Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Fray @ The PNC Art Center in Holmdel, NJ

Last Thursday night my daughter asked me if I would take her and a friend to see The Fray at the PNC Art Center in Holmdel, NJ. Since it is only a mile or so from the house it is kind of hard to say no. I was able to get tickets online and have them available at the Will Call window.

In December of 2006 I took my daughter to Z100's Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden. It is one of those events were there is a bunch of bands on the bill. They each play four songs and then get off the stage. The Fray was one of the bands that performed that night. I was not sure how they were going make the move to headliner at large venue.

My original feeling was that the show was not going to be crowded. Last year I took my daughter to Ashley Simpson and they did not even open the lawn area so I figured this was going to be a repeat. I was definitely wrong about this. Since my daughter's friend lives close to the back entrance we ended up parking in the Commuter lot which was already full.

There were lots of tailgater parties going. Since the Arts Center and the State of New Jersey is cracking down on the under age drinking I was surprised by the amount of partying was going on. I have long lost my ability to determine who is underage and who is not. However, I heard later on that lots of arrests were made. The fines for the Fall Out Boy show were in the $500 plus range. Not really worth it in my book. Which is probably not the way I thought when I was 18 but that is another time before I became the father of a teenager.

The three of us got to our seats just at the first opening band Mae got to the stage. I had never heard of them before but I am usually willing to give anyone a listen. I am always hoping that I might stumble on to the next big thing. Like when The Police played the Firebarn Tavern in Syracuse, NY before they became big. While I did not know any of the songs the band played with lots of energy and had some really nice vintage guitars (which is always a big plus for me).

At the end of the set the the band announced that they were going to be over on side of the venue signing autographs and talking to new fans. The two girls figured that they would go and check it out. This took a while and they ended up missing much of the OK-GO set that followed. However, they were really stoked to have meet Mae and they said the band was real nice. They got a picture with the band and poster signed by everyone in the band. This is the kind of grassroots marketing that I really appreciate.

I had high expectations for OK-GO. I was really looking forward to see them. However, I must admit I was a little disappointed. I am not really sure why. I think it was the up and down energy flow. The highlight of the set was the ELO cover. The family in front of me with a couple of young children were obviously there to see OK-GO but I think the evening was ruined for them when the lead singer for OK-GO let out an F-Bomb. They left before the Fray even came on stage.

I have to admit I really enjoyed the Fray's show. They have well written pop songs and are able to recreate there sound in a live setting. The sound was clear and it was possible to pick out the different instruments in the mix. When I am in the car with my daughter I usually listen to Z100 with her so I know a lot of the songs. Even the songs I did not know were performed extremely well. They told the audience that they were road testing some new songs which were sung by Joe King. One song had country feel to it and the lead guitarist played a b-bender solo on a custom stratacaster.

Most of the hits are sung by Isaac Slade while he plays piano but I found myself liking the sound of Joe King better. This might be because I usually like to hear new stuff.

Most of the band are multi-instrumentalists and each song was given an A performance. There were very few props on the stage so the whole show was about the music. The band seemed happy to be there and used the time between songs to create some "awe shucks we are just happy to be here" banter.

For me the highlight of the show was when the band came to the front of the stage with Acoustic guitars and a cocktail drum. They performed two songs in this configuration. One of which was cover of a Shakirra song with the drum featured on the rap parts. The band appears to be having fun and enjoying themselves. There were some problems with the energy level at some points but it did not last long.

Even though this was a concert I would not have picked to go to on my own I was glad that I went. I still want to see Tool next month but I am not sure if it is going to happen.

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