A Will Away, Boston Manor, Can’t Swim and Have Mercy @ Ottobar in Baltimore, MD
Review & Photography by: Joey Rushfield
The atmosphere when I walked into the Ottobar was one of a tense excitement as the stage lighting struck the amps in hues of purple and blue. It smelled of fruity vape pens and cigarettes, and the room was fairly empty — though that was soon to change.
As A Will Away stepped onto the stage, the room filled with people, bobbing their heads and singing along to the music. A Will Away had an incredible stage presence, with chill, groovy dancing that seemed to pay homage to The XX; a stark contrast with the aggressive vocals and high-energy, pop punk choruses in their music. Every time I’ve seen this band, it’s been for a bigger crowd, and I have no reason to wonder why — their blend of pop punk and atmospheric indie will catapult them to the forefront of the alternative scene in very little time, without a doubt.
Next to come onto the stage was Can’t Swim, a pop-punk-meets-grunge band from New Jersey. This was my first time seeing this band, though I’ve been listening to their music since the release of their 2015 debut Death Deserves a Name. The band has certainly made progress since then in their more experimental release of Fail You Again. I was excited to see how their sound would translate over to live shows. When they started playing, the energy level reached a high that never dimmed. Singer Chris LoPorto’s vocal delivery was incredible, and the grit in his voice really shone through. It was drummer Andrea Morgan’s work, though, that stole the show for me. Her intricate rhythms and explosive stage presence lent themselves to an energy and technique I do not often see in this scene behind the drum kit. If this is what women in the scene do, why do we have such a lack of them?
Next up was Boston Manor, the direct support for the show. I’d seen them once before over the summer on Warped Tour, and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. Thus, my expectations were very high, and they certainly delivered. Coming from across the pond, Blackpool-based Boston Manor brought their unique recipe for pop punk to the Ottobar stage. Their brand of dark, atmospheric punk music sounds like it might appeal more to an emo-geared crowd. Despite their dreary lyrics and minor chords, however, their set was full of high-energy action, climaxing in a mosh pit that would put most hardcore shows to shame. This band truly has something for everyone.
Last to take the stage was the legendary Have Mercy. Years of listening to this band let up to that moment, and needless to say, I was stoked. Have Mercy take everything you love about indie, emo, and alternative, and infuse it into a completely unique sound. Vocalist Brian Swindle’s delivery is painstakingly earnest, and guitarists Nate Gleason and Ryan Harris complement him eloquently with their mix of ambient and distorted tones. The performance itself felt incredibly genuine and cathartic, and although the energy was brought down from the acts beforehand, the crowd’s emotion definitely hit its peak. From the swaying bodies and the blue fluorescent lighting to the gut-wrenching music played on stage, Have Mercy created an emotional experience that felt unbelievably powerful and even more so genuine.
Have Mercy’s Fall 2017 tour is not one you’d want to miss. The lineup is spectacularly talented and complementary, and you will certainly walk out of your date as a changed person. Do not sleep on this tour.
10/13 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
10/14 – Nashville, TN @ The End
10/16 – Houston, TX @ Walter’s
10/17 – Austin, TX @ Come And Take It Live
10/18 – Dallas, TX @ RBC Dallas
10/20 – Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
10/21 – Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
10/22 – San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
10/24 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
10/25 – Berkeley, CA @ Cornerstone Berkeley
10/27 – Portland, OR @ Analog Theater
10/28 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
10/31 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
11/01 – Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot Music Hall
11/03 – Minneapolis, MN @ Amsterdam Bar and Hall
11/04 – Chicago, IL @ Subterranean
11/05 – Detroit, MI @ The Loving Touch
11/07 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
11/08 – Toronto, ON @ The Hard Luck
11/09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
11/10 – Buffalo, NY @ Waiting Room
11/11 – Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
11/12 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair