Words and Photos by Vince Sadonis

A band like The Early November needs no introduction. For almost 20 years they have consistently put out superior music, to the point where with each release the listener thinks, how will they outdo this album? Somehow they do, and it can’t be said that they don’t challenge themselves when it comes to it. They do, and their latest album, Lilac, which was released on September 27th through Rise Records, proves once again that The Early November isn’t just another pop-punk/emo band from the Drive-Thru Records era. They are a longevity band that will continue to push the boundaries of their music while impressing their current fans and gaining new ones.

The first tour in support of Lilac had The Early November crisscrossing America only to end the tour in Philadelphia, PA at the Theatre Of Living Arts. Even though The Early November hails from south New Jersey, they consider Philadelphia as their second home and what better way to end a tour than a homecoming show. Opening the tour was another New Jersey band, Owel. If Owel is a band you never heard of, it is best to go check them out immediately. Owel isn’t a new band, they have been hustling as a band for many years now and just released their latest album Paris earlier this year and was self-released. Being the opening band, Owel’s time slot was roughly 30 minutes and for the length of their songs, they were only able to fit in a handful of songs. However, those songs were enough to draw in a crowd. Their atmospheric yet melodic songs transcended the audience while singer Jay Sakong’s emotional vocals were captivating. They ended their set with an intense version of “Snowglobe” that when they finished the audience actually cried for one more. Keep tabs on Owel because they definitely are a band to watch.

Following Owel was another band that has been cutting their teeth on the road for quite some time, Have Mercy. Have Mercy is another band that has many highs and lows within their existence, but no matter what, lead singer Brian Swindle keeps going to share his story. Like the other bands on the tour Have Mercy also released a new album this year. The Love Life was released on August 2nd through Hopeless Records and Brian and company brought songs from the album like “We Ain’t Got Love”, “Mattress On The Floor”, and an emotional rendition of “Dressed Down” to life in Philadelphia. Through Have Mercy’s set, each song Brian sang with so much force and emotion that one would think he was singing as this was his last show ever. However, even though the songs were emotionally driven, in between songs Brian couldn’t help but crack jokes with the crowd and his bandmates. The mixture of lightheartedness and raw emotion makes Have Mercy one of those bands worth seeing live because the songs take on a new life when performed live.

It took about 4 years for Early November’s latest album Lilac to come out and the wait was worth it. Each Early November release is completely different, but in a live setting, they flow perfectly together. From their reunion album In Currents, the Early November opened their set with the song “A Stain On The Carpet” which is a very somber song, but a perfect opener. Ace Enders and company then moved into songs from their triple-disc album and their 2015 release Imbue. When they played their newest song “Hit By A Car (In Euphoria)”, the crowds’ energy didn’t slow down even for a new song. In fact, the crowd sang the words like they’ve known the song for years. Ace would then slow the set down by playing another new song, “Ave Maria”, acoustically. For the album Lilac, Ace posted online and spoke at the show that this album was about not giving up hope and keep going. “Ave Maria” is kind of the definition of the album and the acoustic version should be released as a bonus song because the version Ace played gave it a whole different feeling.

From there The Early November took the crowd through all their releases and played something from each album. Recently, because of schedules, Early November hasn’t toured with all the original members in quite some time, but for this tour, the only person missing was guitarist Joseph Marro. Nate Sander, who was filling in, proved to fill Joseph’s shoes by playing keys, guitar, and for a very unique version of “Ever So Sweet”, violin. Again, another version that should be released because “Ever So Sweet” stripped down or with a full band is great, but acoustic and just a violin made the song even more heartwarming. There was no walk off stage and come back for an encore, for The Early November isn’t that type of band, but they did close out their set with two more songs. They closed the night with “Frayed In Doubt” where Ace again put the guitar down and just belted the words with the crowd, bassist Sergio Anello did his constant high kicks, guitarist Bill Lugg played excellent rhythm guitar as always, new member Nate Sander proved himself once again that he can perform Joe’s parts flawlessly, and drummer Jeff Kummer drums on that song explode with each hit of the snare drum. For a homecoming/end of tour show, Philadelphia didn’t disappoint and The Early November made it clear throughout their set that Philly made it the best show of the tour.

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