The Summer Set Excite Sold Out Gramercy Theatre, NYC 5-27-16

Back in January, when most were worried about when the next snow storm would hit, Arizona based band The Summer Set was already looking toward big plans for 2016. In fact, they charged full speed ahead, first dropping their single “Figure Me Out” on January 21st and then, five days later, announcing a massive US and UK Tour named after their then forthcoming album, Stories For Monday. Releasing fourth record,Stories For Monday on April 1st, the tour would kick off a mere two weeks later and continue through June 1st with shows scattered through the USA along with a week long run in the UK May 10th through the 19th.

Quite a whirlwind, one of the boldest highlights would come on when the band landed in New York City in the tour’s final week. The unofficial start of summer, The Summer Set found themselves in the thick of a Memorial Day weekend celebration as they were slated to play not one but two nights at Gramercy Theatre, Thursday May 26th and Friday May 27th. Initially only scheduled for May 27th, the show sold out so quickly that a second date was added to satisfy demand. With all that said, the final night of the two-date visit to The Big Apple was one that was oozing excitement from the moment the doors opened.

Kicking things off was Minnesota based Call Me Karizma, one of the happiest, most kind-hearted artists one could ever see on stage. Inspired from a young age, Karizma has been rapping since he was twelve. Bringing a unique sound while he mostly raps, he also can sing, adding diversity to his music. Releasing his album, Uninvited, independently back in April, Karizma took New Yorkers by storm as he kicked off a set filled with upbeat and extremely catchy tunes.

Telling stories and and interact with the crowd, within his first three songs, he mentioned that the crowd was larger than the night prior and he was glad to make new friends. Later on, Karizma asked for all the lights to be turned off, making it almost completely dark in the venue. Within a matter of minutes, some crowd members caught on to the moment Karizma was creating as they took out their phones and turned their flashlights. Gracious for the response, everyone soon joined in as the venue was illuminated by cellphone lights throughout the song. Going into the extremely catchy “Whatever,” the audience was absolutely loving it as they waved their hands back and forth every time the chorus hit. Before his final song, Karizma spoke without his microphone, breaking it down, saying he was  just a typical 21-year old kid from Minnesota. Explaining how once the tour was complete he would be returning home to work at the YMCA with children, it did become clear that he was just a regular American kid, but with an extraordinary talent.

Next on the bill was Louisiana’s Indie Pop band Royal Teeth. Debuting with the EP Act Naturally in 2011, they followed in 2013 with their full-length album, Glow. Now continuing to establish themselves, they are signed on with Elektra Records with plans to release a new album sometime in 2016, but not before this exciting tour with The Summer Set.

Met by an enthusiastic response from the crowd, Drummer Josh Hefner, Keyboardist Andrew Poe, Bassist Joshua Wells, Guitarists Thomas Onebane and Gary Larsen, and Vocalist Nora Patterson started off with some high energy songs. Connecting with the audience on “For Keeps,” many clapped their hands to the beat and even showed off some dance moves. Following with their first new song in three years, “Kid Conspire,” the band played with an extra bounce in their step, escastic to showcase the material to the sold out crowd. Always a gamble to play new songs in front of live audiences, the crowd was singing along by the second chorus, thus making it a success for Royal Teeth. Before going into the track “Mais La,” a song all about having fun, Larsen went over some of the lyrics with the crowd and asked them to help sing along with parts, a request everyone happily obliged with. Concluding their set with “Wild,” it was without a doubt the crowd’s favorite, and as it wound down, Larsen even stood on the barricade to record video of himself singing with the crowd. It was certainly a high-spirited performance by the promising band, and now everyone waits for their Elektra Records debut.

As direct support for the evening, Massachusetts’ Handsome Ghost was next on the bill. Self-proclaimed as an Indie Prom artist, Tim Noyes; aka Handsome Ghost, is a compelling musician who as a Philosophy major, a teacher, and a Folk singer that has a lot to offer. Fairly new to the music scene, Handsome Ghost is signed to Photo Finish and in 2015 released a fantastic debut EP entitled Steps. A visit to New York City is always a highlight for any artist, and for Handsome Ghost, it was about to be a focal point in his early career.

While most people may have not known his music, that did not stop them from having a good time. Playing tracks off his EP including the title-track, “Steps,” as well as “Blood Stutter,” Handsome Ghost gave the crowd a mellow performance with an affectionate voice. Complemented by well-composed tunes, the songs were filled with acoustic guitars, electronic beats, and beautiful lyrics. Before playing the single “Honest Mistake,” he shouted out to Karzima and Royal Teeth and thanked The Summer Set for having him on this tour. A bright moment in his performance, the audience grooved to the beat as he crooned effortlessly. His latest single “Eyes Wide” featuring Whole Doubts is out now and there seems to be a very promising future for this talented vocalist.

Given a chance to see three up-and-coming artists, the audience was completely warmed up and ready for the headlining performance of The Summer Set. Come together in 2007, The Summer Set’s style has been an ever-changing one, first tapping into Emo, Synthpop, and Pop Punk on 2009 debut album Love Like This, then weaving into more Pop Rock for 2011’s Everything’s Fine, before tapping into some Country Pop Rock on 2013’s Legendary. Now after almost disbanding, The Summer Set return with their most complete album to date, Stories For Monday. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and judging by the emotional energy flowing through Gramercy Theatre in the time before The Summer Set began their set, it is absolutely true.

As Lead Vocalist Brian Dales made his way onto the stage to sit down at his keyboard, the crowd erupted with cheers and he quickly went into “Figure Me Out,” the first single of Stories for Monday. Solo for the first few notes, Dales was soon joined by Drummer Jess Bowen, Bassist Stephen Gomez, and Guitarists John Gomez and Joshua Montgomery. As anticipation built, and with the entire band on stage, the show moved with favorites “Jukebox (Life Goes On)” and “Boomerang.” Before playing “The Night is Young,” Dales let the crowd in on a little secret, the fact that the song was written right there in New York. Receiving a roar of approval, the band played on and took everyone back to Love Like This with the song “The Boys You Do (Get Back at You).” Exciting the room even more, the crowd threw their hands in the air and screamed the lyrics from start to finish.

Mixing conversation with the audience between songs, Dales had the crowd in the palm of his hand as they hung on each word spoken and sung as the band went on to play “Rescue” and “Maybe Tonight.” This came before the first three piano notes of “When We Were Young” created a sea of noise from fans. It was as if it was the song they had been waiting for all night, and it was a moment to cherish. Moving on, they went into “All My Friends” where Dales took a moment to shout out to the supporting acts Karzima, Royal Teeth, and Handsome Ghost. Then, to many’s surprise, Max Schneider; aka MAX, joined the band on stage midway through the track, igniting insanity from the audience.

Keeping the set balanced, Dales later stated, “Let’s take it back to the start,” ushering in the song “Chelsea” where the crowd took over singing, a moment that was awe-inspiring to witness. Keeping that level of enthusiasm high through “Someone Like You,” Dales shouted out at Bowen as everyone screamed more for her drum solo that closed the song out. Returning to Stores for Monday, “Jean Jacket” came with Dales wearing a jean jacket, one which he would eventually toss out to the crowd. Amidst all the excitement, another guest arrived when American Authors’ Zachary Barnett hoped on stage for a duet with Dales while many broke out their phones to record the special moment.

With the show coming to a close, “Legendary” was accompanied by a story all about how the song was inspired by a tweet sent by a fan. Another delightful offering in a set full of them, the stage lights abruptly went off, and when they were back on, like Superman, Dales reappeared in the back of the room singing “Missin’ You.” Fearless on the packed floor, Dales working his way through the crowd back up to the stage, singing the entire time. With everyone taking a collective breath, the show concluded with one last hurrah as the band played an encore with “Lightning In A Bottle” as everyone threw their heart signs in the air.

The return of The Summer Set was an experience that was a couple of years in the making. It was a night that no one was disappointed with. It was an event filled with laughs, singing, and memories. For this tour, The Summer Set took it back to the basics and just performed amazing songs with amazing stories about amazing friends. With that said, not one person left the venue without a smile on their face and a story for Monday.

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