Marianas Trench & Mainland – Asylum, Portland, Maine, January 30, 2016

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Winter is a hard month for a concert photographer living in the Northeast. It’s cold, the weather is unpredictable, and few bands, rightfully so, want to come up here and play when the temperatures can get down to below zero. Unless they are from Canada, and then it’s just another day. Luckily, Marianas Trench hail from Vancouver.

When I first saw the listing for Marianas Trench, I thought they must be a local act since I had never heard of them. I checked out a couple of their videos and thought they were similar to All Time Low or Boys Like Girls, two bands I had shot in the past and enjoyed their sets, although, as I mentioned above, booking a shoot in January wasn’t all that appealing, especially for a band I had never heard of.

Roughly a month before the show, someone had posted a photo of the band on an online concert photographers group that I belong to. They said something to the effect of, “If you get the chance to shoot this tour, Do it.” So with that advice I put in to do just that and a few weeks later I was booked.

The night of the show was my first day off from work in a while, and I was enjoying catching up on neglected housework, laundry and computer work. I really did not feel like leaving the house to shoot a show. Reluctantly I threw the camera battery on the charger and dragged my ass to the shower.

Upon arriving at the venue, I noticed 90% of the crowd were clearly under 21 years of age, and the bulk of that percentage barely 18. Let’s just say that this 53 year old felt rather out of place seeing this show with such a young fan base, and many of the attendees were with their parents, many of them down from Canada. I joked with the security guys that I wouldn’t be at the front of this show long, just enough to get my photos, then I would retreat to the back of the room to take notes.

Just before the first band came on, I heard the young voices from the crowd, “Who’s the first band?” “I don’t know but they better be cute.” I chuckled as I thought of myself as their age and drooling over The Runaways, Pat Benatar, and Girlschool. Some things never change.

The opening act, Mainland, came up from New York and were quite good. Lighting was typical for the Asylum with the only real light spilling center stage and those in the wings were out of luck as the light barely reached them. The band played a hodge podge of different styles and much of it was well-received by the crowd. (I guess they were cute enough since the girl next to me said, “Wow. That singer is cute, he looks like Prince.”) During their ten-song set I heard many old influences – the Beatles, Stones, etc.

As the stage was being set for Marianas Trench, a couple of young women standing next to me educated me on the band. They had seen them before and had travelled up from New Hampshire to see them here tonight. They told me the band was from Canada, and that although they are virtually unknown in the States, they are huge North of the Border and selling out arenas.

As soon as the lights went down, the shrill of 300 teenage screams filled the air, and I clambered for my earplugs. Sharp, bright, white lights filled the stage, so bright that it was almost like looking into the sun. White, shadowy figures started to move, and then came the roar of guitars, bass and drums.   As my eyes focused, there at center stage stood a guy I can only describe as Iggy Pop, Ziggy Stardust, and Hedwig all rolled into one: shoulder length, blonde, Mick Ronson-style hair on a skinny body clad in leather pants and an open, shear black shirt. The bassist stood on the far stage left and his dark Mohawk cut through the white light. Opposite him was the guitar player, posed and shadowy, ready to walk to the mic stand to sing harmony. The drummer on the other side of the light sat in front of a giant LED light board displaying geometric artistic visions, some reminding me of the 70’s black light posters. As I lifted my camera to take my first frame, I thought “YES! This is what rock n’ roll is supposed to look like.”

When the band actually broke into song I was amazed at just how good the harmonies were. All four of the members sang, and as their voices blended it was reminiscent of 70s Queen, or late 80s Jellyfish, two bands I have always admired for their sheer talent.

Josh Ramsey, on vocals and lead guitar, is an amazing front man and plays a slew of beautiful and expensive guitars. The first, an American Showster AS-57 resembling the tail fin of a ‘57 Chevy of which it gets its name, just added to the huge spectacle that was taking place before my eyes.

The band played much of the material from their latest release, Astoria. (How do I know this when I knew virtually nothing about the band just ten minutes before the show started? Well, I enjoyed this show so much that on my way out of the venue I not only purchased the CD but also a tour shirt.) Highlights of the set for me were the title track, “Astoria”, “Burning Up,” “One Love,” “This Means War,” and “Shut Up and Kiss Me.”

“Shut Up and Kiss Me” could be huge with today’s radio listening audience as it has the same feel as Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” which ironically was co-written and produced by Marianas Trench’s own Josh Ramsey, something I learned from my young friends from New Hampshire. A funny thing about “Shut Up and Kiss Me” is that it blatantly rips off an old Jackson 5 song, so much so that the lyrics reflect it – “You could say I kinda borrowed this, but if you’re young, it’s new, I guess.” Later he sings, “Don’t sound like Mike did, but it’s all right for a white guy.”

The year of 2016 shows has only just begun, but if every show is as good as this one, it’s going to be a great year.  I begrudgingly came to this show, not knowing anything about this band, and left a huge fan. They will now be on my radar, and I hope to photograph them for years to come.

Mainland setlist:  Leave The Lights On – Shiner – Beggars – Not As Cool As Me – Bit Out Of Time – Fading Friends – Destination Weddings – Savant – In My Head – Outcast

Mariana’s Trench setlist: Astoria – Yesterday – Celebrity Status – Burning Up – All To Myself – Who Do You Love – Fallout – Stutter – One Love – This Means War – Desperate Measures – Shut Up And Kiss Me – Pop 101 – While We’re Young – Cross My Heart

Encore: Josh’s choice (unknown by me) – Haven’t Had Enough – End Of An Era

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