It’s show time again for us and our fans here at HXC Magazine! The world has gotten all types of screwed up in 2017 and we want to show that our music scene can make a real difference. To prove that point, we’re hosting a one-day ‘Make A Change’ Fest that will be a benefit show for the ACLU.
“The goal was exposing fans to a variety of bands and we did just that.”
What happens when a show gets cancelled? You turn it into an all day music festival instead. At least, that’s what Dean Santa, 23, of Staten Island did, and that decision has started to put some life into the local scene. Even if it was all by accident.
When you go to a date of a big headlining tour with hundreds of other people in the room and a stage yards away and above, you can have tons of fun. But spending a whole day in a small room of locals where everyone knows each other and bands and fans share the same graffitied floor is a different feeling altogether. You’re not there for a show anymore, you’re there because you’re a bunch of people who connect through loud sounds and spray painted walls.
Listening to Awake At Last is like listening to a fusion of 2005 alternative, old school pop punk and a modern 2015 edge all tied together into one sonic boom of melodic energy. When the five piece takes the stage at Staten Island’s esteemed underground venue, Hashtag Bar, a hush echoes over the audience as the entire stage turns dark, pausing to relieve the dramatic tension as the first few chords come in. Cue spotlights.
Awake At Last are living proof that musicians can still bear their souls to a crowd, even in today’s world of manufactured media. There’s nothing fake about AAL. Whether it’s tracks like “Love You To Death” or an amped rock cover of “Rude,” watching the five twenty-somethings on stage is one of the most honest performances you’ll ever come across. “We definitely always bring our A-game as far as energy and stage presence,” explains guitarist Imran Xhelili. “We’re really interactive with the crowd, getting in the crowd’s face, getting everyone excited while always trying to be as tight as possible with our set and having everything well played.”
Xhelili not only has one of the coolest last names out there, but also has one of the coolest jobs as a key part of Awake At Last’s rhythm section. Brought in to Awake At Last after meeting vocalist Vince Torres through various shows with his previous band, Xhelili helped round out the group when Torres decided to move from rhythm guitar to just vocals. This new lineup would eventually help saturate the overall visually aesthetic of the group’s live performance. “Awake At Last has a very high energy stage presence,” explains Xhelili. “We’re definitely rock at the core of it and there’s a lot of alternative and pop punk influences, a lot of musicality behind it, but at the same time it’s very accessible and catchy to your ear.”
The five piece is known for their intimate club shows as they’ve been touring across the country spreading their sound with new and old fans alike. “Usually when we play there isn’t a barricade,” says Xhelili, “so we just get to be nice and up front with the fans.” Standing in the crowd, it’s always captivating to watch as Torres jumps into the crowd during the performance of the single, “King of the World.” With Xhelili, bassist Tyler Greene and guitarist Eric Blackway owning the stage like they actually rule the world, “King of the World” is easily the fan favorite for best live track.
Though constantly touring, the guys in Awake At Last still find time to write as they are currently working on their next, still untitled release. “We’re doing a lot of writing for the new EP, a lot of demoing back and forth,” explains Xhelili. “We each contribute to the writing process, so it comes from a lot of different perspectives. There’s a lot of really cool musical stuff going on, but it’s still really punky and catchy. Then there’s some that’s more heavy, but still kind of pop-ier, so a little of everything sprinkled in.”
Awake At Last are proof that honest, hard work pays off and that there really is no need to sell out or ever compromise musical integrity in the music industry any longer. “I feel like a lot of people like to complain about what’s currently going on in the music scene and have nostalgic feelings for like ten years ago or when record sales were going well, but there’s always going to be change and obviously CD sales aren’t strong now. But I think there’s always going to be good live shows and you can definitely still build a fan base and do everything. I just feel like there’s a lot more going on in 2015. If you know what you’re doing, you can really just push your career forward and you have more tools than ever in 2015.”
With new music on the horizon for fans to look forward to blasting in their cars and seeing live, you can currently catch Awake At Last on the road this spring for their headlining King of the World Tour. In the meantime, sit back, relax, and check out the group’s new video for “King of the World” right here!
Hawthorne Heights took Staten Island for the first time in all their years as a band to play their first album, The Silence In Black And White, front to back. The band time traveled with this New York crowd back to 2004 with the record that sparked it all. Playing hits like “Niki FM” and “Silver Bullet” sent the room into an uproar of nostalgia, but the grand finale of “Ohio Is For Lovers” was what did away with the line between stage and floor.
Check out the live photos from last night’s show at the Hashtag Bar in the gallery below.
Last night the five guys in Awake At Last took to the stage at Staten Island’s premiere venue Hashtag Bar. A real punk gem in the making, Hashtag Bar hosts everything from a killer sound system to a snake habitat, and even has its own defunct air hockey table. But no one last night was there for snakes or games, just real up close and personal rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the gallery below to see some of our favorite snap shots from Awake At Last’s performance.