Publication date: October 1, 2015.
Center-City Reading was anything but quiet on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Berks County residents of all ages gathered together on the 500 block of Penn Street to see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform a free show as part of the “Downtown Alive” concert series. Striking Matches performed the first concert on Aug. 5, and Gin Blossoms will perform the third on Oct. 23.
“Downtown Alive” features food trucks, beer stands, and live music by nationally-touring acts. The Berks County Community Foundation of Reading (BCCF) organized the series of three free mini music festivals in an effort to regain the liveliness that the city once thrived on.
BCCF president Kevin Murphy said, “Our city has become run-down. The property owners of downtown Reading just want to improve it by bringing back events like this.”
If Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps Something Corporate or Jack’s Mannequin will. All three of these bands have something in common: Andrew McMahon.
McMahon started his rock band, Something Corporate, in high school and created a small-studio album entitled Ready…Break shortly after their formation in 1998. Something Corporate signed with MCA Records in 2001 and released their debut EP Audioboxer. Their first full album Leaving Through the Window in 2002 reached number 101 on the 2002 Billboard 200 list.
Something Corporate went on a hiatus in 2004, during which time McMahon created his rock project Jack’s Mannequin. McMahon felt that the sound was too different from that of Something Corporate, so he created a separate group.
The band signed with Maverick Records in 2005 to release their album Everything in Transit, number 37 on the Billboard 200 list. Jack’s Mannequin continued on to release two more albums: The Glass Passenger (2008) and People and Things (2011). In 2012, Jack’s Mannequin announced that they would be performing their last show.
McMahon became a solo act for a few years before forming his current Indie music project, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. 2014 brought his first single under the new name, “Cecelia and the Satellite.”
He toured with Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw later in the year to prepare for the release of his LP Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness.
Wednesday’s concert acted as a reunion for McMahon’s fans dating back to his Something Corporate days. Penn Street’s 500 block was entirely closed off as the area filled with music-lovers facing the stage in the center.
McMahon and his band entered the stage at 6:30 p.m., sending roars through the crowd. He said, “We’re gonna play some new music tonight and relive some old music too,” as he took his seat in front of the piano.
McMahon’s energy reverberated throughout the festival as Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness performed a mixture of fast-paced songs and ballads. Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin fans alike sang along while he sang some of his older music, including “Dark Blue” and “Mixtape.”
McMahon slowed things down a bit when he played Wilderness’s song “See Her on the Weekend”, dedicated to his wife. He explained the song’s story: “There was a time when my wife was pregnant, and I was trying to keep in touch with music while at the same time being a good father-to-be.”
The concert ended with an encore as balloons full of confetti were popped and beach balls were thrown over the heads of the audience members.
Downtown Alive’s sophomore festival had finished successfully. The whole night was a testament to the power that music has to bring people together.