When I found out Hawthorne Heights was coming to the H-Fi Indy last weekend, I knew I HAD cover it for Audiophileoholic.com. They may not be on the “Hot 100” list right now, but this band has had tremendous staying power throughout the years. In addition, I have a special fondness for the band for personal reasons, which I’ll share below. But first I’ll talk about the nearly sold-out show, which was everything I had hoped it would be – a little moody, a little angry, and true to Hawthorne Heights’ post-hardcore roots.
Lead singer and founder JT Woodruff, along with unclean vocalist/guitarist Mark McMillion, bassist/vocalist Matt Ridenour and drummer Chris "Poppy" Popadak, started out the set with a sneak attack, transitioning from a brief sound check to the first song with barely a break. I thought it was clever and enjoyed the way it caught the audience off guard. The crowd apparently liked it, too, cheering wildly
Woodruff, wearing his signature chunky eyeglasses, engaged the audience throughout the show, sharing little anecdotes, talking about the release of their latest album, “The Rain Just Follows Me,” and making several relatable references to life in the rust belt. His singing voice, which is quite different from his speaking voice, still had that distinct pitch that makes a Hawthorne Heights song so easy to identify. I, along with the rest of the crowd, was happy to hear him say the set was going to consist primarily of “old bangers.” I was a little disappointed they didn’t play “Nervous Breakdown,” from the “Skeletons” album, but I got over it pretty quicklybecause all the songs they did play sounded amazing.
The concert concluded with “Ohio is For Lovers,” arguably Hawthorne Heights’ biggest hit. Earlier, Woodruff had announced he would be available to sign items at the merch table, and he wasted no time getting there to do so. Humble, appreciative, and personable, he quickly donned a mask and got to work greeting fans and signing merch.
This was one of the things I appreciated most about the band when I saw them in 2011, and part of the reason I wanted so badly to see them again. You see, back then I was learning all about angst, Hot Topic, and screamo music from my teenaged “emo” son and “scene” daughter. Hawthorne Heights tunes were on heavy rotation in the kids’ rooms, so imagine their delight when I agreed to take them and a couple of their friends to the Hawthorne Heights concert in Indianapolis. It was at a tiny venue called the ES Jungle which was difficult to find and no longer exists.
I was by far the oldest person in attendance, and despite my cool Chuck Taylors, my kids were beyond embarrassed that their MOM was there with them. I took pity on them and left for awhile, but while I was there, I honestly enjoyed the music, as well as the energy and the way the band related to the crowd. And I loved the way JT Woodruff took time to greet fans at the merch table. The kids were absolutely THRILLED to meet him and suddenly didn’t mind that Mom was there with her pocket camera. It was their first “real” concert, and I can guarantee they’ll never forget it.
For more on Hawthorne Heights, including music, tour info, and merch, go to https://hawthorneheights.com/