Photo of Highly Suspect by Erica Vining
w/ Dead Poet Society and Silly Goose
Brutal wind and bitter cold rain set the scene for my fellow emo kids as we flocked to The Pageant to see Highly Suspect on their sold-out spring tour. I bought tickets for this show the day they went on sale back in November and have been counting down the days since, fully prepared to rock out with two incredible bands. Future me was thankful for the insight I had in asking for Friday off when I bought the tickets, because this show needed a full 24-hour recovery period with my ears—and adrenaline—pounding well into the next day.
The show started off with an unexpected surprise: a third band had been added to the roster for the night. When did we find this out? With everyone else when the band took the stage. Firing off shots in confusion, I remember thinking Dead Poet Society wasn’t expected on for another half hour at least. Understanding quickly set in once the initial shock wore off: this band of unruly youngsters was none other than Silly Goose. Based in Atlanta, the foursome has rapidly risen in notoriety due primarily to their persistence and drive. My first experience with Silly Goose came last May at Inkcarceration in Mansfield, Ohio. Upon leaving the venue for the night we spotted the quartet causing a ruckus in the parking lot, performing a full set from the back of a flatbed truck. When festival founder Danny Wimmer heard of the situation, he immediately went to the lot intent on throwing them out—and instead was so impressed he booked them to play the festival the next day. This experience worked so well for the band that they decided to try to repeat their success by following Highly Suspect and playing shows outside the venues nightly after their sets. The headliner took notice, and on Thursday allowed them a 20-minute set before the planned opener of the night. Members from both of the originally scheduled bands body surfed during the set, and vocalist Jackson Foster himself made his way into the crowd at times. The band has described themselves in the past as “rap rock,” and I would agree their style matches the nu metal era of music we are seeing top charts lately. The band certainly left the night with several new fans, and the crowd could be heard talking about the set the rest of the night.
A rapid turnaround following Silly Goose’s set had opener Dead Poet Society taking the stage as scheduled. The band originated at Berklee College of Music, and their background is evident in their playstyle. Vocalist Jack Underkofler and guitarist Jack Collins function seamlessly together, real Jacks of all trades, if you will. (Terrible, I know). Rounding out the band are drummer Will Goodroad and bassist Dylan Brenner, who are equally as talented but with less room for name jokes. The band released their first full length record in 2021, -!- (pronounced exclamation point), with single “.CoDA” peaking at #18 on the active rock billboard charts. Collins habitually plays with fretless guitars, which allows for a sound not often heard in mainstream rock. Playing several of their biggest songs, “.svwrm.” was a standout with the fretless tune of the song creating a bizarre but entrancing melody. Highly recommend checking this track out if you are new to the band. The full set felt like a journey in understanding the band, and I would describe Dead Poet Society as anything but ordinary.
Taking the stage fashionably late was the headliner for the night, Highly Suspect. Vocalist Johnny Stevens—going by Terrible Johnny—took the stage decked out in a Pokémon coat over his Selena shirt (Pérez, not Gomez, jury is still out if he is Team Gomez or Team Hailey). To his right stood guitarist Matt Kofos in a studded red leather jacket that would make even the most fashionable of attendees drool. Coats were quickly removed with Stevens donning his “Midwest AF” hat and diving straight into their hit, “Bath Salts.” The energy through the night remained high despite several pauses through the set due to sound issues. Brothers Rich and Ryan Meyer (bass and drums, respectively) with Mark Schwartz on keyboards round out the band of five. This was my third time seeing Highly Suspect, and each time before they were on an album tour. The show this time out was an entirely new experience getting to hear older stuff blended in with their newer hits. Rich Meyer sang his solo song, “Arizona,” to a sea of cell phone lights swaying back and forth. Stevens jumped into the crowd during “Canals,” which caused a flurry of chaos and even a few tears from excited fans. A gnarly drum solo followed “Claudeland,” which showcased Ryan Meyer’s impressive skills, leading into the encore songs, “Look Alive, Stay Alive” and “Pink Lullaby.”
The setlist was a perfect mix to showcase the diversity of the band, with all members getting their own individual time to be at the forefront. How soon is too soon to start begging for another album? Asking for a friend. | Erica Vining