Plain White T’s throw it back with nostalgic songs

By RUDY MALCOM | October 11, 2018

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COURTESY OF STEPHANIE LEE The Plain White T’s ended Hoptoberfest with a surprisingly good concert.

To my knowledge, several students were disappointed that Hoptoberfest had selected the Plain White T’s to perform at its concert on Oct. 5. Yeah, we love “Hey There Delilah,” “1234” and “Rhythm of Love,” some said. But what songs have they done since? Are they even famous anymore? Their latest studio album Parallel Universe, which they released in August, doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, much less a gold certification. Why bother resurrecting a plain-white ghost we last saw performing “Our Time Now” on iCarly?

Would the $57,100 Hoptoberfest spent on the concert really be worth it? (The estimated cost of the artists themselves was $35,000. Other expenses were $15,000 toward production and $1,500 for security.)

Sophomores in particular, including myself, didn’t understand why the Hoptoberfest concert would feature a band known for its gentle, folk-pop hits of yore when, last year, we had raved to the electrifying EDM of Cheat Codes and CADE. Upperclassmen assured us that last year’s Hoptoberfest concert had been an exception to its predecessors’ laid-back vibes, that the Plain White T’s were an appropriate choice for a fall event. Rumors circulated that songs on Parallel Universe were more punk and more electronic. 

I wondered whether the concert’s energy would be relaxing or exhilarating. I am surprised but pleased to say that the Plain White T’s had their cake and ate it, too!

Most of the attendees sat on blankets or sweatshirts in the grass, and this choice seemed to make talented lead vocalist and guitarist Tom Higgenson a little insecure, as he repeatedly asked members of the audience whether they were having a good time.

“Everybody sitting down in the back, put your hands up. I gotta keep checking on you guys,” he said.

Nevertheless Higgenson eventually came to recognize that everyone was enjoying themselves. After thanking those who had swarmed the stage, he dedicated a song both to them and those who were sitting. (He neglected to mention, however, the small group who was playing catch with a football.)

Throughout the event, many waved their hands in the air and jumped up and down on the field’s bald spot left in the wake of Aminé and Tobi Lou’s impressive Armamuddon. Indeed, this concert was far less hectic than last month’s Johns Hopkins Annual Music Festival (JAM) from the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP). This time my friends and I had enough room to square dance, flail around in circles and slut drop. I almost fell down only once! 

And unlike Aminé, Tobi Lou, Cheat Codes and CADE, Higgenson did not forget about the “s” in “Johns Hopkins.” It really is the small things that count, folks.

Furthermore, while their most popular songs were, unsurprisingly, crowd-pleasers, the Plain White T’s also showcased some new tunes from their album that undeniably entertained. They had catchy beats and great lyrics such as, “My favorite pastime is / Getting lost beneath your eyelids / I can’t stop staring at you / And lately my heartbeat’s been studying your body.” The song “Hate (I Really Don’t Like You),” as you could infer from the title, channeled some middle-school angst that added to the concert’s nostalgic element.

Higgenson’s words to spectators were touching.

“You guys kick ass,” he said. “You’re incredible, and you’re loud as hell.”

Another heart-melting moment was when Higgenson chanted toward the end of “Hey There Delilah,” the penultimate song of the evening, “Hey there, Johns Hopkins, here’s to you.” 

For sophomore Hana Escovar, the Plain White T’s were pleasant and memorable.

“The concert was the throwback I never knew I needed,” she said.

Despite my initial apprehensions, the Plain White T’s concert was truly a success. It’s always funny to see people on the Beach dressed like they’re going to Coachella, seemingly having forgotten that they’re mere feet away from a library. In a similar vein, the concert offered — as Hoptoberfest had intended — a welcome reprieve from the stress of academics. The event, depending on whether you sat or stood, was either calming or cathartic. 

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