an evening in hell with hunny

september 29th, 2018 – hunny and the frights @ the masquerade (hell)

Well, I found myself back in Hell for the second time in September. The Masquerade has quickly become my most-visited venue since I started to shed the fear of going to shows alone and made a promise to myself that I would start making the roadtrip to see smaller artists that I love. Atlanta is about three hours away from me here in Tuscaloosa, but I make the six hour round trip upwards of 3+ times a month because these shows help me keep my head above water. I’ve never regretted traveling to a show, only that I didn’t make the drive for one. Even if the band I’m going to see is only going to play a thirty minute set– which was the case when I made the decision to go see Hunny open for The Frights. So, last Friday I made some coffee in my apartment complex’s lobby, and I set off once again for Hell.

Hunny has been heavily circulated in my music library since 2015 when my friend Paige introduced me to their first EP, Pain/Ache/Loving. Over three years later, the band has two more EPs released– Windows I and Windows II— and just recently signed to Epitath Records. Originally from California, the (now) four piece band has been touring seemingly non-stop since debuting their first single, “Cry for Me,” going on the road with bands like Bad Suns and The Neighbourhood as openers.

The boys began the year with their own headlining tour, at which I finally was able to go see them at in the neighboring room at the Masquerade, called Purgatory (pictures of which you can find here). That show still remains one of my favorites I’ve ever been to, on account of the performance and the time I was able to spend with the band after. I had exchanged pleasantries with Jake Goldstein (Guitar) before the show when he took a cigarette break outside the venue, and when I came up to him and Jason Yarger (Vocals) after their set, he sweetly apologized for being awkward and/or in a rush when we spoke earlier. I probably spent five minutes talking to the two of them about how long I’d been listening to them, Paige’s tattoo she had just gotten with their logo, getting their signatures on the setlist, and taking pictures. Kevin (Guitar/Keys) and I had a short chat, having met before when he was acting as a touring member of Wallows, and I got a quick hello in to Joey (Drums) before security insisted everyone clear the venue. I left the venue with Jason’s announcement that new music would be coming soon in mind, and a few weeks later, the band dropped Windows II— no longer as independent artists.

To kick off their new partnership, Hunny has spent the past few weeks touring with Hot Flash Heat Wave and fellow Epitath act, The Frights. Sandwiched between the more indie surf(ish?) flow of Hot Flash and the garage/alt/”dirty doo wap” rock of The Frights, Hunny was responsible for the crescendo of energy that the crowd needed before the main act. After trying to tune their instruments in coordination with the sound operator, Jason looked down at the audience and asked if they should just go for it. Met with anxious cheers from the crowd, no time was wasted as the lights dropped and the boys propelled into their first song (which, if I remember correctly, was “Shy”).

One thing you will never be while watching a Hunny set is bored. Downtime between songs is non-existant; even when Jason had to tie his shoe, the three boys behind him plucked at their instruments, improvising a tune to erase any possibility of silence. It seems even though they’ve been living on the road, they’re continuously writing– proven by the unreleased song they performed about half way through the set. Kevin and Jason both supply vocals during a chorus that boasts lyrics like “Every time she changes her lipstick” and “She said that it’s everything, everything, everything to me.” Sounding most like it belongs on their newest EP, the new track showcases just how good Hunny is at somehow making experimental pop sound… punk?

“Parking Lot” was another stand-out moment of the set as Jake, Kevin, and Joey stepped back so Jason could lead a stripped down version of the song from their first (and arguably most punk-influenced) EP. Vulnerable was never a word I thought to use to describe the group’s sound, but with the drop of Windows II came their first acoustic studio release in “Your Love Song, Pt 1.” Without drums and bass, the clarity of Jason’s vocals shines through even stronger than normal. Unlike the rest of the set, where dramatics and theatrics rule, moments like these where an artist exposes themselves as a stand-alone talent forges a strong connection between them and the audience.

That’s absolutely not to say I dislike the over-the-top eccentricity of the rest of a Hunny performance. There is something so infectious about the energy this group of best friends brings to a stage. They refuse to take themselves too seriously, goofing around with each other and frequently breaking into laughter mid-song. Every constructed barrier between the band and the audience is broken down, whether it’s from the sincerity in which Kevin steps forward after every round of applause to say thank you, or Jason’s insistence on heavy crowd interaction. And I mean Heavy Crowd Interaction.

“Televised” has become Hunny’s signature closing song, having been a fan favorite from Windows I. Corded microphone in hand, Jason jumped off the stage and onto the barricade, scaling it from side to side, not missing a beat. Leading into the chorus, he and I grabbed each other’s hands as we both prepared for what we knew was coming– his leap over the barrier and into the crowd. A huge smile was plastered on both of our faces as he climbed in beside me, bringing his microphone with him. He led the group around him to join in chanting the closing repetitions “‘Cause she’s so bright,” jumping and laughing like he was just another member of the crowd.

I was debating whether or not to stay at the barricade for The Frights when I heard a boy behind me talking about how excited he was to finally see them. I was already sweaty, needed to get merch, and had seen the main reason I’d come so I let him take my spot (which, after the show he thanked me profusely for and showed me how he’d gotten a pic from one of the guitarists). Meeting up with my friend Chelsie (shoutout Bad Attitude Media!!!) in the balcony, I got to see for the first time just how stupid everyone in a pit looks from above (I mean, I knew but I didn’t know… you know?).

After an encore from The Frights, complete with those inflatable tube men you see outside of car dealerships, I meandered back down to Hunny’s merch table to see if any of them had come out. I saw that Kevin was taking pictures with fans and ventured over to say hi. While he was signing my lighter I introduced himself and he looked up at me and asked “Have I met you before?” to which I replied that I’d met him with Wallows and when they were in Purgatory. As we chatted (he spilled he might be back touring with Wallows in the next three months), he made sure he had my name right and before I left, sincerely told me how much me coming out to these shows means to them and how much they appreciate it. What a class act.

I’ve gone on enough, but my main lesson is: support small, growing bands. Go to their shows, talk to the members, buy their music. It’s not every day you find bands that are as humble and genuine as I’ve come to know the members of Hunny to be, and I’m beyond ecstatic to see what they have in store with Epitath.

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