The best shows are always the ones you arrive to and there are no stage gates to hold you back from reaching your favorite bands, and there are no guards destroying the atmosphere. At Mr. Smalls Funhouse, that is exactly the vibe you expect when you walk in and it never fails to deliver what the crowd is longing for.
Opening the stage for the June 27th show with mewithoutYou and the main act, Thursday, were Atlanta rockers, Big Jesus. The still small crowd lingered throughout the room as Big Jesus took to the stage. Though a small audience, each person in attendance held onto each word the lead vocalist, Spencer Ussery, sang, each guitar string plucked, and each beat of the drum.
As Big Jesus went through their setlist, the audience became more engaged with the music and began swaying back and forth as they sipped on their PBR pounders. Before their final song, Ussery explained “being able to announce this tour [with mewithoutYou and Thursday] was a kind of wild experience.” The four-piece packed up their equipment following their finale to clear the stage and invited audience members to come and hang out at their table in the main lobby to talk with them between the other performances.
While mewithoutYou vocalist, Aaron Weiss stretched on the side of the stage, stage hands set up several microphones and a vibrant green drumset in the middle of the stage that reflected the blue overheard lights into the crowd. mewithoutYou, a band that can only be described as transcendent, with spoken-word vocals, a free-spirited vibe, and unmatched performance skills. Each time mewithoutYou enters the stage they come to do one thing: to put on a kickass, interactive performance.
Each of mewithoutYou’s past performances have been accompanied with a variety of unique percussion, and their most recent visit to Mr. Smalls was no exception. The band effortlessly brought the crowd to life and shock the venue with their heavy bass pedal and superior stage presence. As the heat crept into the tightening space and onto the stage, Weiss substituted his signature burnt yellow beanie hat for a dark purple, folded bandana to keep his hair from his face and sweat from rolling into his eyes.
After spending over five years out of the music scene and away from Pittsburgh, Thursday entered the stage filled with evident enthusiasm and consistent jokes about their age and the age of the crowd. It wasn’t until Thursday began their performance did stage guards reveal themselves from the shadows of the room to catch crowd surfers and prevent anyone from getting injured. The post-hardcore band commanded the room with ease, while vocalist Geoff Rickly encouraged the audience to make their way to the front of the stage, offering his hand to anyone who got close enough to the performance area.
As Thursday played through their jam-packed setlist, they hit every song any fan would want to hear, including “Cross Out the Eyes” and “Understanding in a Car Crash.” The band continuously and happily interacted with the crowd in new and exciting ways; nearly halfway through their performance they took a moment to kick a dozen gigantic, red balloons into the venue space for everyone to throw around as they played.
Before exiting the stage with their encore song, “Into The Blinding Light,” Rickly extended an invitation to the audience to join them on the upper level to see another performance at the The Funhouse of Mr. Smalls. Rickly explained, “If you wanna come hang, we would love for you to come say hi. This is the first time I’m touring sober, so if you want to buy me I drink I’ll have a Coke with you.”
Although it was a joy to see Thursday embark on their reunion tour after disbanding in late 2011, there is surely no way to predict what is next on their agenda or what the future will hold for them as a band. Perhaps after taking some well-deserved time to reflect on their personal lives and being back on tour after so long, Thursday will surprise us with some new revolutionary music in the future.