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July 21, 2007

The Fray, Los Angeles, July 19, 2007

I woke up to find an email from Billboard this Thursday asking if I would be able to cover The Fray’s concert that same night. Even better, this would be my first assignment where I would get to hang out in “the pit,” putting me nearly within arm’s reach of the bands playing that night. In my groggy morning state, I couldn’t have thought of a better way to start my day. I managed to arrange for one of my favorite singers, Alissa Moreno, whose show I had covered just a week ago, to be my concert wingwoman for a night where The Fray’s music could not have been a better fit for the concert’s setting. Needless to say, this would end up being a night that I would not soon forget.


Opening up the show was Eisley, if you’re unfamiliar with the group, they’re composed of talented performers from the Eisley family (a la Hanson, just with five people – three girls and two guys – but the girls have similar hair to that of early Hanson). Eisley mixed the three female voices, which were reminiscent of those of The Cranberries, with some very rock-influenced styles and melodies on guitar and keyboard. Like Gomez and The Fray would do later that night, Eisley frequently switched up who took on the lead vocals for different songs. Despite the fact that this was not really my style of music, the group performed well in front of an audience that was likely about a quarter full by this point. They plugged their upcoming album (August 14th), which contains the very catchy track, “Go Away,” which was my favorite performance of theirs for the night.




After Eisley finished their set, I walked around and really get a feel for The Greek theatre, which is a great venue for a concert! Already, while I was in “the pit,” taking pictures and notes (in what I now realize is much too big of a notebook to take into a public place), I was asked by a pretty attractive group of girls if I wanted to interview them for Billboard, so this was shaping up to be an interesting night. Really, I should have just busted out my voice recorder (I come well equipped…ok, awkward phrasing) and pretended that I was recording so that I could continue chatting it up with them, but there was work to be done! However, first and foremost, I was really hungry.

In what was one of the more surreal moments of my life, I walked over to the hospitality suite area, reserved for members of the press and people with “in’s” with various people, because Vanessa (the lovely lady who helped guide me throughout the night) said I would be able to use it. I was disappointed to see that the poster that represented the valid passes for the hospitality area had a huge black “X” through a picture of my diamond-shaped photo pass, indicating that maybe this room of milk and honey (or as it were, fruit, chips and salsa, and cheese cubes, along with good-looking, designer label draped teens) was not for me tonight. However, I thought I might as well give it a shot because I took the time to walk over. Expecting to get turned away, I showed the woman at the door my photo pass, for which the woman shook her head “no.” I started to turn around, completely ok with the idea that whatever I would eat for dinner would likely have me blogging from the toilet later that night.

“Wait, what’s your name?”


 “Chung? Oh yeah! Come on in!” The woman replied with a smile and a gentle “my bad” tap on my back. 

What the hell was going on? Did I somehow just score a ticket on the Hot Tamale Train? I scarfed down some of the room’s snacks and checked out the very mellow scene on the outdoor patio area before heading back out to check out the night’s next act, Gomez, feeling like my manhood had increased in size threefold from my brief visit to the hospitality room (unfortunately, much to my disappointment after checking later that night, this feeling did not translate to reality).



The British band Gomez was also a new group for me that night, but was well-known to many of the now 80%-filled audience. Unlike the very hospitable and agreeable group in the pit for Eisley, girls (mostly girls, really, other than guys who were there with girls) were jockeying for position to try and get in a good position for Gomez’s set and be in a prime spot for The Fray. Gomez was a pleasant surprise for me because the music was just so different – a mix of rock, alternative, country, some folk, and nearly every song had some pretty incredible guitar solos (some of which I felt like were a little overdone, but that could be just me)


Since the majority of the music I listen to is more along the lines of mainstream pop, hip-hop, or country that your little sister listens to, it was fun to go hear a new band that was unafraid of and equally capable of performing near-emo tracks, fast rock songs with varying beats, and songs that resembled classic rock songs as well (for them to get me to enjoy these songs, which is one genre I just have never been very big on, shows how fun the performances were). Gomez closed out a very well received set (a girl standing behind me literally looked like she was “dancing for her life” on “So You Think You Can Dance” for the full hour set) with “How We Operate,” which they started out a capella, only to go into the song’s full band melody that left plenty of open bars (not that kind of open bar, kids) for the set’s now-trademark long instrumentals and guitar solos. Gomez left the stage to an appreciative, very packed audience that now couldn’t wait for The Fray to take the stage.

As the rest of the night’s stragglers made their way to the seats, the pit area started to get incredibly crowded. While not in terms of dress, but rather atmosphere, it started to feel like I was at a pre-prom party for an All Girl’s school. The pit was filled with frantic girls who said “like” a lot (we’re in LA, so this is normal), similarly aged guys who kept saying “Bro, I can’t believe we’re here, dude! You think we’re close enough?? Aaha!” (only to finish off these conversations with a hand slap into a “man hug”), and a few scattered parents who actually shared an appreciation for the same band as their children, which was really nice to see. It’s weird to feel like you’re pretty old at 23, but I felt pretty old in there. As the pit filled up with all this commotion, I knew it was going to be a challenge to get a clear shot of the stage.

That’s when Vanessa tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that I would be standing not in the pit, but in front of the pit, in the two feet that stood between the fence and the stage! In the words of my fellow pit-mates, “Like, no freakin’ way, bro! OMG, dude!” In the photo pit was me, three guys with intimidating “STAFF” jackets, and a lot of empty nacho containers from fans that were standing in the pit. I have been never been so excited to stand in a trench of intimidating security and clear plastic covered in gooey cheese. Minutes after I made my way into the “promised land,” a green line that moved and beeped like an oversized hospital monitor on the enormous color changing screen behind the stage got the crowd on their feet for what would be the opening for The Fray’s 10th concert in the LA area.


The Fray ran on stage and opened up the show with “All At Once” and “She Is,” both of which were great performances that made the venue come alive as people could not stop screaming for the first two songs (undoubtedly, my position made this seem a lot more apparent than it likely was). With lights flashing all over and fans’ hands inadvertently crushing my “concert cone” hairstyle as I pretended they were trying to grope me (they weren’t), The Fray was putting on the quality of show that we were all hoping for all night. I ran back and forth in the photo pit snapping pictures with my phone, just feet away from Isaac Slade on piano, trying to catch my breath and not lay a nugget in my pants from what was one of the coolest moments of my life. Not since being on the field for three college national championship football games during my time with the USC Football team, or since hearing that one of my best friends Ramiro Avila saw Jennifer Love Hewitt in real life, have I had my breath taken away like it was for this once in a lifetime experience.

The night’s full set list included:

- "All at Once"

- "She Is"

- "Dead Wrong"

- "Absolute"

- "Heaven Forbid"

      - "Vienna"

- "Fail"

       - "Dixie"

- "Fall Away"

- "How to Save a Life"

- "A Long December" (Counting Crows)

- "Hundred"

- "Happiness"

- "Hips Don’t Lie" (Shakira, more on this later)

- "Trust Me"

- "Little House"

- "Over My Head"

- "Together"

- "Look After You"


Slade and guitarist Joe King switched off on lead vocals and harmonies all night and were supported by a band that went all out, yet overdid nothing, to lay down some incredibly fun and energetic performances that left no one in the crowd feeling unsatisfied. Both Slade and King take on the balancing act of having a rock-style voice, and a more sensitive Coldplay-like sound at the same time, but they manage to pull it off everytime. One of my favorite performances of the night was “Heaven Forbid,” which had the band performing under a very cool hanging lantern-illuminated stage set up, a little reminiscent of some portions of the Broadway musical Wicked.


The band’s dramatic performance of “Fall Away” had the whole audience’s eyes transfixed on the stage. All night, the female reaction that Isaac Slade received as he transformed the piano into the perfect rock instrument made every guy in the audience wish that they had practiced piano a little harder and longer when we were kids. I was only into the piano lessons for the free candy, but could have been more motivated if I knew how much those ivory keys could get large groups of women into a frenzy…but it probably would have helped if I didn’t think girls were “icky,” back then. But I digress…


Beyond the performances, the band did an excellent job interacting with the crowd between songs. From Joe talking about how he enjoyed peeing in the ocean  (which ultimately deterred my weekend plans… I’m with you on that, bro, and I am honored to have peed in that same water… it’s like we shared a urinal… the world’s urinal…), to Isaac confessing how he used to be a figure skater, tap dancer, and roller blader, not an aggressive cool skater, but a fanny pack wearing one – the band’s two lead singers kept the night’s mood very light and had the whole audience laughing throughout the night.


Of course, the highlight of the night was the band’s performance of “How to Save a Life,” which immediately conjures up images in Grey’s Anatomy fans’ minds of Meredith, George, and Dr. McDreamy (no Addison after that horrible two hour episode that tricked us into watching a painful pseudo premiere of new show “Private Practice.” Blech). As soon as Isaac began playing the familiar piano introduction, the whole audience jumped on its collective feet and The Greek Theatre was suddenly transformed into a huge karaoke bar.


The band switched up the beat on some portions, but no one cared as the atmosphere was absolutely electric. Despite sitting next to Alissa Moreno, who I consider to be one of my favorite vocalists, I lost all inhibitions about my singing abilities and joined in with the rest of the audience in singing the band’s most well-known song, complete with my Mariah Carey-like violent hand motions. I felt like I had somehow received a prize from the Make a Wish foundation or that Ashton Kutcher was going to come out behind me, pants me, and tell the world that I just got “Punk’d!”



With the crowd all hyped up, Isaac brought back the night’s laid back atmosphere by performing “A Long December,” made famous by the Counting Crows, a favorite song of mine. The stage was lit by just one of the stage lanterns, which made the venue feel a lot more intimate than its 5,000 person audience size would indicate. A few songs later, Ben Wysocki, the band’s drummer, became a featured vocalist on The Fray’s acoustic version of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie.” With Isaac singing the part of Shakira and Joe taking the Wyclef singing portions, Ben handled all the speaking and Wyclef rapping portions of the song with the most hilarious, “white bread,” plain voice that you could ever envision. Picture Ben Stein instructing an audience, “Let me see you move like you come from Colombia” – That would be an accurate depiction of how awkwardly hilarious this remake was.


We look like zombies. You know, just watch a little concert, then go out and eat people's brains. Just a regular day.

After the obligatory “Thank you, LA!!” The Fray left the stage, only to return for the always expected encore, with “Together,” which welcomed pretty much any girl (no dudes allowed) who was standing in the pit between the ages of six (really) and 21 up on stage to come dance on stage while the band performed. While girls hugged each other and put on their best moves for everyone in attendance, I couldn’t help but wonder why guys never get to go on stage in huge packs like that. However, I was at peace with the fact that stage dancing is a girl-only event. Since I’m used to hip hop concerts, it was nice to have the girls be on stage and have the band still perform, instead of grinding or “freaking,” with the hottest of the hot. The band closed out the show with “Look After You,” which had the whole audience swaying together and singing along to what would be the end of a set that could not have been more fitting for the atmosphere in The Greek Theatre that night.


It was the perfect ending to an unbelievable night in more dimensions than I could possibly even begin to write down. Now that The Fray is going on a one-year break before they come out with a new CD, I have no doubt that many of the fans who were in attendance with me on Thursday night will be the same fans who will welcome the band with open arms on their next tour for their 11th LA-area performance.

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dave, i love reading your writing because i can hear you saying everything and its hilarious!! You seem too be getting in the right places at the right time! right in front of the stage? alissa moreno? free cheese? I wish i was you.


Being bribed to practice piano and totally slacking off on it ... good times. The concert sounds like it was awesome! Rock on!


Dude the new hairstyle! haha i like it. Sounds like another amazing time, totally worth missing sytycd.


Looks like it was an a great concert, and your becoming a real ladies man with all these concerts.


WOW! My cousin has a rep now! Gettin' in on the good stuff! NICE!


awesome review! im lovin the pics--looks like so much fun!!


"Chung? Oh yeah! Come on in!"

Wow. That day has come. You're huge. Stock shooting high. Huge.


Dag chung!! I wish I had those hook-ups. Sweet deal.

Tony Q

Nice pictures


Finally figured out how to see your articles!! AMAZING!! Did i talk to you right before this?! SO cool, I kinda feel like I was there once removed! Haha.. sounds incredible and I LOVE the new 'do as well- super hipster! Looking forward to the next one xoxo M


Man, Dude, Bro, that was sieck! It's only a matter of time before I will be your wing and Hewitt will be your woman. You have to be the coolest thing since fanny packs! Great job once again, always a pleasure to read and learn about all these artists that I usually have no exposure to.


second-to-last photo, girl in red, second from the right. she is ogre woman. "graahhhrrrrr! i will eat your babies and spit their bones at other cars on the freeway!"



Ligaya Lange

You are truly livin the life of a rockstar my man! Great blog. You really make me feel like I'm there. Always a pleasure =)

Nati G.

haha true VIP....gotta love it!!


Sounds like an awesome time. Good blog.


VIP status for the Fray!!?? wow that is awesome....keep up the great reviews on great concerts!


I wish I coulda went to watch the fray!

Ina Kwon

VIP!! now i'm totally kicking myself for selling the tickets i had for the fray show here in md. anyway, keep em coming! i love reading your reviews!


Hey!!! I was there that night, noticed you walking around with that black cambridge notebook - only because I had one exactly like it in my bag, looking to write from my crappy seat about the wonderful experience I was about to have when I lucked out and got a pass to the pit! Somehow got front and center, literally, smiling so much my dimples hurt.. Then saw you and taking pictures in the "promised land" directly in front of me... I also was one of those ladies on stage... That was a memorable night for me as well so I can definately relate to that inexplicable feeling of euphoria you got! you've got my email... keep up the good work :)


Awesome post man. Seems like you're making out with a great summer's worth of experiences. Glad to hear about all the cool concerts and such.


the fray's so awesome... loove them

Antonia Afamasaga

u always talk about poopin ur pants. hehe. funny. remember all us little people since ur becoming such a superstar.


love the fray, especially the music video for over my head, so good, if anyone hasn't seen it, go to vh1.com, it's worth watching many times.


I would do all the members of this band....at the same time ;)

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