If Tigers Jaw were around when I was sixteen, I would have probably listened to them religiously. They’re the exact kind of pop-punk/emo hybrid that I devoured as a teenager. I would have most likely been one of the dozens of kids hurling themselves from the stage into the crowd Monday night at Union Transfer, as Philadelphia welcomed the band with open arms. Fresh off the release of their third LP, Charmer, Tigers Jaw played the kind of fan-fared set one would expect from the Scranton natives.
This show was the start to a seemingly strange tour for Tigers Jaw. Back in March of 2013, it was announced that guitarist/vocalist Adam McIlwee, bassist Dennis Mishko, and drummer Pat Brier were all parting ways with the band. That left the remaining two members, guitarist/vocalist Ben Walsh and keyboardist/vocalist Brianna Collins, at somewhat of a crossroads. Despite their departures, Walsh and Collins decided to continue Tigers Jaw in its current form, releasing arguably their most mature and somber record to date.
Longtime fans of the band might have felt minor trepidation prior to Monday night, cautiously optimistic about how the band would sound live without it’s former members. Luckily, Walsh and Collins, joined on tour by Jake Woodruff on guitar Elliot Babi on drums, and Luke Schwartz on bass, delivered an awesome set to a raucous crowd.
The crowd threw themselves into an immediate frenzy as Walsh strummed the cords to “The Sun”; an appropriate way to begin what would be a night fueled by sweat, sing-alongs, and stage dives.
Brianna and Ben kept the pace up, performing a slew of new songs off of Charmer, most notably “Nervous Kids,” the first single off the new album, which was released a few months back via their soundcloud page. The catchiness of this song alone is hard to describe. It’s almost as if the second it ends, you could instantly replay it without skipping a beat; a testament to the sort of poppy riffs and epic sing-alongs the band has become known for.
Collins gets a lot more time to shine on Charmer than she has on any of Tigers Jaws previous records, and it truly shows during songs like “Hum” and “Distress Signal.” “Hum” in particular is notable because it’s one of the rare times where Walsh and Collins share the spotlight, singing back and forth to each other towards the beginning, and then harmonizing together for the second half of the song. It’s an amalgamation of beauty, sadness, and eloquence all wrapped in one (which I guess could be said for a lot of their songs), but this one in particular just feels extra special.
When all was said and done Monday night, I had been kicked in both the head and the camera lens, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Despite the shifting landscape of the band, Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins continue to make their mark as Tigers Jaw. By keeping the sound they’re known for, while also progressing their layered instrumentation and vocals with new and exciting approaches, the band has matured musically in the best kind of way.
-Photos and words by Timothy O’Donnell