Is Paramore The Future of the Music Business?

With a successful CD and sold-out national tour, Paramore is the band of the moment. Their only area show attracted minivans brimming with teenaged girls and their wary chaperones, all prepared to stand in line for hours in subfreezing weather for the best seats. 

Most everyone went home happy, as the band played a solid set of punk-influenced pop-rock.   If Paramore is to become more than a TRL flavor du jour, their Worcester Palladium show Saturday proved a good start. 

Though unused to headlining (it’s their first time out topping the bill), lead singer Haley Williams and her mates were more than comfortable in the spotlight.  Their material doesn’t break much new ground, mainly contemplating love – lost (show opener “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic”), found (“Born for This”) or stolen (“Misery Business”).

Plenty of things set Paramore apart from the emo band crowd, however.  They write clever, dagger-sharp lyrics, as when the boyfriend thief in “Misery Business” snarls “I’ve got a body like an hourglass/ticking like a clock,” then claims humbly she “never meant to brag.”  They mix it up musically, too.  “Let the Flames Begin” was a particular highlight, featuring deft key changes and furious guitar solos. 

More than that, they took the stage with a professionalism that could have worked as well in a hockey rink as it did in the dilapidated former movie house.  Flanked onstage by oversized lithographs, with a jumbo screen above them punctuating their set like an MTV video back in the day, Paramore was both visually arresting and musically challenging.  It’s easy to imagine them on the same arc as No Doubt and Evanescence, two other female-fronted bands that made the move from the bars to the big houses.

Lead singer Hayley Williams is a seasoned performer at the mere age of 17; she bantered easily with the audience, and made acrobatic stage moves. It’s worth noting just how well behaved the crowd was.  Burly security guards at the edge of the stage picked up crowd-surfing fans and set them down gently, like they were stacking boxes of dishes at Target.  The whole experience was safe enough to ease parental worries.  The show’s sponsor, Helio, was more than likely gratified to see hundreds of glowing cell phone screens, as Mom and Dad sent and received text messages from their moppets in the front rows. 

Paramore pulled off a difficult balancing act. They’re not as daring as Fall Out Boy or the Disturbed, but they’re definitely not Disney material either.  With any luck (and Hayley Williams’ not-inconsiderable charm), their fans will grow up with them. 

One had the sense that Saturday’s crowd hadn’t been to very many shows by other bands.  Paramore is indicative of a trend in the business.  Niche performers court fans by putting together competitively-priced package tours with other like-minded bands.   

Saturday’s show featured two such groups, though they were unfortunately victimized by a bad sound mix.

Most of their vocals were drowned in a wall-of-guitar sonic fury.   The Almost showed the most promise – Kenny Bozich’s drumming was quite impressive – but neither his band nor the Starting Line managed to rise above the noise. 

Many in the audience, however, were obviously in tune with both opening acts, singing along to songs they’d heard online (the Almost claims over ten million MySpace plays alone) and buying t-shirts and CDs at the break.  They may have come to see Paramore, but they paid attention to everything going on at the concert.

That’s in direct contrast to most arena shows, where whatever happens before the headliner is lost in the din of ushers and beer vendors.  Such nights are always about the headliner.

It was reminiscent of a time when casual fans went to more than one or two shows a year.  Outlets like OzzFest and the Vans Warped Tour (which gave Paramore their first big national boost), are spawning hundreds of shows at places like the Palladium, Higher Ground in Burlington and Mark’s Showplace in Bedford.   

Good music at a fair price – if this is the future of the music business, then it’s definitely encouraging.