(Disclaimer: All photos in this article are taken by yours truly. I only snapped a few shots before putting away my phone. I am not one of those idiots who haul around a giant iPad to a concert to record the entire thing in shaky video form.)
-The Intro: Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo-
It was a fine Friday morning. I was thumbing through my Instagram feed, just like I always do, when I came across a post that made the scrolling come to a halt. From Indian Lakes would be playing an acoustic hangout at Lift Coffee Roasters in Riverside, CA. It was a bit too far away to arrive after work, but it sounded like a great idea. That post reminded me that Relient K was actually playing a Mmhmm 10th anniversary show with From Indian Lakes that night at The Glasshouse in Pomona, CA. I looked into purchasing tickets but they were already sold out. Since Relient K is one of my favorite bands, I thought to do something I had never thought to summon before- Craigslist.
Entering the venue and date into Craigslist, I quickly came across a page full of people selling “extra” tickets. While they were probably scalpers trying to make a profit, I was able to purchase a ticket for myself slightly below face-value minutes before the show. Fortunately, I did not get brutally murdered from Mr. Craig.
As I entered the venue, I noticed that the setup had slightly changed since the last time I saw Relient K there back in 2009 (That was also Owl City’s first ever live show…months before their one-hit wonder “Fireflies” would hit radio). Instead of setting up all of the merch booths in the main lobby upon entering, the bands set up shop in the balcony overlooking the stage. Though it was just as crowded as the previous setup, there was at least a visible line to purchase items. Then again, maybe I am just overthinking it.
I hustled my way towards Relient K’s table before the show started. To my dismay, there was no Mmhmm or Let It Snow….Let it Reindeer vinyl (though I do seem to recall that they had Collapsible Lung on vinyl for very cheap). Among T-shirts and trinkets, RK had a drum head that could be won via raffle tickets for sale. Surprisingly, From Indian Lakes actually had the best merchandise options available. They had some quality options ranging from leather iPhone cases, hand-made drawings, and a special brew of coffee made by the band at Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa, CA (a wonderful place to visit if you ever have the chance. Coffee addicts unite!). I am not sure which band it belonged to, but there was a life-size plastic buffalo on hand as well.
-Part I: From Indian Lakes-
Ending my browsing session just in time, From Indian Lakes took the stage. I was only slightly familiar with the band. I basically knew what kind of music they played and that it was well-worth my attention. I’m not familiar enough to point out any specific songs but I am fairly certain they mostly played songs from their recent album Absent Sounds. The young band played with high-energy, which is hard to do for the opening band. I would compare their sound to the locals Hearts Like Lions (recently signed to Tooth & Nail!), The Moderates, and the guitar-driven version of Copeland. From what it appeared, a good chunk of the crowd actually knew the words to their songs and might have even shown up specifically to see From Indian Lakes. Kudos to FLL!
On that same note, I realized that I was one of the older members of the crowd. I am currently 21 years young, but most of the audience was in the 15-19 range (much like how I was when I saw RK for the first time in 2009). I didn’t seem to notice this when I saw Relient K the 2nd time in 2012 at the House of Blues Anaheim. House of Heroes and William Beckett (formerly of The Academy Is…) both opened that show. Perhaps it drew a different crowd? Despite the reasons, it was very interesting to see that Relient K was able to transcend generations with their music. It made a 10th anniversary tour of Mmhmm that much more meaningful.
There was a good 20 minute gap between From Indian Lakes and the next act, the synth-pop rock band Blondfire. Since I turned 21 recently, I decided to check out the bar in the back of the small venue. I skimmed the menu and decided to settle for a $4 water bottle. Getting drinks at The Glasshouse was far too strange for me as I previously attended church service there on Sunday mornings (Mosiac Pomona).
-Part II: Blondfire-
Blondfire was not a band that I was familiar with at all before the concert. Similar to From Indian Lakes in the fact that they both were locals, Blondfire had also released an album, Young Hearts, recently. The brother-sister duo’s reminded me a lot of Stevie Nicks mixed with Metric. The music was definitely not the same as Fleetwood Mac, but the female-fronted band definitely had the graceful persona and voice of Nicks. After opening with a few of their tracks, the band introduced one of their favorite songs.
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.
My jaw dropped.
Again, the crowd was fairly young so they were not familiar with the legendary song. I sang every word to that song with my entire soul though. Naturally, it was a solid cover of the song without many creative liberties taken. Overall, Blondfire reminded me most of The Clash At Demonhead (the fake band from the film/comic-book series Scott Pilgrim VS. The World.)
-Part III: Relient K-
One last changeover, and Relient K was ready to play. A few stagehands lit some incense sticks before the band emerged from behind the set. The candlelight caused some small flares on the camera but were a little more than useless because they smelled great. The bands touring line-up has been shaken up a few times in the last year. At this show, I recognized Matthew Thiessen, Matt Hoopes, and shirt-wearing DAVE DOUGLAS. (Jon Schneck and John Warne are both still in the band, just selective touring days. Other unknown touring members were recruited to play their parts.)
Relient K gave the kick-off with trademark “The One I’m Waiting For” and proceeded to play the entirety of Mmhmm. There were some quips between songs, such as Thiessen mentioning that “My Girl’s Ex-Boyfriend” was about “A girl from California” (most likely, Katy Perry), but the set was mostly uninterrupted as they were pressing on.
Mmhmm dwindled down as the band closed out “When I Go Down”. They exited the stage as the crowd began to chant for more. Returning a minute or two later, RK played a short encore set of career-spanning hits and a new song “Look On Up”. The band took a moment to reflect on the fact that they had actually played the new song for the first time last year when they visited Pomona (they also debuted the first songs from Forget and Not Slow Down in Pomona back in ’09). During their moment of reminisce, some idiots from the audience started throwing random objects and Hoopes and Thiessen (Haters gunna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate). It wasn’t too harmful, but it was obvious enough that Hoopes had to nervously comment that Pomona had “really good aim” (Unfortunately, that is true. Pomona has a really bad reputation for criminal activity. We have much better aim than any clumsy stormtrooper). The new song was incredible. Much in the vein of the title track of Collapsible Lung, but a lot different than the other pop songs on that record. A studio cut of the Third Eye Blind-esque song hasn’t been released yet (though Hoopes claims it will see the light of day soon). Lyrically, the song is about putting away phones and looking to see the beauty around us. Ironically, all of the teenagers were holding up their filtered smartphones to record the concert. The moment was priceless.
When the band reached their infamous “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, Batman and Robin burst out from stage-right to provide some justice to Pomona (the merch guys in costume?). Relient K is known for their random help during the renditions of “Sadie Hawkins Dance”. The last two RK shows I saw featured actor Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future) on stage, but he was not present this time around. Some YouTube footage from other recent shows showed the band riding the plastic buffalo into the crowd during the quirky song. Oddly enough, the setlist also didn’t feature any cover songs that Relient K is known for (heck, they made a whole album of cover songs). However, Mmhmm was the focus and anything else was just bonus. I can’t complain.
In an odd turn of events, the band ended their concert by turning on the venue’s preshow music speakers and playing DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What”. The concert went from a fairly-civilized group of Christian kids listening to a pop-punk band to a dirty rave with high school kids wearing Biola and APU shirts. Another very ironic scene that I will remember for a long time.
-Epilogue: There and Back Again-
The 10th anniversary show was a great throwback. As with many others, it had a great impact on my high school years (alongside Hawk Nelson’s Smile). The band may have sounded exactly the same as the last 2 times I had seen them, nut that didn’t make it any less of a great show. I knew about the band before Mmhmm, but that album solidified them as my favorite. Plus, all of the Christian girls loved Relient K too.