Like seeing an old friend – that’s what it felt like. If for whatever reason the band’s final album, Yellowcard, wasn’t enough to bring up those old feelings of nostalgia this group is so skilled at provoking, then the energy of the sellout crowd during “Ocean Avenue” was sure to. Ryan Key, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Yellowcard, quipped toward the beginning of the night of November 12th at the Electric Factory that no matter how long you had been with the band on their journey, their last Philly show would be a special one.
I’m getting ahead of myself here, though. I first heard from a friend over the summer that this show would be happening. “The final world tour?” is what I remember asking myself over and over. It’s always a sad day when a band decides to call it quits, and that combined with my desire to see “Ocean Avenue” once live made me jump on tickets when they were released.
The atmosphere of the crowd certainly had an air of urgency to it. The masses lined up around the Electric Factory, ready for one final Philadelphia show. It was clear: Yellowcard wasn’t going to pull a Brand New – this was it, and they meant it. It’s usually at this point in concerts when I start wondering who the opening acts are and, with a bit of research, I found that South Jersey indie rock outfit Dryjacket and Swedish heavy alt-rockers Like Torches would be opening. Of the two opening acts – and this is just a matter of personal preference – I was much more captivated by Dryjacket.
Dryjacket, a local four piece from Marlton, New Jersey, played a captivating, Minus-the-Bear-like 40 minute set in which they discussed their local ties and how happy they were to tour with such a prominent act in their last trip around the country. I’d highly recommend them for anyone who likes shoegazey, atmospheric math rock with odd time signatures and frantic drumming reminiscent of American Football’s first album. Check out their new album, For Posterity, out in January 2017.
Like Torches followed Dryjacket after a brief intermission and did just as well. One of my favorite moments of their set was when Jonathan Karn (lead vocals) asked a tech to replace a broken mic cord – it demonstrated the band’s ability to handle technical mishaps like professionals, and it also helped flex their crowd banter. I’d recommend them for fans of power-chord heavy, guitar-driven mainstream/alt rock with a slight punk edge.
After Like Torches’ set, the crowd regained the same air of urgency felt before the show.
The lights went out about half an hour after Like Torches, as an intro-like voice explained that there were no rules on recording, but the band would prefer for you to not record things. Not for money’s sake, but for the experience to be as personal and intimate as possible. This really resonated with me – like comedian Demetri Martin once said on one of his specials, “My favorite part of a concert…is watching it on the phone of the [guy] in front of me,” with an obvious air of sarcasm. For the most part, people followed this rule of thumb during the show, and it definitely enhanced the experience – and made for one of the crazier shows I’ve seen.
The band took the stage to deafening applause and immediately ripped into a later track from 2004’s Ocean Avenue, “Believe.” Key remarked that the set would be “about 30 songs long” and “feature songs from every Yellowcard album,” which is major points in my book. Any time an artist is able to dip into their back catalogue of songs and give them an honest play for the fans that still, to this day, love those songs, it’s a good show. Half-committing to playing old songs is one thing – I’m personally very disappointed by sets where bands decide to go acoustic for older songs that only a few people care about. They’re still your fans, after all. Yellowcard, however, is not that band.
As a newer Yellowcard fan, I was wholly impressed by the band’s stage presence, professionalism, and ability to maintain crowd energy. Obviously, a band doesn’t survive for 20 years by not doing a few of those things, but to be as polished as Yellowcard was takes true talent. They tore through a 24 song set that lasted almost two and a half hours and played every hit you could name, from “Lights and Sounds” (a personal favorite) to “Lift a Sail.” They told stories of Philly shows past, the reasons behind some of their more emotional songs (“Sing for Me”), and overall, helped us say a proper goodbye.
“Now let’s play Ocean Avenue,” said Key almost sarcastically as the iconic riff to the final song of the night began and chaos erupted around me. I can honestly say that the three and a half minutes that the mega-hit was played was the most lively, borderline destructive three and a half minute I’ve ever experienced at a concert. I’m new to these kinds of shows, but I’m familiar enough with circle pits (to know how to avoid them, that is). During that timeframe though, every single person in the crowd was climbing, jumping, moshing, and crowd surfing; not a second went by where I didn’t have a pair of Vans in my face, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for many others. Thanks for all the memories, Yellowcard, and thanks for 20 great years. My dad once said that once you see a live band for the first time, you’ll be a fan for life, and he wasn’t kidding. I’m now going to study Yellowcard on Spotify like I’m cramming for a test so I’m not that guy that only knows “Ocean Avenue” anymore.
Set highlights: “Lights and Sounds”, “Rest in Peace”, “A Place We Set Afire”, “Ocean Avenue”
For tour dates and more information, visit http://yellowcardrock.com/