Last May, All Time Low graced our shores with a fully international act tour. It was something rare yet exciting to get to experience a full night of artists from outside our border but what made it even more exciting was who was in support of that tour: Neck Deep and The Maine. Now, Neck Deep are an amazing band; their latest record was acclaimed by myself and made #3 on my top 20 album list for 2017. But a band that I hailed even more and a band whose ‘Lovely, Little, Lonely‘ took out my number one album spot for last year was none other than Arizona’s most ironically named rock outfit, The Maine.
The night I saw the All Time Low here in Melbourne was an extremely special night for me as it marked the first time I got to see The Maine live having known fully who they were (fourteen year old me had zero idea of them when they supported New Found Glory back in 2012) and to cut right to the chase: they were almost beyond words. They were the band of the night, the show stealers, the one-uppers. The way The Maine perform is on another level to almost every band out there. The connection they create and the way they draw you in closer and closer each second they’re on stage is unfathomable. And on this cold night in a sold-out Corner Hotel, they proved this once more.
Pop-punk locals, Between You And Me opened up the night’s affairs to a decent sized crowd who had all come out early to get good spots and hype themselves up for the night. The band’s set compromised of mainly material from their two EPs and some newer tracks as well to try and spice things up.
If I’m to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that keen on their half-hour as the songs seemed to bleed into one another and never really have any lasting power. They came and went and never really seemed to grab my full attention. It didn’t help that the mix was pretty damn sloppy and that’s not something they can quite control which is a real shame. One of the newer songs that they performed was decent albeit a little underwhelming and if they hadn’t of noted that it was a new track then I would’ve just assumed it was a song off one of their EPs. Though, the best part about Between You And Me’s set however was the space between songs where they did a bit of on-stage banter. Because man, their bass player is one goofy motherfucker and anytime he talked shit to the lead singer with a big-ass grin and a chuckle was easily my favourite part of their set – he just seems like a fun guy to hang out with. And look, any pop-punk band these days that attempts on stage banter runs the risk of sounding like total Blink-182 or All Time Low try-hards, but these guys steered clear of the low-hanging dick, fart and boob jokes and I’ll forever be grateful for that.
Next up on the Corner Hotel stage was Texas three-piece Waterparks, setting things in motion with ‘Hawaii (Stay Awake)’, a rambunctious pop-rock cut from their debut record ‘Double Dare’ which I found interesting considering they dropped their second album ‘Entertainment’ a week ago. They quickly, however, followed it up with ‘Blonde’, the lead single from said sophomore record. Both of these songs were great starting points for their support slot as they set the tone of what was to come: big, multi-layered guitar-driven choruses underpinned by pop sensibilities that these guys do well and really tightly. And that is exactly what we got.
My favourite Waterparks song, ‘Stupid For You’ is the best example of this. The song feels like a take right out of 5 Seconds of Summer save for the one pre-chorus where the track gives way to a brief moment of 808s and synth keys that makes you think that Backstreet’s back (alright). But it’s best part is it’s simple yet oh-so-satisfying chorus that I had just way too much fun over-singing every time Knight sang anything resembling a falsetto. It’s got it all: power chords, bass drops, background synths and a killer vocal hook that Max Martin would give a thumbs up to. Could you ask for anything else? Yeah, most definitel, but it’s still one hell of a fun song regardless and Waterparks performed it with the energy and justice it deserves.
The best song off of ‘Entertainment’, ‘Rare’ also got a moment to shine in the middle of the set and that’s another track that shows just how good of a chorus these boys can muster up that fills out any room they’re playing in. Ending the set with the acoustic ballads ‘Lucky People’ and ’21 Questions’ was a bold move considering it did slow things right down though Waterparks pulled it off when the band re-joined Knight on stage to close out the latter track with the loudest and largest chorus they’ve ever written.
If Between You And Me were well-versed in shit-talking then Waterparks were pro’s at it. Frontman Awsten Knight knew how to keep us tied over between songs and not let any second go to waste. Half of it was just mindless shit talk talking but it made us laugh nonetheless, he engaged with hecklers and got the mood and energy moving along swimmingly. Even if there was one, dumb dirty joke about always “getting it in the wrong hole” when it comes to plugging your acoustic guitar in, he didn’t play it like other bands would and amp up the stupidity of it all and act coy and cheeky, he was straight faced and serious and that made it all the funnier. Little did we realise it was really just a cover so he could genuinely plug the guitar in, make sure it was in tune and ready to play so by the time he was done shaming us and our filthy minds he was good to go and not a second was wasted. Does that sleight of hand make Knight a magician? Most definitely.
And now, for The Maine.
Adorned in button-up shirts and casual blazers, The Maine took the stage and made one hell of a bang with opener ‘Black Butterflies & Déjà Vu’. The emotional yet blisteringly fast rock song proved an amazing entry point for the set as the crowd all pushed forward in unison, arms outstretched to the stage like antennas to heaven and lending voices to a beautiful cacophony of emotion and honesty. The Maine moved with both energy and grace on stage as they poured every ounce of themselves into the music and the moment just as we did ourselves. And that was just the first song.
‘Am I Pretty?’ followed in second and as those drums kicked in it was like the audience became marionette puppets, our feet being lifted from the floor with no hesitation as we jumped and danced and sang along to every word that came out of John O’Callaghan’s mouth. The Maine had us wrapped around their finger. We were on a string and under their control. Every ounce of energy they exerted we felt compelled to match and topple. As the band threw things back to ‘Like We Did (Windows Down)’, I could feel the whole room tunnel vision in on the stage and lose all focus of the outside world. The Maine had brought us in with a trio of upbeat rock songs that got our blood flowing and feet moving but it was the ambient yet still sonically huge ‘(Un) Lost’ that put our emotions in check. A room full of people singing in harmony “I just want to feel unlost” with every fibre of their being will absolutely pull at and tear away your heartstrings.
We didn’t have time to feel too many things as the band brought it all back around with Muse-influenced ‘My Heroine’. This song is an absolute beast; a monster and a half. One of the bands heaviest songs to date, it went off like a house on fire as the band seemed to turn everything up to eleven. The guitars drowned out the whole world it seemed, making me regret not bringing my earplugs like an utter dullard. But this was where we got a first proper taste of how engaging and amazing a frontman John O’Callaghan is.
As the bridge of this song arrived, O’Callaghan got every single warm body in the room singing along to the “duh, duh, duhduhduh, duh duh” to the point where we were overpowering the PA. When he told us to go louder we had no choice but to do what he said. His stage presence simply demanded attention and will. We wanted to impress him and challenge him, show him what we were made of. And that we did when the gorgeous chords of ‘Don’t Come Down’ filled the venue. We sang every harmony, every background vocal and jumped our way through the song’s entire runtime. One of the best openers of an album ever, I was so glad to see this song fully realised in the live setting. Combined with the huge and tight instrumentation from the band, we were in a form of ecstasy and bowing at their every wish. Is this what it feels like to be in a cult? If so, count me in cause I’ve rarely felt this fucking alive.
‘English Girls’ and ‘Happy’ contrasted each other stunningly. The juxtaposition of a bright and lively pop-rock banger and a dark and melancholic cut from ‘Forever Halloween’ showed this band is far from a one-trick pony. ‘Right Girl’ made an appearance and though I think it’s one of those older, more childish songs that could’ve been taken out to no loss and also made way for much better tracks, it was a hell a lot of fun to get stupid and rowdy to!
Next up, the highlight of the night. As O’Callaghan talked to the crowd he began discussing the intricacies of Australian sayings; the beer swirling blokes next to me taught the band the colloquial tribal call of “Yeah The Boys!” whilst I had the pleasure of showing O’Callaghan what a shoey was. Someone called out for the long-standing Australian pass time, and I responded by generously throwing my shoe to the stage. Someone next to me then threw their beer to the singer who caught it IN ONE HAND. My Twitter at the moment seems pretty focused on the shoe part of this story yet we’re completely missing that O’Callaghan caught a beer in one hand with pretty much no spillage. He then poured the can into my Converse shoe and took it down like a fuckin’ champ. It was disgusting but oddly beautiful. The band then appropriately played ‘Misery’ as that’s how I imagine O’Callaghan felt after drinking from my shoe. Amazing.
As we began to enter the come down of the set, ‘Taxi’ made itself known as the true masterclass in songwriting it is. Every line was a hook that we were more than happy to sing, every beat one we could jump and move our bodies to and every second filled with pure happiness and joy, it was an absolute standout of the night. The Maine really threw things back about six albums with ‘Girls Do What They Want’, a take from their debut album that is as lively and as fun as the very first time I heard it. The chorus was one of the loudest sung that night and understandably so; the song is as catchy as an STD but nowhere near as bad for you. Continuing on a tradition that these Arizonan boys do, they brought a fan on stage to sing with them. His name was Bailey and even though he looked somewhat nervous, our love and support got through to him as we cheered him on to belt out the words all on his lonesome. It made the connection between the band and us even stronger than it already was.
Now on the tail end of the set, ‘Diet Soda Society’ is the reason I have a very hoarse voice since this gig. Easily one of the greatest tracks on ‘American Candy’, I screamed every word with as much intensity as I could muster at this point, giving myself fully unto The Maine and the moment.
‘Do You Remember (The Other Half of 23)’ kept me alive and moving as the chirpy ode to nostalgia kept the whole night’s tension and crescendo rising before dropping into ‘Bad Behaviour’. I cannot remember who exactly said it, but there was a saying that if you write a guitar melody and the crowd sings that back to you, then you know you’ve written a killer melody. (As a heavier example, Parkway Drive seemed to have nailed this with tracks like ‘Idols & Anchors‘ and ‘Wild Eyes‘). And that was just the case with this song as we lent our voices to join the guitars.
At last, we arrived at the closing of the night: ‘Another Night On Mars’. As much a drinking song as a love ballad to your friends and those closest to you, it was a perfect fit to see out the one of a kind performers that are The Maine. It’s huge chorus made our added voices seem like a congregation singing our favourite hymn and tongue in cheek yet moving lyrics that made us tightly wrap our arms around one another was the ultimate summarisation of how The Maine makes us all feel. As the band stopped playing and left nothing but the words to be sung, we threw our voices forth into the open in a successful attempt to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; a part of something collective and beautiful and meaningful: a family.
Thank you, The Maine.
Thank you so much.
Big ups to our good friend Digital Beard for these beautiful shot! Check out more shots below: