After nine years as a band, scene superstars turned indie rock heavyweights The Maine wanted to thank their fans in a huge way. This summer, the quintet announced a previously unheard of project for the fall: a completely free tour. Instead of the classic tour setup, where a band releases a select amount of shows in cities around the nation charging for the ticket sales, The Maine decided to charge fans nothing. There were no tickets, no hidden fees. Anyone who wanted to see the concert just arrived, and, as long as there was space, got in the venue.
“We’ve been doing this for eight and a half years, but that thought doesn’t ever get lost,” The Maine drummer Pat Kirch said in a recent Alternative Press (AP) interview about the Free For All Tour. “Not many people get to do what we do everyday, so I just try really hard to not ever forget about that.”
With 13 dates scattered throughout the states, the Free For All tour was hosted in a variety of venues: some traditional, others more eccentric, such as malls and a racetrack.
The Free For All tour passed through the House of Blues in Orlando last Saturday, playing to a full house. Even though doors were at 6:00 p.m., fans began lining up as early as 7:30 a.m. By 1:00 p.m., the line stretched around the House of Blues restaurant. Fans came prepared with umbrellas to hide themselves from the blistering Florida sun and blankets to protect from the hot concrete. Presumably to alleviate the massive, and maybe somewhat deterring, crowd swarming in front of the House of Blues establishments, venue security implemented an ingenious “pass the line” system.
The first 750 fans received priority entrance. On top of a red wristband, those attendees garnered a card with a number of their place in line. The line was split in four neat sections labeled with a different color card. With this system, fans, relieved from waiting, wandered around Downtown Disney for a few hours without the worry that their space in line was taken. While it sounds almost too good to be true, especially to someone who attends concerts on the regular, it worked out beautifully. Fans returned to the venue around 4:00 p.m. and were greeted with four neatly labeled sections that matched the color on their numbered cards. Anyone not in the first 750 just simply went in the front of the venue, creating a much less hectic general admission line.
As each section piled into the House of the Blues, the cozy space accumulated with people, packed from one wall to the other. The stage was already setup for the opening band, Beach Weather, a brand new indie rock quartet from Arizona fronted by former A Rocket to the Moon vocalist Nick Santino.
However, calling Beach Weather “brand new” is almost an understatement since the show in Orlando was only their 13th time performing together. Pat Kirch, the drummer of The Maine, contacted Santino to see if his new project would be interested in opening for the Free For All tour. Having just finished recording their debut EP, “What A Drag,” Beach Weather agreed, comprising ticket sales for irreplaceable exposure. Within two days, the band practiced, packed, and joined the Free For All tour in a van. Beach Weather’s set proved that sometimes the best things blossom from spontaneity.
As Beach Weather bounced on the stage and plummeted into their first track “New Skin,” a reaction like no other swept over the crowd. Hypnotized by their sound, style, and good looks, fans were in awe.
Because Beach Weather is still developing, the band experiments with their live performance each night. As a testament to this, Santino added an unexpected spin to his vocals, bringing songs to life and separating their live show from their EP. With flowing blonde hair, a loose floral shirt, and solid brown boots, Santino mesmerized the audience amid a backdrop of captivatingly smooth bass lines. When Santino cooly sang “let me swoon over you” during Beach Weather’s last song, fans actually melted to the floor like the red popsicle on the cover of the “What A Drag” EP. Contrasting blue and pink light complimented the band’s effortless class, creating a visually aesthetic performance that left everyone grasping for more.
Riding the high of Beach Weather’s set, The Maine emerged in a flood of teal light and danced into the first track from their latest album, “American Candy.” Almost instantly, the pit turned into a wave of energy as hundreds of fans sang, jumped, and showed the band that putting together the Free For All tour was worth the hard work.
“A lot of this came down to the guys kind of rolling up their sleeves and working hard each day,” The Maine manager and Pat Kirch’s brother Tim Kirch said in the same AP interview. “Because normally, we’ll have five or six-stage hands. On a tour like this, it’s every single band member just moving gear, helping build the stage and basically making the show happen.”
The Maine’s setlist communicated the goal of the Free For All tour: to give back to fans. Balancing crowd favorites with songs that only orthodox followers dream to see live, The Maine crafted a performance that was reflective of their almost decade-long career. Instead of banishing the band’s oldest, “scene-est” material, The Maine embraced it, treating fans to “I Must Be Dreaming” and “Everything I Ask For” from their first record “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop.” However, The Maine’s musical progression weaved it’s way through the set, particularly with more obscure tracks such as “Some Days” from their third release “Pioneer” and “Kennedy Curse” from their second to last album “Forever Halloween.”
“The idea [of the free tour] just really comes from that. It’s like, ‘What’s the ultimate thing we can do?’ Like, not just saying ‘thank you,’ but actually putting it into action–like, ‘here’s a free tour,’” Pat Kirch said in the AP interview. “This is the biggest thing we could have done. It feels good to finally be at the point where we were able to put it into action.”
Even though The Maine dove back into their older catalogue of music, every song, old and new, was reimagined from the original recording, combining unexpected instrumentals and new enhanced melodies. The last track was the hearty “Another Night on Mars,” and, after a performance filled with nothing but instrumentals, The Maine poised themselves for an impressionable ending. They silenced their instruments and ended the set with a simple yet strong sing-a-long from the crowd.
Before “Whoever She Is,” another track from The Maine’s first album, frontman John O’Callaghan spoke more about the Free For All tour’s meaning. His speech covered the glorification of artists who charge fans exorbitant amounts of money for trivial encounters.
“The tour really comes down to us wanting to see fans get treated how we think they should be. We get pretty pissed off seeing how a lot of bands treat their fans, and how they try to gauge them for every ounce of money they have,” Pat Kirch said to AP. “They forget the fact that if those fans weren’t there, then they wouldn’t be on that bus and they wouldn’t be doing that show.”