Taking Back Sunday Bring Holiday Spectacular To Starland Ballroom Sayreville, NJ 12-18-15

Long Island, NY based Rock band Taking Back Sunday have kept themselves extremely busy since the release of their sixth studio record, Happiness Is,  in early 2014. Building a reputation of a fan-friendly band, who keeps grounded, remembering where they came from, Vocalist Adam Lazzara, Lead Guitarist John Nolan, Rhythm Guitarist Eddie Reyes, Bassist Shaun Cooper, and Drummer Mark O’Connell always love to return home whenever possible. This could never be more evident then their constant visits to New York and New Jersey venues for special, sometimes exclusive, intimate performances. With that said, the guys came together at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey with help of Modern Chemistry and Beach Slang for what they call the Holiday Spectacular. Marking the second straight year of the holiday season show, Taking Back Sunday hand-picked the bands themselves to play on back to back days, Friday December 18th and Saturday 19th, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. No different than 2014, the 2015 edition’s opening night was a sold out event with everyone in a festive mood, ready for a great night of music and giving.

First up on the Friday night show was the band calling themselves Modern Chemistry. Past touring mates of Taking Back Sunday, and local favorite for New Jersey, being from New Brunswick, Modern Chemistry consist of Joe Zorzi (vocals/guitar), Brendan Hourican (guitar), Jesse Slachman (drums), and Matt Coccaro (bass). Completely natural on stage since their inception in 2012, Modern Chemistry provide a fun atmosphere throughout each of there performances, and this night was no different.

Performing tracks from their two self-released albums, 2013’s We’ll Grow Out Of This and 2014’s Self Help Guide for Being Alone, each member jumped around the stage and interacted with the crowd as much as the set allowed. Taking the moment towards the end of the set to mention their appreciation for Taking Back Sunday always showing them such hospitality and inviting them to join the holiday special at Starland Ballroom, Modern Chemistry did a fantastic job in their opening slot of entertaining. After a holiday break, the band will be partaking in what they are calling the NJ World Tour, set to kick off February 5th, with dates running throughout the Garden State until February 20th.

Next up, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania natives Beach Slang brought their own special kind of Rock to the Holiday Spectacular. Consisting of members James Alex on guitar and lead vocals, Ed McNulty on guitar, JP Flexner on Bass, and Ruben Gallego on drums, Beach Slang came together back in 2013. Different in the sense that they had only released two 7″ vinyls in their career, in 2015, they finally released the album The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.  Building a fanbase, the band has made a solid name for themselves as they perform around the USA .

Kicking off with “Filthy Luck, ” immediately their high energy was apparent as they jolted about the stage. Some would say their performance resembled something of old British Punk bands like The Clash or even The Sex Pistols. Unique in their own way, they jammed through a set that included “Hard Luck Kid,” “Throwaways,” and “Ride The Wild Haze.” Alex thrashed back and forth while wailing on his guitar and screeching out vocals to a positive crowd response feeding off the many theatrics of Beach Slang’s performance.  They continued through a short, but highly energetic set, sprinkling in some killer covers from The Replacements such as “Bastards of Young” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.” The band now takes their talents across the ocean for a January UK tour that will turn into a full blown Euro trip in February.

Following the two supporting acts, everyone was warmed up and ready for the arrival of Taking Back Sunday. Last visiting Starland Ballroom a little less than a year prior, the band would have a brand new set of songs on tap for their New Jersey followers. Donned with white Christmas trees draped with colored lights, the house lights dimmed and suddenly Lazzara, Nolan, Reyes, Cooper, and O’Connell arrived one by one onto the stage to a roar of cheers as the show was about to begin.

Coming out with “What’s It Like To Be A Ghost,” from 2006’s album Louder Now, the lights flashed brilliantly with shades of red and green, fog catching the light trails, giving depth to the stage, as well as Taking Back Sunday’s performance. Lazzara moved around the stage with enthusiasm with his signature microphone swinging that dazzled the audience. Keeping the momentum, “Number Five With a Bullet” came before newer track “Flicker, Fade,” oldie “Timberwolves at New Jersey,” and “Liar (It Takes One to Know One).” At this point, the fog had filled the stage nicely and the lights were spiraling shades of red and white, setting a warm, inviting ambiance to the room.

Only five songs into their lengthy set and Starland Ballroom was going crazy, with crowd surfers keeping security on their toes. Performing on-point vocals, Lazzara had the crowd in the palm of his hand as they went into “One-Eighty by Summer,” “Set Phasers to Stun,” and sing-along “You’re So Last Summer,” among others. The energy was non-stop and so were the surprises when Lazzara even brought his brother on stage to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. Having many fans hands in the air during most of the night, “Better Homes and Gardens” was greeted with more singing along before the favorites kept coming thereafter with cuts like “A Decade Under the Influence,” “My Blue Heaven,” and set closer “Cute Without the ‘E’ (Cut from the Team).”

After a short break off-stage, Taking Back Sunday all climbed back up on stage, instruments in hand, ready to provide one hell of an encore for the screaming audiences, starting with ” Great Romances of the 20th Century.” Announcing that The Holiday Spectacular would be the last time they would play the song live, it was out with the old and in with the new as they went into a song called “Tidal Wave.” In fact, making its live debut, the track could be a fixture for a while in the band’s live sets for sometime. Thanking everyone once more, they concluded the night in fitting fashion with “MakeDamnSure,” arguably the band’s biggest hit to date.

To say 2015’s Holiday Spectacular with Taking Back Sunday was fun, would be an understatement. It was not only fun, it was memorable and a great early Christmas present for the fans, and above all, for a good cause. The Saturday performance would bring many back bright and early with an additional acoustic performance, as well as meet and greet. Now Taking Back Sunday take a much deserved recess, but will be back in high gear come January 30th when they perform on the main stage at Delray Beach Garlic Fest in Delray Beach, Florida.

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