Monday, 30 November 2015

Patent Pending - Oxford O2 Academy 2, 29/11/15 (+ Patent Pending and Zebrahead acoustic)

This was actually a Zebrahead headline show, but because of tricky transportation and the band having a super late stage time, we missed the entirety of their set. This meant that I was even more grateful that I decided to buy a VIP ticket, giving me access to short acoustics and a meet and greet with both Patent Pending and Zebrahead before the show. 

I knew I was in for an extremely fun night when Patent Pending started their acoustic with 'Hey Mario', a song about - you guessed it - everyone's favourite video game plumber. I'd never heard a song about a video game that had such a great moral: "This princess isn't worth these extra lives". Vocalist Joe Ragnosta has a powerful voice, and because I hadn't heard either of the songs they'd played before I was even more impressed by their performance.
There wasn't much time before the official door opening time, so the band sped along into their second song, with Joe gesturing wildly to the crowd and saying "We don't have much time, so imagine I just said something hilarious!". It was impossible not to smile through their set, because Joe is so unbelievably charismatic and full of a boundless energy. He asked the crowd for songs that they wanted to request, but rapidly turned down all of the options before choosing 'Douchebag', justifying it by saying that he was "bridging the gap between the old and the new, the things we know how to play and the things we have no clue".
I'd never seen such a lovely singalong to a song called 'Douchebag', and that proves how genius Patent Pending are - you can sing to their songs, and they sound beautiful, but their lyrical content is so hilarious that there's no way you cannot have fun. 

Hey Mario

Knowing these were the only two Zebrahead songs I'd be seeing, I was happy when they played one of their newer songs. Their newest album 'Walk The Plank' was released a month ago, but I only purchased it at the show so I hadn't heard any songs before hearing 'Worse Than This' acoustic. Despite the fact that Zebrahead are nearly twenty, they still write incredibly catchy songs with singalong moments, so I'm definitely looking forward to listening to the rest of the album.
I'm sad that I didn't get to see any of their full band set, because the acoustic was amazing. Where Patent Pending only performed with three of their members - their vocalist and two guitarists - Zebrahead had the entire band involved, and seeing drummer Ed Udhus playing drums on a bar stool was an experience I'm never going to forget. Both vocalists, Ali Tabatabaee and Matty Lewis, performed brilliantly, and their voices complement each other even more in a live environment than they do on their recorded songs. I can't really remember much about the last time I saw them live - it was four years ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy! - but I don't remember being as blown away as I was in an acoustic environment. 
If I get the chance to go and see Zebrahead again I will definitely take advantage of it, because they are so much fun and are really lovely guys. 

Worse Than This

Now, over to the main show. I hadn't heard of opening act Man With A Mission, but when they started their set with intro track 'Man With A Mission' by Bad Religion, I knew it was going to be a special set. They walked out wearing their wolf heads and my jaw dropped - they looked absolutely badass. I have instant respect for any artists that wear costumes on stage, because I can't imagine how hot it must be. With all of the members throwing themselves around and performing with such energy and enthusiasm, it must have been even sweatier for them. That's dedication.
Sounding like a mixture of Beastie Boys and Rage Against the Machine, with their quick talking vocals and dance undertones, I was speechless. I can't put into words how instantly I was gripped by their set, and it passed in a blur of what felt like less than five minutes.
I haven't seen a response of that magnitude to an opening band since back when I saw Zoax opening for Tonight Alive last summer. The crowd went from 0 to 100 in the space of one song, and didn't stop jumping and dancing throughout their set. When they covered Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' it could have gone one of two ways - it's an amazingly heavy song, so with the dance spliced throughout the track there was a possibility of it being a disaster - but Man With A Mission avoided disaster and received the biggest crowd reaction that we saw in the evening. I can't vouch for what it was like during Zebrahead, but with a huge mosh pit breaking out and continuing throughout, it was an effervescent and riotous response.
The energy just stayed up through the set. With DJ Santa Monica and one of the guitarists (I'm unsure which one, I mean, they do wear costumes!) going out into the crowd during one of the later songs, it was mind-blowing when the eyes in their wolf heads lit up, making them glow bright yellow as they stood over the crowd. It was both menacing and astounding, and it was the icing on top of the cake.
When Ali and Matty from Zebrahead appeared for a song, 'Out of Control', the audience exploded into action once more - their vocals worked so well on the song, and you could see the bands had been touring together for a while because the chemistry was so natural. It was probably my highlight of the entire weekend of gigs, because it was so unexpected. We'd been able to see them stood side of stage enjoying the set, but as soon as they finished their performance they went back to their spot and watched the end of it, so you could tell that they genuinely appreciated the other bands show.
I hadn't heard of Man With A Mission before this show, but I've bought their album and I can't wait to listen to it. I already adore them.

Take What U Want
Smells Like Teen Spirit cover
Fly Again
Out of Control (ft. Ali and Matty from Zebrahead)
Get Off Of My Way

Now, for our headliners, Patent Pending. We missed Patent Pending at Slam Dunk this year because their set overlapped entirely with PVRIS, but it was definitely a regret so I was glad to finally see them.
While they were setting up they started an impromptu rendition of '...Baby One More Time', and following that up with their intro music of 'Final Countdown', it was a unique opener. Where Man With A Mission were heavier and incited mosh pits, as soon as Patent Pending took to the stage the floor turned into a giant trampoline - the jumping did not stop throughout their set.
That was applicable both for the audience and the band. Joe started throwing himself around the stage, jumping into the crowd within the first song and not hesitating to leap from one side of the stage to the other. Throughout 'Classic You' he was having quite a few microphone problems, but they were hardly noticeable - when you're having that much fun it doesn't matter if it's not completely perfect. But after the first song the issues settled down, which was a relief. It was good to see Patent Pending performing at their best.
As well as all of the jumping and bouncing, there was also lot of spontaneous hand waving, including many counts of jazz hands, and some pirate hooks in the air - this was the 'Walk The Plank' tour, after all. Joe introduced it, shouting out for "pirate hooks up in the air!" and when only a few members of the crowd did he paused, looking around, and shouted "have some fucking Oxford pride, and put your pirate hooks in the air!" which certainly got a larger chunk of the crowd involved. From that intro they dived into 'Psycho In Love' (the song that I was most excited about hearing in their set) which is better in a live environment than on a recording, made even better when Joe came out to the middle of the crowd and proceeded to teach the audience the different crowdsurfing techniques as they carried him back to the stage.
His energy is undeniable, a boundlessly unflappable charisma, and when he explained that he had ADHD before 'Started In My Head' - a song about his disorder - it didn't surprise me all that much. ADHD is something awful to have (I mean, it's a disorder, come on!) but it does really benefit his role as a frontman. There's no way he'd be as unstoppable without it, so I'm almost grateful for it!
I definitely recommend you listen to 'Started In My Head', which is off of their newest album, 'Riot Hearts Rebellion'. It was only released two days before the show ("our new album came out two days ago. If you don't have it yet, you're late! If you stole it off the internet, resourceful!") so they only played one song off of it, but it definitely stood out from the rest of their material. It might have been the subject matter, it might have been the way that the energy got that little bit more frenetic, but it was a definite highlight of the set.
The other big moment followed it, and that was their performance of 'One Less Heart To Break'. Joe shared the fact that the band strongly support many charities that support sufferers of depression and self-harm, and he gave a beautiful speech about the fact that nothing was as bad as it seemed, and that life could always get better. He encouraged the crowd to find something they loved and "spread it like wildfire. There is such a thing as happiness, and I fucking promise you this is it". Compared to the talk about pirates, it was inspiring to hear such a heartfelt sentiment, and it proved Patent Pending aren't a one trick pony - they don't just perform upbeat, humourous songs, they can also make a real difference in their fans lives.
But then, in a huge 180, they went from performing the closest thing they had to a ballad to performing 'Hey Mario' once more. After hearing it for the first (and only) time acoustically, experiencing it with the Super Mario music playing in the background really added an extra something to the song. I'd enjoyed it in the earlier session, but it was catapulted above and beyond when there was the added visual of Joe performing all of the Super Mario-esque jumps, and encouraging the crowd to join in with him at every possible opportunity.
From that into a cover of 'Soft Kitty' and 'The Big Bang Theory' theme song, this definitely won the award for the most ridiculously diverse show I've ever experienced, and I think it also wins the award for the most fun show I've been to - if not ever, then definitely in the last year or two.
In a very poignant moment, Patent Pending played their penultimate song 'Brighter' after giving a indirect tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks earlier in the month. Joe took a moment, saying that he didn't want to dwell on it, but that "the world is an entirely fucked up place right now. People are scared to leave their houses. A bunch of fucking assholes broke into our house - I'm talking about the house of music, where we are right now - and they tried to take it from us, but we're still fucking here", and with the round of applause that went up it really showed a united front, which was hugely inspiring. So many bands have been cancelling tours, so many fans have been terrified to go to live shows, and it felt right that Patent Pending addressed the difficulties and showed solidarity with the victims and their families. It was very tender and touching, and I'll definitely remember that moment for a very long time.
Before closing with 'Douchebag', the band announced that they'd recently been getting their songs played by Kerrang! radio, and begged the crowd to keep requesting the song ("go to their house with biscuits, please please please insist they keep playing Patent Pending") and it was surprising that after fourteen years they're still so humble and thankful for radio play. It shows how much they care about their music, and it proves that they appreciate everything that they achieve. They really are a lovely band, and they deserve all of the success that they get. At the very end of the show, before they walked off stage (and Joe blew raspberries into the microphone for a good couple of minutes...) they announced that they'd be back in the spring, so I'm definitely keeping an eye out for that tour.

Classic You
Shake Weights & Moving Crates
Let Go
Psycho In Love
Dance Till We Die
The Whiskey, The Liar, The Thief
Started In My Head
One Less Heart To Break
Hey Mario
Soft Kitty/Big Bang Theory theme song

The 'Walk The Plank' tour was nothing but camaraderie - Man With A Mission having Zebrahead on stage with them, Patent Pending calling out to Man With A Mission and calling them one of the best support bands they'd ever seen, and Patent Pending thanking Zebrahead, announcing "they've been in their band long enough to have been my first rock show, and they're part of the reason [we] started the band"... These were a bunch of friends playing together, and all of the crowd members became friends throughout the show. If you get the chance to see any of the bands, don't miss out.

If you saw Zebrahead's set, please let me know how amazing they were: I don't mind if it hurts, I just want to know that they put on a great show! 

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