Pop of the charts

Charming former chart-toppers come in second to local rock stars

Hellogoodbye frontman Forrest Kline works the college crowd at Chico State.

Hellogoodbye frontman Forrest Kline works the college crowd at Chico State.

PHOTO by howard hardee

Hellogoodbye, Surrogate and Wanderers & Wolves, Thursday, Oct. 16, BMU Auditorium, Chico State.

When I first heard Hellogoodbye’s 2006 single “Here (In Your Arms),” I was 18 years old and unimpressed. I can’t remember where I was or who I was with, but I definitely made snide remarks along the lines of, “This is lame.”

Even if you don’t recognize the title, you very likely know the song. Top-40 radio stations were playing it in heavy rotation for months, and it was eventually certified platinum. It starts with frontman Forrest Kline delivering these lyrics in nauseatingly emotive fashion: “I like where we are/ When we drive, in your car/ I like where we are, here.” Then the chorus kicks in, and it involves Cher-style autotune. Enough said.

Given my previously sour attitude, heading out to Hellogoodbye’s show at Chico State’s BMU Auditorium last Thursday (Oct. 16) night was an exercise in open-mindedness and suppressing my inner dismissive 18-year-old. I’m glad I didn’t write them off, because Kline has ditched the hyper-angsty affectation—for the most part—and the four-piece out of Huntington Beach ran through a set much more in line with synthesizer-driven indie rock than the throwaway pop/dance music for which they became known, and I ended up warming up to them. (Please don’t tell anyone.)

Thing is, one of the opening acts—local indie rock outfit Surrogate—did something similar, only much better. Kline and Surrogate’s frontman, Chris Keene, share vocal qualities; both have a thin, slivery timbre that embeds pop hooks in one’s brain for weeks (and there were hooks aplenty in both cases). But Surrogate stole the show on a number of levels: Their tender moments were more melodic, dynamic shifts in volume more dramatic, and they were more badass by an order of magnitude.

For a bit of context, the BMU’s massive auditorium was nowhere near capacity. Perhaps 100 to 125 people, most of them female college students, were in attendance, and that makes sense—not only was the concert on campus and hosted by the Associated Students’ new Associated Productions program (replacing the old A.S. Presents/A.S. Live programs three years after they disappeared), but those young concertgoers are of the age for “Here (In Your Arms)” to elicit nostalgia for their elementary and middle-school days.

The opening act was Wanderers & Wolves, a local rock trio cut from the White Stripes/Black Keys cloth. In fact, a medley at the end of their set included a cover of the Keys’ “I Got Mine,” and it didn’t seem at all out of place. Frontman and bassist Gabe Reyes has a powerful, classic rock voice and the three-piece was tight, but their sound suffered from mixing issues. The low tones were muddy and overbearing, while the vocals, at their loudest, were piercing. It was unfortunate, but I’ve seen them play elsewhere in town, so I know they can sound much sharper.

Surrogate followed the openers with a set mostly drawing from their 2013 album, Post-Heroic, with highlights including the album’s anthemic title track and the gloriously noisy “Blank Page.” It was beautiful rock—bass and guitar stomping as one, cymbals crashing, and melodies always rising to the top.

Hellogoodbye took the stage, and it became apparent why this band is popular with girls and young women; the gangly, bespectacled Kline has a bit of a dorky heartthrob thing going on. And he played it up—he made charming comments between songs, twirled around on stage, and was generally adorable. (Somewhere inside, 18-year-old me was suffering horribly.)

Kline and his bandmates did have a fun energy while they played music almost entirely of the foot-tapping, feel-good variety and shared laughs with the audience. Overall, Hellogoodbye is a fairly enjoyable if typical indie band that happens to have a huge, chart-topping single to its credit.

But I still think that song sucks.