Sometimes a series of events culminate to create something singularly amazing. Some people call it serendipity. Others might say it’s a miracle. On October 14th, I just called it a damn good time.
There are a lot of factors that go into the making of a concert, good or bad. The one that is probably least important on most people’s lists helped form one of the most exciting and entertaining shows I’ve ever been to, and that factor is the venue. Gerard Way was booked alongside his openers, The Eeries, at The Fonda theater in Hollywood. It’s quite a small place, with a semi-circular floor crowned by a mere five rows of balcony seats. The walls are covered with a mural of grotesque paintings in the style of Heironymous Bosch’s paintings of purgatory, though all the instruments of torture have been replaced to great effect by instruments of the musical kind. The intimate size and peculiar aesthetics of the place helped lend an otherworldly tint to the proceedings, and complemented to unique stylings of the Hesitant Alien himself. Even before a single note was played, the crowd was teeming with the sort of collective mood that under no circumstances can lead to ordinary happenings.
When the chandeliers dimmed and the heavy, scalloped curtain rose, The Eeries filled the stage with their easy punkish presence. The crowd was mellow, perhaps saving their energy for the main act, but the down-to-earth monologues of frontman Isaiah Silva seemed to win over the attention of those who were previously inattentive. The sound of The Eeries is simple, straightforward lyrics paired with the slightly fuzzy guitars and steady rhythm that seem to bring the 90’s alternative sound to the present. The songs they played had choruses easy to catch on to, and therefor easy to sing along to, and the audience definitely took advantage of that. By the last song they were playing to a crowd of new fans.
The space between opener and title always seems to take a million years, and this show was no different. The excitement was so thick in the air that you could almost see it like a thick fog. Right when it seemed like we were all going to die crammed in that little building, the stage lights popped on and the curtain rose, prompting an immediate roar from the crowd. The Hormones walked on in their white shirts and ties, followed shortly by Gerard Way himself, who somehow managed to make the color salmon look good. While Gerard got settled into the stage, the band struck up the steady opening beat of the first song on Hesitant Alien, The Bureau. There was no faltering or settling in; the band started from the first note like one collective sound. Gerard seemed natural and easy on stage, singing the lyrics with a clear energy. It was a show that started at a 10 and just got better from there.
Action Cat followed in its natural segue, and then led to apparent crowd favorite Zero Zero. You know the performance is good when the number of people recording with their phones decreases from beginning to end as the crowd forgets about saving for posterity and lets themselves get caught up in the music. In this age dependent on technology, it’s quite the sight to behold. Zero Zero was followed by Millions and Juarez. After that, Gerard gave an introduction for the song to come. He explained that the next number was about the desire people have to get out of the small towns they grew up in, and that it was titled by his lovely wife, Lindsey. He blew a kiss offstage, and it was then that I realized she had attended the show and was standing just a few feet from the stage he stood on. He began singing Drugstore Perfume, and the explanation he had given made listening to the song even more of a poignant experience than I had previously had.
The next song was one not released on Hesitant Alien, titled Television All The Time, followed by a cover of James Cecil‘s The Water Is Wide. The latter is a bit slower, more melodic and tinged with a melancholic air that served well to set up the rather more emotional song that was next on the set list. Gerard dedicated Brother to friends old and new, including everyone who had come to that show and specifically to the members of My Chemical Romance, which leads me to describe another one of those that made this show such a singular event. In addition to Lindsey, there were many notable faces watching the night’s performance. Next to the stage, Jimmy Urine and Chantal Claret stood with Frances Bean Cobain, Kristen Colby, and one Mikey Way. Up in the reserved boxes in the balcony, people sat in gray sofas enjoying the view, including employees of Warner Brother Records, several newspapers and music blogs, and Ray Toro. I will now inflict some shameless self-congratulations upon you and mention that I was sitting directly behind Ray. Never underestimate the benefits of sitting in the balcony- you get a great view and a unified sound (and you never know who might be up there!).
After Brother, a spectacular performance of Get The Gang Together was performed with Gerard’s pick of my friend Alexa onstage playing the tambourine. This was not only a high-energy, rocking rendition but a highlight of the entire show. GTGT was followed by How It’s Going To Be and then a beautiful, hard-hitting Maya The Psychic, the lyrics of which Gerard explained were inspired by mental illness. No Shows served as a loud and energetic penultimate performance, followed by the end cap of the evening, a cover of Snakedriver by The Jesus and Mary Chain. As the band exited the stage, the crowd was the sort of silent that only occurs when the end of the show comes far too suddenly. I watched people filtering out of the theater and noticed a lot more hugging than had been occurring on the way in.
In line outside to try to meet the man of the hour, everyone seemed much more subdued and introspective than they had been before the show. This could definitely be chalked up to tiredness but in my (possibly biased) opinion, we had just seen a concert that was raucous and fun on the surface and teeming with questions and hope under the surface. I didn’t meet a single person there who hadn’t been a fan of MCR, and while everyone loved Gerard as a part of that band, I don’t think anyone knew what to expect when we saw him on his own. What if it was too similar to MCR? What if it was too different? What will he be like on his own? What we found was someone confident and proud of his new work, comfortable on the stage in his new place between his new band. In seeing that performance, I finally let myself stop mourning the band that ended and be excited for the bands now in their infancy, teeming with possibility. It was almost closure, in a way. Gerard Way was not mourning, and neither should we.
So that’s how a weird old theater, a new band, and old friends came together to create what is possibly the best musical performance I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The times are changing and we’re growing up, but Gerard Way still has a fan in me.