I hadn’t listened to Have Mercy before, but I’d certainly heard about them. They’re a fairly recent addition to Hopeless Records, having released their 2014 album on the label, but with another album on the way in the fall it’s not going to be long before everyone’s heard of this band.
There aren’t many bands that I fall in love with the second I hear them, but Have Mercy are certainly one of them. With lyrical depth matching the likes of Jimmy Eat World and emotion pouring from every pore, Have Mercy are definitely reinvigorating the emo scene.
I love music that tells a story, and Have Mercy’s lyrics are completely captivating. Normally I can choose one song from a set that stood out above all of the rest, but I adored every moment that Have Mercy were on stage. From the introspective and heart-wrenching ‘Pete Rose and Babe Ruth’, to the slightly more upbeat ‘Let’s Talk About Your Hair’, every song was strong – there were no moments that I thought could be cut, and if the rest of Have Mercy’s songs sound anything like these they really are a special band.
But despite having such emotional lyrical content, they didn’t let their set become depressing – their on stage banter and their jokes were stupidly hilarious. They joked about one of their crew members, John, claiming that he announced “I gotta get up there on stage tonight man, I got this great shirt and I wanna show it off!”, so they invited him up on stage especially. It wasn’t long until they started introducing the other bands, with their vocalist Brian Swindle joking about going to a parade in Glasgow and asking the crowd if any of them could guess what kind of parade it was (“No, not a Payday Parade, they weren’t giving away free money!”) and then asking one of his bandmates for assistance in naming a state that was up north. He quipped “the shitty jokes of Have Mercy, you’re welcome!” and to cheers from the crowd asked “What does a dog wear outside? A scarf!”. It was really silly comedy, but it was a relief from the draining power of their songs – they might be beautifully and wonderfully performed, but they certainly are heartbreaking.
I immediately purchased their two albums and I’m already looking forward to listening to them, and I’m highly anticipating their upcoming release: if their previous songs are anything to go by then they’re just going to go from strength to strength.
If you like music that means something – and I mean really means something – go and listen to Have Mercy. Like, right now. Right this second. Go.
The last time I saw The Maine they were supporting Deaf Havana, all the way back in April 2014. I always enjoyed their live shows, but I was never blown away – the band are brilliant and I love their albums, but in the past their sound was lost in translation. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what caused the problem, but there was always a lack of connection leading to a general feeling of disinterest from crowd members.
If I hadn’t known, I wouldn’t have thought this was the same band. Whereas before The Maine always made safe decisions, their newest album ‘American Candy’ pushed their music in a vastly different direction and that has beautifully developed their live performance. From the extended jam session in the middle of ‘Run’ that built to a spine-tingling crescendo, to the extended outro on ‘Everything I Ask For’ that segued flawlessly straight into ‘Another Night On Mars’, this was a version of The Maine that were willing to take risks and they definitely paid off.
Every moment of this set was electric and absorbing. The new songs fit in brilliantly, and the dynamic between the band members is utterly invigorated. This was particularly apparent on ‘Am I Pretty?’ with the chemistry between vocalist John O’Callaghan and Kennedy Brock on backing vocals really maximising the impact of the song. It’s brilliant on a recording, but hearing the call and response vocals in a live environment is just that little bit better.
Judging by the crowd’s reaction The Maine have definitely found a second wind. There was a polite interest throughout Beautiful Bodies and Have Mercy, but as soon as The Maine took to the stage the jumping and dancing multiplied ten fold, particularly through ‘Diet Soda Society’ and ‘Am I Pretty?’. John definitely encouraged the crazy response, stopping the band halfway through ‘Growing Up’ to announce “You might think you’re cool, you probably are, but no one’s fucking judging you tonight”.
The Maine were only performing on another couple of nights of the tour, departing before the European leg begins, so it was lovely that Mayday Parade went out to support them, sitting up on the balcony and watching their entire set. John pointed out that they were watching, joking “Don’t look! He’s going to go back into his cave!”. Mayday Parade and The Maine have toured together many times over the years – I’m grateful that I was lucky enough to experience the tour for myself.
Mayday Parade are rather predictable in their touring schedule. In fact, it was two years to the day since the last time I saw them perform a headline show, back when I was reviewing on my other blog (in fact, I commented there that I hoped the band wouldn’t wait two years to return – I was so right!). But that predictability doesn’t mean that I was looking forward to this show any less, and I was in good company: vocalist Derek Sanders stated that he’d “been looking forward to this night in particular for a very long time”.
Similarly to The Maine, Mayday Parade have really done bold things with their new album ‘Black Lines’, including launching it with the single ‘One Of Them Will Destroy The Other’ (featuring Dan Lambton from Real Friends) which is one of – if not the – heaviest song that Mayday Parade have ever released. That heaviness doesn’t necessarily come across well in a live environment – musically it’s extremely tight, but Derek’s voice does struggle on some of the rougher patches – but it was certainly an impressive way to kick off their set, and it got the crowd instantly involved.
The majority of the set was filled with joyful pop punk singalongs: exactly the kind of thing that you sign up for when you buy tickets to a Mayday Parade show. Most of the new songs fit into the set well, particularly ‘Keep In Mind, Transmogrification Is A New Technology’ and ‘Let’s Be Honest’, but I wasn’t too convinced by ‘Hollow’ or ‘Letting Go’. ‘Hollow’ just seems to dark to work in a Mayday Parade set, while ‘Letting Go’ slowed things down a bit too far and was then promptly overshadowed by the roaring success of ‘Terrible Things’, which was most certainly the highlight of my night.
Derek played acoustic guitar on both of the songs, but by performing the first half of ‘Terrible Things’ solo it really gave him a chance to show off his playing skills. As he normally only does vocals (or keyboard, as proven during ‘Miserable At Best’) it was nice to see him completely embracing the role of the frontman and becoming the sole focus point for just a few minutes of the night.
The set was performed brilliantly from start to finish by all members. This is the third time I’ve seen Mayday Parade (the aforementioned Oxford show, and at Reading festival two years ago) and they’ve never disappointed me – with ten years of touring under their belts, they certainly know what they’re doing in a live environment. With the amount of successful songs they’ve released over the years it does mean that you can make a pretty good guess as to what is going to be included in the set each time, but it’s always a lot of fun – you can dance and sing along and just have a brilliant night out. Plus, by inserting ‘Terrible Things’ the band prove that they’re willing to shake the set up, and I’m glad that they took a couple of risks because it really made it a night to remember.
Before going to see the band, I wasn’t completely in love with ‘Black Lines’, but I’m thinking that that’s likely to change now I have a taste of what the album sounds like in a live environment. I’m hoping they’ll be announced to play another festival this year, because I already know that I need to see them again. I just need to say: please don’t leave it another two years, you’re killing me!
Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing (instrumental intro track)