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The Academy Is…
May 21, 2005 – El Corazon – Seattle, WA
by Ashley Graham

Sometimes I likes me some good, carefree pop music.  Sometimes I like to trade in those too-cool-for-school hipsters for some thirteen year olds just looking to have a good time.  Sometimes it’s just so much more fun that way. Consider this the second chapter in my ongoing “How I gained respect for the pop/punk/rock band” offerings (reference “Taking on the Take Action Tour” for chapter one).

May 21 marks another of these shows, these I-wouldn’t-be-here-except-I-have-to-be-here-but-hey-maybe-it-will-be-fun shows.

Let me set the stage.  Outside the venue it’s all the same; the same vans, the same roadies, the same equipment. Inside it’s completely different; different fans, different sounds, different hairstyles! t-shirts! shoes! (well not quite, but the Converse are cleaner).  Sometimes the bands are screaming, sometimes they are whining, sometimes they are pining and sometimes, I’ll say it, they are just really annoying. I’ve been able to find in each of these two line-ups I’ve experienced, though, a shiny, sparkly star that I can latch onto and love.

I will be honest; I am biased towards the bands that I interview.  Even if I hate their music at the first listen, I soften to their sounds after meeting with them and talking dreams and aspirations.  This was most definitely the case with Plain White Ts, but in this particular (and rare) case, I actually fell in love with The Academy Is…’s debut album before every stepping foot in the venue. 

Almost Here is filled with pieces of that familiar sound that could be attributed to a number of pop-punkers the genre over, but it also possesses an honesty and integrity that seems to escape the contributions of many of said punkers.  The Academy Is… favors the pop side of this genre and they excel in their ability to combine fun music with lyrics that might even be worthy of being printed in the CD booklet!  Singer William Beckett’s words follow the common theme for young bands of failed high school relationships, post-high school real world traumas, and the inability to break into an unmerciful music industry, but for the simple fact that Beckett isn’t annoying in his pleas the overall picture is a success.

Their stage show is representative of a carefully constructed dichotomy that seems ever-present in this band of five young men, all around the age of twenty, between talent and inexperience – neither of which is necessarily meant in a negative sense.  The previously mentioned talent is exemplified in their stage show as well as it is on the album.  The music is perfect for a live show and the room of Seattle’s most energetic teens is alive and singing along (impressive for a band whose first appearance here was just two months ago). 

The band itself is able to show this same sense of energy in that they present themselves as the crowd’s equals.  The smiles on their faces and their interaction with the fans after their set are indicative of their age and their open, honest approach to the music.  When Beckett makes mention of their “accessibility” it’s apparent what he is talking about; the girls are lined up at the merch booth to meet them after their set with their to-be-signed posters and booklets in hand, talking about sending messages to the band’s MySpace page, taking pictures with this member or that member and their inability to locate William, the one who seems to be the main object of affection. The band members, with the exception early on of Beckett, mill around the venue before and during the set of headliners Mae, and stop at every arm-pull and smile from a fan.

The members of The Academy Is… clearly understand the importance of every picture taken and every autographed signed and, in turn, every smiling thirteen year old girl in the crowd.  And as Beckett details their hopes for the future, this understanding becomes increasingly important.  A band that references groups like U2 and Led Zeppelin as their idols and The Killers and Kings of Leon as hopeful future tour partners needs to emphasize the importance of starting small and working their way up.  And The Academy Is… seems to have a pretty good handle on this. 

Lucky for them, too, damnit, they’ve got one catchy debut album to get them started.