A few weeks ago, two incredible, up-and-coming bands visited Chicago to give memorable performances to both new and old fans. On March 4 at the Bottom Lounge, Finish Ticket and Vinyl Theatre joined forces to co-headline Live Nation‘s “Ones To Watch” tour. The PHOENIX was able to chat on the phone with the lead singers from these bands before the shows. The bands shared insights about their ongoing musical journey and their excitement over performing in Chicago. As the tour’s title suggests, these two bands are definitely a couple to add to your lists.
Vinyl Theatre, a Milwaukee-based band from the Midwest, first formed between Keegan Calmes (lead vocals/guitar) and Chris Senner (keyboard) in high school, who began to write songs together since they had met. In the years to come, the band officially formed in 2012 when old childhood friends Nick Cesarz (drums) and Josh Pothier (bass) joined in. They signed with record label Fueled by Ramen, which has also signed bands such as Paramore and Twenty One Pilots.
But to be at the level of musical opportunity and talent that Vinyl Theatre has attained, it takes a lot of skill, time and experience to develop the band and promote enjoyable music. Surprisingly enough, the electronica rock band started off solely with acoustic music, but developed its musical style with the impressive use of the electric guitars and keyboards. Vinyl Theatre has since been able to tour with bands such as Twenty One Pilots, the Mowgli’s, Magic Man and Smallpools.
Joining Vinyl Theatre this tour is another band that opened for Twenty One Pilots — Finish Ticket. A rock-and-pop band from San Francisco, Finish Ticket has five members, four of whom make up a couple sets of twins. It started with Brendan (vocals) and Michael (bass) Hoye and their friend Alex DiDonato (guitar). Soon after, a second set of twins Gabe (drums) and Nick (keyboard) Stein, were added to the mix. The band has previously opened for artists such as Ed Sheeran, The Black Keys, Phoenix and the Strokes and toured with Misterwives, Awolnation and Walk the Moon.
Both Vinyl Theatre and Finish Ticket have been traveling around the country performing at countless places such as Los Angeles, New York, and Austin. But Chicago turns out to be one of their favorite cities.
“We love Chicago,” said Calmes. “It’s down the street from us and a large part of our fan base is from here, actually. It’s our second home.”
To further support this claim, Vinyl Theatre even wore Chicagoan apparel at their March 4 performance (but more on that later).
Similarly, Finish Ticket’s lead singer commented, “We have really good memories from Chicago,” said Hoye. “In our first tour ever, our show at Chicago was the only place where we actually made some money, so we used it all to go out and see the city.”
On March 4, the Bottom Lounge was filled with fans, who pressed against the stage and anxiously waited for the performance to start. Those closest to the stage were definitely the hardcore fans, who were all mainly dressed in T-shirts with the bands’ logos, and many of which had seen the bands perform before.
Finish Ticket opened the show, singing their song “Wrong.” From the beginning, concert-goers noticed the band’s impressive musical engagement with the audience. Lead singer Brendan had a loud and confident voice that truly resonated with its recordings.
Many of the songs were from the previous albums Tears You Apart (2014) and When Night Becomes Day (2015), which was a good mix of both old and new music. The show and its songs were full of beats and colorful lights that mimicked the aura of the music. Finish Ticket threw in a cover of The Killers song “When You Were Young,” which, as you can imagine, made the crowd cheer and scream at the top of their lungs.
Finish Ticket’s best moment was when it played one of its most well-known song—”Color.” Hoye definitely put the crowd in a glowing mood — cell phones whipped out as the audience jumped with intense enjoyment at the song’s chorus. Hoye grooved across the stage as the concert-goers imitated his exciting performance, all with clapping hands, bobbing heads and huge grins.
One of the last songs Finish Ticket performed was “Tranquilize.” Blue and white lights flashed along with the beats of the song, giving a mellow, pleasant mood. As concert-goers swayed to the invigorating music, mesmerized by the lights, we couldn’t help but actually feel tranquilized.
A brief intermission followed the end of Finish Ticket’s performance. But soon enough, the good vibes came back in full speed once Vinyl Theatre came onstage. The whole band was wearing Chicago Bulls T-shirts and began to sing a short introductory jingle that repeated to the audience, “Welcome to our Show.” The first official song the band performed was “If You Say So,” which was a perfect choice—Keegan’s voice was spirited and lively with every word he sang.
Vinyl Theatre recently lost a band member, Josh Pothier (bass), who had to take time off due to health issues, but the unfortunate loss did not hinder the band members from continuing the tour nor from performing the best that they could. The band continued to bring vibrant music to the stage and to the audience, and it kept the energy up the whole entire night.
Besides enjoying the bands perform, it was evident that concert-goers would be enthralled by the patterns of the stage lights. The show reminded me of something that came up in our interview a few weeks before: when I asked Vinyl Theatre what fans should expect of this particular show, Calmes commented, “A lot of flashing lights—haha kidding—but a lot of energy and fun.”
However, I don’t think Calmes was joking because one of the first things that caught my attention was in fact the flashing lights. Both Finish Ticket and Vinyl Theatre displayed a wide spectrum of colors that flashed with the beat of the music in creative ways. Just when I thought all that color was impossible, their performances would prove me wrong. While standing there mesmerized by such an explosion of color, there were moments when they cut the lights and let you feel the intimate moment between visiting fan and performing artist. And within seconds, the gleams would return, blinding people with their almost photographic-like luminosity.
Most of the songs the band performed that night came from their newest album Electrogram (2014), which consists of many of its popular songs such as “Breaking Up My Bones,” “Shine On,” and “The Rhythm of the Night.” Vinyl Theatre also added a little Coldplay into the mix with “Viva La Vida” and they even sang a new song called “My Fault,” which is expected to appear on its upcoming album.
By the end of the show, Vinyl Theatre invited Finish Ticket back to the stage and sang a cover of Third Eye Blind‘s song “Jumper.” The joint execution of this classic song seemed like a unique bonding moment between the bands, but more importantly, it resonated with the rest of the audience, whichever band the fans came to primarily support.
Vinyl Theatre ended with one of the songs that Calmes hopes to blow up soon. During “Gold,” Calmes asked the audience to put away their phones and enjoy living in the moment of the music. That’s when some fans jumped atop of their friends’ shoulders to get even closer to the band members. The memorable part for me was when Keegan whipped his water bottle across the crowd, coincidentally splashing me, almost hitting my face before surprisingly landing in my friend’s hand.
If concert-goers stuck around after the show, they were lucky enough to meet Finish Ticket and Vinyl Theatre and get some autographs and photos with them. It was incredible to see what relations they have with their fans both onstage and offstage. These two bands proved themselves to be much more than just openers or beginners. It’s obvious they have a long and successful future awaiting them.