Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong

Four Year Strong

with The Bled, This Time Next Year, Title Fight

The Social, Orlando, FL • January 19, 2010

The thaw is on for the holiday concert freeze that traditionally makes December and January pretty bleak in the realm of live music. Desperate for a night on the town, I popped my 2010 concert season’s cherry with a youthful bill that found punky emo smashing head-on with post-hardcore screamo.

Four Year Strong

Jen Cray
Four Year Strong

After a small print billing on last year’s Taste of Chaos Tour, Four Year Strong has stacked up a big enough fan base to go out on its own, hitting up small clubs for all-ages shows. Having The Bled on the itinerary didn’t hurt ticket sales, either. After an early teenage-friendly opening set marred by masturbation jokes and off-key singing by This Time Next Year, the brutality and speed of The Bled was most welcoming.

The Bled

Jen Cray
The Bled

Forgoing its computer setup due to technical issues, the Arizona act blew the skin off of the moshers without the aid of digital enhancement for a lightning-fast 20 minutes and left the fans quite literally begging for more. Taking the high road, the opening band that played like a headliner declined the call for an encore, graciously saying, “We appreciate you wanting one more, but we won’t be playing another one.”

The Bled's James Muñoz

Jen Cray
The Bled’s James Muñoz

Though I’m not sold on the band’s scream-heavy, melody-lacking sound, there seems to be a wider field that they have yet to harvest buried deep beneath The Bled. It shows itself when vocalist James Muñoz tells the crowd to think about the people in Haiti the next time they want to whine about their own comparatively minuscule problems (this rant came about after a thirsty fan envied Muñoz’s water bottle). It smells like the men of The Bled may have more in common ideologically with bands like Rise Against or Strike Anywhere than with the carefree pop-centered psyche of Four Year Strong. Time will tell where this group decides to head.

Four Year Strong's Alan Day and Dan O'Connor

Jen Cray
Four Year Strong’s Alan Day and Dan O’Connor

As for the evening’s marquee headers, I’ll tell you where they’re headed — for bigger stages and glossy magazine covers. Playing unapologetically sugared melodies, juggling vocals between co-guitarists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day, and then throwing synthesizer-wailer Josh Lyford into the spotlight for the occasional brass-knuckled scream break, Four Year Strong is a band tailor-made for the generation that has not quite yet outgrown its love for Fall Out Boy, but that yearns for something a tad bit edgier. For some listeners, these guys will offer about as much edge as a soap scum-caked disposable razor, but that’s not to say they don’t have any charm.

Four Year Strong's Josh Lyford

Jen Cray
Four Year Strong’s Josh Lyford

Embracing their position as entertainers, this bearded bunch wasted no time in building a connection with the audience and channeling it into a give-and-take of energy. Even if their music was a bit too cavity-causing, their effect on the crowd could not be denied. They had them bouncing, singing, throwing up their arms, crowd surfing, and generally turning the room into a beautiful blur… even when they were doing covers of songs from the ’90s that weren’t very good the first time around (like “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind). Masterfully mashing together the mainstream alternative pop of that time with the kiddie-friendly punk pop of Blink 182 that followed, they may not be busting down any new doors, but what they do, they do with gusto. Gusto and a healthy sense of humor, I should say. Case in point, they offered up a new song with the wonderfully nostalgic title, “What the Hell Is a Gigawatt?” A band that holds Back to the Future close at heart is alright by me!

Four Year Strong

Jen Cray
Four Year Strong

It’s all about the appeal of the power pop song with these guys, so get your kicks at the concert, but be prepared to scrub those teeth free from all of the sugar they will have doused you with once you get home.

To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.

Four Year Strong: www.itmustreallysucktobefouryearstrongrightnow.com

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