A condom-fashioned-into-balloon drifts and bounces over the heads of a densely-packed audience that – 15 minutes before show time – stretches out about 75 yards from the stage A Day to Remember is to play. Since a well-received release of “What Separates Me From You” in 2010, the Ocala-based five-piece has stuck mostly to festival shows on world tours, typically playing late in the day.
So, unless you’re prepared to jostle through an ultra-high concentration of antsy kiddos reeking of second-rate ganja and teen spirit for prime real estate, 75 yards is as close as you’re going to get.
But if you’re here for the music, opting to sit out of the mosh pits and watch the side screen on the backfield bleachers is just fine. Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon and Co. delivered a set list to satisfy fans new and old. They opened with one of their breakout hits “All I Want” followed by the one-two punch of “I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of” and “Why Walk on Water When We Have Boats” – both quick-paced sonic uppers to get the audience moving.
A Day to Remember knows how to work the crowd, and they've got the home-field advantage here. Courageous audience members engaged in double-crowd surfing – an activity that required an explanation by McKinnon.
“Basically, you start with one person crowd-surfing, like normal,” he said. “Then you have another person ride that person like a fucking surfboard.”
McKinnon only asked for crowd surfing for one song, but the crowd must have enjoyed the new sport, because they kept doing it – even on the silent spaces in between songs.
A Day to Remember mostly stayed with songs of their most recent album, "Common Courtesy," which shows the band moving in an even more melodic direction of its brand of pop-punk. They peppered this set with heavy songs like "Second Sucks" and "Mr. Highway's Thinking About the End," during which they got a large portion of the audience jumping along to the pummeling breakdowns.
This band has caught their fair share of flak over the past few years for “selling out." In the span of about two album releases (“Homesick” and “What Separates Me from You”), they went from playing small local shows and being the best-kept secret of Florida locals to receiving radio and MTV play and gaining flocks of new fans across the globe. It seems unfair to name a band’s sudden (but sustained) success as a detractor. A Day to Remember is example of the small-town underdog who – through tenacious touring and recording – can make it into the big leagues.
That said, something about this performance just felt artificial. It’s hard to pin down exactly what make it feel that way. The breakdowns and the synchronized head-banging and general repertoire is there. The songs sound just the same as they do on the record. The set was decent enough length. Still, I walked away unsatisfied. Impromptu things like confetti bursting out of cannons and the band’s tech crew throwing rolls of toilet paper and beach balls into the audience felt like an every-night gimmick. We were going through the motions.
Giving nods and salutes and waves the audience, A Day to Remember felt more like radio personalities on display than the pissed-off underdogs that gave a defiant middle-finger to staying within the playbook of one genre. But hey, maybe that’s just the musing of a bitter listener who lost the best-kept secret in his CD tray.