Given my sordid history with The Academy Is… frontman William Beckett, Maura thought it was only appropriate to use her long-standing mafia connections to get us tickets to the band’s show at New York’s Nokia Theater last night. Maybe it was my pre-show Vitamin Water bottle full of wine that put a nice, happy glow on everyone and everything, but The Academy Is… was a suspiciously entertaining, unexpectedly competent live band, and the show was nothing that the fan fiction had ever promised, and so much more.
The most striking aspect of the concert was the sheer joy emanating from the crowd. I suppose I could have predicted this, but it still took me by surprise: these kids were really enjoying themselves. They took the train in from Long Island, or New Jersey, or God knows where, and they were going to have a good time, dammit! Everyone knew every word to every song, a fact which was used to great effect by the band and their lighting tech. I felt a little self-conscious when the huge lights above the stage suddenly switched on during a particularly epic chorus for the official crowd sing-along portion of a song–because I, of course, didn’t know any of the words. It was oddly humbling, being on the outside of this enormous fan monster, and it made me wistful for that time in life when you could go bop up and down in the non-violent mosh pit and sing every last word at the top of your lungs, a feeling which is very specific to the years before you become too self-aware and get really into Bright Eyes.
As for the band itself, all I can say is that these dudes, in spite of their prominence in the emo fan fiction world and proclivity for the genre’s strict girly-pants uniform, are rock stars. They play very straightforward, riff-heavy rock music very well, with a fair amount of character and even more production value; what The Hold Steady is for music dorks, this band is for 15-year-olds.
No disrespect to Idolator favorite and genuinely (no, really) neat band Fall Out Boy, but The Academy Is… is light years ahead of probably any other band (except maybe My Chemical Romance? Anyone seen them live?) of this genre on stage. Very little tomfoolery, just a solid forty-five minutes of well-honed music played for people who so very earnestly appreciate it. It was almost a novelty, though not quite exciting enough to buy something at their deluxe merch table, which should serve as a model for all touring bands: five different t-shirts! hoodies! hats! cheap CDs! All of which I’m sure the many beleaguered parents hanging out in the lobby were forced to shell out obscene amounts of money for.
I have only two complaints, and they are relatively minor. First of all, I’m just not sure that, despite their truly inspiring enjoyment of this band, these kids are getting all that they can out of their high school emo phase. The Academy Is… is just a little too glossy, too cheerful, even. When I was in ninth grade, poppy angst was appropriately represented:
This Fight Club homage is so very wrong.
This annoyingly-sensitive-high-school-dude-has-phone-drama montage is so very right.
Secondly, I’m worried about these three girls we saw wandering around in the lobby towards the end of the show. I saw them in the bathroom having a powwow about something that seemed pretty serious (boy! drama!), and then later sort of meandering around looking pissed and using that very specific 14-year-old girl tone of voice that indicates that something has, like, totally ruined their William Beckett experience. I just hope they didn’t miss too much of the show.