All words and photos: Lauren Bulbin
“We can pretend! Pretend for the weekend!” blasted my car stereo on the way to the 930 club. I was playing Neon Trees new album Picture Show, on repeat the whole ride over. When I arrived at the venue, the doors had been open for about 40 minutes and the show was sold out. I patiently waited for the gentleman at the box office window to get off the phone so I could retrieve my photo pass and dash inside.
After getting my photo pass and some obnoxiously large cupcake shaped stamps on my hands, that I can never get off no matter what I use or how many times I shower, I entered a half-full room with a giant Neon Trees banner hanging on the wall behind the stage. Something about the 930 club makes me feel safe. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have been attending shows there since I was eleven or if it’s the memories of all the amazing artists I have seen perform there. When I got up to the front of the room, the first band was getting ready to go on. I took a moment to find my equilibrium, when I realized the opening band was JJAMz. If you didn’t know, JJAMz is like a cute, kitschy hipster version of Fleetwood Mac, and their lead singer is an adorable blonde girl who can sing very well. Their music sounds a little bit like Maroon 5, The Like and Phantom Planet. I like them, and I recommend taking a moment to listen to their debut album Suicide Pact. JJAMz played a short set, and I stood against the speakers waiting while the stage was set up for Penguin Prison.
In that moment, I thought of the other times I had seen Neon Trees perform live and how much I enjoyed it. This was my third time seeing Neon Trees live. The first was last summer at the 930 club when they opened for Civil Twilight. The second was when they opened for Duran Duran at DAR Constitution Hall, where outside the tour buses I had the pleasure of meeting Tyler Glenn in person. He was surprisingly kind and friendly, not what you would expect from someone who has such a HUGE stage personality. But my thoughts were suddenly disrupted, when a heavy thumping bass beat shook me off the speakers. It was Penguin Prison ascending the stage. And I promise, no Penguins were harmed in the dancing of this photographer. Penguin Prison is not a band I have ever heard of before now. I didn’t know what they looked or sounded like. But now that I know, I guarantee there will be a day you catch me saying “This Penguin Prison song is so overplayed”, and that is because they are going to very, very famous. They are great. I mean, the next One Republic great. Their music has the mixed electronic, instrumental sound that a large number of people love nowadays. I truly believe they have the potential to be mainstream. I will be buying their album, and suggest you get on this band wagon. Listen to their song “Don’t Fuck With my Money.” It is very catchy.
After Penguin Prison left the stage and shook hands with a few fans, the technical crew of the 930 club scrambled to set up the many, many lights and stage accoutrements that come with Neon Trees. I could feel my heart starting to race. I too began preparing myself for Neon Trees to take the stage. Once the lights came down, I scurried in front of the barricade with the other photographers. The crowd had begun whooping and cheering. Tyler Glenn took to the stage, his hands flying in the air, effectively telling the crowd to cheer louder. When you see Tyler Glenn in person you can’t help but think that Simon Le Bon, Stephen Duffy, Freddie Mercury and Brandon Flowers have new company. He has all the makings of a 1980’s glamour rock pop star, and the way he dresses and sings would make you believe he is one. I often find myself imagining Tyler at age six, dancing to Michael Jackson and Madonna in his parent’s living room with the early sounds of MTV sputtering from the television. The band opened with “Moving in the Dark,” but the crowd certainly wasn’t in the dark, because Neon Trees had a killer light show with them, successfully blinding the front row. A girl actually wore sunglasses during the entire set. Every light was timed in sync to flurry of guitar riffs, dance moves and rock’n’roll notes. The setlist included, “Sins of my Youth,” “Everybody Talks,” “Teenage Sounds,” “1983,” “Mad Love,” “Weekend,” “Trust,” “Lessons in Love,” “In The Next Room and Animal.” The high point was when Tyler sat down at the piano to play an acoustic version of “Your Surrender” in the middle of the set. The show was amazing.
Very rarely do you find a band that sounds as good live as they do on their CDs. Neon Trees is one of those bands. They are strictly inordinately wonderful live. If you have an opportunity to see them perform, GO!