I guess this begins with how I felt in early 2014:
I am currently a student at East Tennessee State University. ETSU is hosting the All-American Rejects for the fall concert this school year. My older sister, Lauren, is visiting Johnson City for the show.
We grab dinner at a local spot, Label, and drive around my college town. Fraternity houses pass-by the window on our way to the show, fallen leaves cover the ground, bikes and cars are parked parallel on the narrow streets, it’s quite college-town picturesque.
We arrive at our destination and wait in a line of students. After receiving floor wristbands, we enter Freedom Hall Civic Center that smells faintly like basketball game popcorn.
We attend many concerts, but unlike the others when crowds are full of strangers, this crowd for the AAR is full of familiarity: friends who live on my residence hall floor, hometown acquaintances, and faces with names unknown to me but seen on campus frequently.
I look down at the flooring I’m standing on and that around me. At least 1/3 ticket holders on the floor have on Converse. Which is fitting, angsty music and worn-out Converse go hand-in-hand, right?
I run into a guy who lives in my building, he has just come from a quinceañera and is ready to get down. Same for me, minus the latin celebration.
Opener, Devon Gilfillian and his band prime the stage with soul grooves + rock ‘n roll.
The place goes dark. The All-American Reject logo shines like a beacon onto the stage.
Short guitar riffs and the angst in Tyson Ritter’s voice transports the crowd of college students back to 2003 with “Swing, Swing.”
Ritter surprises the crowd with his consistent witty humor, slightly crude at times but welcomed with laughs nonetheless. He provokes by claiming the crowd is too tame and feels like a lecture hall. He adds personified guesses of how the semester must be going.
His humorous monologue is proceeded by “Fallin’ Apart” and “My Paper Heart.”
The AAR deliver fully with backing graphics; as Ritter and co. aggressively move about the stage, instruments in hand, an outline of a man and woman falling into a kiss plays behind them during “I Wanna.”
All it takes to rouse the crowd is the phrase “dirty little secret.” The crowd begins yelling the phrase back to the Rejects. Ritter says, “okay, we’ll do that one.”
In a quick transition, Ritter’s mic transforms into a device with lights on both sides, he swings it around his person frequently during “Kids in the Street.”
Often Ritter tries to keep it PG-13 but cannot, which becomes a joke throughout the show.
“Do do do do do do do do do” – you know, John Carpenter’s famous theme song for the Halloween movies- the Rejects play the widely-known chords and say spooky things into the mic. It is October, fitting. In line with their consistent humor, it breaks suddenly when Ritter says “time for a sad song.” The stage becomes starry for the 2005 hit “It Ends Tonight.”
The stage darkens signaling the last song.
The floor chants “Gives You Hell” until the Rejects reoccupy the stage. Ritter interrupts the lyrics by jeering the crowd with “now everybody sing it like your a frat boy.” Everyone rallies around yelling: if you find a man that’s worth a damn and treats you well, well he’s a fool, you’re just as well, hope it gives you hell.
It is obvious, but the band thanks the crowd and asks where everyone will be going afterwards because they have had a great time.
University concerts are fun because they feel like “the college years” should.
Thanks, ETSU + the Rejects for a really good time!