Houston Got Very, Very Loud for 5 Seconds of Summer

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5 Seconds of Summer, Hey Violet, Roy English
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 18, 2016

It was a moment of both wonder and terror. It felt like it lasted for five minutes, but maybe only lasted for two; the thing about moments is sometimes you just have to ride them out, and when that happens time becomes meaningless. What happened was Michael Clifford was standing in front of his mike, bathed in light while the rest of the stage was dark, and the crowd roared as his face projected onto the many screens set up for the show. And he stood there and the crowd kept roaring and he kept standing and they kept roaring and so on and so on and so on.

I can’t tell you why the mostly teen crowd was yelling, if it was out of appreciation for the music Clifford sings or because of just how cute he is, but I can tell you that for a brief moment I was scared the screaming might never stop. The wonder part comes from the fact that I’m always amazed to see that kind of passion from people — which is not inherently a good thing (I could definitely see something like that happening at a Donald Trump rally) but that’s why I used wonder instead of wonderful — and the terror part comes from the fact at a certain decibel level you can actually hear sound break into static. Even with makeshift napkin earplugs my brain couldn’t process the sound properly.

When I was younger and far more problematic, I used to think that girls just didn’t understand music. This is a pretty shitty thing to think, but most arrogant teen males are pretty shitty people, present company included. I mean, my God, why would anyone listen to boy bands when they could be listening to Papa Roach or Static-X?

I’ve grown up since those days of regrettable commiseration with my fellow male music fans, and although I’m still problematic, I like to think that I’ve become far more accepting of people’s musical tastes. Music is like pro wrestling or horror movies or any other great art form: We all like what we like for whatever reason we like, and that’s okay.

And it’s easy to understand why people like 5 Seconds of Summer. Every year they get a little bit better, and now their set is rock-solid all the way through, including some true gems like “Castaway” and “Jet Black Heart.” The show is a little heavy on the banter in the middle section, but by and large they let the music speak for itself without a lot of pomp in the way of stage effects. Sure, it takes more than 20 people to write a 5 Seconds of Summer album, but they carry themselves as a band first instead of a boy band.

I wish I could watch them with the open mind and heart of a 15-year-old instead of the cynicism of a 33-year-old. Every time they talked about how much they loved Houston and how they really wanted to end the tour, I rolled my eyes because that’s what I’m wired to do. No matter what they asked, it wasn’t going to be the best night of my life.

But I suspect for more than a few people, it probably was. Sure, they’ll have better, at least I hope, but when you’re young and everything seems important…yeah, I can definitely see how it could happen for someone.

If I were 15 years old, of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead at a 5 Seconds of Summer show, because that’s not how 15-year-old dudes who see girls as objects roll, but I would probably illegally download their records and listen to them in the privacy of my bedroom. I mean, you can’t get caught on Spotify listening to that kind of thing. What would your friends say?

So, How Were the Openers?: Roy English has a decent enough voice, a bunch of songs that are utterly forgettable and a body that makes girls scream when he takes his shirt off. He’s going to be just fine in this industry. The other bands ribbed him at the end of his set by throwing a pizza party onstage, which was pretty adorable. It was interesting they didn’t turn on the video cameras for his set, but I assume they didn’t want to burn out the crowd by having them scream all the way through his set.

Hey Violet have reinvented themselves over the past year. What was a pretty exciting pop-rock, bordering on pop-punk, act is now a kind of middle-of-the-road pop band that doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from its contemporaries. To be honest, they sound like what I assumed Rena Lovelis’s eventual solo releases would sound like. So that was disappointing. I’m surprised I’ve never heard anyone quote “Fucboi” on Twitter, but maybe it’s because I’m following the wrong people. Miranda Miller got less screen time during the set than some of the pieces of road gear onstage, and I felt like that’s a thing that should be mentioned.

Personal Bias: I had a much better time earlier this year when I covered The 1975, who have a similar but not as large a following here in the States.

The Crowd: So, I meant all the stuff I said about being more accepting of the musical opinions of others, but these kids were way more excited to sing “All Star” than they were “Basket Case,” and that’s objectively wrong.

Overheard in the Crowd: “I’m dead! I’m literally dead!” exclaimed one young teen fan to her friend, excited about how close their seats were to the stage. “Yeah, this is where I was last year,” her friend responded, somewhat smugly.

Random Notebook Dump: “Teenage Dirtbag” is a somewhat unsung hero of modern pop-rock. There are so many 5SOS songs that owe that track a debt of gratitude. I still wonder how many people who know the lyrics know who Iron Maiden is.

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