Full disclosure, if you’ve come here for the standard concert review, this isn’t it. To any other friends in the All Time Low fan space who may be unsure of what comes next; your feelings are valid. This is for us.
A Handful of Moments
I never miss an All Time Low tour.
They’re a band I’ve supported fully for about fifteen years. I know every song, have memorized all of their on-stage gimmicks, and have traveled to see them in several states when they haven’t made it nearby.
In fact, I’m fully confident that I could write an accurate recap of their show last night without having to attend it.
But this isn’t going to be another standard concert write-up, as this one bears much more weight.
Since I attend every tour, I obviously had purchased tickets to this show the second they went on sale, and as always, I purchased the VIP upgrade as well. I was really looking forward to what would be my 23rd All Time Low show, especially after so many months of not being able to see live music at all.
Unfortunately, things got messy unexpectedly a few weeks before the show, when allegations primarily surrounding guitarist, Jack Barakat began to surface. When these allegations were not handled with care by the band, I had made the heart-breaking decision to no longer attend the concert.
You Were Fake, I Was Great
I very openly do not support celebrities who abuse their platform. And while these allegations are still moving through legal processes and are not definitively “true” or “untrue”, many fans, including myself, felt the statement All Time Low released took no accountability for the situation. That didn’t sit right with me.
It was painful and disappointing to be put in a position to make that choice, as for so many years All Time Low acted as a refuge for me, and truly were people I believed to be unproblematic (which is honestly a dream in the pop-punk community.).
As a fan of music first and foremost, it is important to me that all is done to keep the scene safe for everyone, even if that means sacrificing something I love by holding bands accountable.
After weeks of mulling it over, I was set in my decision. That was, until, I was granted access to cover the concert – a request I had submitted months prior.
Despite my immediate panic, I felt that the opportunity to tell this story may be helpful to others in a similar position that I am in, or at least bring awareness to those who may not have been following this story as closely.
Stand a Little Too Tall, Say a Little Too Much
My final All Time Low show began a little after 5pm with a soundcheck party. During these VIP sessions, a handful of fans are brought into the venue early to watch the band play a few songs at soundcheck, as well as partake in a Q&A session with them.
Pre-pandemic, this package also included a personal photo with the band, though now that has been condensed to a group photo for safety reasons.
The hard-hitting journalist in me wanted to use this time to ask the tough questions. Things like, “What are your plans to keep fans safe at your shows moving forward?” or, “What message do you have for long-time fans who morally cannot support you anymore in light of the allegations?“.
I really wanted to believe that there was more to the story being withheld for reasons out of the band’s control, and I felt like the fan-base deserved that peace-of-mind. I believed these men to be good people for so long – I imagined they were struggling with this to some degree.
But I couldn’t shake the fact that I’ve seen other bands in the scene handle this with much more grace and care. Deep down I felt that if they wanted to do more, they too, easily could.
I was angry and I wanted answers.
As soon as the band walked out to greet us I lost all confidence and spite. Though, I wouldn’t say I gained any sense of solace in return.
While I recognize that meet and greets are still performative, it hurt to see the band interacting with fans as if nothing had changed. I knew it wasn’t likely they’d mention the allegations, but I wanted to sense more concern than they were displaying.
Maybe I’m Broken, But I’m Not Sure
The first song they sound-checked was PMA. I had held it together for the most part, but once the music began playing, I couldn’t hold in my frustration, nor go without mourning the fact that this likely would be my last All Time Low VIP experience. I stared at Alex with as much intensity and strength I could muster, and wept.
Throughout all of this, if from anyone, I expected words from him. He had always been so outspoken about issues of all varieties in the past, and is incredibly transparent and unapologetic in his stances. Over the last few weeks – he offered no comfort to his fans and was so much colder than we ever knew him to be.
I think a lot of my anger was directed towards him in that moment because I expected better.
I wanted so badly to smile and to sway along with the others in the room. I longed to “enjoy it while it lasted”, but I couldn’t bring myself to fake or force elation that I didn’t feel. I felt betrayed.
I didn’t understand how others around me did it so effortlessly.
After two more songs and several other questions from fans, the soundcheck party came to a close. I took several deep breaths while there were still a few moments of stillness in the venue – a feeble attempt at collecting myself.
Soon, they opened up the doors to the rest of the fans.
Take Me At My Word, I’m Desperate
Doors opened at 6:30 with All Time Low scheduled for 8:30. Since both of the original openers of the tour had dropped off only days prior, we were left in an interesting predicament.
Either they managed to find someone willing to open for them last minute, despite the unresolved allegation issues, or they were going to make people sit around two full hours before playing. Both of those options seemed ridiculous.
As it turns out, they did find an opener to fill the time. The caveat to this? It was Dan Swank, one of the backing members of All Time Low.
It felt like an inside job.
I couldn’t tell if I was relieved that no one else was willing to support the band in the midst of their allegations, or if I was sorrowful and empathetic seeing a group I’ve known for such greatness at such a blinding low-point.
Dan took to the stage around 7pm and played about seven or eight of his own acoustic songs, as well as a cover of Green Day’s Basket Case.
He sounded fine enough, and the crowd seemed to enjoy his performance. But it would be a blaring lie to say that I wasn’t too distracted by the circumstances, and as a result almost completely inattentive.
In a Sea of Strangers
All Time Low started playing at 8:30 and opened with Some Kind of Disaster. This song was my top played song of 2020 – with an embarrassing 100+ plays within the first day it was released.
In the past, the first note would have breathed life into me, a rejuvenation long needed after several hours in the pit awaiting their set. This time the note was sombre and heavy.
As a music photographer, the typical rule is that you get to shoot the band from the photo pit during the first three songs only. I definitely used this as a crutch, and was easily the most composed during this time, as I was focused on working and fueled by doing something that I enjoy.
I noticed pretty quickly that there weren’t many photographers alongside me in the photo pit. I wondered if maybe other publications had backed out, in light of the circumstances.
Some Kind of Disaster, Dark Side of Your Room, and Sleeping In played in the background while I worked, but soon enough I needed to exit the photo pit and face reality.
I stood on the outermost edge of the venue and observed the show from there.
I Never Knew How Much it Would Hurt to Feel
I spent the next few songs trying to figure out the best way to experience the night moving forward.
First I tried to revel in numbness – I found pretty quickly that staying numb stabilized my emotions. Though I ultimately decided that it felt like a terrible way to spend my last All Time Low concert.
But standing on the edge of the venue sobbing didn’t feel just right either, though every time I tried to enjoy myself or break out of the dissociation, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed about all of the “lasts” happening so rapidly within a short few hours.
No matter how “put-together” I tried to be, my emotions won out. I was in absolute unconsolable hysterics from the moment I put down my camera to the final goodbye.
After each song I tried my best to recollect myself, but then there would be another song, another lyric, another memory. I wasn’t ready to let go.
I’ll Hate the Goodbye, But I Won’t Forget the Good Times
Falling so deeply into All Time Low at a young age cultivated many “firsts” that they were inevitably a part of.
They were the first band I ever was introduced to that made me realize there was a vast world beyond what played on the local radio station.
As a result, they were also my first concert. Each time they went on tour, I relentlessly begged my parents for tickets to the show until they finally caved in (partly out of love, more likely out of annoyance.).
After my first concert, I came home and frantically wrote down all the songs they played and all the funny things they had said on stage so that I’d never forget. I still have those lists today.
When I finally got my driver’s license and gained a little more freedom as a teenager, Break Out!, Break Out! was the first song I played when I pulled out of the driveway alone for the first time. (We love living up to the pop-punk kid cliche of wanting so desperately to leave your hometown.).
Last Young Renegade came out during my last year in college, and those songs perfectly captured the feelings I had about moving on to the next big chapter in my life.
They’ve simply always been there, and list goes on. For every happy moment, every lover, friend, or family member lost, or for any time I’ve needed strength, there exists an All Time Low song.
Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way
As they begin playing Time-Bomb, I’m reminded of the concert where I was lucky enough to be pulled on stage during it, back in the era where they would fill the stage with fans to sing and dance along – something I had longed for and envied for several shows until I was finally selected.
I remember that at the end of the song when fans were told to head back into the crowd, Alex came up to me and only me out of everyone on that stage and gave me a hug. I was in absolute shock the rest of the night.
In this moment, I come to the realization that even if I part ways with the band moving forward, the memories I have that involve them still exist and are very much real.
I close my eyes and permit myself to look back on those times fondly.
Won’t Settle Down, Won’t Settle for Less
Much of the performance is the same as it always is – high energy and a great sound. (I couldn’t see a band perform live as many times as I have seen them, if they didn’t put on a killer show.).
Between old favorites like Vegas, and newer, less talked about songs like Safe, the setlist is incredible, almost too good – it feels like a bribe.
One thing I take notice of, is that the stage banter is neither lasting as long nor occurring as frequently as it typically does. I notice that Jack is especially more mellow than normal. I wonder if maybe that’s one way the band is playing it safe.
It gives me false hope that things are being worked on in the background and that there may be less tension surrounding this in the future.
At this point, even false hope, is still hope to hold onto.
This is one of those shows you just don’t want to end.Jack Barakat of All Time Low
One thing he does mention, is that the show was one he did not want to end. Despite all of my anger, pain, and confusion, that absolutely resonated with me.
Eventually though, I hear Dear Maria for what I believe will be the last time.
Scars on Our Future Hearts
I knew this era would end eventually – that’s just how life works. But I pictured a last show for everyone, not just for me. One last album. A final world tour. Still being able to listen the music I love without it being tainted or worrying about people who don’t deserve it making a profit off of it.
I sing through the tears. A stranger gives me a hug and checks in with me. I’m slightly embarrassed, but ultimately comforted by the gesture.
At least the community All Time Low has created feels safe, even if right now All Time Low themselves may not be.
I don’t know if there will be a way for All Time Low to reconcile with me or with fans like me in the future. I remain hopeful that there will be, because walking away from this now is incredibly difficult.
Be it case rulings, true apologies, or more information later on, I genuinely wish for a time where I can support them in good faith once more.
Until then, I continue to stand by and support those who have come forward with sexual assault allegations even if it hurts to do so – because that is how we can work towards creating a music scene that is safe and a true sanctuary for all.
I won’t forget the good times – I just want an environment where every All Time Low fan only gets to experience good times too.
All Time Low Setlist:
- Some Kind of Disaster
- Dark Side of Your Room
- Sleeping In
- Cinderblock Garden
- Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)
- Once in a Lifetime
- Backseat Serenade
- Life of the Party
- Missing you
- Lost in Stereo
- Glitter & Crimson
- Dear Maria, Count Me In