Thursday night in Oakland on the evening of October 6th was a little more vibrant than usual, thanks to the presence of indie-pop band Grouplove. The five members performed at the Fox Theater on a stage of bright multi-colored lights and paint-splattered pink paper hands hung from the ceiling that reflected the artwork from their latest album, Big Mess (2016), released in mid-September. Oakland served as the third stop for the band’s North American tour which kicked into high-gear at the beginning of this month.
The band’s set list spanned the discography of their three studio albums, blending the familiar with the new. “I’m With You” from Grouplove’s sophomore album Spreading Rumors (2013) was the opener for the show, setting the tone for the upbeat and exuberant night ahead that rarely slowed down throughout its entirety.
While the songs played throughout the night were approximately half old and half new material, the tracks from Big Mess seemed to weave in seamlessly into the night’s program. Grouplove may have undergone major changes in the making of this latest record, but they’ve managed to maintain their youthful energy and further refine their sound. This was the band’s first time working with an outside producer, as their drummer Ryan Rabin had produced their previous records. An even bigger change was the birth of the daughter of Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi, the two vocalists and married couple of the group. Reminiscent of Grouplove’s debut album Never Trust a Happy Song (2011), Big Mess paints a picture of juvenescence despite the trials and growing pains of adulthood.
Hooper and Zucconi emanate a no-fucks-given attitude onstage, visually communicated through their brightly dyed hair and Zucconi’s adornment of a ripped white lace dress nearly identical to his wife’s. Despite being labeled as an indie-pop band, Grouplove is surprisingly much more thrashing and all-out in their performance than that title would suggest, supplying a refreshing and gratifying dose of head banging and jumping around the stage. This delightfully brash demeanor manifested itself most prominently in an unexpected cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” that marked the peak of energy in the band’s performance and ended with the vocalists running around gleefully and spinning maniacally in circles.
It was evident from the mood and energy of the crowd that Grouplove’s music simply makes people happy. Their songs encourage listeners to cherish the vibrancy of life and to soak it in to the fullest. Tracks like “Welcome To Your Life”, which is an ode to their daughter, and “Do You Love Someone” were unabashedly exuberant and near impossible to not dance and sing along to. Joyously carefree fan favorites like “Tongue Tied” and “Shark Attack” prompted cheers of excitement from the satisfied crowd.
Before beginning the final song of the night, Zucconi declared that Grouplove was more than just a band, but a way of life. He then started off “Colours”, with the last words “we do it for love, sweet love” echoing out into the crowd. Thursday night at the Fox proved that the phrase “Big Mess” could not better encapsulate the essence of Grouplove. From the head banging to the thrashing to Zucconi’s wild green locks, Grouplove is the antithesis of everything neat and polished. Their performance and their music aren’t meant to be glossy or fine tuned, they revel in the glorious liberation of human imperfection. Grouplove understands that life is messy and can never be perfectly planned, and they take this notion and run with it as a band, creating one big beautiful mess along the way.
Article and Photos by Michelle Cho