Thursday 16th March, a mild night in Birmingham. There have been people camped out in front of the O2 Academy since before 10am, so you know this is a big gig. By 7pm, there are 3 separate queues, around the building and attached car park.
By some stroke of incredible luck, I'm only in a queue for 5 minutes, and when I get inside, I'm hit by the smell of sweat and oestrogen. This crowd was always going to be mostly female.
It would appear that the 45 minute wait between doors and the first act is intentional, in order to get people in.
Waterparks are up first, to a huge chorus of screams. The three piece are the first of an all American bill tonight. They come out swinging, with an infectious enthusiasm that has the majority of this audience off their feet by the last chorus of the first song, so by the time they play "Royal", they've got the entire audience going nuts for them.
The music is tight, and really catchy. In my opinion, they could do with a bassist, just to take the sharpness off, and really round it out.
Frontman Awsten Knight is brilliant at interacting with this crowd, and does so frequently. There are fans shouting his name, professing their love for him, and other things that I will not repeat. He takes it all in his stride.
I see big things in the future for these guys, and look forward to possibly catching them at Slam Dunk later this year.
Next up are SWMRS, from Oakland, CA. For the uninitiated, here's a bit of trivia for you. This is a PUNK band, and they play the SoCal style of punk, with a hint of that dreamy indie style that is everywhere lately. They used to be called "Emily's Army", and had a record produced by a huge name artist, whom I shall not name.
They have a different factor to Waterparks before them, in that they are all about the interaction. From hand clapping, to swaying arms, and the constant invitation to "go mental", they've got the interaction bit down to a tee. But this isn't their crowd. They're brilliant, in my opinion, which is shared by about 2/3 of the crowd.
The highlight for me is "Miley", from the album "Drive North". It's a soft starting song, with hints of classic punk rock.
Unfortunately, it's a touch too punk for some, and not quite enough for me. They have the stage presence of a young Green Day, or Blink, with a similar sort of sound.
Again, another band I can't wait to hear more from.
I should say something before I talk about All Time Low. I've seen many of the bands that they've toured with in their career, from the likes of You Me At Six, through to A Day To Remember. I love it when a crowd is loud and sings along with every word.
But. I like to hear a band when I see them. I also like to be able to see a band with my own eyes.
From the opening chords of "Kicking and Screaming", that chorus of screams I mentioned earlier grows even louder. And it doesn't stop. The lyrics aren't sung along with the band, they're screamed over the band. And I do mean over.
There are a sea of mobile phones recording from start to finish, which really grinds my gears. I'm sorry, but it is unnecessary. On the other side of the barrier are photographers. Photographers who have professional equipment and spend hours making sure that their photos are great. I mean, by all means, take the odd picture, but please, don't record the whole thing, there are people behind you trying to see. I personally snapchatted a video of "Dear Maria, Count Me In" (it's on Instagram now, too) before I jumped headfirst into a circle pit, but the intimacy of "Therapy" was negated by the sea of mobile phones. And "Missing You", a song about addiction and getting through it was lost on most, who were to busy living through their phone to take it in. Rant over.
Musically, All Time Low are great. They're tight, seem to be enjoying themselves, and it's just good catchy pop punk through and through. Then add the fact that they don't need to tell this crowd to jump, or clap, or really encourage them to do anything is a testament to their fan base and them as a band. The set list covers over 10 years of their career, from the aforementioned "Dear Maria..." through to latest release, "Dirty Laundry" - which is really good live, by the way - showing that they know how to build a set list that shows where they came from and where they're headed in the future.
The stage banter covered bathtub based kidney theft, owning an ice cream van but not selling ice cream, and other murder related topics, mixed with a bit of sexual humour, but was pretty standard. However, it was received in a way that I've only seen done by one other band. These jokes were met with actual laughter. Surreal.
All in all, I think All Time Low are too big to play Academy-sized venues now. I think following this next album, "Last Young Renegade", this band is set to play and sell out arenas and maybe even stadia. Or at least more than one date per venue. They are incredibly fun, and if you miss them before they hit the arenas for good, you'll be sorry.