That buzzing quiet before a show is almost meditative—feeling the space and the people around you in stasis before crashing waves of sound sweep them all up into a hurricane of musical energy.
That mumbling silence was shattered as opener Finch took the stage, shaking up the audience with thunderous guitar and a sound reminiscent of The Used—all screaming angst, killer riffs and surprisingly beautiful lead vocals from Nate Barcalow that called Buckcherry to mind. Some of the lyrics were lost amid piercing screams and blaring guitar, but it all came together to take the high-energy crowd back to the feeling of being a teenager—angry, in love and more than willing to smile widely while giving the world the middle finger.
Headliner Yellowcard began their set much like their albums start—with a wrenchingly gorgeous violin intro, like sparks on a fuse—before blowing away the solemn quiet by exploding into “Transmission Home” from their newest album Lift a Sail. Following their salutatory song, pianist, guitarist and lead vocalist Ryan Key and violinist Sean Mackin warmly greeted Albuquerque with a special nod to fans who've been with them since they first played the Duke City 15 years ago. Key blithely acknowledged that not everyone knows their new album yet, and he told the crowd to “make up [their] own fuckin' lyrics” because Yellowcard's two missions that evening were for everyone to lose their voice and have the time of their lives. This across-the-stage interaction extended out into the audience, creating a fun, friendly atmosphere, especially when Mackin got fans waving their hands and shouting out loud. Singing along—even with their new tunes—turned out to be easy, because their kick-ass tech crew put out crystal-clear sound and perfectly understandable vocals.
Blasting into “Lights and Sounds,” it was as though the lightning from outside had electrified the crowd. The energy bounced from the rowdy fans to the disco ball and back. Yellowcard mixed the old with the new as the band helped the crowd with the lyrics to the rockin' title track. When they finally performed their well-known 9/11 tribute “Believe,” there was a fierce, wild sort of love roiling in the air. There wasn't a soul in the house who wasn't belting out lyrics and jumping up and down like they were about to burst from all the crackling excitement.
A chorus of voices sang along to “Way Away” and “Ocean Avenue,” crowd-surfers flailed to “Awakening,” and a pit of moshers collided to “Southern Air.” I think Yellowcard accomplished their missions here in Albuquerque. As I walked out onto Downtown's rain-washed sidewalks, into a clear, starry night, I felt cleansed; it was as though I'd been scrubbed clean by the sonic storm inside and had come out shining.