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Review: Openers become one with headliner on Say Anything’s stage

Lead singer Max Bemis of Say Anything performs with the band for a crowd at Newport Musical Hall on July 9. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Lead singer Max Bemis of Say Anything performs with the band for a crowd at Newport Musical Hall on July 9.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

“We’ve got shirts in the back if you’re punk enough, and friendship bracelets if you’re friendly enough!”

The simple merchandise promotion by Alex Levine of The So So Glos, the second opening band for Say Anything Wednesday night at the Newport, seemed casual and impromptu, but it really captured and set the tone for the entire Say Anything concert: friendship and punk music.

No band ever played alone. Whether it was Max Bemis of Say Anything (the headlining band) joining the very first opener for vocals or everyone from the previous acts on stage for Say Anything’s last song of the encore, someone was always lending a hand, trumpet or voice to another act.

The show opened with Orlando natives You Blew It! For the group’s first time in Columbus, the members were able to capture the crowd after a somewhat slow start. The band had a tightened, cleaned-up garage sound that was on its way to transitioning to punk but with slightly unpolished vocals.

The vocals, though, seemed to be part of the sound the band was looking for, given the lead singer’s much-softer speaking voice. In between sets, the band was extremely relaxed and informal, but that didn’t stop the crowd’s energy, which was surprisingly high for an opener – though the surprise guest appearance of Bemis on vocals for a song mid-set didn’t hurt, either.

If You Blew It! had a tighter garage sound with rough vocals, then The So So Glos were the exact opposite. Coming out to the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” booming on the speakers — which was apt given the group’s New York City origin — The So So Glos had a punk sound that verified their Brooklyn roots with well-refined vocals and the occasional trumpet playing lent by The Front Bottoms.

The high energy and fun music escalated the mosh pits in the crowd but was present on stage, too, when So So Glos’ lead singer Alex Levine broke his glasses while dancing.

The Front Bottoms followed and enticed enough of the crowd to be considered a headliner. The band immediately changed the tone of the concert by bringing out an acoustic guitar — but the shift was refreshing. With frontman Brian Sella on acoustic and the rest of the group plugged in, The Front Bottoms provided a softer — yet still powerful — sound.

Although it was a less orthodox musical set up, the band utilized the multiple levels of the acoustic guitar, synthesizer, electric guitar, bass and the occasional trumpet with the skill of an experienced ensemble. While things naturally slowed down in the crowd, the venue was definitely more captivated and followed along with greater attention.

Delivering a much more alternative sound than its openers, The Front Bottoms got the crowd hyped up for Say Anything with the help of members from The So So Glos and You Blew It! on its last song.

Finally, it was time for Say Anything, and the indie rock group’s first order of business was bringing the punk vibe, high energy and general unruliness of the crowd to a new level.

Physically, Say Anything sort of resembled a hodgepodge, with everyone spread out and doing their own thing while playing. It ultimately complimented the musical style of a Say Anything live performance – very raw and rough around the edges.

Although this was the style, the actual quality of the vocals and instrumentals was delivered with skill and precision. It was as if the members had combined the movement, composure and high energy of an opener with the skill of an experienced headliner.

The band was able to deliver interesting versions of their hits, bringing the same pop-like energy with rougher vocals and music for a skilled rendition and great live sound. Even softer classics, such as “Cemetery” and “Do Better,” had more intense live adaptations. Newer songs off their June 10th release, “Hebrews,” such as “Judas Decapitation” and the album’s title song, came out with a tighter, fuller sound than what was heard on the album.

Bemis also brought his personality to the forefront, from walking over to kiss his young daughter Lucy just off stage to expressing gratitude for selling out the show. He even joked that he didn’t want any more fans.

“People always want more fans, but if we could just have the same people come every time and play until we died, that’s what I want, because you guys are great right now. So don’t tell anyone, but this can be our secret, and we’ll all come here every year.”

Say Anything closed their encore with “Belt” off 2004’s “…Is A Real Boy,” and, by the end, the group was joined by everyone who opened for them, rounding out the cooperation that set the show up from the start.

This ultimately delivered an amazing concert experience that felt whole and purposeful.

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