Paramore - “Whoa”
Ok, so back to August 10, 2005…now that I’ve told you how I wound up at Warped Tour, it’s time to tell the story of how I first saw Paramore.
I go to Warped Tour every year (or have since The Get Up Kids show in…whatever year that was…2001?) Anyway, one of my favorite things to do at Warped is wander. I LOVE the fact that I can hear so many new bands on tiny stages all over the dusty parking lot (because Warped is, inevitably, always in a really hot, really dusty parking lot.) So, when I’m not seeing the bands I know going in I have to see - and typically early in the day - I wander. I look at the handwritten signs and flyers plastered all over the venue and I head from stage to stage seeing what will catch my ear.
On August 10, this flyer caught my eye. Now you’ll notice that’s not actually a flyer. It’s actually an album cover - specifically, the cover of Paramore’s first album, All We Know Is Falling. I had no idea at the time, but it had come out two weeks prior (on July 26th to be exact) and that cover was EVERYWHERE at Warped. Scrawled on each one was a stage name - the “Shiragirl stage” and a time - from what I remember, it was 1:30.
I still don’t know for sure why that red couch caught my eye, other than that it was everywhere. Considering everything that’s happened since - and my faith (we’re going to be talking more about that later too, so be ready…) - I often tell myself I was led to go see Paramore that day. If you believe what I believe, you can probably buy into that. If you don’t, just tell yourself it was luck or a really eye-catching red couch. Either way, it changed my life. Not like getting married or having kids changed my life - we’re not quite at that scale - but take a step down from that and you’re right there. Anyway, I just knew that at 1:30, I was going to head over to the Shiragirl Stage and see who this Paramore band was.
The Shiragirl “Stage” was a stage in the LOOSEST sense of the word. It was the back of a truck. A rather small truck. The side folded down and voila! Stage. Zac (Paramore’s drummer) was INSIDE the truck. Josh, Jason and John (I’m not going to write a ton about Paramore’s member changes - you can read all that on Wikipedia or somewhere else. If you’re hoping I’m going to give you some sort of insight into internal drama, you’ll have to look for that elsewhere too. If you’re hoping I’ll continue to overuse paranthetical expressions, you’ve come to the right place.) Anyway, Josh, Jason and John had to duck to avoid hitting their heads on the top of the truck. The entire thing BOUNCED up and down and looked close to collapse throughout most of the set. The sound was what you’d expect from a pink truck. The TRUTH (anti-smoking) campaign DRONED on at top volume throughout their set. And yet, from the very first notes of a song I then didn’t know and now can’t remember (yes, that’s right - I CAN’T REMEMBER THE FIRST SONG I HEARD THEM PLAY), I was absolutely, 100% blown away.
I’ve been to hundreds of shows in my life. I’ve seen probably thousands of bands at this point, including tons I’d never heard of before walking into that club or amphitheatre or arena that night. I’ve seen John Mayer OPEN for Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) in front of 100 people in a tiny club in Charlottesville, VA. I’ve seen Oasis play for 300 people in what is now the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC (but then was a decrepit dump called Radio Music Hall) right after Definitely Maybe came out. (That show left me deaf - completely DEAF - for 3 days by the way.) I’ve seen bands I’d never heard of before the show blow me away and make me a lifetime fan (Steel Train opening for The Format, take a bow…) But none of that was like this. From the very first minute of the very first song I heard, the following thoughts went through my head:
1) Holy &*#@, these kids are YOUNG.
2) Holy &*#@, these kids are GOOD.
3) Holy &*#@, this girl can SING.
4) Holy &*#@, this band is going to be HUGE.
It’s easy to tell you why I thought the first three things - you can see it in that “Born For This” video I posted earlier - and even three years before that, on a tiny stage on the back of a truck, Paramore still ROCKED. I can’t tell you why I thought the fourth thing exactly - but I’ve never felt that way, before or since, about any other band I’ve seen. I just KNEW there was something special - really special - about these kids. So, of course, I went right over after the set and started talking to them and we became best friends that day and that’s the end of the story…WRONG. You underestimate my extreme and ridiculous shyness. I went over, bought the CD from…I think Josh sold it to me…mumbled “great show” and left. And then proceeded to listen to All We Know Is Falling about 1,000 times over the next month. Meeting them - and getting to know them - would have to wait a little while longer.
But back to that show. There were maybe 50 people watching their set that day. Maybe some of them knew the songs - certainly, there were people who had heard of Paramore before and even seen them play live - and some of them were probably there. But one song stood out. “Whoa” isn’t the best song on AWKIF. It’s not even my favorite song on AWKIF. But it’s the song that stood out live that day - and one listen to the chorus will tell you why. Whether it’s 50 people or 50,000 - when you shout “Whoa” and throw your fist in the air live, the song just works.
And the line “And we’ve got everybody singing” - in a lot of ways, that sums up, for me, what Paramore is about - what the band has created - with their fans and with their music. This is a band that cares - truly cares - about their fans and the community - the bond - they’ve built with them. And that bond is - for me at least - most strongly expressed at the shows - when everyone IS singing.
“Whoa” was the song I rocked out (and rocked out is really the only appropriate term) to on the ride home - the one I remembered best from my first exposure live. I’d grow to love “Franklin” and “My Heart” and “Never Let This Go” and “Conspiracy” more, but “Whoa” was the first song I loved by Paramore. “Whoa” was the song that started it all for me.