It was unseasonably warm as I walked to the Hawthorne Theater, and while this produced a surreal enjoyment outside, it created a sweltering sauna inside. And this being only 80° and mid spring; I can only imagine what it will be like on a truly hot summer day. A cold Strongbow made it bearable for a little while, but I was sweating midway through the first set, and I wasn’t even moving. I can only imagine how those in the mosh pit must have smelt.

The first two openers were Major League and Real Friends, who were both reassuringly good. They play that good ol’ skate/pop/punk style that seems to be getting popular again these days, and I am all for it. If I had closed my eyes during their sets there would have been little to distinguish the experience from oh so many shows at Chain Reaction in the late ’90s and early ’00s, and that is a good thing. Plus, both bands hung out in the crowd when their sets were done and I love it when bands aren’t too cool to enjoy the show with everyone else.

Direct support for the night was Such Gold, who I was really excited to hear since I really enjoyed their début Misadventures last year (read my review here), and they brought the ruckus live. They tore through a set that heavily focused on their latest release and ripped through song after song of technical goodness. It got the crowd moving, which got singer Ben Kotin to jump around the stage like it was hot lava. Their technical noodling and hard hitting drums were pulled of flawlessly live and I have to think that Such Gold only have about two more supporting tours in them before they are the main attraction. It will be well deserved.

The venue wasn’t quite sold out, but it must have been close, as it was most definitely packed by the time Buddy, Dan and the rest of Senses Fail took the stage. They launched headlong into the title track from their new album Renacer without so much as a word, and two things became immediately clear: 1) Senses Fail is as tight as they have ever been, and 2) they really know how to put on a live show. I saw Senses Fail a decade ago, and I can say with sterling honesty that Buddy brings more energy to the stage now than he did then – and he certainly brought it then. They followed with another new track ‘Canine,’ and a few old classics like ‘Lady in a Blue Dress’ and ‘You’re Cute When You Scream,’ before stopping for a moment to talk to the crowd.

The set was nearly an equal mix of Let It Enfold You and Still Searching, as well as seven or eight tracks off of Renacer. My only complaint of the night is that Life Is Not A Waiting Room was forgotten entirely, and my favorite album – The Fire – only made one appearance (‘Lifeboats’). What really bummed me out though was that the crowd lost their minds for any song that was around ten years old, and less so for the more musically mature newer songs. It’s really a shame, because you get the feeling the band doesn’t want to play those songs any more (or at least not as many of them), but they feel compelled to. Still, it’s good to see that Senses Fail knows its crowd and gives the fans what they want – choosing a set list with so many albums to consider must be tough no matter how you cut it. And, to be honest, the older songs are beginning to take on new life as the maturity of their playing bleeds through in spite of the youthful tracks. Buddy’s vocals are increasingly impressive, and the entire group weaves together seamlessly.

Buddy’s stage banter was spot on as well, with some genuinely hilarious moments: “Hey kids, I dropped out of college to do this (big crowd applause)…and that was probably the wrong decision in hindsight. No seriously, don’t drop out of college.” His most memorable moment took place when a girl got on stage and began gearing up for a stage dive as the song ended. Buddy said, “Hey, hey, hey…This is like musical chairs, if you’re on stage when the music stops you have to wait to stage dive until the next song starts. And you can’t go during the intro either, you have to wait until it kicks in.” He then proceeded to tell a story and have the band play an extended intro while the girl waited, visibly annoyed, until he finally gave her the go-ahead in the following song.

It was a stellar night; a great combination of incredible music and a strong fan connection. Senses Fail put on a phenomenal show and the entire group put it all out on the stage. With the heat in the venue, I’m surprised none of them passed out, but they stuck it out with the crowd, streaming sweat and all. I would recommend catching the boys any time they come through town. I know I will.

A Few Observations About The Crowd:

– There was a man who looked to be closing in on 60 at the edge of the pit, singing along to every word. It was awesome in a non-ironic way. There was also a group of 40 year-olds dressed like skaters, very drunk, and trying to mosh. They were awesome in a tragic way.

– Such Gold or Real Friends (I can’t remember which now) threw out a drum stick, which dinged off of a guy’s head and fell to the ground. What ensued was a bizarre tug of war between two girls over said drum stick. It went on for a full two minutes, got super aggressive,  but was oddly silent. And no one seemed to notice the full on Greco-Roman wrestling match. It went on for a painfully long time before one girl gave up, shrugged, and went back to standing awkwardly while her friends refused to acknowledge what had just taken place. Probably the strangest thing I’ve ever seen at a show.

– One guy had to be physically removed from the mosh pit by a concerned citizen after he suffered what looked like a horrific split eye. He was bleeding everywhere but far too drunk to notice. When I went into the bathroom there was A LOT of bloody paper towels in the trash. I hope he got help, because I’m sure he needed 10+ stitches.

-There were lots of kids laying around like they had heat stroke. One of the guys in Real Friends opened the back door to get some air on them and then invited them outside to cool off out the back door, which I thought was a nice gesture.

– It seems to me no one knows what to do when they crowd surf and make it to the stage. I think the protocol is to do a quick rock out or sing a lyric and then get back to the pit. At this show, however, people clearly didn’t understand this. At one point, a girl tried to pose for a picture with Buddy, who was busy singing.

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