Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Brings Zombies in America to the Pabst

IMG_0484photo courtesy of Kelsea McCulloch / Pabst Theater Group

On Wednesday, March 22nd, Andrew McMahon returned to Milwaukee at The Pabst on his Zombies in America tour. Accompanied by Atlas Genius and Night Riots, it was an emotional, colorful, and alt-rock fused event that won’t soon be forgotten.

The night was kicked off by California-born Night Riots, whose raw lyrics and powerful, rock-infused sound got the crowd excited and hungry for more. With a tone similar to what one would imagine a lovechild of 80’s alternative and modern day rock, the five-piece performed a 6 song set, with fan favorites “Nothing Personal” and “Breaking Free” keeping the audience moving. They also had a drum-off of sorts, as the room went black and the only light came from light up, neon drumsticks on two small snares, as well as the drummer himself playing along to the beat on his own. Their latest album, Love Gloom, as well as slightly older music, can all be found on their Spotify here.

The second opener, Atlas Genius, were welcomed with building cheers and enthusiasm that seemed to grow throughout their 10-song performance. A major highlight would’ve had to be their iconic cover of “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, originally by iconic British band Dead or Alive. Though the band is native to Adelaide, Southern Australia, they were no strangers to Milwaukee. Two past performances at Summerfest (2013 and 2015) have helped to nurture an already-thriving fan base here in the city. With a renowned indie-rock sound and famous singles such as “Trojans” and “If So”, there’s no doubt as to why they’re a returning favorite. You can check them out yourself here on their iTunes page.

Finally, the night had reached the time for Andrew McMahon. With a red neon sign at the back of the stage reading ‘WILDERNESS’ the lights grew dim and he stepped out and behind his piano to thunderous cheers. He began with the familiar hit ‘Fire Escape’ , as the room sang along.  A few songs later, he introduced “Walking In My Sleep” by noting “This song is about having someone far away… that you’d rather were much closer.”, bringing out emotions throughout the venue. Despite being the single performer as well as lone vocalist and piano player, his presence commanded attention and completely captured the crowd through the 20-song set.IMG_0473.JPGphoto courtesy of Kelsea McCulloch / Pabst Theater Group

Though much of the show included music from his two solo albums (Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, 2014 and Zombies on Broadway, 2016), he also performed songs from his earlier projects, including “Dark Blue” , “Swim”, and “La La Lie” by Jack’s Mannequin (2004-2012) and a powerful rendition of “I Woke Up In A Car” by Something Corporate (1998-2006). A cover of Empire of the Sun’s hit “Walking On a Dream” even made the set, surprising the room and inviting many to sing along.

Other iconic moments of the performance included crowd participation, as he rode through the audience on an inflatable duck and tossed a rainbow parachute out during “Synesthesia”. Near the end of the show, Andrew even shared a touching story about his battle with acute leukemia in 2005, around the same time he completed the Jack’s Mannequin album Everything in Transit. He revealed that his sister, Katie, matched with him as a bone marrow donor and thus allowed him to get the transplant that ultimately saved his life. Since then, he has founded the nonprofit organization The Dear Jack Foundation in order to fund cancer research for young adults. Each show, he encourages the crowd to register at a table for the organization that is usually setup somewhere within the venue, and has raised well over half a million dollars since its establishment. More information about the organization can be found here, and Andrew’s music can be streamed here through his itunes page.

Overall, the night was filled with dancing, emotion, and a uniquely passionate performance that keeps Milwaukee hungry for its favorite artists to return again and again (who knows, we may see Andrew McMahon at Summerfest in a few months, as he dropped a vague hint mid-set that he’d be playing a ‘Summer festival’ in the surrounding area).

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