Pop punk and fist pumps

Review: Fazeshift, Hot Chelle Rae and The Academy Is... pack the Schine Underground.

The doors opened at 7:30 p.m., and a line of SU and local high students filed in. The small room transformed into an impressive, yet intimate, concert venue.

Nationally known act, The Academy Is…, backed by local band Fazeshift and touring band Hot Chelle Rae, played to a packed Schine Underground on Tuesday night.

At around 8 p.m., the Fazeshift took to the stage. They began with a strange electronica sound, which quickly morphed into a solid beat on the drums. In its entirety, the performance was mediocre. The lead singer/guitarist and bassist fell into the straight hair, skinny jean cliché that dominates the alternative scene. The drummer, however, made their act completely worth watching. His solid drumming and excellent back-up vocals carried the band.

Photo: Jenna Ketchmark
After having two opening acts, The Academy Is... played for about an hour.

Fazeshift’s set ended, Hot Chelle Rae was up next. At first glance, the band appeared to be the epitome of indie hipster culture. Their look was completed with skin-tight, ripped, girl’s jeans, vests, boots, and some perfectly tousled hair. Needless to say, I assumed the crowd would be forced to suffer through a set of sub par tunes.

But when Hot Chelle Rae started up the music, I was proven wrong.

If Muse, The Bravery, and The Airborne Toxic Event conceived a child, it would be Hot Chelle Rae. Simply put, they rocked.

At first, the crowd wasn’t jibing with the music, but the lead singer pulled the audience in, leaning into them and belting out his emotional lyrics. After taking a picture of the audience from his phone, (which he promised would be posted on Twitter “in like five minutes”) he got them involved by teaching them to sing the chorus of the next song.

Anticipation built as the stage was set up for the main act. The house lights went down, and a light ethereal guitar came through the speakers. The music’s suspenseful energy grew until the lights finally came on and The Academy Is… took the stage.

For the next hour, The Academy Is… held the adoring crowd in the palm of their hands with their energetic pop-punk sound. As the band began their set, lead singer William Beckett mesmerized the entire audience with his charming smile and graceful, Broadway-like choreography filled with high kicks and fist pumps.

Some bands use light shows or pyrotechnics to keep their crowd’s attention; The Academy Is… only needs Beckett’s charisma. He interacted effortlessly with the audience, oftentimes singing directly to girls only inches from his face.
As the band tore through their set, Beckett asked the crowd to show him “that incredible rhythm” they have, urging them to keep their hands in the air.

The setlist stretched from oldies such as “We’ve Got a Big Mess On Our Hands” to newer songs, such as “About A Girl." Slowing down the tempo halfway through the show, they played their new song “Sputter,” showcasing Beckett’s more emotional and candid side. After slowing down even more with “Everything We Had,” The Academy Is… picked up the pace with “Ghost” and “Summer Hair = Forever Young.”

Before Beckett ended the night with “Slow Down,” he thanked the crowd and left them with these parting words: “You can tell all your friends who stayed home tonight they f---ing missed out.”
That they did.

The Academy Is... was the second band of the year for the Bandersnatch Concert Series.

Q&A with The Academy Is… lead singer William Beckett and bassist Adam Siska

Q: How has the group evolved from the local Chicago scene to national fame?

Siska: I do think there’s something in our sound that is a product of Chicago. Our surroundings, especially when we were writing the first record, of being high school young adults – teenagers – I do think that it impacted our sound a lot.

Beckett: But since then we learned a lot from those times. ... A lot of our work ethic came from the formidable years in the Chicago scene. Our sound has evolved and our influences have changed. We’ve grown exponentially as individuals, as friends and as a band. It’s been a very long and winding road, however, I don’t think that we’re near our destination quite yet.

Q: How do you feel about constantly being on the road?

Siska: I personally find touring to be a bit of a comfort zone. ... When I’m out here on tour with musicians and with other bands, it feels like home to me.

Beckett: It’s a dream come true, and it’s your worst nightmare at the same time. Life is so unbalanced when you’re on the road… On the other side of the token, this is our dream, and this is exactly what we want to do with our lives. This is what we’re best at; this is what we’re good at; performing live and being a band and being on tour, and connecting with our fans.

Q: What can you tell your fans about the rumors about The Academy Is… taking a hiatus?

Siska: We are taking a break after this, and we’re going to make another record.

Beckett: Sure, hiatus, if hiatus means taking time to write and record a new album.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Siska: I think that’s the big key to where we’ll be in three to five years, is just making the best record we can. We can’t predict the future. Five years from now I could be a monk living in a monastery.

Beckett: You just don’t know. There’s so much that’s out of your control… You can basically control I’d say about 30 percent of what happens day to day in your life. It comes down to what you do with that 30 percent. It’s the day to day that matters. it’s the little things that end up making life worth living and what ends up making life fruitful, and I think that’s where happiness is routed.

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