A conglomeration of black skinny jeans, dyed purple hair, ripped up Vans and bubblegum angst accumulated on University of Central Florida’s (UCF) campus, swarming the entrance to CFE Arena like a frame from last year’s zombie blockbuster. Lively conversations – probably about Mayday Parade’s new album or The Academy Is.. reunion – filled the airspace as uncertain eyes scanned for familiar band tee shirts and friends from school. The line for the first show of the “Back to the Future Hearts” tour was testament that the scene our teenaged selves knew and loved is still very much alive.
Technically a co-headliner between All Time Low and Sleeping With Sirens, two of the most popular scene celebrities, the tour is named after the former’s latest release, “Future Hearts.” All Time Low – yes, the same band that stole our middle school hearts with the now platinum single “Dear Maria, Count Me In” – are not only alive, but thriving. “Future Hearts” charted number one in the United Kingdom and number two in the United States. Despite starring in ABC Family’s new tongue-in-cheek commentary “Fan Girl” and headlining arenas across the country, All Time Low surprisingly haven’t earned a place in regular radio play, so I guess you could call them and their more-pop-than-punk “pop-punk” the biggest act that still possesses relatively authentic underground scene cred.
Sleeping With Sirens, on the other hand, rose to scene fame after All Time Low but bolstered just as a zealous fan base at their peak. A bit quieter the past year or so, the Orlando native emo-scene kings changed things up a bit this summer by embarking on a full acoustic club tour with power-poppers The Summer Set and A Rocket to the Moon frontman turned solo artist Nick Santino.
I went to my first All Time Low show almost five years ago. Since then, I’ve seen them three more times, graduated high school, started college, cut off swoopy bangs, put away rubber Hot Topic bracelets, lost and made friends, found new favorite bands, and expanded my music taste – however, half-a-decade older me was still excited. Most outgrow their “scene” phase, but, as I sit here listening to Sleeping With Sirens’ “If You Can’t Hang” for the 20th time this week, people still ask me, “it wasn’t just a phase with you, was it?”
“I’m forever a scene kid at heart even though I don’t dress like it,” second-year and “Back to the Future Hearts” tour attendee Olivia Van Housen said. “These bands and this music has helped me through a lot of my life, and I love seeing it played live.”
Admittedly, because I already knew All Time Low would put on just as good of a show as they always have, I was most looking forward to the opener Neck Deep. At the forefront of the more-punk-than-pop “pop-punk” scene, the British kids in Neck Deep are the kin of bands like New Found Glory and The Wonder Years, establishing a notable name for themselves with their newest album “Life’s Not Out to Get You.”
“I’m the type of person who likes to go see bands at least once in person because it’s so much fun, especially when the crowd is just like you,” Van Housen explained. “It’s nice to see that there are still outcast kids who find solace in this kind of thing away from the jerks in middle and high school.”
Neck Deep played after Japanese emo-rockers One OK Rock, who put on a solid set led by their frontman’s smooth voice and their duet with Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin Quinn. Despite a performance plagued by detrimental technical difficulties, Neck Deep managed to showcase their raw poppy punk. While still a band that shines brightest in a small club atmosphere, the quartet began their biggest tour in the United States in a strong way and, with practice, have the potential to climb to the top of bills for rooms as large as CFE Arena in the near future.
Having taken a backseat in the scene recently, Sleeping With Sirens seemed poised to stay relevant with their solid and entertaining set, complete with tasteful – giant ‘S’s, flashing lights and plenty of risers – production, a surprise acoustic set halfway through and a powerfully refreshing drum solo. Frontman Quinn has an impressive range and tangible presence, calling for involvement from the floor while still giving attention to the faraway bleachers. Unfortunately, despite the band members’ energy, the crowd was shockingly uninvolved and lacking. Even though I never really fell head over heels for Quinn and Co. when everyone around me did in high school, their performance made me feel nostalgic. I unabashedly hummed “Do It Now, Remember It Later” for about a week straight.
Flip flopping between the purely pop-punk Neck Deep and more emo-scene sounding Sleeping With Sirens, the diverse “Back to the Future Hearts” tour lineup reflected All Time Low’s range of fans. A white curtain covered the stage and built anticipation before dropping with the chorus of All Time Low’s first song “Satellite.” The track opens “Future Hearts” with an adult alternative sound that is lost by the end of the record, but I hope drives their upcoming endeavors as it reflects the maturity and musical growth of longtime fans like myself.
Based on feedback from fans in the past few months, All Time Low centered much of their set on “Future Hearts,” but not without throwing in older numbers like “Poppin’ Champagne” and “Therapy.” Even though it was the fifth time I heard songs like “Lost In Stereo” live, the beginning riffs of each got me on my feet more than any show in a while.
“I’m sure I’ll continue to go to concerts,” Van Housen said. “Maybe not at the gate in the front, but I love the energy that comes from being around people who are so similar.”