Spring 2023 Round-Up: The concerts we haven't been able to stop thinking about

As we trudge our way through a remarkably hot New York City summer, we find ourself reflecting on shows from the spring – the months of May and early June, when the sun was just starting to shine and worries melted away in its embrace. Here's a list of shows our team and Youth Advisory Council just can't stop thinking about, and how we connected to the music.

July 14, 2023

Sounds of Saving Team

1. Pierce the Veil (June 5, Pier 17)

Madaleine Cutone

My sincerest apologies if you ran into me in the press pit at Pier 17 last Monday night— my sense of location wandered off for a moment as I stared up at the shepherds of my youth, and marveled at the privilege bestowed on me and my chunky old camera. Pierce The Veil took New York City for the first time since 2016 last week, and I could not have been more stoked to be there. If you know remotely anything about me at all, you’d know that Pierce The Veil is my all-time-favorite band, and has been since the wee age of twelve. No one competes.

Like many of my fellow stans, I was crushed last October as I bussed in for their NYC tour stop, only for it to be canceled due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Ian (oh Mother Nature, you couldn’t just let us recovering emo kids have that one?). So, as you can imagine, after years of waiting, this crowd was HUNGRY. First up was Death Of An Executioner– the opening track off their touring album– and the crowd wasted no time roaring along with the band. This show covered all bases, with the setlist pulling from four different albums and taking the audience to new places with each one. The band’s connection with each fan was undeniable. Vic even pulled an audience member on stage for the heart-wrenching performance of Hold On Till May, and gifted her his guitar.

It’s truly the best of times to be a PTV fan, as the fan base is a melting pot of older fans happy to relive their emo years in celebration the recent ten year anniversary of the critically acclaimed album, Collide with the Sky, and newer fans joining the scene right on time for their first drop in almost seven years, The Jaws of Life. It’s easy to think that fans would be petering out after such a long hiatus, but the PTV fanbase is fiercely loyal and ever-growing– broader and more diverse now than ever before. This band saved so many of us back in the earlier days of their stardom by providing a welcomed escape from the challenges of living and growing. Their collection of post-hardcore/punk music provides an expertly crafted array of stories grounded in emotion, and it’s been beautiful to see their newest generation of listeners discover it for themselves.

2. Zoe Ko (June 6, Hammerstein Ballroom)

Kelly Schwint

A little past 6 o’clock, fans piled into Mercury Lounge for a sold-out show — eager to grab merch, drinks, and a good spot in the crowd. At 6:30 sharp, Zoe Ko ran on stage, starting her opening set ahead of Friday Pilots Club with an unreleased upbeat song, “Baby Teeth.” Throughout the venue, fans bopped their heads, filmed on their phones, and sang along with a few lyrics. You could feel the excitement in the room, not just anticipation for the headliner but also reveling in Zoe’s fervid, energized songs.

Zoe’s 30-minute set was mixed with fresh material and staples like “Line” and “Lovesick in Public” from her discography. While some might find NYC shows always to be a bit special, Zoe’s set took that notion to another level. Spending most of her life in New York, Zoe’s lyrics implement much of the city. Her song “Line” references and conceits the subway lines:

“But the closer we get, the more I want to leave
I self-sabotage self-sabotage
We were riding on the subway line
And you said it doesn’t change things
But I don’t wanna waste your life.”

The themes of heartbreak and feminine rage are also intertwined in the music, and Zoe Ko doesn’t hide from that pain. Instead, she embraces it.

3. The Backseat Lovers (June 6, Hammerstein Ballroom)

Alyssa Goldberg

Finding “Kilby Girl” by The Backseat Lovers at age 19 almost feels like a right of passage, and even more so to hear the song alongside a crowd of 3000 people years later, when you can hold more compassion for the trials and tribulations of your nineteen-year-old self. The Backseat Lovers graced the stage at Hammerstein Ballroom for two packed shows June 5 and 6, and we made our way to midtown to capture night one of the excitement. 

Since their 2019 debut When We Were Friends, the band has since released their sophomore album Waiting to Spill and has garnered a devoted fan base – mainly of teenagers and young adults who resonate with the band’s nostalgic representation of growing up, finding yourself, and the navigating the intricacies of relationships. 

The band and fans shared a special moment as they brought up a fan – holding up a sign further back in the crowd – to play the guitar for “Kilby Girl.” Exceeding everyone’s expectations, the fan was absolutely shredding, and the joy in the crowd was radiant. 

Contrasting with their lighter, rock-infused tracks, the band also addresses more intense emotions, such as in their 2020 single “Heavy”

Released in during the height of Covid lockdowns, the lyrics read: 

“Feels a little like it may be the day
That I run out of all the right things to say
Feels a little like
I'm not quite ready
And the house begins to shake
I'm tired of waiting for the walls to cave
I haven't cried in a while
I haven't cried in a while”

4. The Academic (May 14, Bowery Ballroom)

Alyssa Goldberg

Irish indie rock band The Academic made their way to the states for a highly anticipated tour, making their way to New York City for a lively performance at the Bowery Ballroom. 

You may know the band from their ultimate breakup anthem, “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” The track comes from their 2018 album, Tales From The Backseat,” which debuted at #1 in Ireland. However, the onset of Covid lockdowns halted the upward trajectory of the band, leaving American fans awaiting a tour across the Atlantic. 

Anticipation amounted in an explosive evening, with the band sparing no morsel of energy onstage. The crowd emulated community, with vocalist Craig Fitzgerald parading throughout the crowd during “Acting My Age.”

In 2020, Fitzgerald told NME:

“We’ve always wanted to be this band that’s had catchy songs so people can sing along with us. Naturally when we play, there is this excitement. We’re not cooler than anyone else and we want people to be involved. We want to spread joy, basically.

Our first album was very naïve and full of stories from our teenage years. Now we’re trying to hone in on the impact of your actions and how you deal with them mentally. I hope people will get their own stories out of these songs but for me, it’s about looking back at the last three years and watching myself and the guys in the band grow up. Our attitude to life has changed. 

We’ve always wanted to be a good night out, I don’t think we want to make people too emotional but we wanted to be more open to the mental health side of things and start a discussion rather than just singing ‘I did this, you did that’. It’s a therapeutic thing for us and hopefully fans will get the same kind of feeling from these songs.”

5. Annahstasia (June 29, Public Records)

Nick Greto

It’s rare to be at a show in NYC where you can hear the quiet between songs but “ambient folk” singer, musician, visual artist and model Annahstasia commanded attention at Public Records Thursday night. Her music hypnotizes its listener into a pensive yet meditative state. 

“The person I am on stage oftentimes won’t show up in real life. I don’t know how to get her to show up. She doesn’t want to. She only comes out when there’s a stage to be on. She’s my superhero mode, and when I get to embody that, I feel so powerful and like I can do anything. I can heal anyone. Like, I am just letting a ray of light beam out of me and caress an entire crowd of people and hope that that light does something positive for them,” she told @nbhap.

Her confidence is palpable but never haughty. She played songs from her recent LP “Revival”—which were written three years ago but had been caught in music industry tangles. An “older and wiser” Annahstasia reflected on these seemingly timeless songs and gorgeous new ones. 

Her vocal range sends chills through the crowd and her honest songwriting has them hanging on every word. Stylistically she feels at once incredibly fresh and oddly familiar.

“You be simple
And Ill be blind
Don't worry bout me
I'll be just fine
All the little things
That are always on my mind
I'll leave them there

You be gentle
And ill be kind
Just give me all those worries on your mind
Driving through the palms
It's always evergreen
If thats what you need
To feel evergreen

6. Joanna Sternberg (June 30, Public Records)

Co-Founders Charlie Gross and Nick Greto

The utterly lovable and talented Joanna Sternberg treated the crowd at Public Records to a show that felt as intimate as one in their living room. 

As an org that celebrates the way song can be inseparable from grappling with mental health; Joanna has long been one of our favorites and we are forever grateful for the video we made with them before the pandemic (check out the BTS at the end of the slide).

They told us in 2019: “I think feeling lonely is very a strange feeling because it feels like it's only you when it's happening. And it feels like no one else feels this way. And then you hear your friend felt that way, that same hour of the day at same time, your friend was crying alone in their room too. And that's why I love Elliott Smith, for example.”

Joanna’s songwriting and uniquely honest emotional lyrics keep you rapt and have her evolving from having a cult following garnering a much wider appreciation of her work - evidenced by her new record being named as @pitchforks best new music. 

“That is what I want to do. I want anyone to be able to connect with the songs, regardless of age or anything. That’s something I love about Elliott Smith’s music. It’s so easy to connect to just the feeling of it. Even the songs with specific references from his life or people he knew, it’s easy to be in his shoes and feel like it happened to you. That’s the main thing that I got from him: the feeling that I have to write songs right now. Growing up, I was too scared to do it, and couldn’t come up with anything to write about. But when I heard him, I was just like, Oh wow, I can do it like this. I was too inspired to be scared.”

7. Okay Kaya (May 9, Elsewhere)

Cassie Archdeacon

Okay Kaya wrapped up her tour with a special “in the round” set—two sets, actually—at Elsewhere. From a barely-raised stage in the center of the floor, Kaya—alongside her band, a group of small ceramic creatures sitting on a table of sorts beside her—cycled through the spectrum of human emotion. Cackling laughter, existential dread, smiling towards the ground asking “who even am I?” 

After opening with a few choice songs Kaya spent most of the set honoring fan requests, which in turn created an atmosphere of intimacy and comfort. It felt like everyone in the crowd might have been her friend, or would be someday. 

Spoken or sung, her words were strikingly honest, deep but never too serious. Like how in “Asexual Wellbeing” she sings: I just want us to do well / Like Jon Bon Jovi’s Rosé. Or “Inside of a Plum”—a song about her experiences in ketamine therapy: “Teeth are loosey goosey feeling and so is my mind / There's a taste of German beer, then no taste at all”

Kaya’s experiences with mental illness are a frequently seeded into her songwriting, but it’s a topic she hasn’t always felt comfortable talking about—but that changed in 2018. Weeks before the release of her LP release (upcoming at the time), she revealed on Instagram that she had spent a week at Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric center after an episode triggered by her bipolar depression. 

She told @voguemagazine:
“It was starting to feel like I had this big, dark secret and avoiding talking about it was making me more sick, especially when I’m so vocal about it in my songs. I just needed to say this is happening to me. It’s fine. I mean, it sucks, but it’s part of my experience.” 

Her vulnerability led to a newfound sense of community: “It was crazy. After I was like, ‘Hey, I have this disorder,’ a lot of people came out and said, ‘Me too,’ and shared their experiences. It was incredibly heartwarming.” 

In “Psych Ward” she sings:

"You can peel an orange however you please
in the psych ward
throw away the cup
better swallow the pill
in the psych ward
everybody’s wearing those light blue scrubs
in the psych ward
congregating up down corridors
in the psych ward"

8. The Cure (June 27, Madison Square Garden)

Charlie Gross

What more can be said that hasn’t been felt about the canon created over 45 years of The Cure. Robert Smith is currently melting fans throughout the US on a span of nearly 3 hour sets. Revered as a goth icon, Smith’s writing and playing are equally about pure emotionality. As Hanif Abdurraqib puts it: “I… find Robert Smith to be one of the all-time great architects of songs about love & longing.” 

In the current moment, Smith is also getting attention for bonding with fans by trying to undermine the hellscape of ticketing and resale by selling tickets for as low as $20, aggressively getting Ticketmaster to reverse fees and blocking scalping. 

In an article in Fortune, @nabilayers refers to Smith as “the hero we need.”
“During the two-and-a-half hour concert, it became clear that the Cure were there because they wanted to be, and they wanted all of their fans to be there with them. Some audience members around me, I learned, had paid as little as $8 for their tickets. Exuberant fans sang along to every one of Smith’s moody, reverb-soaked songs—comfortable, perhaps, in the knowledge that the concert tickets didn’t set them back so much that they’d have to curtail their summer vacation plans or put off a home repair. 

Unlike many concerts where the most fanatical attendees crowd the front rows, a quick glance around the arena revealed that the most enthusiastic dancing, jumping, and arm waving was happening at the back, the nosebleed seats at the very top. Before this stadium packed with adoring fans, the singer-songwriter famous for evoking depression in his music appeared unmistakably cheerful.” 

It's been great getting to catch shows throughout New York City even as we toured with Re:SET this spring! Looking forward to a summer full of singing, collective catharsis, and connection to music as summer concerts continue.