blackbear popped by The Fillmore last Thursday to promote his brand new album. I wrote a lot about in loving memory leading up to the show. It’s a good album that joins the current charge of returning rock to the radio, packed with more of the same sugary falsetto, only now with some freshly studded hooks and blood-spattering screams to boot. But just because blackbear is dusting off his guitar doesn’t mean he’s trend chasing. He’s also chasing down old ghosts by grieving for his dad while grappling with his own addictions.
But I did not write one flipping word about Heart Attack Man. For that, dear reader, I have failed you. My job is to make you feel excited about music and Heart Attack Man kicked off Thursday’s show by going straight for the jugular with “Puke”, a hardcore stomp that’s fresh off the Columbus band’s latest EP Thoughtz & Prayer.
According to Wikipedia, Heart Attack Man are an American punk rock band from Cleveland, Ohio. By all accounts, that’s an accurate description. They seem like five wholesome dudes who like to spin around and do scissor kicks while playing “Party Hard” in their parents’ garage.
But Heart Attack Man might be at their best when they’re gunning straight for the middle. “Out for Blood” whacks you over the head with a drooling riff that’s as catchy and self-deprecating as anything Weezer have slapped together. These guys aren’t afraid to strip down either. New single “Loud & Clear” reminds me of Modern Baseball’s homespun recordings, with its hissy acoustic scruff and raw chest screams about missing out on life during your late twenties.
Heart Attack Man sound like they have a long life ahead of them. But they did make one fatal mistake near the end of their set: they called for a circle pit.
The problem wasn’t the song. “Low Hanging Fruit” barely clears the one-minute mark, but that’s all the time that Heart Attack Man needs to make you feel grimy and frantic and joyously pissed-off. That piledriving riff scrambles your brain. It practically commands you to slam into someone’s sweaty outstretched forearm. But that’s a tough ask for any opening act. By the time that one minute was over, the crowd hadn’t budged.
Mod Sun did not run into that problem. The floor was packed with girls in lacy leather and boys with matching spider web tattoos, all of whom I’m pretty sure had all already leapt off their feet by the time the bottle blonde rapper-turned-rocker stormed out to the prickly, resounding, call to arms kiss-off “Karma”.
Then again, Mod Sun isn’t your typical opener. He did just share the silver screen with Pete Davidson and Megan Fox. The budding director, producer and poet kept his set short but sweet, packing enough familiar favorites to stuff a festival tent. “Bones” boomed and bellowed. “Annoying” was anything but, swinging into a wrecking ball chorus of exploding pop-punk confetti.
He also tested out two new singles that are already shaping up to be instant crowd-pleasers. “Perfectly Imperfect”, a goofball guitar anthem with all the charm of a slobbery puppy, had everyone saying na-na-na to the haters. “Battle Scars” was slower and even more melodramatic than the song’s bruisingly theatrical video, but the simmering arena-rock makeover was greeted by a bright wave of iPhones. But Mod Sun didn’t drop so much as one hint at his upcoming album. That’s not what he was here to promote. “My brother blackbear just released a flawless album”. He was just as pumped for blackbear as everyone who’d waited in line.
That line was long too. It stretched far outside the front gates, past the expressway, to the very last crumbled inch of Allen Street. Two people asked me if they should swallow the hidden fees and buy tickets online rather than risk waiting in line for the box office. Another got in a shouting match with multiple bouncers. One nice girl who ended up standing in my section drove all the way down from North Jersey. Did I die just a little inside when she called me sir? I sure did. That part of me is now dead and buried right beside my DC skate shoes and homemade My Bloody Valentine t-shirt.
But I don’t blame them. blackbear made damn sure that no one left The Fillmore without flipping the bird during their favorite diss track or breakup sex jam. If you count the folksy extended interlude to “idfc” as its own slurry spell, he managed to cram a whopping 27 songs into a compact 90 minutes that spanned the entirety of his young but prolific career.
I’ve seen other Top 40 regulars like H.E.R. and Ludacris perform miracles with this ambitiously freewheeling setlist design. For it to work, you need plenty of pizzazz and blackbear definitely decked out his stage show with lots of glitzy details. His microphone was studded with diamonds. Gold chains snaked across the giant LED backing screen. Heck, even his guitar looked like it belonged in a Steve Madden catalog. But the songs never dragged under all that excess glint and glamor, sliding from bubblegum pop to scumbag trap bounce before getting down and dirty with crooning stripper pole PBR&B.
But to really pull off this level of spectacle, you need staying power. You need hits and not just the occasional one-off flash in the pan either. All that genre hopping turned into quite the workout for blackbear. The poor guy sweated more than Rick Ross at an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. But for a thirtysomething multi-millionaire, cooking up hits is no sweat. Constantly collaborating with a constellation of Grammy stars has crossed blackbear over onto pretty much everyone’s go-to Spotify playlist. He mixed in the platinum country assist “Memory”, followed by a pop-punk medley that featured patched-in vocals from Avril Lavigne, All Time Low and kindred wayward spirit Machine Gun Kelly.
Of course, blackbear doesn’t need anyone’s help. As he so demonstrated with several celebratory vape puffs, he can spark up a room all by himself. His day ones threw a proper tantrum when the time finally came to turn up for “hot girl bummer”. “do re mi” dripped with extra sleaze thanks to some added grease from his band, who kept the crowd locked-in during a wardrobe change by somehow mashing together Mystikal and Fall Out Boy without making my ears bleed.
blackbear basically waited until the encore to unveil in loving memory. Fair enough. His new songs have only been out in the world for a few weeks. Maybe he figured people needed more time to memorize all the poison darts he and MGK hurled at lead single “gfy”. But if that was weighing on his mind, this show proved that blackbear has nothing to worry about. Colorful pigtails giddily flopped around to the woo-hoo crush of “dead inside” and I saw lots of burly goth dudes mouthing along to “toxic energy”, which has already topped 1 million streams. blackbear gave the beartrap a full flex of his many bangers and ballads. Based on the sheer number of people in the crowd who continued to stick around long after the lights came on, it’s clear that his fans will follow him wherever this tour goes.
If you missed blackbear last Thursday, or if you just want another chance to stick it to your ex, there’s still time to catch him this fall. Right now, he’s barreling across the Midwest on the way to California. Mod Sun did hop off the bus to meet back up with his fiancé at Firefly next week. But Heart Attack Man is still in tow. Blackbear is also picking up State Champs and Waterparks, who I saw play at the last true Warped Tour. Good times!
9/16 Indianapolis, IN
9/17 Chicago, IL
9/18 Minneapolis, MN
9/22 Salt Lake City, UT
9/23 Las Vegas, NV
9/25 San Diego, CA
9/26 Inglewood, CA
9/29 Seattle, WA
me & ur ghost
queen of broken hearts
i miss the old u
i feel bad
1 SIDED LOVE
idfc (folk version)
@ my worst
do re mi
Love it When You Hate Me
make up sex
my ex’s best friend
sobbing in cabo
hot girl bummer
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