This time last year, Alameda-based quintet Finish Ticket was opening for the wildly popular duo Twenty One Pilots on its Blurryface tour. Like several other bands who have opened for Twenty One Pilots, the exposure to a large and enthusiastic fanbase has quickly launched it into its first headlining tour this year.
It’s not a trivial transition. Other bands in this position have discussed the effect, like Vinyl Theatre, another recent Twenty One Pilots opener. The crucible of the “first headlining tour” is a wake-up call, the answer to whether its attempts to generate a fanbase on the road generated loyal or transient support. More than one band in this position has had to reconcile the newfound difficulty in filling much smaller-cap venues on their own tours.
Finish Ticket is not one of them.
When Finish Ticket hit the UC Theatre stage Friday night, the crowd was there, and it was ready. It shouted every word belted by lead singer Brendan Hoye back to him, jumping at every chorus, headbanging, arms flowing up and down and rhythm with the guitars, and clapping along, totally unprovoked. Even when the band dredged up a song from when its members met in high school, the cheer ripped through the venue and the audience somehow knew the words. It was, frankly, shocking. It was treatment worthy of a band well into their career, with the critical mass of obsessed fans to drive an energetic pit
What’s also surprising is how smoothly the band has transitioned into the role of showrunner and headliner. This summer, Finish Ticket performed at the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Maine, on the smallest, dinkiest stage the festival had to offer, and p layed their position humbly and forcefully and won a lot of approval. Now, just four months later, members of the band are crowdsurfing on their hometown crowd.
There are a million and one subtle adjustments that need to be made when transitioning to the headlining position. But it feels like Finish Ticket have really been headlining all along — even at Firefly, even on the Blurryface tour, the mentality was there. The band was just waiting for the chance to do it last in the lineup. Now that it had that chance, the band didn’t disappoint.
Hoye’s vocals were, as always, rich, layered and rife with emotion. He has an impressive range, an impressive ability to pull a powerful vocal riff from deep within himself, most apparent during the quiet interlude of “Bring the Rain.” He is also a dynamic performer and the catalyst of the band’s energetic on-stage presence. Constantly jumping, jerking, traversing the stage and leaning over the edge — he’s a photographer’s nightmare. The dude just won’t stand still. His erratic arm motions might be overly jerky, but it’s unique and engaging in the context of the live show.
He also played the crowd beautifully. Granted, it was entirely willing. But he fed directly off its enthusiasm, holding the mic out over audience members’ heads for them to sing and thanking them for it afterwards. This show, a hometown performance that closes out its 30-city tour, had a higher than normal number of breakaways where Hoye thanked the crowd for their energy. He put it best. “Thank you so much Bay Area for making our dreams come true,” Hoye said. “This is one of our favorite shows of all time.”
That “all time” sentiment made a difference. The audience could feel it, the band could feel it, and everyone shared the collective understanding mapped onto each band member’s eyes that said something like “Holy shit guys, we’ve made it.”
Why have they made it? Solid vocal strength, solid musicianship and crisp pop-rock instrumentation is not in short supply; how has the band pushed through the critical-mass base of support so quickly? The difference here is in the lyrics. Finish Ticket’s lyrics are inviting, relatable and most importantly, instantly resonant. There’s a simple but profound emotional core to its work which has, evidently, resonated with enough people around the country to leave them, now at the end of the tour, with a solid and loyal fanbase to grow with.
After seeing Finish Ticket perform, you won’t just hum the tunes the next day, you’ll sing the words.
Contact Imad Pasha at [email protected].