By Rita Plante
New York’s Alt 92.3 has put on a large concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn featuring several popular indie rock artists for the past two years, and they call it Not So Silent Night (NSSN).
This year’s show had a stacked lineup featuring Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend, and Cage the Elephant as headliners and Jimmy Eat World, Of Monsters and Men, Judah and the Lion, and Shaed as special guests.
Once the lineup was released, I knew I was going to drop everything to go to this show. I was even lucky enough to get a general admission floor ticket by getting onto Ticketmaster early during pre-sale.
Now, general admission concerts are not a casual night out for me. They are an all day event and I am willing to fight to the death to get to the front row. So, naturally I showed up at the Barclays Center at noon on Thursday, December 5 to have the best odds at getting to the front.
I met up with my concert friend that I’ve seen at several concerts in and around New York and we made friends with three other girls in line. The five of us braved the 30 degree and below temperatures for 6 hours by talking, sharing social media accounts, and going to the local restaurants to get some food and warm up.
One of the best things was the large group of women in front of us in line that offered us hot hands and cupcakes while we were waiting. The barricade community is always looking out for each other! I was already having a great time before the doors even opened.
When 6 p.m. finally rolled around, it was GO TIME. The Barclays Center does a fantastic job with security and organizing lines for shows. They made a separate line for general admission ticket holders and took us through security very slowly as to not cause a stampede or Olympic sprint-type race. Because of Barclays’ amazing security and the fact that we were only about 15th or so in line, all five of us were able to get front row, no problem.
While we were waiting for the first band to come on we were even able to leave our spots to use the bathroom and buy merch, which is not very common in barricade culture. We also were able to get a selfie of all five of us on the Jumbotron by tweeting Alt 92.3 using their hashtag #NSSN.
After waiting for approximately seven hours, it was finally time for the show to start. The first band Shaed came on at 7 p.m. They are most well known for their Summer 2019 hit single “Trampoline,” featuring Zayn from One Direction. Their lead vocalist was incredible. I think her voice sounded better live than on their studio recorded tracks. She moved around the stage very confidently and was able to dance without jeopardizing the sound quality of her vocals. Shaed also featured two twin brothers that played keys and synth. My favorite part of the set was during the chorus Trampoline when both brothers were whistling and it sounded exactly like the recorded version. They were entertaining all around and a great start to the show.
There were seven acts on the lineup, so they had to stay on top of timing, especially since the set times that NSSN released only had three-minute gaps between each band. I was wondering how they were going to keep the show running smoothly on such a tight timeline. They did this by having small monitors on stage with a countdown for each band to watch. They also had a rotating stage where they would set up and break down the act’s stage on the back side of the divider, not visible to the audience, while the bands performed on the front side. In between acts, they also had multiple different MCs from 92.3 come out and introduce the bands and play interactive games with the audience. These things exemplify how well organized the event was.
Next up on the line up was Judah and the Lion. I had seen Judah and the Lion back in early 2018 as an opener for Twenty One Pilots, so I knew some of their songs going into it. Despite being one of the lesser known bands on the line up, they were still able to get people up on their feet and dancing, especially during their cover of Blink-182’s “All the Small Things.” They had a very good set, one of the best of the night. Their vocalist and frontman was a very energetic performer and very exciting to watch, he even went into the audience and walked around the arena.
After Judah and the Lion was Of Monsters and Men. The folk-rock band is most well known for their hit song “Little Talks.” They are a well respected band; however, they lacked much of a stage presence. I would’ve liked to see them make better use of their space since Barclays has a huge stage. They also could’ve done more talking to the audience to increase overall audience engagement. They pretty much came out, played their songs and left. There is nothing wrong with that performance style, but it was just not as entertaining compared to all the other bands on the lineup that night. That being said, they were still a very talented band and a great addition to the line up.
Next up was Jimmy Eat World. I was very excited to see this band perform since I’ve always been a big fan of their songs, “The Middle,” and “Sweetness.” The girls we made friends with in line were big fans of the band and were super excited to see them. They were very enthusiastic and dancing, which is what you need from a concert friend or else the experience just isn’t as fun. The band saw how into it they were and waved at us throughout the set and threw us drumsticks afterwards. Jimmy Eat World had an amazing set, their performance was just how you’d imagine any early 2000s pop punk band’s to be, high energy, heavy guitars, and a lot of teen angst. The band has been around for 26 years, but you can definitely tell that they love what they do and won’t be stopping anytime soon. Again their frontman could’ve used more of the space on stage, but that is hard to do when playing instruments. Overall, the performance exceeded my expectations and I’d love to see them again after checking out more of their songs.
Now it was the time we were all waiting for: Cage the Elephant’s set. Matt and Brad Schultz and the rest of Cage the Elephant are one of the best live bands around today. Their performances are so exciting and creative, any person who likes live music will love their set.
They opened up their 45-minute time slot with “Broken Boy,” the title track off their 2019 album Social Cues. Matt Schultz, the front man and vocalist, came out wearing multiple layers of clothes, a hat and a mask. Throughout their set, he stripped down to only spandex. Schultz is a ball of energy, running around the stage and the arena like a crackhead, dancing as if no one is watching. He uses his space so well that everyone around the stage was able to see him up close at some point.
Brad Schultz, lead guitar, also jumped off the stage and dove into the pit while playing guitar. He also danced and moshed with the fans for an entire song before returning to the stage. Not only was their performance incredible, but their set design was scary good as well. At the most exciting points in the performance, the stage erupted in fire. Being front row during those moments was amazing, I could even feel the heat from the fire on my face.
Schultz finished the set with their 2013 song “Teeth.” During this song he ran around not only the stage, but the entire arena as if he was being chased. Once the song was over, he crowd surfed for several minutes, but not before power launching his microphone back to the stage, a sound tech came running trying to save it, but was not successful.
I find it difficult to accurately depict a Cage the Elephant concert in text, I think it is something that every music fan needs to experience for themselves. My one and only criticism for the night is that their set was way too short. I saw their full 75 min set in August and I still think about that show nearly every day.
After Cage’s set was over, a stage manager threw a crumpled setlist off the stage. A photographer near me picked it up and obviously didn’t know what it was so I got her attention and begged her for it, and luckily she gave it to me. By the look on her and the surrounding photographers faces, they obviously thought I was crazy, but I don’t care, it was worth it. One photographer stared at me for an uncomfortably long amount of time before asking me if he could take a picture of me with the setlist. I haven’t been able to find that picture yet, but it’s probably for the best considering I was critically over hyped on endorphins and SWEATY.
One of the only issues with NSSN was the fact that a band had to follow Cage the Elephant, which is NOT an easy thing to do. Vampire Weekend was the next band on the list. I was pretty excited to see them perform since I love their songs “Sympathy,” and “A-Punk.” All members of Vampire Weekend are incredibly talented musicians, at points it even seemed like their instruments were playing themselves.
My favorite part of their performance was their lively lead guitarists with a huge afro, he was dancing around the stage and playing that guitar like NOBODY’S business. After they played all their hits, they closed their set with a long instrumental outro, which further proved how instrumentally gifted the band is.
I would’ve liked more action from the frontman, but that may have been just because they directly followed Cage the Elephant. Every band on the lineup could be considered boring in comparison to Cage. Overall, Vampire Weekend stood out from other bands in terms of raw talent.
At a particularly exciting point during the set, the drummer’s drum stick broke in half. After the set finished, I made eye contact with the drummer, and he pointed to one half of the drumstick and mouthed the words do you want this to me, I said yes and he came over to me and gently tossed it to me. I caught it no problem, I didn’t even have to fist fight anyone for it! I had a very lucky day. It all started with the ATM malfunctioning and giving me $120 instead of $20 with no extra charge to my account, and ended with me front row at NSSN leaving with three new friends, a Cage the Elephant setlist and half a Vampire Weekend drumstick.
Finally, Mumford and Sons came out to close the show. They had the longest set time and the most fans in attendance. Objectively, they put on an entertaining show, used their space well and had a lot of audience engagement. However, they came on at 10:45 p.m. and, at this point in the night, I had been on my feet and dancing for nearly five hours after commuting to the stadium for four hours and waiting outside for six hours, so I was exhausted.
I tried to view their set with an open mind, but the fact that I was criminally overtired and already not a fan of folk-rock made it difficult for me to enjoy the set as much as I would’ve liked to, especially since they were the closing act. However, I was still able to vibe with their big hit songs “I Will Wait,” and “The Cave.” The security guard in front of the barricade was even dancing despite NOT being allowed to. I feel like I would’ve enjoyed their set much more if they came on earlier. I would suggest that in future years, NSSN should start the show an hour earlier so that the show would end at 11 p.m. rather than midnight.
Overall, NSSN was an incredible experience. I have been to over 50 concerts and I can now confidently say that NSSN is in my top three favorites. They had a fantastic security team, were extremely well organized, stayed on top of timing, and even collected donations for the American Cancer Society. The fans were also very respectful and fun. No one was screaming, pushing, or being rude in the pit. I had plenty of room to move around and dance without the fear of losing my spot or getting hurt. All the fans I met were kind, friendly, and just there to have a good time. The fans can make or break a show, and the fans at NSSN were amazing. I am very impressed with how successful this show was considering it was only 92.3 second time running the event. I am looking forward to attending Not So Silent Night again in future years to come.