In the midst of the holidays this week, Minnesota pop-punk fans said, “Forget Black Friday, we’re going to the Grayscale show!” and headed to Amsterdam Bar & Hall for the return of the Philadelphia-based band.
Grayscale hasn’t been to the Twin Cities since September of 2019 where they last toured in support of their second full-length album, Nella Vita. Though the pandemic may have slowed things down for many in the music world, for Grayscale it was an opportune moment to create what I feel personally is their best album yet.
Umbra dropped in late August, and is easily my album of the year. It goes without saying that I was really looking forward to this tour in hopes of hearing some of my favorites off of the album in a live setting.
I arrive at the venue early to meet the check-in time for the VIP upgrade that I had purchased for this tour. This is expected to begin sometime between 4:30 and 5.
To our surprise, before anyone is let into the venue, we are met with Grayscale guitarist Andrew Kyne, who walks up to those of us standing in line and strikes up a conversation, despite the chilly weather. Most of this discussion revolves around video games.
It’s cool to see him genuinely taking an interest in connecting with fans in less than ideal weather, when he definitely has a warm bus he could be passing the time in. Not that I expected any different, as Grayscale has always been a band that is so easy to converse with and doesn’t shy away from genuine interactions.
One telling sign of this is how intimate and interactive their VIP seasons are. The last time they came around, VIP consisted of a donut party, Q&A session, the chance to sign a drum set, and several games including Heads Up and Cornhole.
This time around isn’t much different, though it is easily the smallest VIP session of theirs I’ve been to yet, with no more than fifteen of us in the room.
During this time we have another open Q&A session where we learn that Andrew is the only one in the band who dances even a little bit (even if ironically) and that Collin has major beef with Flo from Progressive.
A few things the band does agree on? Without You is unanimously a favorite from the new album, and the J.G Wentworth jingle absolutely slaps. Can’t say I disagree with either of those things.
After Q&A wraps up we are split into two teams where we compete in Grayscale Trivia with questions ranging anywhere from “Who was late because they got lost on a scooter?” to “Who in the band is the biggest Disney fan?”. My team loses, unfortunately, but it’s a close match. I’ll be sure to study up on random Grayscale facts for a better shot next time.
Once a trivia winner is declared, the winning team gets to select one title of an unreleased Grayscale song that had been cut from Umbra as their prize. (Luckily the losing team gets to partake in this as well!). While this plays, we form a line, take a few photos with the band, and the VIP comes to a close.
The show is set to start at 6 and five minutes prior to this, the venue is still pretty dead. I wonder if this may be bad timing with Thanksgiving having been the day before the show, but I still hope the space will be more full by the time Grayscale takes the stage.
Small Space, BIG Presence
Up first on the card is New York-based band Young Culture. As they walk out, they immediately begin making small talk with those in the front row. I overhear them say, “We’re here to get things warmed up for the awesome lineup this evening – then we’ll be right out in the crowd with you guys!” and, “We’re gonna need you to move for us tonight!”.
They weren’t kidding about the second part. With about a 3×12 square foot area of space to squeeze five band members plus all of their gear, no wonder they ask for movement from the crowd, since their ability to do so would be dreadfully limited.
They make do, and still bring plenty of life to their set despite having very little space to work with.
I’ve shot this band once before in the past and one thing that I remember is how much they smiled! I’m happy to see that this demeanor hasn’t changed, as it is always so refreshing to see bands sincerely enjoying what they do.
The crowd responds well too, which is great, considering my earlier concerns of the smaller turnout potentially meaning less energy.
Young Culture Set List:
Better Off As Friends
Holiday in Vegas
Cemetery Sun – Many Talents in One!
Only a few minutes pass between the time that Young Culture wraps up their set and the next band is ready to begin theirs. The quick teardown and setup process at Amsterdam is something I am always thankful for.
Soon the lights cut out and there is a loud startling noise signaling the arrival of Sacramento California-based band Cemetery Sun. Some music begins playing over the speakers that give me the feeling that this is going to be a heavier band. The first thing that comes out of the singer’s mouth? A scream. I was right! Well…sorta.
Cemetery Sun has a musical vibe that I can’t quite pin down. Sometimes there are screams, sometimes there are catchy melodies, sometimes there’s more of a rap-flow. It falls somewhere along the lines of Issues with a touch of the more melodic Can’t Swim pieces.
One thing that I notice is that all members of the band besides the drummer sing – and not just backing vocals and harmonies. You can see each of them switch off singing different parts of their songs, which is something I don’t see many other bands do.
AlI in all, it is a good set. If I am to be slightly critical, I would love to see a little more movement on stage – they have a great sound and are clearly talented musically, but I do feel they lacked the energy and stage presence that would really bring them to the next level.
Cemetery Sun Set List:
Right Place, RIGHT Time
I had not heard of California-based band Girlfriends until they were announced for this tour. By the reaction of the crowd when they take to the stage, it is made clear that I am one of only a few there who have been out of the loop.
Girlfriends run out, decked in matching jean jackets that have their band name written all over them (I think this is a nice touch.). They waste no time and immediately kick off their set with their song Jessica.
The room explodes with excitement from fans – this is easily the most movement I’ve seen from them all night. This is understandable as Girlfriends have incredible energy, and boy, are their songs catchy. Their music definitely lands on the poppier side of pop-punk but is very well-constructed and palatable – many people could enjoy this sound.
I notice that on stage, the band interacts with one another quite a bit – there is a very playful energy as they run up to each other and joke around throughout their set.
In the audience, many fans have homemade signs with the band’s logo on them. I see one that says, “I’m only here for Girlfriends!”. The band takes note of these items, sometimes holding them up themselves, and thanks these fans for showing up.
Towards the end of their set, I learn that they have only been a band for a year. This is surprising, considering their music is so well-constructed. I wonder if perhaps they have a background in other bands.
A quick Google search proves this theory to be true, as I learn that one member, Nick Gross, is a co-owner of a record label, and that another member, Travis Mills, is a solo artist from the MySpace and Warped Tour days – no wonder!
Girlfriends Set List:
Eyes Wide Shut
Up All Night
Where Were You
Right Place, Wrong Time
All F*cked Up
Step Into Umbra
My elder-emo bones are elated to find that Grayscale is set to take the stage at 8:30. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never get sick of live music, but there is something special about a show that wraps up before 10pm.
I caught Grayscale over the summer at a few of the Sad Summer Dates and after those performances, I was eager for them to headline a tour of their own again.
Though I’ve been a fan of Grayscale for years, I will admit that in a live setting I have felt that they’ve had difficulty constructing effective setlists in the past. They’d always sound great live, but the way they’d arrange songs wouldn’t quite give the energy necessary to craft a set that really “wows” you.
That’s certainly not the case anymore.
Fittingly, they start the night off with the first track from the new album, Without You (which we learned is their collective favorite!).
The new vibe that Grayscale has is immaculate. They’ve gone from frat-boy pop-punk with flannels and backward hats to spiffy button-up shirts and dress pants. It is a welcome change, and truthfully matches the growth they’ve displayed as they have progressed musically.
The mix is perfect this evening and they sound incredible – it demands your full attention.
I absolutely lose my mind when they play my three favorite songs off of Umbra all in a row! Grayscale, if you are reading this, I will be expecting the trifecta that is Bad Love into Motown into Over Now on every tour from now on.
Though they have been creating much more upbeat music as of late, no Grayscale show goes without paying homage to their roots – the more melancholy songs that we as fans love to hear when we feel a little down.
To start this, they fall into fan favorite, Live Again – a song about dealing with loved ones in sickness and the feelings of helplessness that can bring. At this moment, I truly am convinced that Colin Walsh’s vocals were put on this earth for the sole reason of breaking my heart.
After a few slower sad songs, Grayscale kicks it back into gear. One song I am surprised to hear is Diamond, a stand-alone single that had dropped prior to the release of the new album.
This is a song that I’ve seen fans have been split on, likely because it is a bit different in sound than most of Grayscale’s other material (which is somewhat of a bold statement, considering just how much their sound has evolved in the last ten years.).
I’ve always liked Diamond, and hearing it live only solidifies its greatness for me. Truthfully, I feel that it adds to the upbeat portion of their set that had been lacking for some time before this.
Towards the end of their show, they play Fever Dream – another area where I disagree with the general fanbase. I know this is a song that many enjoy, and I definitely do as well, but I struggle with its placement in the set of each tour.
Fever Dream has such an emotional intensity to it – it’s beautifully crafted and painfully somber. Near its end, they always call for fans to sing along in the slower portion that goes as follows:
“I walk this road
Behind you now
I feel so lost
‘Cause you’re never gonna turn around
I scream your name I fight your past
‘Cause you’re never gonna feel the same“
But this is the part of the set that always seems to interfere with the buildup of a strong finale. I would love to see this song placed right before they slow things down in the middle of their set, instead of second to last, as I genuinely believe it would take their energy flow to the next level.
All too soon the night comes to a close. Right before the last song, frontman, Collin Walsh cries out, “We don’t do encores, so this is it, time to give it all you’ve got!”. The band then breaks into Atlantic, one of my favorites, and an excellent closer.
It is always good to see Grayscale, and I, of course, am looking forward to the next time they visit us in the Twin Cities. Make sure to give Umbra a listen before then – you won’t want to miss out!
Grayscale Set List: