The historic Thalia Hall hosted Grapetooth’s self-titled debut album release show on Sunday. The tone for the night was set as guests made their way into the showroom with a banner displaying the lyrics, “Don’t mind living” from their song “Trouble.”
It wasn’t the normal set up of Thalia Hall either. The traditional stage was dark and looming in the background as a smaller stage was placed right in the middle of the room. It made for an intimate gathering with direct interaction between performer and music admirer.
In full reflective tracksuits, Chris and Clay took the stage and seemed to have dressed to match the 80s aesthetic of their music. The first chord of the opening song struck the audience’s ears and everyone instantly knew the song was “Violent.” Beer sprayed, bodies flew, and that was just the beginning. With no barricade or fence, everybody got to be up close and personal. The edge of the stage was just a single step up from the crowd. Grapetooth enjoyed the intimate set up just as much as the fans. “Surrounded on all sides feels nice,” said Clay. No obstruction, just an orb of music absorbing the band and fans.
A little side to side step action by Clay brought them into the start of “Red Wine.”
During this track, the instrumental jams were the perfect opportunity for Clay and Chris to show off their electric dance moves. It was an intoxicating performance as the crowd was challenged to match the bands’ liveliness. Let’s be honest the crowd tried to keep up, but no one can truly outdo Clay and Chris when it comes to moves. Every limb lost control and went loose, except for Chris’s fingers that kept striking his keyboard keys with sharp precision. Bottles of wine could be found in Clay and Chris’s hands throughout the night, representing the origin story of the band’s name.
It turned out that the tracksuits were a fitting choice considering the high-knees Clay performed during their rendition of “Death.” As the haunting track played, Clay traded his high-knees for boxing moves. As he punched back and forth towards the ground, the audience’s bodies followed back and forth, back and forth as they were mesmerized by his movement and energy.
When the band slowed it down for “Mile After Mile,” the audience drew in. Swaying to the beat, the crowd was a sea of bodies moving in unison to the wave of Clay and Chris’s arms. They looked like conductors to an orchestra or wizards casting a spell. The concertgoers were placed in a sentimental and tender trance as Clay sang the agonizing lyrics.
A gentle toe tap by Chris set the beat and began the song “Blood,” which Clay presented as, “…an anthem that possesses our bodies.” Just the introduction got the audience screaming bloody murder. The crowd was projecting lyrics louder than the microphone magnified voices of the band, and they couldn’t sing the lyrics loud enough. I’m sure a few audience members vocal chords were damaged after this song, but that didn’t stop them from keeping the same volume throughout the whole night.
To go along with the close relationship Grapetooth and the audience had established that night, they took it a step further when they sang Happy Birthday to Alex, a front-row audience member they had just met. After that charming moment, they kept the mood somber, but the energy high as they eased into the song “Hallelujah.”
As the chorus rang out, it reminded me of my younger church days. It was religious and spiritual. Everyone was there to support Grapetooth and believe in their lyrics. “Hallelujah, I can hear you calling for me.” Everyone was calling for Grapetooth that night. Everyone wanted a taste.
“Trouble” was the closer, which fit perfectly as the fans rushed the stage. What could have been real trouble turned into a full-blown party. Instead of seeing this moment as an invasion, the band embraced the audience and allowed themselves to get lost in the crowd. You couldn’t even see the band members performing, officially signifying the intimacy of the concert that night. The band and crowd were one.
As the instruments faded out, signaling the end of the song, the audience was not ready to see the wild affair end. They continued to sing “Trouble” acapella as a tactic to convince Grapetooth to stay.
The lights turned on and instantly flashed everyone out of their haze, “Red Red Wine” by UB40 played from the venue’s loudspeakers as a tribute to Grapetooth’s love of wine. Cadien, a member of the local band Twin Peaks, drummed along with the song which encouraged the crowd to stay as a flood on the stage. But at the end of the song, it was time to go. The party was over.
People made their way to the front doors to exit, but everyone was still buzzing from the stimulating show. Pushing the door open and stepping outside, the reality of Sunday night set back in. I was transplanted back into the real world and desperately wanted to go back into the magical atmosphere Grapetooth had created at Thalia Hall that night.
Written by: Colleen Kennedy