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Real Friends Showcase “Composure” at The Garage

Illinois-based band headline in Burnsville

Brian Blake of Real Friends The Garage October 17 2018
Brian Blake of Real Friends By Katie Ahrens

Four acts.

Three countries.

Two record labels.

One insane night.

On Wednesday The Garage was filled once more with pop-punk enthusiasts preparing for what very well may be the most anticipated lineup in the scene for fall 2018.

With Real Friends set to headline and support from labelmates Grayscale and Eat Your Heart Out as well as UK-based band Boston Manor, it was a lineup well beyond promising.

Shake Your Nerves Out

Eat Your Heart Out began the night promptly at 6:30 PM, announcing their presence with one abrupt and simultaneous clash of instruments as the screen was drawn upward and the female-fronted Australia-based band was revealed.

Though the band was both rhythmically and vocally sound, their stage presence was reserved and timid. As someone who has plenty of experience with live shows, I can say confidently that the opening night of anything rarely goes perfectly and that it can take a few runs through to feel solidified in a live performance setting. However, this overwhelming sense that Eat Your Heart Out was holding something back drew my focus away from their music.

Regardless, frontwoman, Caitlin Henry, is an absolute powerhouse. With deep and sturdy vocals and outstanding voice control, she’s the perfect fit for the grunge power-punk sound that Eat Your Heart Out creates.

Caitlin Henry of Eat Your Heart Out The Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Caitlin Henry of Eat Your Heart Out by Katie Ahrens

I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that any hiccup in their time on stage was nothing more than first-night jitters.

I’m interested in seeing this band progress not necessarily over time, but more so over the course of this tour because a simple fix like displaying comfortability on stage and an openness to movement would make their performance that much better.

Until then, be sure to check out their EP, Mind Games, here.

No Love Lost

Grayscale is an up-and-coming band that holds a special place in my heart. They are just plain awesome, and if you haven’t checked them out yet you seriously need to.

I’ve been told several times that I should just get paid for promoting these guys already because I throw their name out everywhere I go, but sincerely they deserve to be so much more widely known than they are.

They just haven’t blown up yet in the way that they should have and last night I discovered a pretty vital element to as to why that may be.

Here’s what I don’t want to say; the only thing that is really keeping them from blowing up in the scene is that they haven’t quite figured out how to string together an effective setlist.

The last few times I’ve seen them, they’ve opened up with Let It Rain, the explosive high-energy first track to their most recent album, Adornment that is undoubtedly one of the best tracks on the record.

But after playing several more fantastic hits, they’ve been closing with Fever Dream, a song that has an intense chorus, but overall is too mellow for a closer.

Grayscale's Collin Walsh and Dallas Molster The Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Grayscale’s Collin Walsh and Dallas Molster by Katie Ahrens

Last night, they opened with Echoes (Carry On) and played Fever Dream in the middle of the set, leaving me with the hope that they’d be closing on either Let It Rain or Atlantic which would be a much better move and a more triumphant end to a set.

I grew even more excited as they announced they were going to play a song that they’ve never played on tour before and then transitioned into Forever Yours, a gorgeous and moving acoustic piece that tells the saddest story and despite my overplaying of it still makes me emotional whenever I hear it.

I sang along and watched as others did the same, many of them giving reassuring smiles to one another as they made their way through the sorrowful, yet poetic lyrics.

After they strummed the last note they up and left the stage.

Yes, you read that right.

What? I was confused. Dare I say heartbroken? Ending on that song left a lot to be desired. Heck, I was half expecting an encore from an opening band because the abrupt ending to their set just felt awkward and unfair. Yikes.


Here’s what I will say; Grayscale is an incredible band for many reasons. For one, they write songs with meaning. They stand out in the genre because not once have they fallen victim to writing the classic cheesy and fluffy lyrics that are so heavily tied to pop-punk music

What makes this even better is that they have two vocalists, which if done right adds a lot to a band’s sound as a whole. They do it right. There is an interesting and phenomenal contrast between the vocals that Collin Walsh and Dallas Molster contribute – it really makes you feel all components of the song.

Collin Walsh of Grayscale The Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Collin Walsh of Grayscale by Katie Ahrens

They also have the coolest aesthetic that I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Take a look at their Instagram and take in the amount of thought and care it that is put into just their merch alone – it’s just so pretty.

You should have seen Collin light up when he talked to me about how cool their newest vinyl looked. It’s so refreshing to see a band who actually cares about the content that they are putting out, whether it be music or merchandise.

What I like about Grayscale the most, however, is how laid-back they all are. Whenever I’ve seen them, they’ve been hanging out at their merch tent and are always willing to talk to anyone who approaches them.

Having a band be that accessible to their fans is something that is just so wholesome. Like they’re not too big to not give you the time of day – that’s the kind of attitude that really makes a difference to those that support them.

All of these positive and redeeming qualities were shining through during the entirety of their set. In fact, it was one of the most exuberant performances of theirs that I’ve experienced.

Sincerely, my only criticism, and what I believe is holding them back from flourishing, is that they need to revisit what goes into making a successful setlist with a lasting impact.

But in the words of their closing song last night, “there’s no love lost”.


One ‘Halo’f a Performance

Last year when Boston Manor came to the Twin Cities I was out of town and had to miss their show. Their performance last night made waiting a whole year to finally see these guys worth every second. To say I was impressed would be a vast understatement.

With absolute zest they kicked off their set with Flowers in Your Dustbin, a newer track off of their most recent album, Welcome To The Neighborhood, and then there was no turning back.

This group creates music that is substantially heavier than the other bands on this tour, so there was a very clear shift in sound and in vibe within the venue, but in the best kind of way.


Henry Cox of Boston Manor The Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Henry Cox of Boston Manor by Katie Ahrens

Boston Manor is simply explosive. This is something that is made obvious from the moment they hit the stage and is kept consistent until the end.

Frontman Henry Cox does an excellent job engaging the crowd and making sure that everyone is remaining present and involved. There was not a moment where he was still, as he continued to cover all areas of the stage, jump up and down, and point directly into the audience while he sang.

There is just something unique about Boston Manor. Their sound has a sort of eerie and haunting undertone to it that is so interesting and new that it really beckons you to listen with every last bit of you.

Tying the low intense sound that they have to the high velocity that they support it with seems like it might not mix, but the marriage of the two components is beyond successful in their recorded work. Witnessing these two parts as they worked together live was better than I could have imagined.

They played several fan favorites throughout the night including Bad Machine and Laika. There were far more crowd surfers and stage divers during this time.

Far too soon, they closed with Halo, which was the first track released off of their most recent album. Fans listened intently and screamed out the lyrics during the final moments that the band was on stage.

Boston Manor The Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Boston Manor by Katie Ahrens

At the end of it all, it was clear to me that Boston Manor isn’t a band, rather Boston Manor is an experience.

And at that, they are an experience that I hope I get to involve myself in again soon, because even though they were worth it, a year was far too long to wait.

Real Friends, Real Fans, Real Fun

It seemed like the crowd for Boston Manor left directly after their set had ended and that the space thinned out, making me nervous for Real Friends as they prepared to close out the show.

I’m a fan of both bands, so I hadn’t put any prior thought into how much heavier Boston Manor is than Real Friends. The lineup didn’t seem strange to me, but I could see why (though I think paying for a ticket and then not experiencing a show in its entirety is a complete waste) people may have skipped out early.

Soon enough though, as if people had been waiting for Real Friends alone, it felt like an entirely new crowd filled The Garage floor and eagerly waited for the headliners to begin.

Real Friends opened with Me First, the first track off of their newest album Composure which is always such a “full circle” and sensical type of move. After they went directly into Get By, starting off the night with two consecutive hits from the record. The crowd responded enthusiastically.

I’ve seen Real Friends play live several times before, but it was usually just because I caught them opening for other bands. This was the first time where I was genuinely excited to see them – that is due primarily to what their newest album has to offer.

I love Composure. Its such a different record than what they’ve created in the past and it just feels so put together and well-thought out. If you’re like me and didn’t catch on to Real Friends right away, Iisten to this album – I’m willing to bet your opinion will change.

Real Friends the Garage Burnsville October 17 2018
Real Friends by Katie Ahrens

In this performance, they seemed rejuvenated. In comparison to what I have seen from them in the past, their movements and use of the stage, the lighting effects, and the way the fans reacting in the crowd all seemed to line up and make sense.

It really felt as if Real Friends had found the sound and energy that they were meant to have from the beginning and that they were performing with so much more confidence and purposefulness.

In an interview with Kyle Fasel last week, he mentioned that their newest album was everything that they had fallen short on in the past – that attitude carried over into their live show effortlessly.

One thing I found particularly interesting in their performance is that instead of the standard full-band blowout, they chose to do a toned-down version of their song Summer as a part of their acoustic portion of the set. It was a cool way to sort of reinvent the song and give it a different meaning.

A few songs later, they closed with From The Outside, which has been an obvious and catchy fan favorite that gained popularity during the Vans Warped Tour.

Though Real Friends put on the most vibrant performance I’ve seen by them last night and sounded incredible due mostly to the songs that their newest album contributed, what I like the most about them is their transparency with their fans.

Throughout the night they openly and honestly discussed incredibly heavy topics such as recent passings of loved ones, bipolar disorder and mania, and the importance of making every day count.

Oftentimes we take interest in a band because we are to some extent able to relate to whatever it is they write songs about, and by doing so we can end up putting that band on a pedestal.

When a group can genuinely discuss their own vulnerability in a live setting, it humanizes them and reaches far beyond that initial connection. It showcases honesty, creates an understanding, and establishes trust. This bond is powerful.


Now that they’ve found the sound that suits them best, I’m sincerely looking forward to seeing Real Friends again. With what seems to be the perfect combination of harmonies and humility, I can only imagine that we can expect big things from this band in the future.

Hopefully, they’ll be back soon, but if not we’ll all just have to do our best to keep our ‘composure’ until then.


Real Friends Setlist:

Me First

Smiling On The Surface

I Don’t Love You Anymore

Skin Deep


Colder Quicker

Cover You Up

Unconditional Love


Late Nights

I’ve Given Up On You


Get By

Home For Fall


From The Outside


Written by Katie Ahrens


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