A rapidly growing line snaked out of the Great American Music Hall on Oct. 19, packed with fans buzzing with excitement at the chance to groove along with Half Alive for its second show in San Francisco — setting the mood for a soon-to-be electrifying concert. The audience, composed of individuals of a wide range of ages and thus not the typical group to pine after an indie band, flooded in well after the openers began playing.
Hailing from Long Beach, California, lead singer Josh Taylor, drummer Brett Kramer and bassist J Tyler Johnson formed Half Alive in 2016. They received much acclaim for their series of EPs, but truly shot to fame with their “still feel.” music video, which featured the stellar choreography the band has become known for. The trio went on tour this year to support its debut album, Now, Not Yet, which was released Aug. 9. Half Alive is best described as an electro-funk, indie pop band. And while this certainly is a mouthful, it really is the only way to encompass all of the band’s musical inflections and characteristics.
Experimental pop quartet Sure Sure opened for Half Alive, amusing the crowd with groovy and playful songs and the reveal of their fifth member, “STANLEE,” the literal hammer that held down the bass note during the quartet’s cover of “This Must be the Place” by Talking Heads.
After Sure Sure left the stage amid cheers, the lights went completely dark, as the members of Half Alive took their places. With his newly dyed pink hair, Taylor kicked off the show with “ok ok?”— a dreamy song with airy vocals. The trio then jumped into “RUNAWAY,” which was when the real stars of the show, Half Alive’s accompanying dancers Jordan Johnson and Aidan Carberry (known professionally as the JA Collective), jumped in. With Taylor in the center, Johnson and Carberry moved with him in unison, much to the delight of the crowd. Combined with the ever-changing lighting, it was truly a mesmerizing experience.
The choreography, complex and geometric, yet smooth, drew from contemporary influences, encompassing ballet moves and calculated jerks. Johnson and Carberry lifted one another in fluid twirls across the stage, and using Half Alive’s iconic interactive light backdrop, they perfectly matched the dance-inducing beats and soft gliding of the music.
Taylor later donned a yellow jacket, pulling out tricks such as disappearing from the main stage and appearing on the balcony of the Great American Music Hall during “Rest,” crooning to a cheering sea below. The band even taught the crowd members a simple dance move involving their “phalanges,” which they eagerly carried out despite a packed floor. They seemed more than glad to be choreographed by Half Alive’s dancers.
Audience members jammed out with vinyl, T-shirts and posters in hand, clad from head to toe in Half Alive merch and definitely feeling themselves in the music. And as the crowd belted out every single lyric of “still feel.” along with Taylor, cementing its place as Half Alive’s major hit, the band’s growing stardom became evident.
Half Alive ended its set intuitively with “creature,” a synth-heavy, lulling number during which Taylor pulled out his acoustic guitar. The backdrop cast a warm, red glow on the crowd members, as they swayed to the song. At the end of “creature,” the lights went black with Taylor kneeling onstage, holding a glowing blue orb in his hand, a characteristic ending to Half Alive’s shows on this tour.
Half Alive did more than just please the audience — it provided an immersive visual and musical experience. Quite possibly the new iteration of the ultimate boy band, something about Half Alive’s choreography paired with the full-sounding bass set it apart from those attempting to pull off a similar act. Among the electric colors lighting up the venue and the catchy hooks of its discography, the trio showcased both its versatility in sound and, simply put, its raw talent. With its eccentric, funk-inspired sound, lyrical prowess and well-crafted dance moves, Half Alive delivered an excellent show to the San Francisco masses.
Highlights: “creature,” “the fall,” “arrow,” “still feel.”
Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].