On Saturday November 24, The Royale became the temporary home of ska/punk giants Streetlight Manifesto. A manic punk band from New Jersey, Streetlight Manifesto has a reputation for their dedicated fan base and their energetic live shows. Opening for Streetlight Manifesto that night were Lionize, a DC-based riff heavy reggae band, and Hostage Calm, a pop-punkish group from Connecticut.
Taking the stage at around 6 PM, Lionize started strongly. As the band’s signature mix of hard rock riffs and reggae filled the room, heads began to nod as people began to pay attention. As the drummer and bassist hit a grove and the keyboardist filled the spaces in between, the guitarist focused less on his playing and more on his singing. Throughout their set, the band played songs from their most recent album, Superczar and the Vulture, some yet to be released material, and other songs from some of their older albums.
One of the most compelling things about Lionize is the lead singer’s powerful, soulful, and tastefully rough voice. For the duration of their forty-five minute set, it was clear that Lionize had the audience’s attention. Though the songs might have felt drawn out at times, the powerful grooves of the songs commanded your attention, and there is no denying that Lionize was a great band to watch.
At around 7 PM, Hostage Calm took the stage. With the crowd already warmed up by Lionize, Hostage Calm had some time to establish themselves before the crowd passed judgment; the band couldn’t quite accomplish it however. Young and excited, the band launched in to their first song, a pop infused song with faster rock sensibilities. Although they describe themselves as a punk band, Hostage Calm strikes the listener (at least the live listener) as more of a pop punk band. After playing a few songs, the band appeared to be getting a cool greeting from the audience. The band seemed out of place at this show. The fans that had come for the fast paced, horn driven punk of Streetlight Manifesto could chill out to the heavy reggae grooves of Lionize, but couldn’t quite seem to connect with Hostage Calm. It certainly didn’t help when the singer dedicated a song to “all the ska kids” (a large majority of the Streetlight Manifesto audience, to be sure) and proceeded to play a song that in no way could be said to resemble ska. Though I respect his efforts to connect with the audience, misdefining the genre they love isn’t a very good way to do so.
Luckily for the band, crowd involvement increased dramatically when the lead singer reminded the audience that this was a “punk show” and there was nothing between the audience and the stage. From that point until the end of Streetlight Manifesto’s set, the crowd was never without a dozen bodies to support while everyone took their turn crowd surfing to the stage and then diving off of it.
It would be unfair to say Hostage Calm wasn’t a good band based on this show. In fact, I found several of their songs to be very enjoyable. Though I remained under-impressed throughout most of their set, there were at least three or four songs that caught my ear. Even as I listened to tracks from their newest album Please Remain Calm on Facebook, I find myself thinking that it’s not their songs the band really needs to work on, but their live sound (and which shows they book). Despite their lackluster showing on the 24th, the band’s recordings show that the young group does hold some promise.
At 8:00, everyone was ready to experience what they had come to see: a live Streetlight Manifesto show. A seven piece punk band with influences ranging from ska to eastern European music, Streetlight Manifesto are currently touring in support of their newest album The Hands That Thieve, which was set to be released on November 6th, but has been pushed back to early 2013. Despite having not yet released the album, the crowd was no less enthusiastic when the band interrupted the stream of old favorites with songs from the upcoming album. Playing for an hour and a half, the group played everything from “A Better Place, A Better Time” to “A Moment of Violence” to “We Will Fall Together”. Horn lines soared over the intensely fast pace set by the guitar, bass, and drums. At times, it became difficult to hear singer Tomas Kalnoky’s singing over the sound of the crowd screaming his lyrics back to him. After ten or so songs, the band left the stage, but everyone knew they would be back. After the customary “One more song” and “We want Streetlight!” chants, the band retook the stage and continued their fast paced set with two more songs, a medley of “Point/Counterpoint” and “Keasbey Nights” followed by “The Big Sleep”. At the end of the second encore, the band left the stage, signaling the end of the show. As the audience began to disperse, groups of people could be heard talking about how “intense” or how “awesome” the show had been. This audience had gotten what they had came for and now they were exhausted. As exhausted as they might be right now, however, most of this audience is already getting ready for the next time Streetlight Manifesto comes around.