Not so sweet: Hunny left the crowd wanting more

by Sydney Nauman
My first experience at Rams Head Live was an unforgettable one. As I entered the dimly lit venue, I could feel the infectious energy radiating off of fans as they anxiously waited for the show to start.

The first of three openers almost immediately generated audience interaction with attendees forming mosh pits and crowd surfing. My expectations for the rest of the night remained high after seeing this instantly untamed audience reaction, however as the night’s performances continued, the audience’s energy plummeted.

Could it have been the lack of audience engagement from the performers, limited audience knowledge of the bands or just the fact that everyone in the crowd lost their ‘buzz’ at the same time? No matter the cause, it felt as though the energy had been sucked out of the room and for the rest of the opening acts, it never quite recovered.

State Champs returned to Rams Head Live in Baltimore on November 12, this time as a headliner, accompanied by special guests Young Culture, Between You & Me and Hunny. The energy of the crowd was so intense it demanded the same, if not more, from performers.

Young Culture started the show off strong with their punchy, rock melodies. Before their first song “Better as Friends” was even over, the audience was passing a stream of crowd-surfers overhead and forming a mosh pit in the center of the floor, the energy only grew from there.

More crowd surfing and mosh pits ensued as the band worked its way through their set, featuring songs from their newest album, “You had to be there,” which they released the day before the concert.

The band’s entire performance was dedicated to having fun, a goal which they surpassed with their extensive audience interaction and danceable setlist.

“We’re a band that likes to have fun… we like to make music people can have fun to,” shouted frontman Alex Magnan before performing the band’s final song in the crowd.

The second act of the night came from the Australian punk rock band, Between You & Me. The group’s loud and in-your-face melodies make it hard not to rock out to, but at this point, the audience’s once full bodied energy started to dwindle. Looking at the crowd as a whole, there was not as much interaction with the group’s performance and instead it felt as though the audience was content with just silently listening to the music, which is a stark contrast to the band’s overall vibe. Some of the group’s lyrics were drowned out by their intense instrumentals, which may have been the cause for the decline in audience energy.

Hunny was another of the opening acts that did not measure up to the audience’s energy levels. The Los Angeles based alternative rock band was the third opener of the night. As the final opener, their job was simple– get the crowd hype for the headliner. This shouldn’t have been a difficult task considering the audience came prepared with their own supply of energy and excitement. However, Hunny had their work cut out for them in order to fully revive the audience’s enthusiasm after the crowd lost this energy during Between You & Me’s performance.

After a slight delay, for what seemed to be caused by technical difficulties, Hunny kicked off their performance with their new single “JFK,” released earlier in the week. As a long time fan of Hunny I couldn’t help but dance and jump along to the band’s fun, fast-paced melodies, but as I looked around the multi-level venue I noticed that there were only a handful of people who, like me, couldn’t keep their bodies from moving to the music.

Compared to Young Culture’s performance and audience engagement, Hunny had a more mellow style, complete with vocalist Jason Yarger sporting an entire bottle of wine as his stage drink. Hunny’s groovy rock songs, characteristic of car rides to the beach and bright, sunny weather, were a change-up from the bold, and intense style of Young Culture’s performance. This change to a more laid back atmosphere could have contributed to the audience’s lack of enthusiasm.

The song, “A slow death in pacific standard time,” prompted the creation of a mosh pit, the only one that Hunny received during their performance. However, the alternating fast and slow tempo changes that the band often includes in their songs made it difficult for the moshers to maintain the energy of the pit.

With three opening acts for State Champs, the expectation was for each opener to continue to build audience anticipation for the headliner. Concerts are an interactive experience; the performer and the audience work together to create the overall atmosphere of the show. When one is lacking, it can cause the rest of the performance to fall flat.

While Hunny gave a great performance with a more comfortable, laid back vibe, this didn’t deliver the same exciting, punk rock aspect as the previous openers that the audience craved, leaving them hungry for more. Maybe having Hunny as the first opener would have provided a better flow for the evening and increased overall audience interaction.

Hunny released a new EP titled “Homesick” on November 18, which audience members got a preview of at the November 12 concert. Despite the audience being among the first people to hear the (then unreleased) new EP, vocalist Jason Yarger did not announce the band’s upcoming new music or its release date. This was a missed opportunity by Hunny to reignite audience excitement and participation. Let's face it, hearing a song before anyone else, especially live, is like being let in on a secret which also comes with bragging rights.

“Loser,” a bouncy, self-deprecating tune from the new release, was the fifth song in the group’s setlist and the midpoint of their show, where audience engagement started to take a positive turn with audience members crowd surfing to the song’s relatable lyrics and bright, catchy melody.

The second half of Hunny’s set was better received by the crowd and saw more people grooving along to the band’s catchy, upbeat melodies. This was my first time hearing Hunny live, and while it was disappointing to see audience engagement so low, I am looking forward to seeing the group again in the future.