Photos by Bobby Lilly
Think back to your first concert. Odds are it was a grand production; you waited in line to buy tickets, and spent hours choosing the perfect outfit. Maybe you caught a ride with an older friend, maybe you got dropped off by your mom, maybe you had the cool parent who bought a ticket and hung out on the other side of the venue until the show was over. Regardless of logistics, it was exhilarating. That’s the atmosphere clouding the air at Wonder Ballroom tonight. As soon as the doors open, dozens of teenagers race inside. Most are wearing head-to-toe neon, though some have opted for gold lamé spandex ensembles instead. It’s like American Apparel threw up in here. Several kids have homemade costumes and t-shirts bearing the band’s name. To the right, the 21+ corral is largely empty. Most attendees aren’t old enough to drive, let alone suck down overpriced beers. They’re here for the party known as Wallpaper.
Wallpaper. belongs to a sub-genre that can also claim Ke$ha and LMFAO. It’s a glitter-drenched, balls-out, indulgence-heavy mash-up of hip-hop and dance pop firmly rooted in #YOLO philosophy. It’s the embodiment of current youth culture – the band’s big break happened when one of their odes to drinking and partying was featured on Jersey Shore. With all that in mind, it’s easy to assume this night will be a tedious affair, an exercise in “you damn kids, get off my lawn.” Wrong.
By the time the lights go down, the room is already jammed with earnest fans. The band’s three translucent drum kits (one standing, two traditional) are illuminated in neon pastels as frontman Ricky Reed jumps out to greet us, trademark shades and porkpie hat in full effect. He’s joined by bandmate Novena Carmel as “Puke My Brains Out” begins. For all of the band’s exaggerated party scene shtick, they put on a pretty visually engaging show. They also uncannily resemble their cartoon selves from the video featured on Liquid Television. Both Ricky and Novena have incredible energy, jumping and dancing throughout the performance. The focused crowd loves them and is a writhing mass of neon bodies by the time the second song begins. Even the microphoneless drummers, clad in matching white denim jackets, are singing their guts out.
When she’s not playing the keytar, Novena skips across the stage to high-five anyone who can reach her. The bass makes the room pulse, and the sound is unusually polished for the venue. Ricky asks how many people have seen Wallpaper. before, and a sizable number of people have. He thanks us sincerely for supporting the band, as well as other independent artists, before picking up an electric ukulele and diving into “Okay.” He and his bandmates are particularly animated on this final night of their tour. They are committed to excellence no matter how goofy their songs can be. The band has been working on a new album for the last year, and tests a few songs on the willing audience. One of these, “Good for it,” is dedicated to “anyone who’s eating ibuprofen for breakfast.” Though that may not apply to the young kids in the all-ages area, the handful of adults in the room have a chuckle.
The real party jam of the evening, though, is “Last Call,” which is so explosively fun that it should skyrocket Wallpaper. to widespread recognition if there’s any justice in the world. Everyone is dancing and jumping, hands in the air, lost in the house party atmosphere as if their parents could bust in and turn the lights on any second. Just as the collective energy reaches its peak, the band’s allotted time is coming to an end. “FUCKING BEST SONG EVERRR,” the celebratory ode to best friendship, is Wallpaper.’s penultimate song. Since many people are here with their best friends, the venue erupts into a sing-along. Once it’s over, Ricky asks the Wonder to bring the house lights up so he and the rest of the band can have a family photo with the audience. It’s adorable, endearing, and real.
#STUPiDFACEDD, about getting blackout wasted on gross college alcoholic concoctions like Four Loko plus SoCo, is the band’s final song. It’s the one that initiated their notoriety, and the song with which this audience is most familiar. People gleefully participate in the call-and-response of “when I say ‘awkward’ you say ‘silence,’” even if it’s supposed to be a joke. Novena jumps onto Ricky’s back as the song ends. Both are grinning. Though some could dismiss Wallpaper. as a silly novelty act, they’ve been engaging, humble, and thoroughly fun.