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Drive-Thru Records artists impress crowd

Observer Scene | Monday, October 13, 2003

There was an invasion Saturday night in Chicago. Popular southern California independent label, Drive-Thru Records sent their “Drive-Thru Invasion Tour” all over the country and the world to expose the masses to both the newer additions to the label and the older, staple bands that Drive-Thru fans have loved for years. It is amazing to see the fierce loyalty that the fans have to a single record label and how those fans were excited to see all five bands that graced the stage in the old Riviera Theatre.

Promptly at 6 p.m., the lights dimmed as Ace Enders, guitarist and vocalist of The Early November, took the stage alone with only an acoustic guitar in hand. He explained that they were going to start this set a little different than usual because the previous night in Milwaukee bassist, Sergio Anello had knocked him out during the set, giving him a concussion. The pace of the set changed dramatically after Enders played the first song. Joe Marro on guitar, Jeff Krummer on drums, and Anello joined him onstage to blow away the crowd with their powerful melodies.

Despite the fact that some fans had only heard a few songs from their new album, “The Room’s Too Cold,” which was released Oct. 7, many were continually impressed during their six-song set. Enders stated during the show that this was the band’s first time in Chicago, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from the crowd participation and the raw energy coming from the stage. They decided to slow it down again as they played “Sunday Drive” as the fourth song in their set.

The Early November finished up with some surprise guests. When they were playing a new song off of their new album, Kenny Vasoli of The Starting Line rushed onto the stage to sing with the band. Then, during their last song Adam Lohrbach of Home Grown joined in the mix to help finish up a great set.

The second band of the night was Senses Fail, a young New Jersey band whose members were between 16 and 21 years old. Senses Fail is made up of Buddy Nielsen on lead vocals, Dave Miller on guitar and vocals, Garrett Zablocki on guitar and vocals, Mike Glita on bass and vocals and Dan Trapp on drums. This band roared onto the stage and ripped through their set as Nielsen held the crowd in the palm of his hand by jumping out onto the guard rail and leaning close to the fans several times.

This was the most heavy and hardcore band of the night as they kept the crowd jumping and screaming along with vocalists. The highlights of the set were fan-favorites, “Stephen” and “One Eight Seven,” and their first single, “Freefall Without A Parachute.” For being so young, Senses Fail has a very mature style of what sounds like a good cross between hardcore and punk rock and I am excited to see what they will do in the future.

Next on the bill were the old men of the night, Home Grown, an Orange County-based band that has been together for seven years. Adam Lohrbach, bass and vocals, and his band made up of Darren Reynolds, John Tran, and Dan Hammond came out and entertained the crowd with several songs off of their last release humorously titled, “Kings of Pop.” With their fast and furious playing and their catchy lyrics, this punk band did not disappoint. Among the songs they played were “Kiss Me,” “Diss Me,” “Give It Up,” “Second Best,” and personal favorite, “I Love You, NOT!” where Tran proudly states, “I think you’re hot but I love you not!”

As far as maturity goes, this band is lacking in all the right areas because they were able to keep the crowd jumping along to the fast pace of their songs. Though this is a band that has not gained the popularity of some of their label-mates, Home Grown reminded me why I listened to them in the past and why others should listen to them in the future.

After a short delay, Chicago-based Allister took the stage clad in dress shirts and ties to the delight of the hometown crowd. They immediately broke out into “Radio Player,” a good fast-paced song to open their set. It was obvious that a significant portion of the crowd was there to see Allister who is made up of Tim Allister on guitar and vocals, Scott Murphy on bass and vocals, Mike Leverence on drums and Kyle Lewis on guitar. The band played catchy tunes from their latest release, “Last Stop Suburbia” such as “Overrated” and “Scratch” and dug into their history playing old favorite, “Moper.” After informing the crowd that the Cubs were winning 6-0, the band stated that they would be going into the studio to record a new album. They then played a new song called “Rewind” and were joined onstage by one of their many former members to assist in singing.

This was a trend during the Allister set as they started into their last two songs of the night there was continued side-stage participation. During the punchy “None of My Friends Are Punks,” two members of the road crew ran around the stage dancing and singing. That led up to the last song of the night for them, “Somewhere On Fullerton,” which is their most popular song thus far. The crowd went nuts and so did the stage, as it seemed that everyone who was on the side came running out to sing and dance to the song that many Chicago kids can relate to about a punk-rock venue on Fullerton Street where they would frequent concerts growing up.

The final act of the night was The Startling Line who entered the stage to a piano arrangement, which they began to soup up by playing their instruments along with the recording. A banner dropped bearing their name as they started into “Given the Chance,” which is a song about how happy this band is to have been given the chance to follow their dreams. This energetic Pennsylvania based quartet made up of Kenny Vasoli on bass and lead vocals, Matt Watts on guitar, Mike Golla on guitar and vocals and Tom Grysckiewicz on drums, has taken the pop-punk world by storm, invading not only the Riviera stage that night but also radio and television spots nationally.

They kept the pace up by aggressively playing “Hello Houston,” and then older song, “Three’s a Charm.” They played almost every song off of their latest release, “Say It Like You Mean It” and slowed it down with “Make Yourself At Home,” from the unreleased EP, which shares the same name.

The highlight of the show was the catchy “Left Coast Envy.” They finished up their set by informing the crowd they would be leaving for to record a new album which they are hoping will be released early next year and playing their radio hit, “Best of Me” as a shower of confetti fell from the rafters.

After leaving the stage for a shade under a minute the band returned as Vasoli stated, “Now that we’re done with the work it’s time to party!” He then had the crowd sing the new Justin Timberlake song, “Senorita,” splitting up the girls and the guys to sing their own respective parts mimicking exactly how Timberlake does in the song. After stating that was “the best crowd participation we’ve had yet,” The Starting Line began their encore continuing the R&B turned punk theme with “I’m Real,” a cover song written by J-Lo and Ja Rule, which can be found on the “Pop Goes Punk” music compilation, and finished with the last song from their album, “This Ride.” They exited the stage to roaring applause and cheers in appreciation for the job well done.

The first ever Drive-Thru Invasion Tour was seemingly a replacement for the fact that the record label did not have a stage at this summer’s Van’s Warped Tour and many of their acts did not make any appearances on that tour. Though they had the right idea with this concert, it would have been better served to have a stage on Warped Tour or to send out a larger number of their bands on a tour this summer. Though the concept is excellent, five bands is a lot to take in at an indoor venue no matter how short their sets are. The show was very well executed, though, and the road crew moved things along fairly quickly.

It is obvious that this record label acts as a family to its bands because they all seem to get along very well, each band plugging the others throughout the sets vocally and by wearing their T-shirts. This made for a fun show with the only complaint being that the sets were all fairly short as compared to normal length sets. Overall, this was a good show that provided quality entertainment for a good price.

Contact Maureen Bush at [email protected]