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The emo tours of the century continue as bands pass through California on their way to the When We Were Young Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The next band I had the fortune to see is Hawthorne Heights. The boys from Ohio live on the other side of the United States, and though they tour frequently, I had not had the chance to see them live yet. Joining me this night was a friend who I recently discovered is another emo at heart, with a little sister who had never been to a live concert before. This was the perfect concert indoctrinating her little sister to the glory of live music. Hawthorne Heights brought two other classic juggernauts in the emo scene with Escape the Fate & Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Tonight was the night to black your eyes and let your color hair down.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus got the night started for me, opening with “False Pretense.” Lead singer Ronnie Winter sings with so much passion and clarity that even if you are not familiar with their music, you can start singing the choruses with the band just by hearing the music. It’s a true staple when a band can right a hook so easy to catch onto. Lead guitarist Josh Burke and Rhythm guitarist Randy Winter play off each other perfectly, creating beautiful melodies and driving guitar lines. Bassist Joey Westwood and drummer John Epsy hold down the low end and grooves that allow the audience to rock out to. Playing songs like “Brace Yourself,” “Cat and Mouse,” “Your Guardian Angel,” and closing with the fan favorite “Face Down.” The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus continue to show that they still are a staple band in the emo scene with classic songs with big choruses that everyone can sing a long to.

Up next was band that continues to grow as a personal favorite the more I get to see them live. Escape the Fate hit the stage ready to raise the energy in the crowd by starting the night off with “Gorgeous Nightmare.” Lead Singer Craig Mabbit knows how to get the crowd screaming in excitement. Not only does his vocals have so much power and intensity behind them, but when ever he isn’t singing, he’s got a smile that just lights up a room. Lead guitarist Matti Hoffman can’t be stopped from head banging while wailing on the guitar, while rhythm guitarist TJ Bell plays it up for the crowd screaming for him. Bell would often be playing into camera and even crowd surfing during the final song. Bassist Erik Jensen pulls double duty while also providing the harsh screams that back Craig’s clean vocals. Drummer Robert Ortiz is not one to be left out as he is constantly figuring out flashy and eye-catching moves behind the kit. This night consisted of classic songs like “Issues,” “The Flood,” “Lightning Strike,” ‘Something,” “Ashley,” “Broken Heart,” “This War is Ours (The Guillotine II),” and closing with the banger that is “One for the Money.” One thing I always love about seeing Escape the Fate that every member in the band is a showman. No matter who you are watching, they are all giving the audience eye candy to watch while their ears fall back in love with their music.

Headlining this Emo Night Garden Grove edition was Hawthorne Heights from Dayton, Ohio. Hawthorne Heights has been around for 20 years, and as soon as they opened their set with “Pens and Needles,” the band still sounded just as good as they did on album. Lead Singer and rhythm guitarist JT Woodruff had the most melodic voice of the night that just travelled beautifully over the crowd. Lead guitarist Mark McMillion writes guitar tracks that drive the tune and provide the screaming vocals that layer over JT’s perfectly. Bassist Matt Ridenour and drummer Chris Popadak keep the groove that allows the crowd to mosh and head bang around the venue. A touching unplanned moment was when a fan managed to run on stage. She was stopped by security before she could get to the band, but JT noticed this woman was in distress and told security to let her through. Apparently, Hawthorne Heights was her friend Taylor’s favorite band, but he had passed away. JT offered a consoling huge to the fan, and just let her take the time she needed to find some joy in this bittersweet concert before being escorted off the stage. It was a very touching moment that helps remind people just how touching and meaningful “emo music” can truly be. The band finished their set with songs like “This is Who We Are,” “Crimson Sand,” “Saying Sorry,” “Silver Bullet,” “Hard to Breath,” “Niki FM,” “Dandelions,” and ending with one of the greatest emo songs ever “Ohio is for Lovers.” During the final song there was not a single person in the crowd who wasn’t screaming along.

Throughout the show Hawthorne Heights banner hung behind each of the bands with the phrase “The year was 2004, Hawthorne Heights was the heaviest band in your MySpace top 8. Well, now you’re in your thirties, and that’s messed up.” As each band came on and played for the crowd, all the thirty-year old’s continued to rock out and sing their hearts out. These teen emos have turned into elder emo’s, but they continue to prove that it’s not just a phase. These bands and these songs helped countless people throughout the years, and they continue to be amazing songs no matter how old we get.


Matt Martinez

Editor - Orange County

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