6 years ago, I stood outside a You Me At Six show eagerly holding a ticket I printed out two months in advance. I wore dirty converse, a band tee, jeans from Hot Topic, and a grin on my face that I was trying to suppress in an attempt to “play it cool”, despite the fact that I’d been counting down the days to that show for months.
On the night of March 5th, 2019, I stood outside The Marquis Theater in Denver, impatiently leaning against a brick wall, waiting for the band’s guest list to reach the box office so I could get inside and escape the cold. Instead of a folded up ticket, I carried my camera and a pair of earplugs.
What changed? For one, You Me At Six have put out three albums in the time since I last saw them play: 2014’s Cavalier Youth, 2017’s Night People, and 2018’s VI. They gradually went from making dark, anthemic, emo romps like the ones on 2010’s Hold Me Down 2011’s Sinner’s Never Sleep—two formative albums for me, soundtracking my teenage woes—to making groove-laden, bright pop songs that feel more like a celebration than they do rumination’s on despair and feeling misunderstood.
As I walked into the show, I brushed the cold off my jacket and headed towards the stage. I quickly realized that this wasn’t the same band I saw all those years ago. In the crowd: done up, straightened haircuts with streaks of different colors in them were gone, in favor of more sensible cuts. Band tees and converse were traded out for dark fitted jeans, sharp European-looking shoes, and crop-tops with leather jackets. The evolution You Me At Six has undergone in my time away wasn’t just felt in the music; it was part of the room.
Machineheart, a dreamy pop-rock outfit from Los Angeles, kicked the show off. Frontwoman Stevie Scott’s alluring and soulful stage presence captured the stage as if the band were headlining, and the band’s pop-sensible and edgy sound drew the crowd into a souled out trance.
DREAMERS came on shortly afterwards, harnessing the energy of a band headlining a much larger stage. As soon as their neon-lit banner proclaiming their name lit up, their bright and anthemic brand of pop that harkens back to glitz and glam of pop music in the ‘mid 80s with an uplifting, modern edge. “Dreamers are known for their mosh pits. Their positive, uplifting lyrics really rile people up,” a man said, sarcastically, behind me.
By the time You Me At Six was ready to hit the stage, I was worried, asking myself a string of questions. Would I even recognize their new music? Would they play any of the old songs I know and love? If they did, would it even be the same?
It wasn’t the same, and it’s good that it wasn’t. If the band were to get onstage with straightened hair and all black outfits and sing a dozen new songs about feeling angry, misunderstood, and in love all at the same time, it’d be sad and hard to watch. Instead, they flaunted their evolution as a band with a dance-y, anthemic sound that held onto their history as a band without living in it.
The band delivered a vivacious set that took into account their almost 10-year career, showcasing how much they’ve evolved since their formation in the late aughts. They opened with “Fast Forward” off last year’s VI, jumped right into “Lived a Lie”, and then played surprisingly played “Reckless” and “Loverboy” back to back—two cuts from Sinners Never Sleep. The drunken na-na-nas of “Loverboy” filled the room as they prepared to strike the groove, and in that moment, it felt as if no time had passed between then and one of the shows on the Sinners Never Sleep tour.
As much as I loved hearing these old songs and reminiscing, I found myself more interested in hearing the newer, more dance-driven songs that they’ve put out during my time away. The band sidestepped their way out of the late aughts’ burgeoning emphasis on pop-punk and emo with flare and grace, holding onto their shadowy edges while also embracing a sound more focused on having a good time rather than ruminating on teenage woes. Songs like “Back Again” off VI are effortlessly infectious, making me want to tap my foot at the mere suggestion of the beat.
Most of their set focused on VI, using the album’s slick synth grooves and sharp beats to get the crowd moving. But during their encore, they kicked into a raucous performance of “No One Does It Better”, resurrecting some of the angst and sweeping sense of romanticism that made me fall for them when I was younger. And without fail, they closed with “Underdog”. Towards the end of the song, Franceschi dove off the stage and .crowd surfed his way to the bar, where he triumphantly took a sip of a beer as the last guitar chord struck.
It had been a long time since I’d seen You Me At Six. So long, that I don’t know who changed more: me or them. All I know is that despite all the years, seeing them again re-ignited the same spark that I saw dance in front of my eyes when I was sixteen, from the crowd at their shows. You Me At Six may not be as angry as they were then, and their new songs may be more appropriate for dancing than they are moshing to, but that’s okay. They’ve evolved seamlessly, embodying the same ethos of youth, but with a tendency to look forwards rather than backwards. I like to think I’ve done the same.