It was a cold Friday night in Happy Valley as I walked downtown for the highly anticipated Night At The Theatre, featuring Mike Wallz (@Mike_Wallz). The former Penn State football player-turned-musician has become somewhat of a local celebrity in State College, working with rap group Primary Element (@PrimaryElement), releasing a recent solo album titled The Free Life, and even hosting his own radio show, Off The Wallz, on The Lion (@TheLION907fm). A couple hours before the show, the twittersphere was blowing up with shoutouts and retweets. So I was expecting quite a crowd when I arrived at The State Theatre (@TheStateTheatre).
A crowd was not what I saw when I walked in. There were about 40 people seated in the auditorium as I made my way to the front row. My first thought was that more people would show up as it got closer to Mike Wallz taking the stage. So I grabbed a beer, took a seat, and got ready for the show.
The lineup for the concert seemed surprisingly varied. The first act was Boomerang Kid (@_BoomerangKid), a rock band from Columbus, Ohio. They actually put on a pretty good show. Catchy acoustic rock overlaid with crunchy lead guitar and heavy drums set the mood for the evening.
The second act was Penn State electro-house DJ The MXBB (@TheMXBB), and I’ve got to say, his performance was totally lacking. Honestly, I don’t like to rip on artists too hard when writing reviews, and I like to try to stick to constructive criticism. But this was probably the worst DJ I’ve seen live. I’m not kidding — every couple minutes I would look over at my photographer and we’d exchange this look that said “Did he just totally fuck up that transition?” A few times he even completely walked away from his mixer while the music was playing to talk to someone backstage.
And what blew my mind the most is that after his hour-long performance, almost half of the audience got up and left. As I walked out of the auditorium to take a bathroom break and grab another beer between sets, I spoke to someone who was walking out. He explained that the group of about 25 people were friends with the DJ and only came to see him. That left about 30 or 40 people in The State Theatre auditorium, which has a capacity of over 500.
Mike Wallz took the stage at about 10 p.m. to an underwhelming crowd. Don’t get me wrong, his performance wasn’t bad. He played with the opening act, Boomerang Kid, as his instrumental band. His high-energy songs pumped up the small crowd that was in attendance. He gave shoutouts to the crowd and an inspirational monologue between songs.
Overall, I would describe the show as underwhelming. Again, Mike Wallz’s performance wasn’t bad, but I think he could have benefitted from a different setting. The State Theatre, while a great venue, does have its downsides when it comes to these kind of shows. The bolted-in seats made it awkward for people who wanted to dance. At one point, about 15 people just got up and started dancing between the front row and the stage. And a smaller venue would have given the show a more intimate feeling. The small crowd occupying the large auditorium just made it feel empty and hollow.
Mike Wallz may have a bright future in music, and I think his following will continue to grow within the State College music scene. I just hope his next show goes a little more smoothly.