Hometown shows are the best. Living in South Florida, I never really got to see any hometown shows save for local bands, but I always heard how different they were. It’s especially fulfilling for the bands playing in their hometown, because you’re on your home turf, with your friends and family, and you can have so much fun. Underoath, hailing from Tampa/St. Petersburg, played hometown shows every year since the late 90s when they were just starting out. At the end of last year, they announced their breakup, and released the dates or one final tour, featuring Letlive, As Cities Burn, and mewithoutYou. St. Petersburg was the last date on the tour. A show in a town that helped define them, and supported them from their inception to present. A show attended by their wives, parents, siblings, and music celebrities (Jeremy and Kevin of A Day To Remember among them). One final performance in a city that had been so good to them. Their last notes as a band would be played there, so I made sure to get a ticket.
Letlive opened the show. Being the second time I was seeing them, I already knew what to expect. Jason Aalon Butler would dance around like a madman, with flailing limbs and sweat-soaked clothes. He would climb walls and dance on rooftops, crowdsurf on a large tarp, and stand in a moshpit hugging people, myself included. The band would get the crowd as involved as possible, no matter what. They blasted through their setlist, with Jason occasional taking time between songs to tell personal stories of their involvement with Underoath, and how much this night meant to them. Mid-set, the band debuted a new song, tentatively titled ’27 Club’. I spoke with Jeff (guitars, vocals) after the show and found out some details on their new album. It will be turned into the label as soon as mixing is finished this week, and is to be released in early June. Jason said to me when I asked what it would sound like that “…it’s Fake History times ten”. Letlive, once again, put on a fantastic performance, and after their set, thanked all the bands, especially Underoath, for making the night possible.
Next up was a newly rejuvenated As Cities Burn, a band I was only vaguely familiar with. I had heard a few songs here and there, but I never really dug deep or attempted to give them my full attention. As soon as they started playing, I instantly regretted this. They were not what I was expecting at all, considering the guitarists came out wearing matching scarves from American Apparel. They began playing, and their guitarist was mainly doing the vocals, until a random guy wearing a plaid shirt came on stage and began doing some very impressive screams. Apparently this was their lead singer. Killer stuff. Bands with multiple vocalists are always a big turn-on for me, because it changes things up so they don’t get boring. They pummeled the crowd with their music, shouting, chanting, and getting the audience to sing and dance along. Finally, they thanked all the bands, and cited Underoath as one of the main reasons they play the type of music they do, and then played their last song of the set. Only one band between myself and Underoath now.
mewithoutYou took the stage next. Earlier I had apparently seen their singer walking around with his girlfriend digging through trash, what I initially chocked up to a hippie way too far from San Francisco for his own good. My friend I was with said that they play a very “eclectic” style of music that was mainly spoken word infused with post-rock. Alright, I could give it a shot. Long story short, they were fantastic. They had four vocalists, a drummer with tons of energy, an accordion, a trumpet, snazzy suspenders, and fun songs. I really enjoyed the mix of spoken word, shouts, and singing that the band incorporated. It was definitely a change of pace from the previous two bands that were more heavy. This band surprised me most with their extended instrumental outros, which were rich with texture and superb musicianship that nearly everyone can, and should, be able to appreciate. They didn’t talk much in between songs, but after their last song they gave thanks to all the bands, and pointed out that Underoath and them are really good friends that go way back to The Changing Of Times era. They thanked them, then left the stage. And then it was time.
The lights turned off. The intro music started. I looked to my left and saw Spencer and Chris high-fiving off stage and preparing to go on. Then the intro stopped. The stage was suddenly filled with the six dudes known as Underoath. Tim, Spencer, Grant, Chris, Daniel and James began playing. My god, they were better than I could have ever imagined. Going from “Breathing In A New Mentality” right into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”, they killed it. After a few songs, Spencer spoke to the crowd about how stoked everyone was that they were ending their careers in their hometown. Then the set continued as planned, until about halfway through. A second drumset was rolled onstage, as a man with short red hair sat down behind it. Aaron Gillespie, original member of Underoath who left before their latest release Ø (Disambiguation) was performing. This was unreal. With them he played “Emergency Broadcast::The End Is Near” on the second kit. Then he stepped down. Was that it? Was that the end of his cameo? Then he got behind the main kit, and set up a microphone stand next to him. Oh god, could it be? Then he counted the next song in, and began “Reinventing Your Exit”, singing the same lyrics he helped write back in 2004. This was certified history in the making.
After that, he was done. He got up, hugged everyone, and headed back to his wife towards the back of the venue. Underoath continued on, and the night felt like it would never end. Then they announced it would be their last song, “Everyone Looks So Good From Here”, and the crowd became anxious. This was it. The final show, the final notes. After the song, they exited the stage, and the crowd went berserk. Chants of “Underoath!” and “One more song!” and “We love you!” arose from every which way, myself included. Then they came back on. Spencer said “Alright, fine. You win. Let’s have some fun.” They began their encore set, and it was even more intense than their main set. Guitars flying, crowdsurfers everywhere. After two songs, Spencer said “Listen, we can’t drag this on. We’ve been a band for 15 years. It’s time to make our exit. So, thank each and every one of you for your love and support tonight. SO, for the final time, here’s our last song. It’s called ‘Writing On The Walls’.” I moved to the pit. I crowdsurfed with Spencer and Tim. I had a blast. Then, all at once, it ended. Tears began to flow, both from the audience and the band members. Gear was thrown. Drums, sticks, synths, microphones, picks. I caught a ten pound wooden plank Chris has been using since 2006 to mount his equipment on. My friend got a setlist and a drumstick. I shed tears of joy and sorrow. It was surreal.
As the band left the stage, it all became real. That was it. I heard Underoath play their last show, sings their songs for the final time, ever. I took some time to compose myself and then headed out. As I left, I saw Chris outside the tour bus, with a small crowd around him, parents by his side. The walked up to him and asked for a picture, to which he obliged. Afterwards, I told him how I drove nearly 5 hours and 200 miles just to see them. And he said to me, with a smile on his face and a heartfelt voice, “Thank you so much, man. Seriously. It means the world to me. You have no idea. You guys are the reasons I love what I do.” And with that, after a manly embrace, I left. I headed back to Tallahassee, merch and plank in tow, knowing that while the band may be over, their music will live on forever. So thanks, Underoath. Thanks for 15 amazing years. Thanks for being one of the best bands out there. Thanks for letting me see you guys live, for bringing the bands you did on tour with you. Thanks for making my first time seeing you also my last, and for making it the best concert I’ve ever been to in my life. You may never comprehend how much your music has done for so many people, but I can tell you right now that it’s more than you could ever imagine.
RIP Underøath. 1999-2013