I’ll start off this review by saying that Santa Cruz is a lovely town for a concert. The Catalyst is located in the heart of its downtown area. It’s a small beach town, and the area of town is filled with coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and great places to shop. It’s the perfect backdrop for a concert setting. No sketchy locals; it’s nothing like the Tenderloin District that encompasses a theater like The Warfield in San Francisco.
I always get thrilled when Yellowcard comes to town. They’re a band that I never have to worry about sound-wise because I know that they always deliver. They always have, ever since I saw them perform for the first time in San Francisco back in 2011. Since then, they’ve gotten better and better with every performance. It’s as if the band feed off the energy from the crowd, harness it, and use it like a Pokemon “leech seed” power that provides them with even more energy and musical finesse. (Anyone? Pokemon? Venasaur? Okay, moving on.)
The band’s headlining tour made its stop in the beach town on Thursday night to a nearly sold-out house. Crowd wise, this was the best Yellowcard show I’ve ever seen, and the band made note of it. “This is the best show in California that we’ve ever played,” to paraphrase lead singer and guitarist Ryan Key, mid-set.
Kicking off the show was The Downtown Fiction. I’d heard a lot about these guys, and I always knew that one track, “I Just Wanna Run”. I felt that it wasn’t the greatest opening set. The band had a tight sound, but the energy from the band didn’t complement the fact that there still weren’t a ton of people in the room just yet. As an opener, I think it’s the band’s job to get everyone excited and ready for the headliner, but not overdo it with the energy. I think if the band were higher up on the bill, their set would have had a much better fit for the show, but I just didn’t think it worked. Regardless, the band’s sound was good.
Scene-veterans Finch took the stage afterwards, and the energy noticeably started to increase throughout the room. The band didn’t try too hard with trying to impress their fans; they knew exactly what to give to them and knew it would be received well. I thought the band’s guitar work sounded great. They employed the use of Fender and PRS guitars, which generally have a much thinner tone. I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out, given that the band has a bit heavier, post-hardcore sound. It played in their favor, and the fans sang along to every track.
By the time Yellowcard took the stage, people were antsy. Violinist Sean Mackin walked up to the mic to a roar of cheers and began the opening song, “Convocation”, the first track off of their newest LP, “Lift A Sail”. The other members followed his lead, and from there, the band was in full force. Yellowcard played a career spanning set list. The tracks from Lift A Sail were better received than the last time they played in the Bay Area. Not to say that the reaction was bad last time, but a lot of people didn’t know the new songs. I think now that some time has passed, fans have been able to digest the new material.
Additionally, one of my favorite aspects of this show was that Yellowcard know exactly who they are. Key commented towards the beginning of their set that he knew a lot of people probably hadn’t heard many of their more recent albums. He knew the possible scenario: a buddy sees Yellowcard’s name on the flyer around town, calls his friend and says “duuuude those guys that played Ocean Avenue were the shit when I was in middle school! We gotta go see em!” without knowing that they have about five other records. The band was perfectly cool with that, and told new fans to make up words to the songs they didn’t know, as long as they followed the golden rule: “have the most fucking fun you’ve ever had at a show in your entire life tonight” and “lose your voice singing all of the words”. The fans abided.
The band concluded with “Ocean Avenue” and “Way Away”, marking the end of another spectacular Yellowcard performance. Until next time, gentlemen. The Bay Area welcomes you back with open arms at anytime.
On a final note: huge shout-out to guitarist Ryan Mendez, as he played the entire set with what appeared to be full energy while battling both pneumonia AND tonsillitis. You’re a trooper, man.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.