This week, a Friday night in Minneapolis means a sold out show at the Varsity Theatre. This time around, fans pack the room in support of the ten year anniversary of Mayday Parade’s self titled album.
I walk into the venue and hear Neck Deep’s “Don’t Wait” playing, followed immediately by Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.”
Maybe I’m alone in thinking so, but the music that plays between bands can really set the tone for the show overall. If that logic holds true, by these first two spins, I know I’m in for a great night.
And why wouldn’t I be? With a stacked lineup at one of my favorite Minnesota venues, there isn’t much room for disappointment.
Looking around, those in the crowd seem to feel the same as they take photos with their friends, and dance or sing along to the songs playing overhead.
As it moves closer to 7pm, the venue continues to fill. I’m happy to see that for this tour fans aren’t skipping out on the opening acts.
I’m particularly excited about what that means for Orlando-based band Magnolia Park – a newer band in the scene that has recently caught my eye.
These guys do not disappoint. They come on stage with an explosive energy and play a surprisingly long set for an opening act.
I’m equally thrilled and surprised to see how many others in the audience are singing the lyrics right back throughout their performance.
Magnolia Park is a band that requires your energy and full attention while on stage. So much, in fact, that they restart their second song when it isn’t met with as much enthusiasm as they need. They yell out the the crowd, “Some of you are jumping, but we need more of that!” The audience enthusiastically obliges.
A few songs in, they grace us with a cover of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” I do always enjoy a well-timed and thought-out cover song. Considering the audience and the occasion, this is a perfect pick. The entire venue bursts out singing in unison.
As the cover wraps up, they say, “You sound better than we do!”.
One vivacious concert-goer yells back, “BULLSHIT! WE’RE DRUNK AS F*CK OUT HERE!”
Several of us nearby exchange glances and smiles, clearly all finding the response funny but definitely not inaccurate. It’s great to see so many people throughly enjoying themselves this evening, especially so early into the set.
I’m happy to hear them play “10 for 10” next. This is the first of their songs I had been exposed to (probably through TikTok, I won’t lie.). The lyrics, “another day another breakdown/my bank accounts got me stressed out” clearly resonate with many as the venue is filled with voices singing along.
All too soon, their set comes to a close. Several people in the audience chant “Play ‘Reaper,’ play ‘Reaper’!” repeatedly. The band smiles, waves goodbye, and heads off the stage.
Maybe next time.
Magnolia Park Setlist:
- Sugar, We’re Going Down (Fall Out Boy cover)
- 10 for 10
- Love Me
- Back On My Bullshit
- Kids Like Us
- Sick of It All
Up next is Illinois-based band Real Friends. If you didn’t already know, the band has experienced some structural changes in the last few years. In 2020, founding member Dan Lambton parted ways with the band after having fronted it for ten years.
Most were unsure if Real Friends would continue on making and playing music thereafter. However, about a year and a half after Lambton’s departure, the band announced that Cody Muraro would join the band as a new frontman.
While those who followed the band more closely in previous years may still be mourning the loss, I personally find the new addition to be incredibly revitalizing.
The band kicks off their set with “Me First,” off of their 2018 album Composure. As they do so, I notice that there is much more life and movement in a Real Friends set with Muraro fronting it. He brings a powerful zest and takes full advantage of the given space on stage.
I imagine it isn’t easy to perform songs you haven’t personally written with as much charisma as ones you have, but unless you’ve been following the band closely, you’d truly never know the difference here.
My personal favorite song of the night is “Nervous Wreck,” one that Real Friends first released with Muraro fronting the band.
While the band has previously been known for their more melancholy songs, it feels as though there is a playfulness to their performance now as well.
A few songs in they comment, “You guys are awfully quiet out there – are you good? Are you mad at us?” and then smile as they instigate a bit more movement out of the crowd.
Now and Then
As they begin playing “Late Nights in My Car” I’m taken back to Tumblr threads poking fun at the infamous sleepy eyes and bony knees lines. This is something my friends and I still reference quite often today. It doesn’t take away from the sentiment in the song though. Clearly others in the venue tonight feel similarly as they sway and sing along.
In full transparency, I never got too into Real Friends back in the day.
Part of me feels like there’s a certain kind of sadness you need to have inside of you to really appreciate their older music. That just isn’t where my head was at back when they were starting to gain traction. Thankfully, I suppose.
But there is an undeniable energy that they bring to the stage now. They’re not a band that fills the space while I wait for the headliner anymore, they’re a band I’m genuinely excited to watch.
As they close their set with “From The Outside,” I hope there are others attending the show who would say the same.
Real Friends Setlist:
- Me First
- Remedy for Reality
- Get By
- I’ve Given Up On You
- Nervous Wreck
- I Don’t Love You Anymore
- Late Nights in My Car
- Anchor Down
- From the Outside
I watch as the stage crew sets up what appears to be four large stained glass windows – the arrangement is unique and interesting. Others in the crowd watch too as they stir with excitement for what’s to come.
I’m at the age now where many of the albums I grew up on are hitting their ten year anniversaries, and even some years beyond that.
While most of us don’t love the idea of growing old, it does give music lovers the opportunity to experience monumental albums of their youth played in full. This is especially exciting considering that typically not all songs in a discography make it into setlist rotation.
One thing fans can count on is hearing each song off of the self-titled album in order of the track list.
With the opening song on this record, “Oh Well, Oh Well,” Mayday Parade is already at an advantage. I say this because this track has become a fairly consistent opener for them over the years anyway, so they already know it’ll start things off right.
Dressed to Impress
The lights dim and frontman Derek Sanders takes his place at center stage. He begins the slower solo potion of the song. As the music is about to kick in, the rest of the band joins him on stage wearing matching suits.
While the band looks rather dapper dressed to the nines, I’ll admit it is odd to see them this way. They usually dress more casually for shows. On top of that, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Mayday Parade show where Sanders wasn’t performing barefoot.
After the opening song, he smiles and says, “We dressed up for you tonight because it is the ten year anniversary of our self titled album!”
Sanders then turns back to look at the stage setup and comments, “We brought you to emo church!”
Indeed, they did.
A Light in the Dark
“When You See My Friends” came third. Towards the end of this song, the band takes a moment to (literally) shine light on the fact that the last few years have been difficult for everyone.
They call out to the audience, “If you feel like you lost something or someone in the last two years, hold up your phone light!”.
Slowly the room illuminates as phones light up one by one and those in the room cry out the closing lyrics:
When you see my friends, tell them “Hi” for me
And tell them what you think about the way you handled everything
So neat and clean well the world is filled with such pretty things
So do your best for me
There’s something cathartic about revisiting pain through music while surrounded by strangers. However, during this moment, there are clearly several in the room being filled with hope and relief, even if only briefly.
The band doesn’t hold back on creating these moments throughout the night. In keeping in theme with this, we soon see a piano brought out on stage. Sanders sits down at it and beings playing “Stay” with another heart-wrenching arrangement.
Thank You’s and Recognition
A bit later in the set, Sanders takes a notice of a familiar fan in the crowd. He leans in, asks for the fan’s name, and then announces, “My man Fahad has come to many shows over the years and it’s always good to see him!”
I am thrilled he took a moment to appreciate a longtime fan’s support and dedication.
Soon after, Sanders also shouts out the opening bands, and calls attention to both their crew and the local crew who work diligently to make shows happen each night.
Any band that takes the time to spotlight those who help make live music possible will always be worthy of my praises.
All too soon, the final track on the album is played and the band swiftly exits the stage. The fans, however, haven’t had enough just yet. As a piano interlude plays overhead, they scream and chant for more.
Greeted by enthusiastic cheers, the band returns and breaks into “Kids of Summer.” This is the first track off of their most recent album.
I’m interested to see how this plays out considering most, I would assume, are here for the nostalgia. The crowd sings along enthusiastically regardless, letting the band know they’ve kept up even after all these years.
Soon Sanders shouts with glee, “The shoes are coming off, man!”
He then comments, “This is only the second show of tour I took my shoes off…I don’t know what that means but it means something!”
Ironically, he cracks these jokes right before plopping down at the piano and diving into everyone’s favorite nostalgic heartbreak anthem, “Miserable at Best.”
At this point, I don’t think anyone is singing along, but rather are all screaming the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
A few more old songs (even older than ten years!) later, and the anniversary show comes to a close.
Here’s to hoping they come around soon as more anniversary tour opportunities pop up. After all, who doesn’t love a night filled with good music and sweet, sweet nostalgia?
Mayday Parade Setlist:
- Oh Well, Oh Well
- No Heroes Allowed
- When You See My Friends
- You’re Dead Wrong
- Call Me Hopeless, But Not Romantic
- A Shot Across the Bow
- Everything’s An Illusion
- I’d Rather Make Mistakes Than Nothing at All
- Without the Bitter the Sweet Isn’t As Sweet
- Happy Endings Are Stories That Haven’t Ended Yet
- Kids Of Summer
- Golden Days
- Miserable At Best
- Piece of Your Heart
- Jamie All Over