Openers: Hippo Campus and Weathers
October 19th, 2016 at the Royale
By: Dominic Yamarone
Two days before their sophomore album and first major label endeavor, Saintmotelevision, was released, Saint Motel played a sold out show at the Royale with openers Weathers and Hippo Campus. The teen heartthrobs of Weathers were on first and played an overacted set, flailing around on the stage to cheesy, bubblegum pop songs. These guys were living the pop punk dream but someone forgot to tell them everyone else woke up six years ago. They seemed to not care about the show, maybe wishing they were coming on third and not first. Their music was the same old downbeat, pop rock anthem song after song and their performance was silly and immature. With nothing new to bring to the table, their set became monotonous quite quickly, and a lot of their songs were unfamiliar, as they haven’t put out an album yet. They did play their one biggest hit “Happy Pills,” which gets a lot of major airplay. They’ve got a long way to go both in terms of maturity and their musical abilities.
The second opener, Hippo Campus, was a total change of pace, absolutely destroying their set. They had popping guitar riffs reminiscent of bands like Reptar and Fool’s Gold. A lot of the energy of their music came from their lively guitar riffs. The vocals were also a major source of energy. They pleasantly squealed or smoothly slipped in and out between different guitar parts, hitting their highs and lows flawlessly. It was clear that the band took their musicality seriously but also knew how to put on a good show. They played each song to perfection and still danced around the stage with smiles on their faces. With this level of talent, I expect to see them headlining their own shows someday soon.
Saint Motel’s set read mostly as album promotion, more than half of the songs on the set list off of their new album, and it was clear though that they were departing from their old sound for a more gimmicky, disco-funk caricature. The band formed in film school and a big part of their shows has been the visual performance, but this was never at the expense of the music, until now. I could not pinpoint if it was the lights shining directly at the audience, over the top theatrics, or unfamiliar songs, but the show was not as enjoyable as other times that I’d seen them.
Of their now gigantic catalogue, they only played about 40% of their music; a lot of songs I was hoping to hear were skipped over. However, when a familiar, classic hit like, “Benny Goodman,” “Puzzle Pieces,” or “Butch” was played, the crowd went wild. Unfortunately, it seemed like the other members were only allowed to draw any attention during these older songs. In a lot of their new music, A Sharp, their amazing lead guitarist, and Dak, their precision bassist, were underutilized and sidelined. Vocalist A/J couldn’t help but take over the spotlight with gratuitous piano playing and erratic dancing. Although nearly hidden behind A/J’s large keyboard set up, their drummer, Greg, couldn’t help but make himself noticed, adding a rock flair to the new songs that had been otherwise lacking.
All that being said, Saint Motel’s set was extremely fun regardless of the quality of their new music. I have to give props to the band for the theatrical aspects of their show. They set up a retro tube TV on the front of the stage to fit the theme of the new album and would play short retro clips as an introduction to the next song. During songs, visuals on the TV accompanied the band while they performed. Personally, I would’ve liked to see them play some of their older and, in my opinion, better songs, but for a show during an album release tour they did their job.