Indie-Rock Band Manchester Orchestra Delivers Intimate Performance In Alumni Hall
American indie-rock band Manchester Orchestra visited the HUB in Alumni Hall Wednesday for their first show of the year, courtesy of the Student Programming Association, and delivered an incredibly intimate set to a small mesh of dedicated fans.
By the time 8 p.m. rolled around, those in attendance were sent into a frenzy as the stage lights went dark and the bearded lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Andy Hull, stepped to the main microphone. A slow and eerily sounding guitar intro of “Pride” opened up the band’s set, with Hull’s unique voice daunting over the low bass line. An intense beat drop erupted the meager audience, transforming the assumed-to-be quiet throng of fans into a wave of cheering and singing.
Manchester Orchestra continued with the first song from one of their most recent albums Cope, a roaring ballad called “Top Notch,” followed by “Shake It Out,” a fanbase favorite off of their second studio album Mean Everything To Nothing. After the final note faded out, Hull flipped his cherry-painted Fender guitar to his back and said simply, “Hey, y’all, that was awesome.”
Hull was a very social man, discussing his and the rest of the band’s escapades in downtown State College Tuesday night, where they dropped in at Zeno’s Pub, had a few beers, and fought over the South Park-themed pinball machine. Hull then talked about how the group then went back to their hotel and ordered “home-town” Papa John’s pizza. This was a clear indicator that the night was going to be laid back and fun.
The set marched on with Manchester Orchestra playing a few songs off of their 2011 record Simple Math, like “Leave It Alone” and “Pensacola,” where Hull prompted the crowd to sing along – and they all did happily. “Pensacola” perfectly bled into one of the band’s most recognizable songs “I’ve Got Friends,” with a drum solo kicking the song off. The audience went nuts, and it was an obvious hit.
The exciting atmosphere died down as a solemn guitar riff started playing off of Hull’s fingertips. The house and stage lights completely dimmed and the crowd fell dead silent. The somber melody opened into a heavy performance that rocked the hall to its core. An extremely intimate version of “The Mansion” came next, and almost all the crowd sang along. The soft strain crept into a giant, powerful instrumental and Alumni Hall was rocking once again.
This is when the set became unbelievably interactive.
“This song is a love song for my now-wife,” Hull said about a ballad called “Colly Strings,” laughing as whooping filled the air. “We’ve been married eight years now, so you don’t have to cheer, but I wrote it right after my 18th birthday, and it’s weird to think to think about how much you thought about how good your songs were and how much you hated yourself now that you’re super old,” referring to himself. “How many of you are 18 now?” Hull asked. As a few hands raised Hull continued with a smile, “Yeah, well, I hate us all too!”
The shortest and cutest damn lullaby named “The Maze” filled the hall after, where Hull mentioned that it was written for his daughter. “Where Have You Been?,” a number off of Manchester Orchestra’s first record I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child followed, and at its end, Hull discussed the strange exile the band went through in making their most recent album Hope.
“The only people we saw outside of our cabin in North Carolina were the people who worked at the liquor store and a cashier named Josh. We also foraged for berries to stay alive,” Hull said, and the pack of fans all started laughing. The man had no reservations. Hull even played a song he wrote for famous rapper 50 Cent, which was entertaining as all hell.
One of the best bits of the show, however, was when a member of the crowd pleaded for the band to play “100 Dollars” and “I Can Feel A Hot One,” in which Hull admitted that he couldn’t remember the lyrics. After a short begging by the determined fan, Hull finally gave in, and instead of the front man singing, the mass of fans sang it for him while the band played behind them. It was incredible.
“Simple Math” and “Turn Out The Lights” closed out the show, with Hull completely shedding his guitar at the conclusion of the concert. The lights went down, and the exit was brilliant.
“Tonight sounded sort of like you guys just all came to our living room and we started playing around,” Hull said. “And I truly loved that.”