not sure if Bayside had played yet or not. My sister saw the tour’s date in Orlando a couple days later and said he was just as drunk. Fortunately Bayside played first that night, and she, along with several others, left early.

When Say Anything left the stage, there was a magical buzz in the air. Bayside is a cult – a self proclaimed, loyal cult of friends and fans worldwide who join for these shows. Frontman Anthony Raneri came to the stage aglow in a single beam of white light, fog surrounding him, as he strummed the opening chords to “They Looked Like Strong Hands.” It is one of those classic rock and roll tableaus that sends chills down spines when done correctly. The crowd banded together crooning word for word for this classic Bayside hit. It is one of their softer tracks that translates beautifully to acoustic.

When Raneri performs, he brings an authenticity to the stage that is unmatched. His vocal is album quality live, but at the same time like it is the first time his words and feelings have poured from his lips. His stage presence is humble but confident. Bayside combines the honesty of emo with the energy of punk and the skill that allows an artist to transcend genre. They care about bringing fans the best performance they can each night and in return their fans form one of the best live audiences around.

Their pit is always solid. The center of the crowd exploded from the moment “They Looked Like Strong Hands” ended. There is no hardcore dancing in a Bayside pit; people help each other up; and for loyal punk fans it feels like home. After the show ended, I walked out into the pouring rain, my shoulder bleeding washed out red down my back, a spotted violet bruise spreading across my shin, and a wide grin on my face. Bayside will make you want to spend every song in the pit and every word shouting along. It is a mutual appreciation that exists between the band and their loyal cult of fans.

They played tracks from across their entire span of releases, focusing on hits and crowd pleasers. “Blame it on Bad Luck,” “Masterpiece,” “Devotion and Desire,” “Duality,” “Sick, Sick, Sick,” and “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” were all played, along with a few newer tracks. Despite a long set list, I left wanting more. Had they played another full set that night, fans would have stayed, loyally singing along for another twenty or so more obscure tracks from their repertoire.

There was a stark contrast between Max Bemis and Anthony Raneri that night. Raneri knew what venue he was at, graciously thanked the crowd, and promised to come to Jacksonville again soon. He was highly aware of where he was and the fact that he was headlining a packed house.

Bayside is a band that brings no gimmicks to the stage. They have no crazy outfits, guitar tosses, or vulgar jokes. They are grown men who have put in the practice and focus needed to earn a devoted following. Bayside is a cult.

[AltWire Interview] Jason Wade and Bryce Soderberg of Lifehouse

Lifehouse Discusses Upcoming Summer Tour, New Record, and Relationship with Switchfoot...

Over the past 17 years Lifehouse has sold over 15 million records, topped several of the most recognized Billboard charts, and sold out hundreds of shows worldwide. Since the release of their debut album No Name Face in 2001, Jason Wade (lead vocals, guitar), Bryce Soderberg (bass, vocals) and Ricky Woolstenhulme Jr. (drums, percussion) have earned fans spanning the globe. With no end in sight, the group has sold out shows and reached loyal audiences in the US, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and South America. With the help of co-writer / co-producer Jude Cole, Lifehouse has received massive radio play for tracks like “Hanging by a Moment,” “First Time,” “You and Me,”  and “Whatever It Takes.”

I recently had a chance to talk with Bryce and Jason about their upcoming tour, their relationship with Switchfoot, and what they have coming next musically. Frontman Jason Wade reminisced with us about buying Switchfoot’s first album when he was only 16/17 and being inspired by their success. “17 years as a band”, he explained, and it is still “only [their] first tour together”. Throughout their careers, their “paths were parallel,” Jason explained, “my wife grew up near them in San Diego.” Because of this, the tour is a long time coming. It will be a treat for fans of both groups to see what they bring to it.

2011 was the last US tour for Lifehouse so when I asked bassist / vocalist Bryce Soderberg what venues or cities he was looking forward to playing, the list was long. Soderberg was enthusiastic as he rattled off locations including The Greek, where a lot of band member’s families and friends will be present, the east coast, middle America, San Fransisco, and even Coney Island. On this tour Lifehouse and Switchfoot will be joined by singer songwriter Brynn Elliott. Jason explained that Brynn “is a part of Switchfoots camp” but “he has heard wonderful things about her” and is excited to have her join the tour.

Jason and Bryce filled us in on some big projects happening outside this summer’s tour. They have a greatest hits record being released June 30. The record will consist of “19 tracks in sequence” of their release and is meant to be a “celebration” of what Lifehouse has accomplished so far. Both have projects outside Lifehouse that they are also passionate about. Jason is working on a lot of solo stuff, including a song a week project. Bryce’s other project Komox is a very important outlet for him, not just a side project, and has also had significant releases recently.

Moving forward the two have a lot to look forward to : the big tour with Switchfoot, charitable projects in the works, and their own individual pursuits. Jason had a few words to leave fans with who would like to know the root of Lifehouse’s message. “We just want to make music that is inspiring to us, music about growing and life.” By inspiring themselves, they have inspired many others. Lifehouse is sure to bring that gift to fans as they embark on their summer tour and we at Altwire are very thankful to frontman Jason Wade and bassist Bryce Soderberg for speaking with us.

[Concert Review] Milestones At Mavericks

Photos by Charles Sutton of Sutton Digital Design LLC

You know it is going to be a great show when the first opening act on the bill kills it from the moment they come to stage. Milestones did exactly this, making the most of their 7  p.m. set at Mavericks. Evening light bounced off the riverfront and glowed through the venue’s skylights as this long-haired British five piece came to stage with an immediate energy and fun attitude. They delivered like headliners, bringing a unique set to Mayday Parade’s Jacksonville stop of their A Lesson in Romantics 10-year anniversary tour.

Frontman Matthew John Clarke has a whiny but appealing voice, the kind Fearless Records seems to love. When he breaks into outward growls or pulled-back moments of reflection, it is noticeable, different, and a little swoon-worthy. Joined by quick, punk inspired instrumentation the overall feel is good, with a Warped Tour punk-pop edge.

Milestones’ lyrics are less emo than Mayday Parade’s. They deliver a motivated punk rock message, enhanced by catchy synchronized backup vocals. They use deep static and intentional feedback to bring a slow build and distortion to tracks that are still upbeat and pop inspired. Energy spread through the crowd as the lead singer came into the photo pit and audience.

The past few months brought them on their first U.S. tour, but they clearly pleased the crowd. They fit the bill well: Similar to Mayday Parade but without the sometimes downtrodden emotion that can bring a crowd down early in the night. The group repeatedly thanked the crowd during their short set. After the set, they offered to meet fans. They still sell their own shirts and look for couches to sleep on while on tour.

One of the best parts of their set was a genuine and intense performance of  “Shot in the Dark,” off their 2016 debut record Equal Measures. The track is slow and real in the verse with an intense chorus. The grit in Clarke’s is voice is well used on soft but powerful tracks like this and it is even more genuine live.

These guys are young and clearly appealing to young girls and hardcore kids alike. “Call Me Disaster” translates fantastically into a live sing-a-long. Milestone’s passionate riffs and honest hooks were at their best as they performed this track. They were hyped for the other bands. Clarke implored the crowd to jump for their last song and get as sweaty as he was. He shouted into the mic “I DON’T CARE HOW COOL YOU THINK YOU ARE – WE ARE ALL HERE FOR THE SAME REASON – TO FUCKIN HAVE SOME FUN.”

This summer, Milestones will continue to bring this movement and excitement on tour as they hit Europe through July. One thing is for sure though: Milestones will be back in the U.S. soon. They made a tremendous impression opening for Mayday Parade and it will be a pleasure to watch their progression. I predict that they too will become major headliners, playing their own sold out anniversary shows ten years down the line.