With support from tourmates Automatic Loveletter and local acts Jet Lag Gemini, We the Chosen, and The All Ways, Valencia kicked off the first night of their fall tour supporting the brand new Dancing With a Ghost. The Philadelphia five-piece walked on stage to the light-hearted “Bed Intruder”, jumping right into 2008′s “Holiday”. Despite playing a style of music more closely tied to alternative/pop-rock, the band plays with punk/hardcore passion. Just like any worthwhile punk act, Valencia’s lyrics are potent and meaningful, and the whole band sings along to every song. Even without a microphone, for example, bassist George Ciukurescu is routinely singing every word to every song — that is, when he isn’t down in the crowd himself, engaging fans by opening pits or starting stage dives.
Frontman Shane Henderson is the glue that holds the quintet together. A talented singer-songwriter on his own merits, Henderson’s lyrics truly come to life with Brendan Walter and JD Perry’s guitars leading the way. On songs like We All Need a Reason to Believe closer “Free”, the two guitarists drive Henderson’s inspirational words: “Have you been through what I’ve been through / because from the top of the world is where you can finally see / it’s safe to just let go”.
We All Need a Reason to Believe cuts exclusively made up the first half of the setlist. The brand new, and much more mellow, “Spinning Out” broke that trend, but the band returned to their 2008 sophomore full-length with “Where Did You Go?” and “Safe to Say”, the latter featuring a random fan pulled on stage to sing the song’s climactic “whoas”. The band encouraged fans to pick up their brand new album, Dancing With a Ghost, and performed the album’s title track to an overwhelmingly positive response. To conclude their fifty minute set, This Could Be a Possibility contributed its leadoff and its closer. The former, “The Space Between”, had the crowd rambunctiously singing along to the fast-paced favorite. “Away We Go”, from Henderson’s solo project (and rerecorded as the closing track on Valencia’s 2005 debut), wrapped things up.
Better be Prepared
All At Once
I Can’t See Myself
Where Did You Go?
Safe to Say
Dancing With a Ghost
The Space Between
Away We Go
Valencia scores high for their overwhelming stage presence and rock-solid musicianship. Bonus points for the Philadelphia band’s response to a drunk fan chanting “Let’s Go [New York] Mets!”: Henderson and friends brought a Philadelphia Phillies World Series banner out to silence the fan. Any questions about new drummer Daniel Pawlovich, who replaced the excellent Maxim Soria, can be laid to rest: Pawlovich sounded incredible and barely missed a beat.
Unfortunately, the band’s fifty-minute set was way too short for a band now supporting three full-length records, and the pumped in instrumentation during songs like “Spinning Out” and “Where Did You Go?” blemishes an otherwise flawless set. Valencia has the power to identify themselves as leaders of their genre, and it’s no small compliment (or stretch) to compare the band’s live show to Saves the Day or Motion City Soundtrack, two acts Valencia will be supporting this fall. With the experience gained from that upcoming tour, look for Valencia to lengthen their setlist and become a truly must-see live band.