R5 w/ Parade of Lights at the Fresno Convention Center, January 27th 2016
Photos by Kari Marie Hana
Words by Faith Hernandez
First thing I have to say is, and I say this with no regrets, Ross Lynch is a powerhouse. I'll come back to this point. I felt it just needed to be said right away.I finally got the opportunity to see R5 play last night. It's been a long time want of mine to see them, as I am a fan. But I am attempting to write this as a journalist and not a fan. Or maybe a mix of both. I'm not sure. We'll see where this goes. The venue was in Fresno, in the William Saroyan Center building of the Fresno Convention Center. The venue itself is beautiful. The staff was incredibly nice. Oftentimes I find at these types of venues that the staff gets overwhelmed by the groups of fans that show up to see bands. These places often house Broadway shows and things like that, so a lot of the time they seem to not want to deal with a more hyper crowd, but this staff was more than helpful. I didn't see one rude person. So right away, the night started off right. I think the defining moment of the night for me was the moment when, standing at the box office and getting my ticket, there was a family next to me with a young girl. And she was having that moment. You know the one. The "my parents are the coolest and are taking me to see my favorite band in concert and I can't seem to calm down" moment. Turns out her parents had hidden this from her and simply told her she was just going out for a nice dinner. But she ended up at R5. I love those moments. It sort of transports you there and makes you see the entire situation differently. I thought it was precious. This mom and dad dragging the entire family out to see this band. And that's what R5 is all about. Family. Their lyrics might not be. They've grown up and I'm not complaining. But the band itself. Four siblings (five if including Ryland) and one of their best friends touring. Modern day Partridge Family. It really is about family. And I adored that moment happening in front of me there.
We got our tickets and went into the venue. I don't think there's a bad seat in there. It's perfectly set up. It's not confusing at all to navigate and I easily found my seat. If I'm honest (and this is the R5 fan in me) I didn't even really pay attention to who the openers were when this show was announced. I was planning on going and patiently waiting for R5 so that I could get what I needed for my review. Let me just tell you how the opening band ruined my plans for that, in the best way possible. They're called Parade of Lights. Very rarely do I go into a concert never having heard one of the bands at least once. I hadn't heard this one and I've been missing out. The second they started playing, they had my attention. I hadn't even heard a lyric yet. The vibe of the music had my attention. It's hard to think of a band to compare them to. They had their own sound. The closest thing I can think to relate it to is Bad Suns, which is another band that hooked me live before I had ever heard them. I sat there through this band's entire set completely mesmerized. The singer's voice is so smooth and almost calming sounding. Even on a massive sound system, he still managed to sound calming. I'm not sure where one song stared and where the other began, even though I know they stopped between to talk. It all just flowed together for me into one long, chill, rock I wanna listen to while I hang out with my best friends and experience the best moments kind of sound. I've had their album on non stop since I left the show. I just can't stop listening to them. They made me forget I wasn't at a concert to see them. And I was so impressed. Not just with their music. But their stage presence. The way they interacted on stage. The way they commanded my attention. Which, I admit, is hard to do if I've never heard their music. I definitely plan to go to every show that they play around my city. They earned a spot on my "bands to never miss" list. And I'd suggest giving them a listen if you haven't yet.
Next up was Ryland. Ryland is the youngest Lynch sibling and he is one powerhouse of a DJ. The second he got up on stage, the entire crowd jumped to their feet. He was on for about a half hour. Maybe a little bit less and almost everyone stayed on their feet the entire time. He played a good mix of music that everyone can enjoy. I think a lot of the time DJs can overwhelm the audience with too much mixing and with music that doesn't cater to whatever audience is at that particular show. Ryland didn't do that. All the songs were popular enough for everyone to know so everyone could sing along if they wanted to, and nothing was anything that would make a mom want to wince and cover her daughter's ears. Ryland got up there and he got the crowd going. The entire vibe of the building changed. Everyone was pumped up and moving. And he had most of the place right in the palm of his hand. For being the catalyst to the main event, he both did the job of getting everyone awake and alive for R5 and stood out on his own enough to be memorable and not lost in the opening act shuffle. Both opening acts were so amazing. And I will be paying more attention to them both.
After Ryland, it was R5 time. And I did try to take notes for this. I did. But you see, in this case, I am a fan before I am a journalist so most of the time I had to keep reminding myself that I am an adult with adult responsibilities. So my notes do exist, they are just quite jumbled. So I can't go song by song. I can't go moment by moment. I was too caught up experiencing my moments. I'm not a concert goer that lives through watching the experience through a screen. When I love the band, I put my phone down. I already knew that this band is amazing live and that Ross was someone that commanded attention. But I wasn't expecting it to be like it was in reality. I don't know why, I'd been told. I'd watched YouTube. Even with all that preparation, I wasn't ready. The only comparison I can think when it comes to Ross is a little bit of Mick Jagger, a little bit of Freddie Mercury and a lot of, for the more modern crowd, Matty Healy. If lights were off, save for just a silhouette light up Ross, I'd still know who he is just from the way he carries himself on stage. Ross is no stranger to everyone staring at him and he loves it. And knows how to work that knowledge. He's been in entertainment for so long that this isn't surprising. He manages to turn every song into an experience. An experience that you don't want to leave. For someone so young, he is one of the most seasoned frontmen I've ever seen, especially for crowds so big. The other one that struck me the most up there was Riker. Granted I was standing directly in front of him, about ten feet away. He was so engaging with the audience and looking like he loves every second of his life. His smile is contagious and just like Ross, when he's singing, he demands attention. You don't want to look away. And, on a sidenote, I love the bright green strings on his guitar. On the other side of the stage, there was Rocky. He came over to Riker's side once and that made me happy because I felt I was missing out on the experience of the entire band by not being in the middle. I think I waved at him in one of my I-forgot-I'm-an-adult moments. Rocky is actually my favorite. If I had to pick. Which I hate doing. When people ask me to pick, I stare at them like they're insane. How do you pick a favorite Lynch sibling? I like how quiet he seems. And how his guitar skills are anything but quiet. I feel like he just pours all of himself into playing that guitar. Unfortunately, I was in a weird position and I couldn't see Rydel and Ellington that well. However, Lightning Strikes happened and Rydel came down to sing. And at that point, she owned that stage. Her voice rounds out this band so well. And the little girls in the audience love her and look up to her so much. It's so great to watch their faces when they get close to her. It's like their favorite Disney princess just entered their lives. And Ellington, I did see him when he'd stand on his kit. Easily one of the best drummers out there, I'm a little sad I couldn't see him a little better. I guess I'll have to go see them again so I can review Ellington better.
I've gone on about the band, now let me go on for a moment about the thing that actually ended up surprising me the most. And that was the vibe. I think that this had the best lighting of any concert I've been to. The lighting set the mood for almost every song. I was assuming they'd stand there and sing and once in a while the lights would change. But that's not what happened at all. The lighting made every song an experience. A few times everything went red and the bass was dominating the sound and it made me think of a blues club or something. Something I never thought I'd experience at an R5 concert. The mix of songs was great too. They played enough of their songs off of their new album to justify naming the tour after it, but they also did a few older favorites, as well as a bonus track. I think that my two favorites were Dark Side and Lightning Strikes. Those are the two songs that stand out in my mind the most. But the night is still a concert high blur for me still. Hence why this review is so all over the place.
The bottom line is that Parade of Lights is a band everyone should be paying attention to. Ryland Lynch can pump any crowd up any day and hold a large room's attention and keep them singing with everything he's playing for hours. I have no doubt of that. And R5 blew me away. Completely blew me away and I wasn't expecting that. If they weren't already one of my favorite bands, they would be now. It was an amazing concert experience. And that's all I have left to say.