Seven men took the Granada in Lawrence by storm last night. The venue that originated as a silent film theater was transformed into a hurricane of sound and furious energy. Thirteen years after its forming in 2002, Streetlight Manifesto still delivers exactly what their loyal fans desire: high-octane, yet beautifully, well-written music. The liveliness was absolutely palpable as they took the stage, and the boys from New Jersey spared little time for small talk as they blazed through a 16 song set.
Before Streetlight Manifesto took the stage, Sycamore Smith, and his kazoo, engaged fans with his eccentric lyrics and water drinking talents. It would be hard to say the audience was not enthralled by Smith’s upbeat and high energy acoustics. Sycamore Smith is a one-man band with a kazoo and a devil horned guitar. Smith’s ability to combine natural wit with a genuine folk sound can speak to any audience that’s listening.
After Sycamore Smith was St. Louis native Dan Potthast, known as Dan P. Dan P. talked a lot to the audience mainly because, I’m sure, he knew he was preaching to fellow Missourians. Dan P. is also a one-man band backed by a single guitar, and his ability to convey his personality through the mic and into the listener’s ears. Either way, Dan’s expectations to build energy for the headliner fell short of the bar Sycamore Smith set so high. I thoroughly enjoyed both openers sets, but if I had any say in it, I would have enjoyed listening to Sycamore Smith before Streetlight Manifesto and Dan Pothast before Sycamore Smith.
Streetlight Manifesto initiated their set with a resounding bang playing Watch it Crash from their second album, Somewhere in the Between. Fans responded almost instantly as a huge pit formed from the stage to the stairs, swallowing anyone having too good of a time to not move back (which was no one, I believe.) It was obvious that Streetlight’s fans had been waiting for this for a long time, they were induced into a ska-punk fit of immeasurable joy.
The band quickly transitioned into a fan favorite, The Three of Us, from their newest album The Hands that Thieve, which also received a strong reaction in and out of the mosh pit. The guys kept the show rolling at a beautiful pace, playing classics such as Mephisto’s Café, from Somewhere in the Between and Point/Counterpoint, a vigorous hit from their debut album Everything Goes Numb. The band’s performance in this first string of songs was so astonishing, they probably could have called it a night at this point, but they were merely half way through their set.
They decided to slow it down at the midway point (I use the word “slow” lightly). The next song was It’s a Wonderful Life by Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution from their album A Call to Arms. BOTAR is a music collective fronted by Streetlight’s frontman and primary songwriter, Tomas Kolnaky and includes a few of Streetlights former members. Needless to say, this was a real treat and much deserved break for the audience to join, shoulder to shoulder, and sway peacefully with the music. The chilled out vibe continued with another slower, sweet jam, Toe to Toe from The Hands that Thieve. These songs gave the fans a little time to enjoy the raw talent of Streetlight Manifesto’s members. Kolnaky’s smooth licks on his guitar and great songwriting shone bright. Jim Conti’s moving solos on his saxophone put the crowd’s collective mind at ease after the frantic jumping and pushing of the first half of their set. Nadav Nuremberg exhibited his vast range on the trombone, transitioning from belting out notes like a foghorn in the first half, to making that brass purr like a kitten as the songs slowed down. You could say the same for Matt Stewart, a truly gifted trumpeter. Just like Nuremberg, Stewart showcased his excellent range and skill. No one could forget about Mike Brown either, the sounds from his baritone kept crowd moving with each chord progressed. I would like to think that Toe to Toe gave a little bit of a break for the backbone of the band, drummer Chris Thatcher and bassist Pete McCullough, experts of their crafts. Both worked furiously during the beginning of the set to keep the beat so the crowd could have a base to dance and push, which was about to happen again with the last six songs of the set.
Moving on from the soft sweet songs, the crowd was cast back into the breakneck, mosh-worthy tunes that Streetlight really excels in. The title track for The Hands that Thieve was next, performed and received intensely. Then a few more songs until a track the fans had been waiting the entire show to hear, the title track for Somewhere in the Between. At this point the audience was wildly enthusiastic. Every single word was sung with the band, people were jumping, pushing and dancing as if their lives depended on it. A few lucky souls got the pleasure of crowd surfing to the front of the pit where they were greeted with a plethora of hugs and high fives from the wackiest, most loving family they could ever ask for. The band fed on the energy like a sacred nectar, delivering an astounding performance. They left the stage after the song, only for the crowd start chanting “One more song” over and over. Within a minute the band was back on stage, were Kolnaky gave a few words for his bandmates and the crowd. He said “Every tour I make a list of places I’d live, Lawrence is always on that list.” Then they gave the encore the crowd desperately needed. With Heres to Life, and one of their most popular and touching songs they’ve written The Big Sleep, both from Everything Goes Numb. The songs were received just as Somewhere in the Between was, with a bewildered crowd lovingly singing along while they shoved and hugged the living shit out of each other. It was a striking thing to see.
After the band left the stage, the crowd and energy poured out into the street. There was nothing but smiles and bodies drenched in sweat. Streetlight Manifesto has always been one of my favorite bands, and it was an absolute pleasure to see them live for the first time. The energy they produced in that building is a true testament to their passion for music and their die-hard fans. I will look back at this show as a unique and unparalleled showcasing of seven men’s talent and desire to make really fucking good music, and succeeding in every sense of the word. To the fine men of Streetlight Manifesto: I’m unhappy the ride came to an end, but I hold hope that for this instance, I will be able to get in line again one day.