Live in Los Angeles:
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Hard Rock Cafe
ON JUNE 29, 2016, hundreds of the most devoted Grouplove fans in L.A. lined Hollywood Boulevard for a chance to see their favorite band up close and personal.. and for FREE. That's right, this intimate Grouplove performance is part of Live Nation TV and Hard Rock's latest project called The Encore Live, which celebrates the encore as an art form, and it's 100% without monetary cost for a limited number of lucky fans.
Inside Hollywood's Hard Rock is a very unique setup, featuring a center-placed stage surrounded with open floor space all around it. As the crowd starts to roll in, it's interesting to watch everyone decide whether to find a spot around the stage or to head to one of the elevated platforms in the back like the one the writer now stands. Is it better to be closer to the band or have the better vantage point?
Soon the lights dim and the crowd screams out-- some even do the ol' Arsenio Hall whoop for reasons unknown-- as Grouplove heads to the stage. They say hello and then go right into "Beans on Pizza." The crowd sings along as vocalist Hannah Hooper makes sure to turn back and forth to face all sides of the stage while performing. It's nice to see that she, guitarist Andrew Wessen, drummer Ryan Rabin, bassist Daniel Gleason and frontman Christian Zucconi can all look so comfortable up there on such a small stage.
Zucconi thanks everyone for coming out and let's them know: "We're playing a very unusual set tonight. Hooper explains further: "Yes, this set is all about the encore tonight and really seeing all you guys again." She then reminds everyone that their new album is coming out in the fall, and brings two dudes from the crowd up on stage. They each wear white T-shirts-- one says "Big" and the other says "Mess." Unfortunately, they stand next to each other in the wrong order, so some fans might try buying an album called Mess Big on September 9th.
While all this is going on, Wessen is crouched down getting technical help with his guitar. Zucconi promises him, "We're not playing this song with you, Andrew!" But Wessen gets up quickly and responds with, "Fuck it, right? It's so fun when your shit breaks during the first song."
The next song is "Don't Say Oh Well," and it's the one where Zucconi's gray beanie disappears from his head, causing his long black hair to fall over completely covering his face while he and Hooper sing the line: "And run your fingers through your hair."
Following that Grouplove does a cover of their good friends' Cage the Elephant's "Spiderhead." The band claims they've only ever played it once before. Their version is much more mellow than the original and the fans seem to know every word. At the very end of the song, Wessen plays a few high-pitched scales that seem to match Zucconi's vocal tone.
Then Hooper tells to the crowd, "We're gonna play one more song..." The group of lovers beneath the stage boo in protest, but Hooper explains further: "No, no, we're gonna play one more, then walk off the stage, and then come back and play an encore. But you have to act surprised." The last song is a preview of the new album. I sadly did not catch the name of it, but I can tell you it has a very cool semi-Nirvana-ish sound to it and goes something along the lines of "Can you feel me? Only when my hands fall asleep." Hooper plays director during this song, inciting hundreds of arms to rise into the air, then sway back and forth and then clap before she starts thrashing around, practically headbanging to the chorus. Zucconi jumps up on the drumset for the big finish.
Grouplove then leaves the stage as promised and the fans play along chanting, "Encore! Encore!" Will they come back?? (I hope you're drinking every time the word "encore" appears in this article)
Not too long thereafter, everyone's back on stage to play an encore... to the encore. Zucconi says, "A few years ago, this became one of our favorite encore songs, and it feels special playing it here in Los Angeles because you guys are the ones who made it an encore!" The song he's referring to is their hit "Colours," which everyone sings along to while bouncing around in correct time perfectly to every Rabin beat. Hooper plays some tambourine for this one, banging a few times to the strange chandelier hanging over the stage that I can best describe as a lamp orgy. Hooper later explains that she appreciates the artist designed it using the colors from the Big Mess cover, "But I keep banging my head on it."
Gleason drinks from a bottle of wine, then the band goes into "Shark Attack," followed by the ever-popular "Tongue Tied." Fans go nuts, jumping as high as they can screaming, "Take me to your best friend's house!" Hooper joins in on the fun, jumping higher than anyone else. I mean, granted, she's on the stage, so she's got a head start...
But all good things must come to an end, even encores, and so Grouplove finally plays the real last song of the evening, "Ways to Go," and on this one, it's Zucconi who's jumping as he plays his guitar. And after the big finish, the band takes time to slap hands with and hug as many people as they can before leaving stage for good. And while some fans try the encore chant again, the house music comes on and the lights come back up. The crowd begins to accept the show is finally over, but no one leaves without a smile. They know tonight was a very special night... and that a new Grouplove album and tour are just around the corner.
For more information on Grouplove, please check out GrouploveMusic.com
For more of Nicolas Bates' Photography, check out BatesImaging.com