Tim Carlton- McQueen:
On April 22nd at approximately 7:34 pm, Bear Hands opened for J Roddy Waltson and the Business, and Cage the Elephant in what would be one of the greatest concerts of my life.
I arrived later than I had hoped but just in time to hear Bear Hands start things off with “Moment of Silence” and it was uphill from there. Dylan Rau appeared calm (compared to later frontmen) as they went through their set. They played a seeming majority of new songs such as “Bone Digger”, “Bad Friend”, “Peacekeeper”, and “Agora” and ended their set with their latest hit “Giants”. I was surprised at how well their sound translated from recording to live. Turns out there aren’t as many vocal synths as I thought… Dylan just has a great voice and knows how to manipulate it. It was also really impressive to see their set up. They used a drum pad to assist with the drumming occasionally but outside of that it was a pretty traditional set up. The set was nice and mellow, a perfect opening.
The middle act however was rough. No like literally. To be honest I don’t remember the first song J Roddy Walston & The Business started with (I want to say “Sweat Shock”) because I was busy trying to not get knocked over. The crowd was there for Cage the Elephant; they had energy and were waiting to go off. J Roddy crescendoed in the 2nd song with a fierce performance of “Heavy Bells”. At this point the crowd started getting nice and aggressive. The mustached man (I don’t know his name but he had a wicked Handlebar mustache/beard combo) started pushing his way up and got the pit going and there was no stopping during the set. Even when he tried to mellow the crowd and get them to sing to “Take It As It Comes,” they obliged but kept the pushing and bumping going. It was exhausting, and could have easily been the closing act. But the best was yet to come.
After thirty minutes or so between sets Cage the Elephant came on. The lights dimmed and then flashed to the sonorous booming of the intro to “Spider Head”. At that point you would have thought there was a fire. The crowd ceased to exist and it became a mob of sorts. No one was safe (at least in the middle) from the smashing bodies and bouncing fans that had little regard their own safety. It wasn’t until “Take It Or Leave It” that anyone could catch a breath.
I’m not sure exactly but I think the most crowd surfing crowd has been passed to Cage the Elephant (from Four Years Strong). People were in mid-air at every instant during the show. I myself was unsuspectingly picked up and tossed atop the masses during Back Against the Wall (thank you Keoni <3). People were surfed to the front, only to run back into the crowd and repeat, only stopping to keep fellow crowd surfers up. Chiefly, these were not just highs schoolers or college kids getting up. There were some adults, easily in their 30’s that were surfing. Also, big ups to the chicks at the show. In my past experiences there are one or two ladies that would get in the pit but I’ve never seen this many go off at a show. It was awesome, but I digress.
After an intense twelve songs Cage the Elephant left the stage only to comeback for an encore of “Shake Me Down” and “Sabertooth Tiger”. The transition from mellow riotousness was a work of beauty. The show ended with the classic frenzy of “Sabertooth Tiger”. Matt jumped into the crowd and stood atop the masses only to be greeted by the Crowdsurf King. It all ended with them clasping hands and falling back into the masses during the chaos of “Sabertooth Tiger”.
The lights went up and as quickly as it began it was over. The crowd began to file out or to the merchandise stand. After being in line for twenty minutes from the stage Dylan (of Bear Hands) and Matt (Cage the Elephant) came to talk, sign autographs and take pictures with the remaining fans. Matt then went outside and spent another hour with band mates and J Roddy & the Business occasionally joining to do the same. Some people might not like the music that was played, but no one can disagree that all of them are classy motherfuckers.
First let me say I never knew Cage the Elephant was so popular. I obviously should have just used logic to realize that any band that gets played on the radio must have some sort of following, but I didn’t put two and two together so when I arrived right as the opening band was going on, most of the floor in Sunshine was jam packed with people. I was intrigued to observe whom these people were that liked Cage the Elephant enough to get there as early as they did because all of my friends have a weird hatred for the band. It was a nice conglomerate of people I would describe as nothing else but people that really, really love 104.1 The Edge.
The two opening bands were good, tight and above all actually talented. Apparently Cage the Elephant is so popular though that moshing had to start as soon as the second band started to make sure everyone had a sufficient amount of energy for Cage. The second band was a southern rock band that people really had no reason to be moshing for but mosh they did. It was certainty comical at first to see people trying to turn up to such relaxed rock but I quickly became a little pissed when I was blindsided and took a shot to the side of my head and my glasses nearly fell. I am all for moshing and having as much fun as one can at a show, so I felt like a hypocrite getting upset I got hit, but I just wished I could have gotten hit during a band I actually knew, because then I may have not reacted as strongly as I did.
All annoyance I had evaporated immediately when Cage the Elephant came on though and as they started the opening notes to “Spider Head” I immediately jumped right back in with the moshers. I had quite forgotten how important Melephobia was to me and how much I truly loved the album. Every time from there on out that any song off that album was played I felt transported back to Athens, where I first had heard and fell in love with Melephobia.
Maybe the coolest thing about this concert for me though was hearing songs off of their first release, something I had listened to extensively much earlier in my life and in my listening career. All of the songs had stuck with me and to finally be given the opportunity to scream the songs I had known way back in my middle school days.
The only part of the whole show that ever took away from the sense of fun I was having was when I got smashed around during a song I didn’t recognize. Every time Cage the Elephant played a song off their second record I didn’t know what to do with myself because I didn’t know the words. So I attempted to keep on jamming but it was during these songs I realized how rowdy everyone around me was. I tried to not get bothered but ever time I took a head shot or my glasses got touched I started to pray for the next song I knew so I could get back into the right state of mind. I honestly had not prepared myself for such rowdiness so it was still shocking my system all the way to the end of the show.
Crowd surfing was easily the favored form of crowd participation for this show and when the Cage the Elephant guitarist called out some guy and said he had seen him crowd surf by “like eight times” the amount of surfers must have quadrupled. It was cool seeing so many people feel safe to trust the crowd to throw them around in the air but at the same time after I got kicked in the head for the fifth time I was a little done with the idea. I know I seem like such a downer but I really just had no idea this crowd would be like that and I just never got used to the idea.
Regardless, this was a sick show and being able to hear the songs I loved with people that actually appreciated Cage the Elephant was awesome. I made sure to snap chat my old roommate back in Athens a video of “Telescope” which was one of the essential bonding songs we shared during my semester at UGA. The band and by extension Melephobia hold a special place in my heart due to the time period in my life I got to really know them and I just really had a blast of nostalgia the entire night screaming my head off to songs I used to only know in Athens.