OAKLAND — In the last stretch of his Upside Down Flowers tour, Andrew McMahon went all out to bring summertime early to the Fox Theater on Thursday. Palm trees, parasols, giant lit-up carnations and lifeguard signs covered the stage as his band appeared with nautical gear, unfolding a poolside scene. The former Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin frontman, now creating music as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, rolled out on his baby grand, clearly in his natural habitat.
The group opened with “Everything Must Go,” off Upside Down Flowers, McMahon’s retro-esque pool party-inspired 2019 album. He explained that he’s held the poolside concept close to his heart for a long time and that it felt special to finally bring this tour to his home state. “High Dive” off the 2014 self-titled and “The Mixed Tape” from 2005 Jack’s Mannequin staple Everything in Transit, followed.
Between songs, McMahon brought up his earliest memory of the Fox Theater from touring with the band fun. in 2013. James Hetfield of Metallica had been side-stage watching the show, which made for a lot of unintentional eye contact during McMahon’s set.
“It didn’t stop me from accosting him as I walked out the door!” McMahon said, geeking out over the moment. “That was my first memory of the Fox Theater, but now we’re back to make new ones!”
The set continued with a mix of songs from all of McMahon’s catalogs. McMahon took “Holiday From Real,” another Everything In Transit favorite, slow and steady on the piano. Guitarist Bob Oxblood, bassist Mikey Wagner, keyboardist Zac Clark and drummer Jay McMillan then joined in, bringing the song’s buoyant energy to maximum effect.
For “Island Radio,” from 2017’s Zombies On Broadway, McMahon tossed a blue tarp across the crowd, which fans waved like rolling tides. He then dedicated fiesty Something Corporate track “Punk Rock Princess” to fans who grew up at punk concerts. Later, a supercharged performance of “Dark Blue,” the platinum Everything In Transit single, brought the crowd to a massive singalong.
As each fan favorite was revisited, it was inevitable that fans would request nearly 10-minutes-long Something Corporate tearjerker “Konstantine.” McMahon teased the crowd with the idea of a 45-minute rendition, but settled for a minute-long snippet. He switched from playing “Konstantine” to an acoustic version of “Watch The Sky,” a B-side from Something Corporate’s North.
McMahon also broke into a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” “Teenage Rockstars” and “I Woke Up In A Car.” A three-song encore rounded out the night, consisting of “Synesthesia,” “MFEO Pt 1 Made For Each Other / Pt 2 You Can Breathe,” and the heartwarming “Cecilia And The Satellite.”
Flor. preceded Andrew McMahon, opening with the high-spirited “get behind this” (all of the band’s songs are stylized in lowercase). With lead vocalist Zach Grace on synths mixed with a hyperkinetic rhythm by guitarist McKinley Kitts, bassist Dylan Bauld and drummer Kyle Hill. The Oregon band then launched into a celestial soundscape. Flor. followed with “where do you go” and “restless soul,” their upbeat energy continuing to shine through.
On new track “slow motion,” released earlier this month, flor. dialed back from its initial pace and tapped into an easygoing groove. Its cool and collected flow felt completely in sync with Grace’s sincere singing style—soft, expressive and hypnotic all at once. Against flor.’s more energized songs, which featured an occasional breakdown or distorted riffage (“rely” and “warm blood”), Grace’s vocals created a striking contrast that took the band’s indie-pop-meets-electronic sound to an ethereal level.
The quartet closed its set with popular cut “hold on.” With its heavy drums, lush synths and lovestruck lyrics, the song had an obvious feel-good effect on fans, who swayed and waved their hands along.
Grizfolk kicked off the show with a set of hearty alternative rock. Playing “Into the Barrens” first, the Los Angeles quintet fused massive riffage and propulsive drums with lyrics about finding comfort in solitude. This energy, on top of the band’s charisma, casted an exhilarating backdrop for the evening, getting the crowd into the groove early on.
As the set continued, Grizfolk unraveled the versatility of its rock and roll sound. “Troublemaker” channeled elements of grunge through distorted guitar riffs and disheveled attitude, while “Shaky in the Knees” took on a jukebox blues aesthetic. The band ultimately closed with “Hymnals,” bringing things back an upbeat state.