My favorite ritual before going to a concert is listening to the artist on the way to the venue. It’s like pregaming for a night of music, with a dose of that same music. So, I drive toward Atlanta’s Coca-Cola Roxy, singing along to All Time Low for the first time in a really long time. I didn’t know I was going to the show until 24 hours ago, but obviously, I could never turn down an invite to see a band that was a staple of my teenage playlists. What better place to be when you’re 23 with absolutely no clue of what to do next with your life? When you’re grieving the end of youthful aloofness that 23 doesn’t allow for? Pop punk is the natural answer, in all its angsty glory against the ails of suburban life and the isolation of late-stage capitalist U.S.A., now fused with the nostalgia of teenhood.
At the Roxy, members of the crowd are shrouded in flannel jackets, most of them donning facial piercings and colorfully dyed hair, a typical crowd for the genre. Later on, during the show, when Alex Gaskarth asks “Who’s been to an All Time Low show before?”, over half of the crowd will roar in affirmation. The remainder will be chastised by Gaskarth—”we’ve been a band for twenty fucking years.”
Gym Class Heroes, the final of the three opening acts, creates a unique buzz leading up to All Time Low’s set. I hear people behind me commenting that they haven’t heard a mention of GCH in 10 years. Even still, with just one full-length album that was released in 2011, GCH has enough hits to further fuel my nostalgia. They take us through a whirlwind consisting of “Stereo Hearts”, “Billionaire”, and “Ass Back Home”. The crowd sings along gleefully, for all intents and purposes, confirming my suspicions that for most of us, this show is a callback to our younger years.
When All Time Low band members finally trickle in, they wordlessly launch into their early hits, beginning with “Lost In Stereo” and “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)” from 2009’s Nothing Personal, followed by “Six Feet Under The Stars” and “Poppin’ Champagne” from 2007’s So Wrong, It’s Right.
When they turn to some of their newer songs off their latest album, Tell Me I’m Alive, they kick it off with “Modern Love”, followed by the title track. All Time Low formed when its members met in high school in 2003. Now, 35 years old, the band acts as a time capsule for the era they emerged out of, with the same cheeky song lyrics (“I’m messy, I’m reckless / I fuck shit up for breakfast”), a healthy dose of disillusionment (”you’re obsessed with drugs and dating / modern love is too complicated”), and a lot of guitar.
Gaskarth in particular looks remarkably youthful, with a head of bleach blonde locks peaking out of a baseball cap, dressed in a white shirt that reads “SWANKIE SAYS CALM DOWN” from their own merch line. In between songs, mimicking their song “Stella”, he says “Will you take me home, Atlanta? Will you tuck me into bed and kiss my cheeks, Atlanta?”.
At the Sound of Letting Go Tour, pop-punk remains on the safe side of disobedience and defiance, the same way I felt listening to All Time Low as a teenager. The crowd is tame. After “Fake As Hell”, All Time Low’s latest single alongside Avril Lavigne, Gaskarth prods the audience to mosh after noticing what he called a “negotiation to mosh or not” happening in the midst of the crowd. During the next song “PMA”, which stands for ‘post-modern anxiety’, a mosh pit emerges in the center of the floor, but it doesn’t last more than a few minutes. All Time Low isn’t necessarily a show people go to and expect a mosh pit.
After three more songs, Gaskarth’s bandmates exit as he sits behind a piano for an intimate intro to “The Way You Miss Me”, which smoothly turns into a full band ensemble by the second verse. Disappearing and then returning to the stage with an acoustic guitar, Gaskarth plays the beginning notes to “Missing You”, a highlight from 2015’s Future Hearts album. It’s an easily relatable track that both promises hope and delivers a reality check with a scream-along bridge that goes “Grit your teeth, pull your hair / Paint the walls black and scream / ‘Fuck the world cause it’s my life / I’m gonna take it back’”.
Edging closer to the end of their two-hour set, Gaskarth says that we’re at the point in the show where he starts to feel “delirious” and “unhinged”, thanking the audience for “cheering on [his] unraveling”. After bantering back and forth with bandmate Jack Barakat and promising a swift return for another show in Atlanta, Gaskarth explains the meaning behind the name of their tour, which comes from the hope that fans can take whatever bullshit they’ve been hanging onto and let the fuck go. The audience claps and, like churchgoers responding with a chorus of amens, repeat to themselves “wooo yeah, let it go”. Naturally, they play “The Sound of Letting Go” next.
During another strategically placed piano intro, this time for “Calm Down”, a bashful Gaskarth gives a sheepish smile on the very zoomed-in camera pointing at his face. It’s a new track from their last album and (yet another) doomsday anthem that dwells on the infuriating feeling of losing your mind over worldly matters that others find immaterial; the refrain goes “Don’t tell me to calm down, tell me to calm down / It’s freaking me out that you’re not freaking out”. At this point, another mosh pit momentarily emerges and then fades back out.
Next, it’s time for the fan-voted song of the evening, wherein the band asks fans to vote for one of four songs via QR code before the show. With a cutesy egg-race video game animation up on the stage screen, the band discovers the song of the evening along with the fans. Tonight, it’s “Last Young Renegade”. Gaskarth jokingly says that this one’s been a fan-favorite so far on tour, which felt ironic to him considering the album had a mixed reception or in his words “everyone was like ‘what the fuck is this’.
Nearing the end of the main setlist, All Time Low digs deep into their discography with “Weightless”, a song I haven’t listened to in years, but still know exactly where every syllable falls when I hear it. Written by Gaskarth when he was 21, alongside songwriter Matt Squire, the song has grown in significance to me since I first heard it at (most probably) twelve years old. I could feel the words “I’m stuck in this fucking rut” and “I’m over getting older” leading into the hopeful exuberance of “Maybe it’s not my weekend / but it’s gonna be my year” with clarity and determination I haven’t felt in a long time.
With one last song (”Monsters”), All Time Low gives their fake goodbyes until it is time for the encore, which begins shortly after with “Sleepwalking”. Afterward, they bring forward a stool with a big red button in the center, prompting someone to come from backstage and press it, which will then activate the slot machine being projected onto the screen behind them. There are three song options and after a couple of spins, it lands on “Vegas” for the night, but the audience is far from fooled. A few stray voices shout “Dear Maria”, before the band dutifully launches into their most iconic track “Dear Maria, Count Me In”. Anyone attempting to leave at this point is getting dirty looks from the people they kindly ask to move aside. Most fans stay for the euphoric endnote of this delightfully 2000s nostalgia-fueled evening.
“Lost In Stereo”
“Damned If I Do Ya(Damned If I Don’t)”
“Six Feet Under The Stars”
“Modern Love” (with “Stella” snippet)
“Tell Me I’m Alive”
“Fake As Hell”
“Dark Side of Your Room”
“The Way You Miss Me”
“The Sound of Letting Go”
“Last Young Renegade” (fan-voted song)
“Dear Maria, Count Me In”
Buket is recent graduate of the University of Georgia (Music Business Alum) and the current Editor-in-Chief of Vinyl Mag. She believes that a sincere lover of music can find something to like in just about any song. She loves to write to observe and learn about the world. She is currently on a gap year abroad, spending her free time drumming up new ideas for Vinyl Mag and trying to beat her previous Spotify Wrapped "My Minutes Listened" record.