When I first entered The Crocodile Cafe I presented with the ticket taker who had tour posters stapled to the wall behind him. To the right it opened up into a bar with a really intimate stage for what I assume would be acoustic shows for smaller artists. To my left was the entrance to the main venue through a door with a glass window where The Rocket Summer was going to be performing. For the time being, that door was closed off as it seemed that Bryce Avary and friends were hanging out at the bar grabbing drinks. My buddy and I got our stamps and grabbed a drink at the bar off to the right of the entrance while we waited for the doors to the main venue to open.
I hadn’t listened to much of The Rocket Summer after their Do You Feel record so I was fairly surprised by the amount of teenagers standing in line outside waiting to get in. The rest of the crowd was pretty split between people in their late twenties and early-to-mid thirties. Regardless of the difference in age, there was a consistent theme to the conversations happening that night and that was how excited everyone was to see The Rocket Summer.
After about 30 minutes of hanging out, the door to the main venue finally opened. The entrance way started filling up to the point that a lot of us were shoulder-to-shoulder. When I stepped through the door I entered a small hallway that was filled with tour posters of bands that performed at The Croc. As the crowd was moving slowly to get into the main floor I looked around and found that some of my favorite artists played there like David Bazan, Death Cab for Cutie, and The Grand Archives. Then there were artists like Patti Smith, Mudhoney, Cheap Trick, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam who also played there before The Croc closed in 2007. To the right of me was a hallway with a staircase going up to the balcony which overlooked the ground floor and the entire stage. Since there was no AC in the venue, the balcony was a bit warm. So, my buddy and I decided to remain on the ground near the left side of the stage.
The opening act was a 3 piece band called 888. After using Google to find out more about them I found myself downloading their EP called Critical Mistakes. Frontman Danny Stills, drummer Danny Cooper, and keyboardist/programmer Aaron Rothe were originally in a metalcore band called Drop Dead, Gorgeous – a band of which made a pretty big name for themselves back in the late 90s/early 2000s. After taking a hiatus from Drop Dead, Gorgeous in 2011, three of the members started a new project, 888. The trio has ditched their metalcore sound and now sports a very catchy alt-pop sound with synth!
The lights were off as the band walked out on the stage and the crowd was screaming in excitement for the show. Once your eyes adjusted you could see the silhouette of Danny Cooper who stood on top of his drum kit waving his hands in the air to get the crowd even more hyped up. It worked, the energy in the venue was intense with everyone screaming. Throughout 888‘s performance they stayed focused playing their music and didn’t engage the crowd too much until later in their set. Without the engagement of the crowd the band managed to keep the crowd interested with their stage presence. At one point, during a break in their latest single called “Creepers”, Cooper stood on his drums and just before the break hit he jumped and came slamming down on his cymbals to break into the final chorus of the song. 888 started playing their single off their EP, Critical Mistakes, and the crowd seemed to be singing along and dancing. As the song was ending, all three members grabbed floor toms and brought them out to the middle of the crowd to finish their set with a drum battle! Overall, I say 888 did their job in getting the crowd pumped up for The Rocket Summer. The energy was unreal.
When The Rocket Summer hit the stage, the crowd had gone crazy. Avary was the last one out, took in the crowd and as the lights hit his face you could see how genuinely happy he was to be there. They opened up with “Break It Out”, a song that really gets you in the mood to dance once the first verse hits. Once the chorus had hit everyone in the crowd started jumping in the air really embracing the lyric “Get up off your feet and make this count”. Throughout the entire set, he was ensuring that he engaged those on the balcony and the crowd in front of him by swinging the mic around several times and letting the crowd get a chance to sing some of the songs’ choruses. Once the band finished playing “All I Have” Avary jumped behind the second set of drums that were on stage and started having a drum battle with his drummer! Each were taking turns playing different beats and having their own individual solos. A perfect transition into “High Life Scenery”, another upbeat song that makes you want to dance.
Some other significant moments were during “Run to You”, an intimate song on the keyboard. However, this time Avary brought out his acoustic guitar and looked out in the crowd and said, “You! In the green hair… oh it’s blond? Would you be so kind to start forming a circle with the people around you?” Once the circle formed he walked off stage to perform “Run to You” setting the tone of how intimate the song really is. The crowd was swaying back and forth with their eyes shut singing along with Avary. When the song had ended he told the crowd how he wanted everyone to “hold me up”. The beat for “Hold It Up” started playing as he climbed onto the hands of the crowd and he crowd-surfed his way back to the stage to rejoin his band. Aaron Rothe from 888 ran out and jumped on the keys as Avary played guitar and sang.
After the excitement of “Run to You” and “Hold It Up” you wouldn’t think it could get much better than that, but then Avary realized he lost his ear piece after crowd surfing. He asked the crowd if they saw it and a girl named Edith ended up finding it so what did he ask? “Hey Edith, are you a good dancer? You want to come up on stage for this next song?” Of course she obliged kindly. The rest of the set was just as great with the crowd jumping and singing. He finished the set with yet another intimate performance of “Walls” with just him and his keyboard.
The crowd went nuts once Avary walked off stage waiting for the encore. A minute or two passed and Avary walked back out and said, “This is my favorite part of the set. What do you guys want to hear?”. As he took suggestions from the crowd he started off with “Never Knew”, yet another song with just him and his keyboard. After performing “200,000” from Life Will Write the Words he brought out his guitar and the next words that came out his his mouth I’ll never forget, “Cross my heart, hope to die…” – the song that got me hooked onto The Rocket Summer when I was in high school.
When “Cross My Heart” finished he looked at the crowd and said, “We’re having a dance party. Brat Pack for life.” and the crowd went nuts. The band paused just before the third chorus hit and once they broke back into the song confetti blew out of tubes from both sides of the stage into the crowd. To finish the song, Avary walked on the railway that separated the underage kids with everyone else to sing with the crowd. The rest of the band ended up leaving after the song was over and Avary walked back to the stage and ended the encore with his keyboard playing one of my new favorite songs, “Hills and Valleys” from Of Men and Angels. After the song was over he stood on the center stage amp and stared into the crowd with a huge smile. You could see just how grateful he was for his fans and the show that evening. He waved goodbye and walked off the stage.
Overall this show was well worth it. From the venue and The Rocket Summer, I left that show feeling inspired and happy. Bryce Avary was really able to energize the crowd in such a casual way by little things like bringing Edith on stage with him or standing in the middle of the crowd performing with his acoustic guitar. Next time The Rocket Summer is playing near your city, I would highly recommend going.
If you are interested, pick up the latest album, Zoetic by The Rocket Summer on iTunes now!
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