Photo credit: Sammy Roenfeldt
July 21, 2013 otherwise known as my first Warped Tour. While stumbling around the overwhelming festival grounds with nothing in particular on my agenda, I came across Tonight Alive. My impatience to see a show dragged me into a crowd where I gazed up as drummer, Matty Best, came out alone to begin the intro.
Before this moment, my only experience with a female-fronted band was with Paramore. Prior to my discovery of Paramore, female singers to me were hardly more than a bunch of over-stylized pop stars focused more on selling albums and appealing to the average 13-year-old girl than creating music that truly meant something. As you can imagine, Paramore took me to another planet. They had rock guitars, honest lyrics, and a female vocalist who stood for all the right things. I never thought I would run across a band of similar nature, and then Jenna McDougall appeared out of the Warped Tour heavens.
The rest of the band filed out and burst straight into “Listening.” I couldn’t believe my eyes; Jenna was headbanging harder than the four males on stage. Then the heavy guitars pulled back and made way for her voice. The fast-paced drums raced behind the muted guitars as she sang at a beautiful low hum, “Naive minds for naive lives. We don’t have nine lives open your eyes. The only chance you get is here tonight.” Not only was I entranced by her strong voice, her words struck me. They had real power; gave me real motivation to better myself… and this was only the first song! My dreams of finding another Paramore were coming true right before my eyes.
The set powered on through more songs like “Starlight,” “The Ocean,” and “Wasting Away.” Each song was more energetic and relatable than the last. After summoning dozens of crowd surfers and delivering unbelievable notes, Jenna asked us to raise our middle fingers. Her head hung a moment as we all stood in unison in the rebellious pose. “These go out to anyone who ever told you that you weren’t good enough… Refuse to live in fear of some one else’s judgment.” Then the band broke into an anthem that reinforced Jenna’s influential speech, titled, “What Are You So Scared Of?” I left feeling more empowered than ever before, all thanks to this hard rocking woman who took my favorite aspects of Hayley Williams and intensified them.
This moment, my first with Tonight Alive, created an addiction. I was so blown away by my entire experience that I wanted more. I immediately proceeded to the band’s merch tent to acquire all of their music available. I even sought out to give Jenna a hug for opening my eyes to this whole side of music I never knew existed. The rest of my summer quickly became a mission to find similar bands. The countless hours spent scouring the Internet led to the discovery of some of my favorite bands today such as We Are The In Crowd, Pvris, and Sleeper Agent. Each of these bands possesses attributes similar to those of Tonight Alive but take on a sound of their own. Pvris for example, share Tonight Alive’s hard-rock/punk influences but have expanded the genres by infusing their own electronic twist. Tonight Alive even introduced me another phenomenal female-fronted band firsthand when indie-pop band, Echosmith, appeared as an opening act at their first headlining show in Minnesota.
Song by song, Tonight Alive helped me build a whole knew music catalog. They showed me that you don’t have to be Hayley Williams to put on a good rock show as a woman. You don’t have to be Hayley to inspire people from a woman’s point of view, and you don’t have to be Hayley to be an outstanding woman singing in the midst of a scene riddled with men. Tonight Alive was simply my gateway into an addictive scene filled with women who rock, and for that I could never thank them enough.