American Singer-Songwriter Melanie Martinez is much more than just “the voice” that has won competitions, but the image and symbol of our new youthful generation, turning her small scale EP release into a worldwide phenomenon of the crybabies. At only twenty years old, Martinez has tightly grasped her niche in the industry as an upcoming Pop star while having grown tremendously since her single “Carousel” introduced American Horror Story fans to season four, Freak Show. With this being said, her spooky, carnival-esque tones trademarked her style, taking it even further when creating her 2015 debut album, Cry Baby. This creepy, yet playful style is what encapsulates fans, and drew in a sold out crowd of cry babies at her Thursday, March 31st stop on her spring tour at New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom. Nestled in the township of Sayreville, the popular venue was packed with teenage boys and girls in their best cry baby attire: painted tear drops, split dyed hair, wacky outfits, and all.
With anticipation running high, the inside of Starland Ballroom was absolutely packed with the aforementioned eager fans when opening act Mainland took the stage. The band consisting of Jordan Topf (vocals, guitar), Corey Mullee (lead guitar, synth), and Alex Pitta (bass) were more than excited to be playing not far from their hometown in New York City. With a sleek ’50s look from Topf and a funky Alternative Rock set list, the group did not have a hard time warming up the crowd.
Performing tracks from their 2015 EP, Outcast, initiative was taken by the band to get hands waving and feet jumping, but the end of their set really fired up the audience with their closing number. The intricacies of their music made their debut Starland Ballroom performance powerful and intriguing; they certainly knew how to put on a good show, balancing both electronic synth and raw Rock and Roll instruments in every song they played. One of the highlights of the night was the energy exerted from “Fading Friends,” a funky track off Outcast which was the perfect way to get the crowd dancing, as fresh-sounding reeds blared through sections of the performance. Their smart set list design gave each song more and more intensity to turn the still pit into a lively dance floor. Recently off tour with Mariana Trench earlier this year, this run with Melanie Martinez further gives the band a chance to gain much deserved exposure.
Moving along rather quickly, Melanie Martinez was the solo act of the night, meaning after Mainland’s short and sweet set, the crybabies in the crowd were more than ready for Martinez’s arrival. One of the most noteworthy components of her show was the theatricality of the set; building blocks, a cradle, and a self turning mobile above it added to the spook factor of the show. With this visual set in place for the audience to feast their eyes on, the fun was just about to begin.
With the mobile slowly turning as her band members entered the stage, it dramatically rose anticipation in the crowd until she finally came out from inside the crib, opening with “Cry Baby.” This album title track rang through the venue as fans screamed back the words and excitedly captured her opening on their cellphones, bound to share somewhere on social media later in the night. Martinez continually thanked her fans throughout the show, proving to be very gracious of their support as she played on with songs such as “Dollhouse” and “Sippy Cup.” Song selection aside, a very unique aspect to her live performance came from the way she presented her music with accompaniment of live instruments. With that, every song performed was emphasized with much more groove due to the smart addition of live drums and guitar, making her live show one of a kind.
This focus on making Martinez’s concerts a completely different experience than listening to her on the radio is a key factor in her early success; only minuscule performance flaws can be critiqued. Although powering through each song with exceptional vocal range, including “Carousel” and “Alphabet Boy,” Martinez had a habit of pacing from side to side of the stage almost the entire time. Thankfully, this did not take away from the quality of the performance whatsoever and at this early period of her career she has plenty of time to find her comfort zone on stage. With that said, judging by the positive fan reaction, she will do so rather rapidly.
Moving along in the show, other track highlights included her love ballad to her fans, “Training Wheels,” and the crowd favorite “Pity Party.” When the introduction to the latter song began, the audience lost their minds as they screamed along the passionate lyrics and shook the building with their jumps. Cell phone screens lit up the audience as each cry baby tried to get the perfect video or picture of Martinez dancing around the stage and singing her heart out alongside them. After such a strong reaction from the crowd for most of the night, one can imagine the heartache felt when she walked off the stage after her final song, “Cake.” Alas, the tears were short lived; it did not take long for Martinez to take over the stage for one last song of the night in the form of an encore, “Mad Hatter.” This wacky track off of Cry Baby was the perfect way to conclude her set on a fun and exciting high note. Fans let out all of their last bursts of energy and embraced their crazy for one last time of the night before Martinez bid them farewell.
What started as a cold, windy Thursday in Sayreville, New Jersey, ended as a playful and thrilling experience for fans of Martinez. As groups of people shuffled out of the venue, cry baby tears were faded and baby outfits were disheveled, however, the smiles on their faces remained the same. While the North American tour concludes on April 15th, the European market will soon get a chance to see what Melanie Martinez is all about when she kicks off a tour that side of the world April 27th in London. After that, she will be returning for some more shows stateside in June, including an appearance in the tri-state area when she plays BLI Summer Jam June 11th at Jones Beach, New York.