Yellowcard is an American punk rock band who formed back in 1997. They brought us such hits as “Ocean Avenue”, “Breathing” and “Lights and Sounds”. Unlike most rock bands though, Yellowcard feature a powerful violin, wielded by Sean Mackin. Ryan Key runs lead vocals with Ryan Mendez on lead guitar and Josh Portman on bass.
Their first album, titled “Midget Tossing”, was recorded and released in 1997. The band lineup only had Mackin and Key as guests for this album. Mackin and Key were brought back to join the band for their second album, titled “Where We Stand”, in another guest role. After this, the band lineup changed, replacing the previous lead with Key and adding Mackin to the line.
This change lead to Yellowcard’s more recognisable sound that would be with them until their final tour. They recorded their third album, “One for the Kids”, before another change to the lineup. This caused Key to have to fill both vocals and lead guitar. They recorded the “Underdog EP” leading to the band signing with Capitol Records.
Once they joined Capitol Records they began recording their fourth and possibly most well known album, “Ocean Avenue”. Releasing the track “Way Away” got Yellowcard to No. 25 in the modern rock charts, but paved the way for the release of their first No. 1, “Ocean Avenue”. Use of the track “Empty Apartment” in an episode of One Tree Hill caused popularity to explode! Yellowcard started getting featured on magazine covers and at award shows everywhere. “Way Away” got used in the SSX3 soundtrack (a personal favourite) and “Ocean Avenue” got used on Burnout 3: Takedown (another classic). They also wrote “Gifts and Curses” for Spider-man 2 in 2004. “Ocean Avenue” sold over 1 million copies in the States alone.
From here they toured for a couple years before writing “Lights and Sounds” in 2005 and releasing it in 2006. This was the album where Ryan Mendez joined the band due to troubles with another band mate. “Lights and Sounds” was a huge album with 20 tracks recorded. 14 of which became the album and the remaining 6 became the B-side “Three Flights Down”. The title track was released a week before the full album and featured in Burnout Revenge and Guitar Hero: Modern Hits. However, “Lights and Sounds” didn’t sell nearly as well as it’s predecessor, but Key said he expected that due to the nature of the album.
“Paper Walls” came next as an album for fans both new and old to enjoy. The album sold 40,000 copies in it’s first week, getting to be the second most popular album on iTunes at the time. They toured supporting Blue October in the US and joined Linkin Park in Japan. Touring around and playing a whole bunch of shows the world over took it’s toll however, leading to the band taking a hiatus.
Yellowcard returned in 2010, after a 2 year hiatus, and recorded “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes”. The first song to be performed from this album was “For You, and Your Denial”. The album was released after being announced 2 days earlier at an event in Chicago in 2011. They spent most of this time touring with other bands and just generally being awesome.
Then came “Southern Air” (probably my favourite album) following the momentum from “When You’re Through….” it got the band writing again. The build up to release was shrouded in mystery, Key only dropping hints here and there. Along the Southern Air Tour, Yellowcard confirmed they were recording an acoustic “Ocean Avenue” album as a 10th Anniversary celebration.
The band announced they were going to be recording a new album, “Lift a Sail” in 2014. This came with the departure of Longineus Parsons, one of the two remaining original members. Lift a Sail toured with them across the UK and Europe with Less Than Jake and then on to Australia with Mayday Parade. Newfound Glory joined Yellowcard in a US tour ending in 2015 with the announcement of another album.
The self titled album “Yellowcard” was to be the final album they recorded. Announcing that the band would be breaking up at the end of The Final Tour, they invited fans to join them in their last trip around the world.
I was honoured to be able to catch their final European gig in London at the Brooklyn Bowl (Dec 22, 2016). The band exploded onto stage following two great support acts by The Kenniths (A UK based band) and Normandie (From Finland). Opening with one of my favourite tracks despite its backstory, “Believe”. It sent shivers down my spine. It was incredible to see these men who really put their heart and soul into their craft.
The energy in the crowd was palpable. For a farewell gig, everyone there was ready to sing their lungs out and send them off with a cheer. The band were absolutely incredible! Key was constantly thanking the crowd for being there to celebrate their last European gig with them. When Mackin wasn’t absolutely killing it on the violin he was interacting with the crowd, getting us moving, singing, cheering.
Usually live gigs tend to get the audio balance a little messed up but everything was perfect. The instruments were loud but not overpowering, the vocals were clear and easily heard. The lighting effects were amazing! Especially during the track “Gifts and Curses”. Being from Spider-man 2 the lights took on a Spiderman themed style, leaning on reds and blues. There was even a guy in a Spiderman costume at the back of the room. Key lit up as soon as he spotted him there.
Brooklyn Bowl at the O2 Arena in London isn’t a huge venue, but those venues are often the best. The crowd can get a lot more involved and it lends a layer of intimacy to the event. It was the perfect choice for such an emotional send off. Between songs Key and the band would have a bit of a chat, one-sided as expected but it was still amazing.
Singing along at the top of your lungs is the best thing about a live gig. What makes it better is when they stop playing and bring the house lights up and you can see, hear and feel everyone around you carrying the song for them. It wasn’t so much a gig for them, but for us to say “Goodbye, and thank you!” to them.
They played for a solid 2 hours and the energy was always there, even in some of the slower, tamer tracks. To see this guys ply their trade, singing their hearts out and us along with them was unbelievable. The set list contained a beautiful blend of both new and old tracks. A perfect mix for fans both young and old.
True to tradition they moved off stage, the crowd roared for their return, we may have been relatively small but damn could we make some noise. They came back, played one song and then stopped so that Key could say some final farewells to everyone, genuinely heartfelt moment. It got ruined by some jackasses boo-ing when he said it was the last time they would be in Europe. However Key recaptured the moment, told us all he loved us and that they would all miss us, then they played “Ocean Avenue” live for the last time on British soil.
It was insane. Everyone screamed their lungs out to fill the air with their most loved song. Balloons and streamers filled the air, both of the support bands flooded the stage and began firing party poppers into the crowd and throwing balloons. As send offs go, it was perfect. Can only hope that they enjoyed it as much as the rest of us all did.
Photos provided by Alex Bear.