BEING THERE: Real Friends & Have Mercy @ The TLA



“Whether you guys fuck with this or not, cheers to you guys,” Broadside frontman Ollie Baxxter purred at an utterly captivated crowd at the Theater of the Living Arts on Thursday for an epic evening of sweaty pop-punk. The crowd was raging in the pit during the Richmond, VA-based pop-punk group’s set, and it was at that moment I realized I could never be The Girl That Moshes as I ran away from the actual Girl Who Moshes, using my camera as a shield. (In retrospect, not my best idea.)

Next up was Tiny Moving Parts. Even if you’re skeptical about the nasal vocals, interchangeable buzzsaw guitar riffs and sugary sweet lyrics of longing that characterize the pop-punk genre, Tiny Moving Parts will seize and fill you with the infectious energy that the band exudes from every pore. Tiny Moving Parts frontman Dylan Mattheisen gave his all to the point that by the third song in the set he was visibly dripping with the sweat that invariably accompanies a soul-baring set. Tiny Moving Parts put on a solid show. Nothing more, nothing less.

Finally, the set I had been waiting for all night arrived as Have Mercy took the stage. The pop-punk growl of singer Brian Swindle [pictured, above] is unmistakable and truth be told sounds like he’s running a cheese grater on his vocal chords. Somehow, it works for him. Have Mercy appears to be on the road to redemption with the release of their third album, Make The Best of It, after weathering the storm of disapproval that accompanied 2014’s A Place Of Our Own. They quickly won the crowd over with high-octane renditions of tracks new and old like “Let’s Talk About Your Hair” and “Disagree.”

After Have Mercy ripped my heart out and sewed it back in again, headliners Real Friends took the stage amidst a makeshift living room stage set made of vintage lamps and comfy chairs. The group made quite an arrival, practically catapulting out of the wings, and then proceeded to run around stage non-stop for the duration of their set. Their sound is the one you loved when you were sixteen, but it somehow sounds even better when you’re twenty years old. The night was riddled with lyrics expressing the anxiety of twentysomethings with no fucking clue how to transition from adolescence to adulthood. Perhaps Broadside’s Ollie Baxxter said it best: “The reality is you’re supposed to feel incomplete. Cherish the people that keep it real with you and it’ll be fine.” — ERIN BLEWETT