Live Music Review: 5SOS3SanDiego Concert Experience... How Did We End Up Here?
A quick author’s note before we dive in- this is a personal narrative from my experience at the San Diego date of the 5SOS3 tour. I apologize if the writing style is a bit more informal/stranger than usual, because this was one of those special shows where too much happened, and to write about it without the emotional connection just wouldn't do it justice. Even though the 5SOS3 tour is just about over, I hope this piece can be useful for anyone who has yet to see 5SOS, or anyone who did make it out to this tour and just wants to reminisce. This whole experience was a bit of a wild ride for me, so I hope you can experience the craziness of it all it as much as I did. Enjoy!
Sometimes you can’t quite escape the past. Let’s go back to four/five years ago, my freshman year of high school… yikes. My One Direction-crazed best friend at the time, Camille (Yes! This is the same Camille, our beloved Us For Once co-founder) had just found a new thing to obsess over, the opening act on 1D’s Where We Are Tour, a new Australian band called 5 Seconds of Summer. She relentlessly tried to get me hooked on them as well, but it didn’t really work. I listened to some songs off their self-titled debut album and, like every teen girl in 2014, never missed an opportunity to sing along to “She Looks So Perfect” when it played on the radio, but I never got too into the band as a whole.
However, as embarrassing as it was, my classic-rock-loving, “too good to listen to a boyband”, pretentious fifteen-year-old self found her perfect celebrity crush hiding in the back of 5SOS’s stage: Ashton Irwin. As soon as I saw that boy playing the drums, I noticed
his dreamy accent, the dimples in his smile, the vintage band tees + curly hair pulled back in a bandana style… and it was way too much for my little heart to handle. Yes, I’d originally thought his band was just another corporate dreamboat trap for teen girls, but I was becoming one of those teen girls falling right into that trap and I didn’t care. I refused to lose my entire sense of dignity, however, as I constantly announced that I wasn’t a 5SOS fan, I was strictly an Ashton Irwin fan. Fifteen-year-old Lexy was a piece of work, stubbornly determined enough to not listen to any of the music, not go to any shows and not follow any other members of the band on any form of social media. Things stayed that way for a long time. I didn’t keep up with 5SOS and they obviously didn’t keep up with me. I’d casually like whatever photo Ashton would post on his Instagram, but I was in the dark with the band except on the occasions every few months where Camille would text me a link to their new song or music video, which usually didn’t feature Ashton, so I shrugged it off.
Thankfully, now I’ve become much more open minded in regards to music and no longer hold silly moral objections to bands. I’ve learned that if you like a band, the way their stuff sounds and the way it makes you feel, go for it. Enjoy it, sing at the top of your lungs, and don’t let anyone try and take that away from you or make you feel bad about it. Fast forward to this March, two months ago. I’d gotten over my irrational 5SOS hate, but still didn’t actively listen to them. I received a string of texts from Camille informing me that she’d gotten tickets to the San Diego date of the 5SOS3 tour, a short tour to promote their upcoming third album, Youngblood, in which they played extremely small venues that were in unbelievably high demand. I was surprised. Even though I wasn’t a big fan, I knew 5SOS had long outgrown their opening act days and had transformed into a major force in the music scene, constantly selling out enormous arenas with ten times the capacity of the San Diego House Of Blues. She asked me if I wanted to come with her, and I hesitated to come to a decision. I admittedly didn’t have the best history with this band; I barely knew any of their songs and I wasn’t so sure I was up to dealing with crazy fangirls in a General Admission pit. But on the other hand, I’d developed a slight addiction to concerts. I love getting out of my comfort zone because I enjoy all types of live music, and the idea of seeing such a popular group in such an intimate setting was incredibly appealing. Plus, as Camille reminded me, Ashton would be there. Once again, the pretty drummer boy sealed the deal. I was going.
Camille and I started our adventure, cutting our week’s responsibilities short on a Wednesday night and staying up late to cook and pack everything we were going to need for a comfortable(ish) 8+ hours of waiting outside the venue. The next day, we made the hour and a half long drive from OC to San Diego and arrived at the SD House Of Blues around 11 am, one hour after the official line-up start time that had been announced. There were plenty of fans already in place, and the line stretched past the venue’s entrance street, and was just starting to wrap around the block. We got situated at a not-too-far-but-definitely-not-going-to-get-barricade spot just turning the corner, in front of The Crab Hut with at least a solid 100 people in front of us (maybe closer to 150-200, in hindsight). As we hung out in the extremely sunny San Diego weather with our blankets and cooler full of snacks, an awesome House of Blues security guard named Billy came over to our area, introduced himself, and gave us all a nice little speech reminding us to stay hydrated, wear sunscreen if we had any, and remember to eat. Billy was genuinely nice (as most concert security guards are!), made nice conversation, and answered all the questions we had throughout the day. We also noticed Allie, a tall girl in a vibrant red outfit kind enough to be passing out paper hearts to every single person in line. They were the “shine your flashlight through these during "Valentine" to show the boys some love!” type, a sweet concert trend I’ve loved ever since first experiencing it at Panic! At The Disco’s Death of a Bachelor Tour last year, so thank you to Allie and everyone else involved for your hard work in this awesome project!
The next six hours were pretty uneventful. Time passed more quickly this time than it usually does for me waiting for other shows, but we just sat, waited, observed the people of downtown San Diego and answered to every curious passerby that asked “Who are you in line for?”. Around 4 pm I realized I needed to stretch my legs, so I took a walk around and noticed that the line had now stretched around the whole four sides of the block so that the end and the beginning were almost touching. As I was up, looking past the band’s grey tour bus just casually parked in the street right in front of the venue, I heard screams and noticed a swarm of girls running across the street to the Parq restaurant and nightclub. I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, but apparently the boys had somehow gotten in there. As I went over to investigate, security guards around the door and the 30+ girls standing outside confirmed the fact. I decided to wait and see, just in case. I started talking with some of the people around me and noticed that like me, most of the people in attendance were girls in their late teens or twenties, sucked into this band at age fifteen who had never really broken free enough to not be here. Despite all the crazy 5SOS fangirl horror stories I’d heard over the years, every single person there was kind and friendly, and I started to realize that this whole “go to SD and wait in line for a group of boys you don’t really care about” thing wasn’t a bad choice at all. We shared stories and laughs and plenty of new friendships were made.
Knowing we were relentless and outside the front door, the band exited through a backdoor we didn’t see. But what we did see was a black SUV very slowly driving along the street where we were standing. Four windows rolled down and four Australian rock stars were spotted, greeted with immediate screams and “I love you”’s. The boys waved and smiled at the red light, but as soon as it turned green, they were off down the road, past us, past the line, leaving fangirls gasping for air and a few intense ones to literally run through traffic following the car… wild. While I was doing this, Camille got merch. The HOB staff was extremely organized and allowed small groups of 20 people in line to go in at a time and have the opportunity to buy t-shirts and posters before the actual craziness of the show started.
Doors were set to open at 7 pm, and around 6, our friend Austen joined us in line. He didn’t have tickets to this show, he’s literally just a nice friend who we met earlier last month at the Santa Ana date of idkhow’s Content Tour who happened to be in the area and was willing to sit on a dirty sidewalk to hang out with us. He brought more snacks, extra portable chargers, and his ray of sunshine self that made our already good day infinitely better. Around 6:20, he jokingly asked if there was any way he could get tickets to this show. We laughed it off but checked resale sites anyway, and in a stroke of luck, managed to find him a just barely over face value ticket in forty minutes before doors opened. This got us all really hyped, and by the time 7 o’clock rolled around, all three of us were jumping with excitement.
Doors opened, the line started moving slowly, and we were all jittery. Everyone there wanted to get as close to the stage as possible, and it was pretty nerve wracking to think about how we were going to make that happen. Thankfully, the HOB staff was one step ahead of us, and their impeccable organization made this transition as safe and stress-free as it could have been. They let everyone in through security and into the venue in groups of ten, so there was absolutely no rushing, running, or abandoning your friends to get through to your spot. The three of us made it in and managed to secure a spot about 5 people back from barricade. Camille had been to three 5SOS shows before, and Austen and I had been to a combined total of zero, but we all agreed that this was definitely the closest we were ever going to get to this band on $40 tickets. We had a great view of where the boys would be (a great angle for Ashton particularly, since I insisted on it), and two extra hours to stand there and pre-apologize to everyone we were rubbing shoulders with for the anticipated pushing, until the actual show began at 9.
Around 8:50 pm, Dave, 5SOS’s main security guard came out, thanked us all for coming, and announced that we should all play nice, be civil, and try not to push since these these types of pits had a tendency to get scary fast. The crowd appeared to agree in unison. No pushing, right? WRONG. The second the lights went down the animal instincts took over. The pushing and squishing and accidental elbowing was insane, making this the officially the craziest pit I’ve ever been in (Metro Boomin’, you’re a very close second). Because thankfully no one got seriously hurt or passed out during this show’s set, I’m not going to complain about the pushing and elbowing- I know it’s a part of what you sign up for with these types of shows, and again, all the girls around me were extremely nice and actually kept apologizing as it happened.
When the stage was dark, the boys came out. I remember my heart beating faster than ever as I saw love-of-my-life-reason-I’m-here Ashton come out first, standing behind his drum kit and motioning for the crowd to give him more. Then Calum, Luke, and Michael entered, shadowed by the stage lights, going to their spots while holding their respective guitars. I got a strange rush of pride looking at these boys; still stupidly tall, but now all grown up and looking nothing like the 2014 “boyband” I despised. “She Looks So Perfect” was a great opener for this new era, full of youthful spirit and energy. It was a great feeling to sing out this song I’d loved through it all with hundreds of people equally passionate about it. However, that’s about as much as I remember about it being played live. I started the concert out about five people back on Michael's side, but shortly after the trademark “We’re 5 Seconds of Suh-mah!” and the first verse of “She Looks So Perfect”, I got lost in a blur of heads, phones being held up, and pushing that took me towards the front and the middle, away from my friends, three rows up, and now almost face to face with frontman Luke Hemmings.
I’ll sidetrack a little bit here. Luke Hemmings is very tall. He’s 6 foot 4, and standing right in front of me with his painted nails, long curly hair, and purple glitter on his eyelids. He’s tall and beautiful and comparable to the moon... in the way that he eclipses things. I think I’ve established by now that my whole purpose of being at this show was a drummer named Ashton Irwin. I spent my entire high school career and beyond daydreaming about that guy, and I had done everything in my power to finally see him that night from the perfect spot. The universe obviously had different plans, because 5SOS’s lead singer was now staring into my eyes and spent the whole show eclipsing the one person I’d come here to see. I got over it fast, though, because like I said…. Luke Hemmings is beautiful. But besides the fact that millions of fangirls would have killed to be where I was that night, there were so many other incredible aspects to this show.
To be honest, I had low expectations for 5SOS live. I wasn’t really into their scene and assumed they wouldn’t sound as good live as they did on record. But wow, they really proved me wrong. They played a healthy mix of old and new songs, and plenty of fan favorites. “Girls Talk Boys”, their bass-heavy contribution to the latest Ghostbusters movie soundtrack, was one of the first songs played; unbelievably high energy and a great excuse to establish the undeniable stage presence 5SOS been fine-tuning for years. “Disconnected” is a well-loved track off their debut album, and for lack of a better description, it was really cute live. This soft teenage haze of a song paired with blue lighting and audience “woah’s” was a really nice throwback to where the band started and where they are now. On a similar note, “Amnesia” ended us all. Calum prefaced the song by talking about his soul-searching trip to San Diego years ago, telling us, “I have a lot of love for your city, you have a beautiful city, there’s a thousand beautiful people in this room with us tonight, and saying that, we’re going to sing a beautiful song”. I’m going to admit that I definitely found myself with crying, audibly sobbing and singing along during this one, surrounded by beautiful words and strangers who I loved. I’m not usually brought to tears at shows, but I never forget when it happens, so “Amnesia” was definitely a memorable moment of the night, and in my concert going experience.
More highlights included “Waste The Night” off their second album, a good song that came along with incredible crowd energy live. The flashing lights and beating drums made me feel connected to the night, reminding me to enjoy every second and stay in the moment (and always, always say yes to concerts). The lighting was dreamy and hazy and Luke looked right into my eyes and probably into my soul and I totally felt fifteen again. I heard “Valentine” for the first time ever that night, and it was great. All the red hearts went up. 5SOS’s new stuff is laced with Arctic Monkeys/The 1975 inspiration that I could definitely get into, and I am really all about “Valentine” now. “She’s Kinda Hot” and “Jet Black Heart” were fan favorites that everyone sang along to. I loved feeling being a part of the rebellious spirit of “She’s Kinda Hot” and (even though it doesn’t do much for me personally) looking around to experience the people around me create special moments and feeling the cathartic energy of hearing a meaningful song live with “Jet Black Heart”. I know that 5 Seconds of Summer is a lot of people’s band. I know that for millions of fans out there, these guys are to them what Fall Out Boy is to me. I’ve seen the power of music work it’s wonders before, but this time I got to see it mostly from an outside perspective, and it was pretty magical. I’m so happy for all the 5SOS lifers in the crowd (including my friend Julia, who not only took some amazing pictures for this article, but got to make incredible memories with her favorite band!) that experienced their once in a lifetime moments during this show. It was definitely one for the books.
5SOS’s set closed with the first single off their new upcoming album, Youngblood, titled “Want You Back”. This catchy mix of synth-pop and original 5SOS heart is a winner, and in my opinion, the best closer we could have asked for. The crowd got crazy again as the song ended, coincidentally pushing Camille and Austen back to me as and the boys came together to take a bow at the front of the stage. They were showered with signs, flowers, and gifts before they waved us off and headed backstage for the night. As the lights came back on and girls scrambled to convince security to hand them a setlist or guitar pick, Camille, Austen and I let out a breath of air we didn’t even realize we’d been holding in. Our day had been long, jam-packed, sweaty, and loud. But it was great. After almost five years, Camille had finally succeeded in making me a 5SOS fan. I was indescribably thirsty, my hair was a mess, my makeup was smudged, and I didn’t even know if I was still an Ashton girl or a newly-converted Luke one, but I did know one thing for sure. I wanted to see them all over again.
All those years spent devoted to a drummer and not supporting his band- which was stupid of me, as I would’ve realized way sooner that they actually put on one hell of a live show, had me waking up the next day with a mad case of post concert depression and the same question 5SOS had asked in a track off their debut album, “How did we end up here?”.
Youngblood is set for a June 22, 2018 release, and available for preorder now. For more information or to see dates for 5SOS'S upcoming Meet You There Tour, check out their website!