NEW MUSIC MONDAY’S
BAND OF THE DAY!
O-TOWN LIVE @ LEE’S PALACE
W/ TODD CAREY
By: Fridae Mattas
Additional photography by: Dipan Cheema
Last Monday December 8th, America’s first reality show musical group O-Town hit Lee’s palace in Toronto. First time across the border in ten years for their only Canadian stop on the reunion tour. Before American Idol existed and Puff Daddy took over Making The Band, there was O-Town. The last “Boy band” created by convicted con-man and alleged pedophile “Lou Pearlman” who is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence. You could probably find episodes of Making The Band’s first three seasons on YouTube. Unlike “The Backstreet Boys” or “N’Sync“, O-Town’s formulation was amidst Pearlman’s extreme legal issues. They didn’t even get the chance to sustain their momentum and stray from the boy band definition. The group released two albums and disappeared, until now!
Late August of this year, O-Town released their third record “Lines & Circles”. The first single off of the new record is “Skydive”, a fantastic mid tempo ballad that you can watch here. The current group is Jacob Underwood – Vox/Guitar, Trevor Penick – Vox, Erik-Michael Estrada – Vox and Dan Miller – Vox. The group once had five members, Ashley Parker Angel the fifth member did not want to partake in the reunion. But hey, that’s okay because from what I saw and heard, the quartet will do just fine without him! Never have I seen them live before, I was expecting the worst. I’ve covered or seen pretty much every musical group except “The Beatles”, “The Jackson Five”, “New Edition” and a few more because I was not born yet or old enough to migrate! Bypassing the fans waiting in line at Lee’s, I ran straight into the venue thinking I was late! It was five-thirtyish, the bands publicist told me my interview time was at 5pm. Turns out the band wasn’t there yet, I breathed easier, so glad that I made it on time.
Another media outlet was setting up their lighting across the room as I began unloading my gear. In the venue maybe five minutes before a guy walked over and introduced himself, his face looked familiar and the name Jacob rang a bell. One-fourth of the quartet and the business man of the band, which I later learned in my five second interview. Soon after the other interview began a blogger arrived to interview the group, adding to the time crunch. That pushed my interview back until she finished hers because mine was to be filmed, I didn’t mind for the time being. My priority was finding a plug to charge dead camera battery that was fully charged but somehow now dying…It was more than obvious that the Universe was being moody, something else was going to fuck up for sure.
When it was finally my turn, we were getting acquainted as I set up my tripod. Was being rushed to the point where I almost didn’t get the mic into their hands, nevermind check the audio levels! The guys were friendly and helpful, making suggestions on where I’d like them to be placed for the interview. After introductions I opened with “You guys are back! Why now?” Underwood answered with “Well, it was the right time for us, it has been difficult to get together in the past, with me living in Nashville and Dan being a father and all of our other projects. Now is the right time.” I can recall telling them their 2014 debut single “Skydive” was a good tune and asked if they were more hands on with this record? After thanking me for the compliment, they answered back with “yes” and a more in depth perspective that was lost amongst the static in the recording because my lip reading skills are not the greatest.
When I asked if they would do a reality show again, Dan was the most responsive, rapidly shaking his head “No”! We chatted about the difference of their first tour and this tour, at some point they were jibbering about visiting Niagara Falls (The big one is called Horseshoe Falls) before migrating to Toronto. Assuming it was their first time, judging by their excitement it sure sounded like it was. Niagara Falls Canada is the honeymoon capital of the world for a reason! The best time to see the falls is at night when they have the lights on, it looks too cool. Plus its fun to hit up a haunted house attraction and party there sometimes, on the Canadian side that is! Buffalo is ass! No offense Buffalo, I’m sure everyone notices how much it sucks compared to Canada’s Niagara and Toronto but, we are nothing compared to Manhattan. Oh yeah before I forget, single ladies…You are in luck! Three of the four are ready to mingle, as Jacob stated while he did the “call me” gesture on camera. They also chatted about their status during the show, playing the dating game theme song for shits and giggles.
It’s good to see them being responsible for their own careers. Underwood is basically the manager, handling most of the business, booking the gigs and apparently this is only the beginning, in 2015 we will be seeing a lot of O-Town! There you have it Townies, they will be heading back on tour, hitting a city near you in the future! Literally in four minutes that is all I was able to get. Not the interview I had envisioned…But tour manager Chris (I think that was his name) looked like he was going to have a nervous breakdown when he told me to wrap it up… I blame my tech issues on that half hour interview because they fucked up the whole rotation! So annoyed, I went straight to my generic wrap, pretty sure the band read the annoyance of being cut-off on my face. Now multiply that by seven and add a livid LeTawniyah on level ten. That’s how pissed off I was when I played back the interview to no sound, just static…Couldn’t even finish eating my poutine. Clearly, the Universe was not happy with the brief little snippet. And, after spending the last week trying to resurrect the audio from Monday’s interview, I finally gave up.
The opening act was “Todd Carey” American singer whose single “Nintendo” hit number one on the Billboard twitter charts. During one of the cover tunes, O-Town’s Jacob Underwood joined the stage to jam with Todd Carey and you can see how it all went down here. My ears were done after that, I had to find my ear plugs now! The sold out mostly female crowd was competing for the loudest scream, like Animals with the loudest mating call in the wild. Thankfully I was finally armed with ear plugs, they were my saving grace because that was only the beginning…Carey was good, a little too broadway and disingenuous for me but has potential, the fans were enjoying themselves. When Todd played his number one billboard twitter tune, my ears did not like that “Nintendo” song. The fans were screaming stuff like “Oh My Gawd, he’s soo cute” but not “I love this song” or any vulgar obscenities, that I heard anyway!
About twenty or so minutes after doors opened we heard a commotion near the parking lot around the corner. Photographer “D” made a sarcastic comment about how the group probably popped up to check the fans. His words rang true, the quartet ran to the front entrance along the crowd causing “Bandimonium” because most of the fans were still waiting to be let into the venue. It was pretty amusing to those of us watching this madness unfold. Apparently an older woman looked absolutely disgusted as she passed by. I was laughing, this was hilarious and obvious they still have an effect on Canadian females.
The set up was pretty basic, a computer played the instrumentals as the group kicked off their sold out set with the song that started it all, “Liquid Dreams”. At first I could not hear them over the shrill screams of five hundred or so grown ass women with a few boyfriends in tow and a couple of gays sprinkled in the mix. To be exact, two Queen’s dancing the night away in the middle of the venue like nobody was watching. Both myself and photog D, refused to even attempt shooting anywhere near the front of the stage. D was stage left, closer to the pit area and I just chilled on the steps by the sound booth, stage right. Was hoping to get decent footage without too many heads and hands…But of course the struggle was real, Andre the Giant’s daughter decided to wear stilettos and a messy bun to this concert…You can see her head bobbing all over my footage and she was standing below me…My weakness is filming in crowds without media pits! Wish I wore heels to make my 5’8 stature at least 5’11 or 6 feet and if only I could find a good spot to set up my tripod! Nowhere in the chaos was that possible.
They sang a mix of their new and old track’s, sounding absolutely tight without needing any live auto-tune! The performance shocked me actually, because my ears were liking all of their voices and that is rare when it comes to vocal groups. The only ones able to accomplish that thus far were “Boyz II Men” who are impeccable live, watch them for yourself on FridaeTV Youtube. As for The Backstreet Boys; my ears don’t really like Howie D’s vocals, N’Sync; JC’s vocals were the strongest, did not like the rest especially Chris’s tone. Occasionally Justin’s vocals were tolerable, the nasal whine in his falsetto still bothers my ears to this day. New Kids weren’t really known as a vocal group and 98 Degrees doesn’t even make the list! My ears don’t like any of their voices and they are so boring on stage. Saw them live when I was a youngin, it was the first time I was attacked by fans, all because one of the Larries handed me a rose. Never went to another 98 Degrees show or saw the rose again because the teenies yanked it out of my hand.
Right out the gate, O-Town could have done anything and sounded like shit, yet the fans still would have eaten it up. A great example was when Jacob decided to try something new where he threw and caught his mic during the hit tune “All Or Nothing”. My reaction to the little trick was similar to Trevor and Dan’s but the fans loved every second! You can watch that big tune unfold here. At least he tried it and in the end it worked out for him.
Toronto embraced O-Town with open arms, except for this douche behind me who kept yelling “You suck, you fucking suck!” during an acoustic performance of a song they’ve never done live before. It was a little rough as expected for a first attempt, it was a lot better than many “Rock Bands” have done on the fly. That man was aggravating LeTawniyah, lucky for him he disappeared before she was unleashed. The crowd was entertained without the bells and whistles of a huge production. O-Town’s talent and personalities we’re more than enough for the fans in Toronto. Next time, hit up the Phoenix where there is ample room for more fans and stage tricks ha ha.
My ears did not mind a few of the newer tunes like “Lines & Circles” and “Rewind”. Those songs stood out after briefly listening to the latest record and hearing them live. O-Town has been trying to gain respect in the industry, working hard to find a place in the world of today’s music as legit musicians. Is it possible for them to gain momentum in an era where everything is over processed and manufactured? I believe these indie underdogs of pop could slowly climb to the top! Ashley who? Keep practicing, writing and always remember what Drake says; “Started from the bottom now the whole team fucking here!” O-Town is Fridae approved, if you get the chance, go see their brand of non-autotuned musical infusions. Muchas gracias to D for assisting me in shooting the set, publicist Matt for all his help. And of course thanks to O-Town for taking a few minutes to chat, it was great to meet you guys! Reach out and I’ll see ya’ll in 2015, we need a new interview! Enjoy the holidays everyone and don’t forget to grab your copy of O-Town’s newest album “Lines & Circles” here in the US and here in Canada.