February 26, 2014 Gin Blossoms bring alternative rock to Starland Ballroom Sayerville, NJ 2-6-14 (Exclusive Coverage)
It was freezing cold outside Sayreville, New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom, but waiting inside was the hot tasty jams of everyone’s favorite 90’s group Gin Blossoms on February 6th, 2014. So sit back and let us take a stroll down memory lane as we learn about what made the Gin Blossoms so special to alternative rock.
Gin Blossoms hit it big in 1992 when their debut album New Miserable Experience launched two singles “Hey Jealousy” and “Found Out About You”, both hitting #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts respectively. But oh no, the fun did not stop there. You see, their 1996 hit “Follow You Down” off their follow up sophomore record, titled Congratulations I’m Sorry, peaked at the #10 spot on the Billboard chart making it their best performing single to date. Recently, Gin Blossoms have been seen on tour with other 90’s acts such as Sugar Ray and Everclear. However, Gin Blossoms did more than just touring since coming off of their indefinite hiatus. They found the time to get into the studio to record two brand new albums entitled Major Lodge Victory (2006) and No Chocolate Cake (2010) featuring the single “Miss Disarray”.
Which brings us to the Gin Blossoms’ performance at Starland Ballroom where nothing felt outdated. It felt very natural and in the present, which says a lot about the energy and stage presence displayed by every member of the band. They really seemed to still enjoy and love what they do, and that is something you do not see in some veteran bands that are still touring today.
From the very start of the show you noticed that fans had brought their own tambourines with them which has always been a bit of a staple stage instrument for Gin Blossoms’ lead singer Robin Wilson. Throughout the show Wilson would dive off the stage and onto a the barricades to get closer to the fans. Which does not sound as impressive as a full stage dive, but if you were standing side stage and caught a glimpse, it was actually quite an impressive acrobatic maneuver. Although, soon it all made sense why the full stage dives were nixed as Wilson would borrow fans tambourines from the crowd while standing on top the barricade to play into the mic during certain sections of songs. Tambourines were not the only thing Wilson would snatch from fans. One fan handed him their cell phone which was currently connected to a call and Wilson sang most of “Found Out About You” into the iPhone which left one lucky fan with a very interesting voicemail. Another fan handed off their iPhone as well but this time Wilson brought it on stage with him to record a selfie video with him and other Blossom band members Bill Lean (Bass), Scott Johnson (Guitar), Jesse Valenzuela (Guitar), and Scott Hessel (Drums) during the song “As Long As It Matters”.
Speaking of “As Long As It Matters”, it was nominated for a Grammy in 1996 for Best Performance by a Duo or Group. Before playing the song, Wilson told the crowd, “Losing a Grammy to the Beatles, was quite a cool experience.” You can’t really blame him either. Most bands would be happy to lose anything to the Beatles, let alone be mentioned in the same sentence. As the show moved on, the band not only looked good but sounded well mixed. Starland Ballroom had an intimate setting, and having a well respected act such as the Gin Blossoms perform gave opening acts such Tommy & the High Pilots, The Jersey Syndicate, and Survival Instinct a chance to introduce their music to a new crowd.
Later in the show Wilson noticed a fan in the crowd with a My Chemical Romance hooded sweatshirt. Wilson then took the time to talk to the fan about how My Chemical Romance was his favorite band and that he was really sad when they broke up. Which came as a bit of a surprise to hear that a 90’s alternative rock singer’s favorite band was none other than My Chemical Romance, a band that did not gain mainstream notoriety until 2004 with their hit record Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. This just goes to show how up to snuff and relevant the Gin Blossoms still are and really pull you in to the charm of the band. The band then played “’Til I Hear It from You” which many remember from the film Empire Records (1995). Throughout the show Wilson also kept tabs on who he thought was winning a guitar battle between guitarist Jesse Valenzuela (stage left) and Scott Johnson (stage right). Then right before the band played “Hey Jealousy” capping off their set to an ecstatic crowd who finally got to hear one of Blossom’s most famous songs of the 90’s, a Pizza Box was brought on stage that read “Scott Wins” written on with sharpie pen declaring Scott the winner of the guitar battle at the expense of a bummed out Jesse Valenzuela.
As the Blossoms walked off stage the crowd stood by chanting the cliche “One More Song!”. Finally the Band walked back on stage past 11 o’clock on a school night for their encore set. The Blossoms led off with the hit “Until I Fall Away” and closed out with their most commercially successful song “Follow You Down”, capping off another great night of rock and roll at Starland Ballroom.
It has been rumored that Gin Blossoms have been working on a new record that was hopefully scheduled to release in 2013. It seems like fans will have to wait a little while longer to get their fix of Gin. Overall, seeing Gin Blossoms was like watching a show inside a time machine, but at the same time it did not feel old or nostalgic. The band still draws a crowd wherever they go and their fans are still really into their songs. With their stage presence and fan interactivity alone, it is definitely worth seeing them again and again.Written by Anthony Smith Jr.