Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Captivates New Jersey 4-12-17

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Captivates New Jersey 4-12-17

There are certain days of the year that every individual looks forward to: for some that day is Christmas, for others it might be a simple Taco Tuesday. For many, the very best day of the year arrives when their favorite musician performs at their favorite venue; and for quite a few living in New Jersey, that evening arrived on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 when Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness came rolling through Starland Ballroom on his The Zombies in America Tour. Joining McMahon on the tour are Atlas Genius and Night Riots.

Andrew McMahon began his The Zombies In America Tour – named for his most recent album release, Zombies On Broadway – in the last days of March on the East Coast, and the tour has been slowly meandering its way toward the West Coast; the tour will visit some thirty-plus cities, from Philadelphia, PA to Los Angeles, CA, and nearly everywhere in-between. Many of the gigs are sold out and this evening at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ was very close to hitting that mark. The fans in attendance were clearly some of McMahon’s most hardcore, and they packed the Starland Ballroom to the gills with frenetic energy, ready to catch a glimpse of one of their most beloved performers. Joining McMahon on the bill were Atlas Genius and Night Riots, two of the most catchy bands in the industry right now. On this lovely Wednesday evening, fans of McMahon and his two openers were in for a guaranteed amazingly fun time!

Starting off the night was San Luis Obispo, California based band Night Riots. This Alternative/Pop Rock band is made up of Vocalist Travis Hawley, Guitarists Nick Fotinakes and Matt Depauw, Bassist Mikel Van Kranenburg, and Drummer Rico Rodriguez. Night Riots were signed to Sumerian Records in 2014, and released their first, full-length studio album, Love Gloom, two years later. They have toured with Blaqk Audio and The Mowgli’s, just to name a few, and have also performed on the 2015 Vans Warped Tour.

As Night Riots took the stage, some fans were still making their way into Starland Ballroom. Having a setlist containing mostly songs from their recent release, Love Gloom, Night Riots began their performance with “All for You” and “Nothing Personal.” From the second the first few beats started to play, Vocalist Hawley was really feeling the music and the fans went wild; from the crowd’s reaction, you would have thought Night Riots was headlining this tour. The amount of fans who were in attendance to witness this opening band was amazing to see!

Next on the setlist was a cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” During their fourth song of the night, “Back to Your Love,” Hawley made his way to the barricade and entertained the front-row fans by singing up-close and personal with them. In the middle of the song, the lights went down low and he then disappeared, only to have the band members appear in the dark while each holding a blue or red glowing drumstick. They then performed a visual percussion masterpiece in unison, shocking and delighting the assembled crowd. Hawley then thanked the crowd for coming out early to see their performance. As the band then launched into “Breaking Free,” Hawley grabbed two pumpkins from the stage backdrop, stuck a flashlight inside each, and asked the crowd to join in by waving their lit cellphones in the air. Night Riots closed out their set with “Contagious,” and afterwards thanked the crowd and Andrew McMahon for bringing them along on the tour.

Next up were Adelaide, Australia’s Alternative/Indie Rock Atlas Genius. Consisting of the Jeffery brothers – Keith on Vocals and Guitar, Michael on Drums. Additionally, Josh Rheault and New Jersey native Daniel Curcio joined the brothers on this evening. Their debut album for Warner Bros. Records, When it Was Now, arrived in 2013 and reached No. 34 on the Billboard 200. Sophomore effort Inanimate Objects followed in 2015.

On this particular evening, Atlas Genius were ready to show the Starland Ballroom crowd exactly what it means to rock, Australian style. Starting off their set with “If So” and “Stockholm,” the guys in Atlas Genius gave the crowd a healthy dose of their Indie/Pop Rock sound. As their set rocked into action, heads started to bounce throughout the crowd and much dancing ensued. After “The City We Grow,” as all the photographers were leaving the photo-pit, Vocalist Keith inquired, “Where are you guys going? Stay, shoot. The party’s just starting!” Boy was he ever right! As the band launched into “Where I Belong,” Keith made his way down to the barricade to sing with the fans.  Continuing through their set, Atlas Genius performed “Back Seat” and a cover of Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” Both of which had a jubilant crowd singing and dancing along.

Keith then thanked Andrew Mcmahon for bringing them on tour with him and promised that they would keep the party going until the very, very end. So the Atlas Genius dance party continued with “When It Was Now,” “The Stone Mill,” and “Molecules.” With the good vibes flowing throughout Starland, the band closed out their set with their hit “Trojans” and the crowd adored every single minute of it. Fans sang at the top of their lungs until the very last possible second of the song, sadly quieting to silence as the band left the stage.

Next to the stage would be the beloved headliner himself. As the crew began to set up Andrew McMahon’s infamous piano, the level of chatter and excitement filled Starland Ballroom to bursting. The apex of the evening had finally arrived: Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness was about to take the stage. For those not well-versed on McMahon’s story, it all started when he formed the piano-driven Pop Punk Something Corporate. When that band went on indefinite hiatus, McMahon moved upward and onward with his next musical project, Jack’s Mannequin. Sadly, in June of 2005, McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, though he did not allow the illness to slow him down. Triumphant thanks to a bone marrow donation and surgery, McMahon started up the Dear Jack Foundation to raise funds for cancer research. Musically, he would move onward again, now entitling his work Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.

Celebrating the release of his second album, Zombies on Broadway, under the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness guise, McMahon took to the stage to present his American tour to the fans in New Jersey. Starting the set off with the first single released from the album, “Fire Escape,” McMahon played his piano and sang his heart out, and the crowd held nothing back. The stage presence McMahon has when he sits behind a piano is unreal; he commands the stage no matter what he does.  When McMahon and the band began to play a little intro and the lights turned the perfect shade of dark blue, the infamous first few piano notes of “Dark Blue” by Jack’s Mannequin started to play. The ecstatic reaction from the crowd was priceless!

During some concerts, bands have confetti or beach balls; little props to spice up the level of fun and get the crowd truly overjoyed. Now, Andrew McMahon, he is a man who does things a little differently! On this evening, he decided that during the start of “Don’t Speak For Me,” he was going to crowd-surf on a giant rubber duck! Yes, you did indeed read that correctly! As the crowd helped him from the front of the venue all the way to the back, everyone grabbed for their cellphones to capture this amazing moment on digital.

He paused for a moment to thank the crowd for coming out to see him on this evening, and further noted that he would use his time at Starland to perform some old songs, as well as a bevvy of the new. Next up in the set would be an old song, the beloved Jack’s Mannequin track “Holiday From Real,” which McMahon noted, was written in Venice, California. Proving to be another fan favorite, the crowd sang along without missing a single lyric and yet another dance party ensued. McMahon then welcomed Matt Depauw of Night Riots to the stage, to help with the next song. Depauw and the rest of McMahon’s band gathered around the piano as McMahon stated, “Since we’re in Jersey, it only makes sense to cover a Springsteen song.” The opening chords of “I’m On Fire” started to play as orange and yellow lights illuminated the musicians on-stage. When the song had reached its finale, McMahon asked the crowd to give it up for Depauw and they surely did.

Before performing the much beloved Jack’s Mannequin track “Swim,” McMahon talked about his Dear Jack Foundation. McMahon then took a moment to discuss the band Something Corporate, which he formed in 2002 and considers some of the best days of his life; and the fans went absolutely wild as McMahon and co. launched into “I Woke Up in a Car.” When the song came to a close, McMahon stepped to the front of the stage to thank the fans for being an amazing crowd, and asked if it would be okay if he took everyone back to their childhoods. He then produced a gigantic, multi-colored parachute and proclaimed that it was time for a dance party. As “Synesthesia” started to play, the parachute spread out across the floor of the venue and McMahon spent the duration of the song in the crowd before returning to the stage and draping the parachute across his piano.

As McMahon and co. exited the stage, the crowd erupted into cheers; chants of “Andrew” and “one more song” erupted throughout Starland Ballroom. Always one to oblige his fans, McMahon and his band returned to the stage with the promise of three more songs. “Love and Great Buildings” was up first for the encore. Before playing another Jack’s Mannequin song, “La La Lie,” McMahon stated that for each show on this tour he has issued himself a personal challenge. Tonight’s challenge was seemingly simple: ride the giant rubber ducky all the way to the back of the venue. As the song began, McMahon mounted the duck and made his way around the entire venue and again thanked the crowd for an amazing night. He closed out his set with fan favorite, “Cecilia and the Satellite.”

When you leave an Andrew McMahon show, you feel a sense of true happiness; between McMahon’s upbeat personality, hopeful lyrics, and the positive movements that he advocates, it is hard to leave one of his shows without feeling completely content with the world. If the Zombies in America Tour is coming to a city near you, you do not want to miss out on this incredible evening of fun and music!

For more on Andrew McMahon & Dear Jack Foundation: |


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Courtney Coccia
[email protected]

When she is not at a concert behind the lens or enjoying the show, you can catch Courtney traveling the world, learning from her experiences. Going into her second year as a photographer, she specializes in lifestyle and concert photography. She also provides concert reviews for CrypticRock.

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