On Tuesday, November 5th the up-and-coming American Authors came to the Paradise Rock Club on one of the last legs of the 2014 Honda Civic Tour. Joining them as a supporting act were the Mowgli’s, an alt-rock band from Southern California whose single “San Francisco” reached Number 11 on Billboard’s Alternative Chart in 2013, and Brooklyn-based folk-pop band Oh Honey.
Although they are based out of New York City, the American Authors formed while attending the Berklee College of Music in 2006—making this something of a homecoming for the rising stars, best known for their commercially successful singles, “Best Day of My Life” and “Believer.”
Oh Honey kicked off the night with a short-and-sweet half-hour set. Their blend of catchy, stomp-y folk pop led me to draw comparisons to popular acts such as Of Monsters and Men and The Lumineers. Oh Honey’s musical prowess is unmistakable; they have only been active for a little over a year and already have a major label deal with Atlantic Records.
This is most apparent in “Be Okay” (their lone single which has already been featured in Chili’s commercials and movie trailers), an airy folk-pop tune that has the appeal to achieve “Ho Hey” level success. However, their inexperience as a unit may have shone through more than they would have hoped. While it was by no stretch of the imagination a bad performance, they had little stage presence. Lead singer Mitchy Collins was humble and quiet, as would be expected of an opener, but almost to an uninteresting fault; and though Danielle Bouchard’s dreamy, alt-girl-next-door vocals were stellar, they fell victim to poor sound mixing and were consequently drowned out by guitar and fuzz. While Oh Honey’s set was not my favorite, the music itself definitely warrants a listen, especially from fans of the increasingly popular folk-pop genre.
The Mowgli’s followed with a lively performance that the audience received well—or at least better than Oh Honey’s. Perhaps it was simply the fact that the Mowgli’s are a more popular act, but it’s more likely that their set was overall more energetic. After all, the crowd was largely comprised of young teenagers (thanks, every Top 40 radio station everywhere who added “Best Day of My Life” to its limited arsenal) who were only there to see American Authors and maybe a few Mowgli’s songs. Because of this, the two opening acts had to rely heavily on stage presence in order to win the crowd over.
Where Oh Honey fell short, the Mowgli’s did slightly better. The leading vocal duo of Dave Appelbaum and Katie Earl were clever in their banter and even better in their ability to excite the crowd. Their stage presence, along with lyrics that are easy to sing along to, regardless of pre-existing knowledge and catchy rock tunes with just a tinge of folk-fusion, created a recipe for a solid live show. The Mowgli’s played fan favorites such as “Say It, Just Say It,” “Emily,” and ended the night with their signature feel-good hit, “San Francisco.”
Last to take the stage were American Authors. It was apparent by the crowd’s reaction that this was by far the most anticipated act. The band announced its presence with thunderous kicks from the bass drum, which prompted the scores of adoring fans to scream in anticipation of the wall of bubbly sing-a-long rock that was set to fully inundate the sold-out venue.
If the Mowgli’s one-upped Oh Honey in terms of showmanship and overall live performance, then American Authors reigned supreme in the aforementioned categories. In between passion-fueled tales of chasing success (“Luck”), banjo-driven tunes about uncertain relationships (“Trouble) and songs from FIFA (“Hit It”), lead singer Zac Barnett told endearing anecdotes of the band’s journey from Boston to New York City. One such story was of when the members were attending the Berklee College of Music; they’d often pass Paradise Rock Club on the T and wonder, bright-eyed, who was playing the storied venue. For them, the performance wasn’t just money or making a name for their band; it was about coming home.
What made American Authors' performance so memorable was not just their electric stage presence, but also their willingness to relate to the crowd. When they weren’t playing their infectiously danceable tunes they were catering to their loving audience. When a fan yelled, “Let’s get high!” it would have been easy for Barnett to shrug the guy off. Instead, he indulged the fan and playfully responded, “That’s for after!”
As was expected, American Authors closed with the hugely popular “Best Day of My Life.” It was the definitive sing-a-long of the night. This was apparent because even the parents standing in the back while their 15-year-olds raged the night away knew every word to the song. It was the perfect way to end a night of largely carefree performances; and even if it wasn’t the best day of my life, it was still pretty good.