By Janii Yazon
On February 12, the line outside Paradise Rock Club had already snaked its way along the Boston University campus by the time the doors opened for the first east coast show of Never Shout Never’s Black Cat Tour.
Waterparks, a pop rock band from Houston, Texas, took the stage first. Although they’ve only been performing for a little over three years, the group showed no evidence of inexperience. Frontman Awsten Knight energized the audience by powering through guitar-heavy tracks, such as “Mad All the Time” and “No Capes.” The band bounded across the stage to interact with people on all sides, excited to hear fans screaming the lyrics to songs off their newest EP, Cluster. After announcing their last song, Knight requested that someone crowd surf, and had his call answered by four girls who quickly seized the opportunity to catch the boys’ attention.
Next up was Jule Vera, a female-led alternative band from Alabama, who almost—if not definitely—stole the show. The band performed the entirety of their Friendly Enemies EP. Frontwoman Ansley Newman displayed impressive range and control on heavier tracks like “You Can’t Mess It Up” and the ballad “Scarlet Letter.” But the star of the show was passionate drummer Kyle “Hogarth” Horvath. He commanded attention from behind his bumbling band mates, who gave him plenty of moments to stand out. During the most memorable interlude, Horvath pounded on a drum covered with water, soaking the stage with energy. The other members of Jule Vera displayed great musicality throughout the set—guitist Jake Roland and bassist William Stacey moved freely about the stage to cover drums or keyboard. As a whole, their performance stood out as the most interesting and unique.
Once the stage cleared, Metro Station, a synthpop band returning from a five-year hiatus, performed. Their set included mostly songs from their 2007 self-titled debut album, despite the fact that they released a full-length album, Savior, in 2015. Trace Cyrus commanded the audience with ease, bouncing the crowd in time with his headbanging. Mason Musso spent much more time standing still and hiding behind Cyrus. Though there was nothing egregious about their performance, it felt like an overextended lead into their biggest hit, “Shake It.” They missed the mark when it came to novelty, but their notoriety and nostalgia saved them.
By the time the last notes of “Shake It” disappeared from the venue, the wait for Never Shout Never was unbearable. It was 9:15 p.m. when they finally took the stage. Frontman Christofer Drew came out in a fluffy brown hat and his sister’s bright yellow sweatshirt, and barefoot—the way any NSN fan would expect him to look—confessing he had just woken up from a nap. He continued vaping and drinking throughout the set, warning the crowd that he had never before drank an entire bottle of wine in one show, but that this could be the night. As the performance went on, Drew’s dancing became more hazardous and loose. Some audience members scorned him for his inappropriate, unprofessional appearance, but fans laughed and encouraged Drew’s antics.
NSN performed tracks “Black Cat” and “Red Balloon” from their newest album, Black Cat. The latter prompted a cascade of red balloons to fall upon the crowd. They also performed multiple songs from Drew’s earliest EPs, including “Trouble,” “On the Brightside,” “Coffee and Cigarettes,” and “Sweet Perfection,” transforming from cute ukulele tracks to more mature indie rock songs.
In addition to this original material, NSN performed a cover of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, in which guitarist Taylor MacFee nailed the iconic bass-like guitar riff. This cover seemed to suggest that the future of NSN will include a further step away from the simple, bare tracks of Drew’s first EPs.
The Black Cat Tour contains an eclectic collection of artists, each with something special to offer. From Waterparks’ fresh sound to Jule Vera’s enthralling set to Metro Station’s familiarity to NSN’s well-deserved spotlight as the headliner, the concert offered a very optimistic look into the future of indie pop rock.