Nella Vita. In life.
In life, there are incredible moments and moments we’d rather forget, there are moments that slip by us without notice and moments we make sure to document so they’re locked away in our hearts and minds. Sometimes, though, you experience moments so impactful that they effortlessly remain with you forever, never forgetting a single detail. On Saturday, in Philadelphia, one of those moments occurred in a very big way.
It’s 2pm and South Street is unsurprisingly busy. There’s a line beginning to form to the right of the venue. Let the “uh what are you waiting for” comments roll in for the next three hours until VIP, four hours until general entrance. After a month-long tour around North America, Grayscale has come to the Theater of Living Arts in their hometown for the final sold-out show of The Nella Vita Tour and everyone wants to be against that front barricade. There’s a mix-up on the marquee and a TLA employee has to climb up to fix it; doors are at 6pm, not 7pm. With every minute that passes and every person who joins the line, the anticipation grows. Orange VIP wristbands begin to find their way onto wrists.
Time seems to be moving faster than anyone can comprehend. This moment everyone has been counting down to for months is barreling closer and closer. It’s exciting and overwhelming and a little bittersweet, but this is what happiness feels like. This is what being alive feels like.
It’s 4pm and VIP has been separated from general entry. Emotions are running high as a few people run into issues with their tickets and find themselves panicking at the possibility of not being able to attend this show, but don’t worry. Grayscale’s team and the TLA work seamlessly together to ensure everyone who bought a ticket gets into the venue. Just one of the many things done that night that set them apart.
Five stools stand at the front of the venue, boxes of Dunkin Donuts have found their home on the counter of the bar area, customized blue Champion backpacks with VIP lanyards are arranged on the floor. Fans are meant to locate theirs, enjoy a donut, and take a seat. A small q&a begins with Philly-themed questions before spiraling: favorite place for a cheesesteak? What’s your go-to WaWa order? Pat’s or Geno’s? Neither, they’re tourist traps… Pat’s. Which cartoon character do you most identify with? I think we need to have a discussion on what classifies something as a cartoon. If you weren’t musicians, what was your back-up plan? If you could create you dream tour line-up that you’re on, who else would be on it? Grayscale would headline… The Beatles would open... and they wouldn’t get a greenroom.
The festivities continue with a group signing of the head of Nick Veno’s kick drum, this is routine during their VIP hangouts, but the head was saved specifically for Philadelphia. Games of cornhole, heads-up, and kan jam are now taking place. Jordan Mizrahi (creative director) is nonstop around the room, capturing every minute. Collin Walsh is deep in a game of kan jam and honestly, he’s not the best at it. The frisbee regularly crashes to the floor, bouncing into fans or other members of the band. A few sassy comments are exchanged and it’s advised to “stay out of the splash zone” so he can play as recklessly as he wants without injuring anyone. Abruptly, the games come to an end and it’s time for a group photo. Everyone packs in tight, say cheese, and just like that another portion of the night has come to an end.
General admission starts filing in; there’s an hour until the first band takes the stage. It’s not long before the 1,000 capacity venue begins to fill and it’s immediately obvious that maybe this place needs to find a better area to have bands set up their merch tables. Excited chatter floats into the air. Everyone is nervous. Grayscale’s current merch guy, Sterling, explains it as a venue-wide acknowledgment of how special the night is going to be. The energy is already undeniable and nobody has even made their way onto stage yet.
7pm rolls around and the house lights fall down, signaling the official beginning of an unforgettable night. Rich People takes the stage with a warm welcome for the introspective alternative band. Not quite hometown for them, but close enough, friends and family of theirs are scattered through the crowd. Pat Miranda (Movements) crowd surfs during their set and almost becomes victim to a crowd that’s still trying to fill in as he slips from the grasp of those below him. Doing their job effectively, Rich People generates more excitement towards the end of their run as they change-up their setlist by ending with “Obscure” instead of “White Mark,” like they did the rest of the tour. By this point, maneuvering through the crowd has become a difficult feat.
Up next are Canadian-natives, Bearings, then born and bred in Chicago, a band called Belmont. We’re rocking through this line-up faster than it seems possible. Bearings is fresh-faced and fun, taking over the stage and getting the crowd moving to their updated setlist that features “Petrichor,” a fan favorite that doesn’t usually make it to their live shows. Belmont brought the yeehaw to central PA with their colorful cowboy hats. With a sound that sits slightly heavier than the other bands on the bill, these guys are the perfect display of why GA shows are so great. With crowd surfing nonstop and moshing and circle pits, Philadelphia came to be reckless and honestly, it’s great. It’s time to give it up to the bands before them and finally get hyped for Grayscale as Belmont announces their last song of the night.
And suddenly, there’s a shift in the room. The second Belmont exits the stage, the room packs in tighter than seemingly possible. The TLA’s capacity is 1,000 but the show tonight has been oversold. This is it. Years of basement shows and thirty-minute opening sets have led to this. You can feel the pride radiating from every single person in the room: family, friends, fans. Nerves and excitement fill the room thicker than the fog that’s falling from the stage. The pre-show playlist cuts off and a hush falls over the crowd as the house lights dim down for the final set of the night. This is it. Ears are already ringing. Purple lighting floods the stage as a fun little trap beat takes over. One-by-one — Andrew Kyne (guitar), Nick Veno (drums), Nick Ventimiglia (bass), and Dallas Molster (guitar, vocals) — the guys in Grayscale file onto the stage and take their respective places. When they look out into the crowd, they’re met with “welcome home” signs as far as the eye can see. This is it. The beat cuts off as Collin Walsh (lead vocals) enters the stage and they immediately launch into “In Violet,” which acted as the lead single from their new record Nella Vita.
It’s nonstop from there. These Philly rockers are known for their hard-hitting setlists that don’t leave a moment for rest. A perfect blend of old songs and new, a killer lighting display, and a more-than-responsive crowd. The floor shakes from the sheer volume of the music and the movement of the 1,000+ people as Walsh calls out, “This one’s called Mum, motherfuckers” and signals for the crowd to open up. It’s pure chaos. Angst and happiness mixing together as the perfect cocktail for a night like this. It rolls into “YOUNG,” which is an inspirational call to do better and be better. It feels hopeful and uplifting and leaves a warmth in your chest. Nothing really beats yelling lyrics like that while surrounded by so many other people who need this music just as much as you do.
We’re halfway through Grayscale’s set and an acoustic guitar makes an appearance, which means we may finally be getting a break. There’s a joke tossed around the stage about how the night is still young and everyone should have energy to spare, but there’s definitely a collective gasp for oxygen occurring. There never seems to be enough air in these rooms, but you don’t notice until the set slows down and suddenly exhaustion sets in. A beautiful chorus of voices echoes off the walls during “Forever Yours” and it’s a reminder of what home is supposed to feel like: safety and comfort and warmth. So much warmth. Happiness. The emotions are overwhelming and it’s hard to think there’s anywhere better in this world to be.
“Old Friends,” “Just Right,” “Slipping Away,” song after song, and somehow the show is getting rowdier. It’s obvious the guys have so much love for what they do as they look from each other to the crowd and exchange smiles. Nothing compares to the energy of the last three songs. One last push, one last chance to give this show and this moment all that’s left. A cry for help, to hang onto life and live for those small moments. Anger and pain, a desperate plea for moving on or hope for something better one day. The need for something more, to get away from a stagnant life. Messages that resonate in one way or another. Person after person soaring over the crowd. The security, while beyond excellent at their job, are struggling to keep up.
There’s a crowd surge and if you thought you had no personal space before, think again. How many more people can be packed into this venue before the walls start to crumble around us? Fire codes are definitely being tested. And then it’s the final song and you’re trying to soak up every single note, every thud of a crowd surfer’s foot to the back of your head, every pulse of the kick drum against your chest. How is this the last song? This is it. Look around. Everyone is soaking this in, grasping to the last moments of Grayscale’s final show of their first headlining tour. It’s one of those things you hope to never forget. Run to Atlantic, away from this home. And that’s it. The final notes come crashing down, the stage lights fade out and the band exits from the stage.
You think that’s it anyways, but the house lights aren’t turning back on. No one in the crowd dares to move. A mix of “E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES” and “ANDREW KYNE” and “GRAYSCALE” bounce off each other in the darkness. The stage lights come back on. Grayscale has prepared a hometown encore.
Collin Walsh enters stage right, “This song’s for my friend Tom,” and that familiar hush falls back over the room before the sound of a piano replaces that of the crowd. “I’m gonna need your help,” barely falls from Walsh’s lips and there’s already tears being shed within the crowd. Surrounded by family, friends, and fans in their hometown of Philadelphia, Grayscale performs the live debut of their gospel ballad (and final track of Nella Vita) “Tommy’s Song” — an emotional tribute to the singer’s cousin who took his own life last year.
Stunning blue and white lights flood the stage and Walsh remains alone as he squeezes his eyes shut and begins the heartbreakingly beautiful first verse. Every breath, every bit of pain, every last little bit of hurt echoes throughout and there’s not a single person who isn’t hurting right along with him. It’s a moment that only becomes more overwhelming as Walsh breaks down from the weight of the lyrics. The crowd takes over and not a dry eye remains as he takes a breath before powering through the chorus. A gospel choir makes their way to the stage, followed by the rest of the band. Watching the transition from being in pain and alone to being surrounded by loved ones during a time of grief provides a poetic display.
“Philly, I need you now more than ever,” Collin pleads and the song finishes with a powerful harmony of voices: band, choir, crowd. It’s a reminder that we’re never truly alone, in anything we go through. As the last few words of the song fall away, silence comes over the 1,000+ people, the only sound remaining is the gospel choir as the five-piece band meets at the front of the stage, looking physically and emotionally drained. Rightfully so. They join hands and bow. The crowd erupts with cheers and screams and an outpouring of love. Hugs are exchanged. Ears are ringing. The show is over. This is one that those in the crowd and those within the band won’t soon forget.
Nella Vita. In Life.
Every now and then, there are moments in life that you stumble upon that are so unique and perfect that you don’t need any help recalling their details. The emotions are so strong that a simple smell or song from within the moment brings back that ache in your chest. It reminds you of the ringing within your ears and the shaking of your hands from the pure adrenaline coursing through your veins. Grayscale’s hometown show of The Nella Vita tour is that and so much more.