Initially, I was drawn to this particular show in Gainesville because my friends Stages & Stereos were performing with the guys on their two Florida dates. I didn’t know what to expect from the show, which was completely acoustic sets from all the musicians that played. Before that night, I hadn’t heard of Mark Rose or Spitalfield, or at least I didn’t think I had. Of course I knew who JT Woodruff was. I mean, anyone who went through an emo phase in high school has at least three Hawthorne Heights albums stashed away in their arsenal somewhere.
The show opened with local act Troy Cawthon. For as long as I have been going to shows in Gainesville, I have seen him perform, and I can guarantee that if you see Stages & Stereos in this town, you’ll see Troy as well. He’s a fantastic musician who writes extremely catchy tunes. I have seen him perform with a full band and acoustically, and each time he impresses me.
Stages & Stereos are always a crowd favorite. Whether they go full band, stripped down, or completely acoustic, their shows always leave you wanting more. They performed quite a few of their newest tracks off the EP Small Town Favorites, but they also did a few of the oldies. I’m never disappointed with the setlists they put together – well, with the exception of a few songs being constantly left off setlists, but that’s a conversation for another time. Lead vocalist, Daniel Lancaster, is a force to be reckoned with. He makes his talent look effortless, and it’s beautiful. Every time I watch him perform, I am in awe of how technical and precise his vocals tend to be. The whole band seems to put on flawless shows, and I can’t figure out how they do it. Whatever their secret is, whether it be nonstop practice or just astounding natural talent, they’re definitely doing it right. Also, guitarist Zach Schweizer is in a league all his own. He has such a big personality on stage during full band performances but can pull it back and have a calming presence when you put an acoustic guitar in his hands. I love watching Zach play, because, regardless of what kind of instrument he is holding, his passion shines so bright. It’s undeniable that he loves what he’s doing. Check out a video of Stages & Stereos performing their song “1990” at the end of this post.
Finally, JT and Mark took the stage, and from the second they sat down, they grabbed my attention. They were funny and engaged the crowd, which is definitely a plus in my book. If you can interact with your audience and make them feel like you are there for THEM, then you’re going to have a better response in the long-run. The basic set up of their set was back and forth performance. Mark would take the lead on a song, then JT would lead the next, and so on.
Mark was first, and, as I stated earlier, to my knowledge I had never heard him sing prior to this show. Within about 10 seconds of his first song, I was kicking myself for not knowing this man any sooner than that very moment. I have one criteria that musicians I have never heard of have to meet when I see them, and that criteria is to catch my attention and keep a hold of it. Mark didn’t catch my attention – he hunted it down and showed it absolutely no mercy. He made it very obvious why he’s been in the business for over 10 years now, and the secret to his success is simple: he’s good at what he does. It’s as easy as that. So, as I stood there completely consumed by the talent he possessed, he decided to turn it up a notch. Mark told a story of how he wanted to learn the opening rift to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica when he was first learning to play guitar. He then proceeded to play said song on an acoustic guitar. I turned to my friend who accompanied me to this show with a look of ‘how is this even gonna be possible?!’ Let me tell you, if you want to go a show and experience a “moment,” go see Mark live, and pray he does this song. I’m pretty sure if you look up the definition of “the moment,” you’ll find a YouTube video of Mark Rose performing “Enter Sandman” acoustically.
Words cannot describe the utmost respect I have for a person like JT Woodruff. I mean, this man was basically the reason my high school years were tolerable. He’s such a talent, and I couldn’t help but feel honored to even be in the same room as him. I love how you can’t predict his next move when it comes to music. He’s so all over the place with his songs, yet it all meshes together into a beautiful chaos. I was so awestruck with the fact that I was given the opportunity to watch someone who I have admired for so many years in such an intimate setting. In all my years of concert-going, this feeling that washed over me has only occurred on a select few occasions. JT’s set was quirky and passionate. He gave the audience a taste of some more upbeat tunes, as well as songs that felt very reminiscent of Hawthorne Heights material. He even threw in a Tom Petty cover, which was very fitting considering the city we were in.
For more music from Stages & Stereos, you can purchase a CD here.
When these bands are playing again, I’d strongly encourage you to buy concert tickets and see them live for yourself!
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