“You know if we come to Kentucky there are going to be surprises,” grinned The Academy Is… frontman William Beckett a half dozen songs into the band’s set Sunday night at Club Oasis. The band had just finished their 2008 single “About a Girl” that included a sudden and unannounced background vocal cameo from Travis Clark, front man for Florida pop band – and former The Academy Is… tour mates – We The Kings (Remember that song “Check Yes Juliet”?)
And that was the feel Sunday night – bands having fun in front of two hundred people on their day off from entertaining ten times that number of folks by opening for KISS.
The Academy Is… emerged onto the national music scene in 2004, sharing a hometown, record label, and most of a sound with their friends in a band called Fall Out Boy. In 2007, the group took the courageous move of exploring a different sound in their music. Santi, their sophomore release showcased a more expansive, creative, glam-rock side of the band that found the group exploring T-Rex swagger and Motley Crue chant-alongs inside their pop-punk framework. A year later, The Academy Is… returned with Fast Times at Barrington High, a record full of more nineteen-eighties pop culture references than even the title and accompanying tour t-shirts might imply, and returned to a straight-forward hook-laden pop form.
But now it is two years later and with the task of a summer of opening for KISS at hand, Santi seems like the right record to rest on. So that is what the band did Sunday night. The group smashed through fifteen songs – 7 from Santi - in their 70-minute set that blew past the club’s 11pm curfew.
“If we don’t quit, we are going to end up in Kentucky jail,” Beckett joked with drummer Andy "The Butcher" Mrotek. “And you know what they say about Kentucky jail... It’s just like jail in any other state.”
The crowd laugh and Beckett smiled. “I’d have a boyfriend quick, “a possibly unintentional allusion to Beckett’s boyish good looks and effeminate performance style.
At the center of the Academy Is… rests the friendship of Beckett and bass player Adam Siska who started the group together close to a decade ago. The camaraderie shows on stage as Beckett handles the front acre with his swinging hips and amiable presence and Siska swings back and forth from the edge of the stage to the drum set with a goofy grin on his face – especially when Beckett throws an arm around his shoulder while singing a hook or messes up his hair as he runs by.
Guitarists Michael Guy Chislett and Mike Carden adequately anchor the right and left sides of the stage with their chops and energy, but Beckett is clearly the star of the show.
The evening ended with Beckett hanging most of the way off of the stage and over the crowd (see photo) while he and the band blew aggressively through the last song and title track from their 2004 debut album “Almost Here”.
Playing before The Academy Is..., fellow Kiss-openers The Envy from Toronto (playing only their 12th US date ever) rocked through a set obviously designed to be played to thousands. Full of powerful vocals and veteran stage command, the band almost outshined The Academy Is… just in full performance power.
Photo by: Brian Eichenberger