“Rock Yourself To Sleep” at Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre

On July 23rd the “Rock Yourself To Sleep” tour played Philadelphia’s legendary Trocadero Theatre. I’d never heard of any of the bands playing before, but there certainly were a lot of people waiting with me who were fans. The line was full of teenage girls (and a few guys and parents) wearing the newest punk pop T-shirts and flaunting their rainbow colored leggings (a trend I never understood). Had I not been there as a journalist, I would’ve felt quite out of place (being an adult male). The show was a success for its target audience but failed as a performance of unique, important music.

I was lucky enough to score a seat on the balcony because, unlike most of the audience, I’m over 21 years old. Without any warning, an opening band played (who weren’t even named on the bill). I heard they won a contest and I don’t remember them even saying who they were (if someone reading this knows, feel free to comment and correct me). The audience cheered of course and the band had a great energy. Their singer sang highly and confidently, but the music was too distorted to comprehend any level of melody. It just sounded generic guitar crunching. The band and the audience joined in collective clapping though.

Soon after they finished at 7:30 PM, There For Tomorrow walked out in all their sexually suggestive glory. Singer Maika Maile fooled around on his beautiful golden Les Paul (I must admit I was a bit jealous) with a nice wawa pedal before beginning the songs. As soon as the lights dimmed, the crowed cheered more as flashing lights complemented the band’s presence. To their credit, they really did look like rock stars. Maika knelt down and sang to the girls with his shirt unbuttoned, feeding into their fantasies like this generation’s Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey (don’t get me wrong though, this comparison isn’t about talent). Their songs were distinctive enough to not get repetitive, with “Wish You Away” and some ballads getting the best feedback. Maika and lead guitarist Christian Climer shared some interesting vocals and the band’s dynamics got a bit more interesting near the end of their set. Drummer Chris Kamrada did some impressive fills too and bassist Jay Enriquez kept it all together nicely.

Going into almost the total opposite direction, The Secret Handshake brought a squeaky clean and wholesome vibe that any mother in the 1950s would adore. They set up as an instrumental version of “Pure Imagination” from the 1970s Willy Wonka film played. Luis Dubuc announced that his band is all about remembering “a time when music was fun,” and he proudly acknowledged the Jackson 5 and the Temptations as influences. I admit it was refreshing to see a band pay homage to such unexpected pioneers (I don’t think many people my age listen to the Motown era, although they should). They had the left to right dancing down and they were certainly having fun sort of wiping away the suggestiveness of There For Tomorrow with music and an attitude appropriate for the Disney Channel. While good intentions and a tinge of uniqueness are commendable, simply put, their songwriting was extremely basic and boring, and their lyrics were laughably clichéd and unimaginative. I’m sorry guys, but it’s true.

Next up was Sing It Loud, a rock/emo band that definitely appealed to the skaters in the audience. Singer Pat Brown instantly ignited the hearts of the teen girls (and other body parts I’m sure), and they cheered a lot, but he’s got nothing on Mr. TFT. In essence, Sing It Loud brought a similar sound of Something Corporate, except focused on guitars instead of keyboards. Oh yeah, and SoCo had much better vocals, arrangement and songwriting. They had a frantic energy and volume, which sublimated any musical skills. They’re set was totally forgettable and their sound has been done better by other artists.

The headlining band, Every Avenue, took the longest to appear on stage (which is expected since they needed to build anticipation). Again, more generic rock/pop was belted out through the speakers of the Trocadero, and more cheering and clapping along was had. They put on quite a show and provided a very exciting finale for their fans. I think overall the concert was a fantastic night out for its audience and the bands succeeded in captivating their ears, hearts and…well, other anatomy.

Now for my broader take. I am clearly not a sixteen year old girl whose musical frame of reference dates back only as far as my age does. I have experienced and studied music dating back decades and I have heard the greatest songwriters of our time. I have seen fads come and go while true innovators stick around through the years. None of the bands on this tour have staying power. Their songwriting is totally generic and ordinary. They know a few guitar chords and how to structure their lyrics well enough so it sounds like a memorable melody, but it’s really not. These acts exist to look good for the barely pubescent girls that like them.

Sexual innuendo abounds here because I know exactly why these bands exist and why their audience adores them. Being a teenager sucks. I remember what it was like and I know that the kids at the show want a band who screams their frustration while appeasing their blossoming hormones at the same time. For now, these bands satisfy that need, but unfortunately if they don’t step up their songwriting and individuality, they’ll fade away as their audience fades into adulthood.

If you want a similar sound with much better songwriting, playing and singing, check out the short lived Something Corporate (whose second release, North, is outstanding). If you want more complexity and adventurousness, listen to Coheed & Cambria. Both bands (and many more I’m sure) are better than what the “Rock Yourself To Sleep” tour presents.