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Rocking around the world

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December 12, 2017
Paramore-
Former Tennessee-based teenage exponents of pop-punk, Paramore have matured into one of the industry’s hardest working rock acts. After a two-year hiatus, Paramore is back on the road and venturing as far and wide as Montreal and Manila. Christopher Barrett reports.

Paramore has come a long way since guitarist Josh Farro and his drumming brother Zac met Hayley Williams and formed a band at their high school in Franklin, Tennessee, back in 2004.

Paramore has since won legions of avid fans around the world with their giant guitar hooks and the soaring soprano of Williams, whose lyrics voice hope, empathy and frustration in equal measure.

Based in the New York offices of United Talent Agency, Paramore’s North American agent Ken Fermaglich, who co-books the band with David Galea, has worked with Paramore since the early days.

“The band is constantly evolving and challenging themselves from a writing perspective, as well as a live performance standpoint. Hayley William is one of the best front-women in the game,” he says. “To watch them live … they are incendiary, a powerhouse.”

Ken-Fermaglich

Influenced by EMO acts such as Jimmy Eat World, Paramore’s 2005 debut album All We Know Is Falling blended emo-pop with slick, anthemic rock n roll and won Williams acclaim for her powerful vocals and songwriting.

The band’s breakthrough came in 2007 with the release of their second album Riot!, which went double platinum in the US and spawned the hit singles Crushcrushcrush, Misery Business and That’s What You Get.

The track Decode, from the soundtrack of 2008 film Twilight, was another major step up for the band. It became a worldwide hit, going platinum in the US and earning the band a Grammy nomination.

Paramore’s eponymous fourth album was released in 2013 and proved another huge success. It went to No 1 in the US and UK, secured them a co-headline slot at the UK’s Reading (cap, 90,000) and Leeds (80,000) festivals, and won them a Grammy for the single Ain’t It Fun.

The band’s commitment to powerful live performances has not only won them praise from fans and critics, but from their loyal team of professionals, many of whom have been on board since the band were teenagers.

“The Paramore team is truly incredible,” says Fermaglich. “Mark Mercado [Fly South Management] has been managing the band since the beginning and he is extremely passionate and skilled at what he does.”

It has not been the easiest of journeys for the band, with a series of line-up changes, bitter legal disputes and public spats along the way.

In May, Williams settled a lawsuit with former Paramore bassist Jeremy Davis, who had claimed his name had been removed from official writing credits and he was owed songwriter royalties.

Johnny-Phillips

In February, former drummer Zac Farro rejoined Paramore, having left on less than amicable terms in 2010. The line-up now consists of Farro, guitarist Taylor York and Williams.

In the UK, SJM Concerts’ Johnny Phillips has promoted Paramore since 2006 and says the band has worked itself to the top on the back of great performances and by building a strong and lasting relationship with fans.

“It has been an excellent experience, the band have an exceptional work ethic and since day one have consistently put on phenomenal performances. Hayley has real charisma — there are very few performers that can deliver songs with such passion and emotion,” he says.

The 2017 world tour kicked off on the band’s home turf at the 500-capacity Exit/In club in Nashville on 10 May. The show marked the band’s return to playing live after a two-year hiatus — the longest break in Paramore’s decade-long touring history.

Forward planning

The start of the tour was timed to coincide with the release of Paramore’s fifth album After Laughter – their first since 2013.

Mercado says the band has a clear long-term vision and is intimately involved in every aspect of the tour planning, including show production, the markets visited, venues sizes and timing.

“We started talking about this cycle and how we wanted to approach the next few years of touring back in August 2016,” he says.

Dominique-Revert

Tour manager Andrew Weiss says Zac Farro returned to the band full of creative energy.

“This tour is essentially designed around the projection elements created for the songs in the set list from After Laughter,” he explains. “When Zac rejoined the band he returned with a passion for experimentation with video projection, both on the set and on the band themselves, something he had previously done with Half Noise.

“So projection was the driving factor around all scenic and lighting this time.”

Weiss says Farro’s ideas inspired Williams and York to take a new look at how they present themselves visually onstage.

“They have taken their live show and added a whole new visual dimension on top of what has always been a really strong musical performance. The finished product is more sophisticated than anything they’ve tried in the past,” he says.

Overseeing the visual impact of the stage show has been lighting and production designer Butch Allen. The set is positioned at a 45-degree angle and features a spiral of lights that creates a central focus while projections shift the mood as the show progresses.

A key collaborator with Allen has been co-lighting director Chad Peters. He says that the inclusion of projections within the set design was a new step for Paramore.

“The band was very impressed with a show they saw in Nashville by the band Phoenix, so I tried to incorporate some of the aspects that they liked into this design. It’s a darker look, more backlit than on previous designs I’ve done for them but there are definite big light moments in the show,” he says.

Carlos-Asmaratas

SJM’s Phillips in the UK says that while the production plays an important role in creating a striking setting for the show, it’s the band’s performances that really mesmerise audiences.

“The Paramore live shows always have great lighting but the focus is on the band and their delivery,” he says.

“There are so many acts who use huge screens that detract attention from what the artistes are actually doing on stage, but with Paramore everything revolves around the performance.”

Among the highlights of the European leg of the tour was a triumphant return to the UK at London’s Royal Albert Hall (5,200) on 19 June.

The band played nearly 60 dates across Europe, North America and South America in 2017, with the 80-minute hit-heavy sets largely made up of songs from the new album and their hit singles.

As this feature was being written, Paramore’s international agent Geoff Meall, who is credited with the band’s rapid growth in the UK and Europe, was sadly unavailable to participate. As reported in the news pages, he is believed to be on the move from United Talent Agency to Coda Agency, but is on ‘gardening leave’ until 31 December.

Hurricane force

The second leg of the North American tour kicked off in Jacksonville, Florida, with a show at the Moran Theatre (3,000), just days before Hurricane Irma struck the State.

“We were building the show in Orlando, so getting this production put together with a hurricane strike imminent was a nail-biter,” says Weiss. “We got out of Florida right as Hurricane Irma struck. I’m a Florida native so I’m accustomed to dealing with them, but when you have a collection of band and crew from all over the country, a lot of folks haven’t dealt with a hurricane.

“For many of them, that was stress on top of the usual production stress.”

Paramore

Among the European dates was a sold-out 3,000-capacity show in the outdoor space alongside Austria’s Arena Wien (1,000) club, promoted by PSI2.

“Paramore has a huge following among a new generation of teenage girls who are into punk rock and want to see a woman, who looks like them, leading the band,” says PS12’s Paul Debham, who believes the band’s open and friendly approach to their audience has helped them maintain a strong following.

“I remember during a gig in the early days that the band allowed members of the audience to film a new song and encouraged them to put it online. At the time the attitude among most artistes to such things was the complete opposite,” he says.

One of the final shows on the 2017 European tour was a concert at Denmark’s VEGA (1,500) in Copenhagen.

“The band had been away for a while and the idea was to play a relatively small venue where they could test out new material,” says promoter Mads Sorensen of Beatbox Entertainment. “It was July, right in the middle of the festival season, but the show sold out very quickly.”

Garry-Lewis

Sorensen has also worked with Paramore since the early days and was pleased to see how the band has matured and the audience has become more diverse.

“In the beginning it was teenagers listening to EMO and punk rock but Paramore have won over the more serious music press and new listeners,” he says. “They are much more confident at playing live now, that’s something that comes with age but also better songs.”

 

European unions

In France, promoting the show at the Grand Rex (2,800) in Paris was Alias Production’s Dominique Revert, who has worked with the band and their international agent Geoff Meall for the past decade.

He is also promoting the band’s forthcoming show at the Olympia Hall (2,700) in Paris.

“Early January is not the best time to do a show here but we think it will sell out a few days in advance,” says Revert, adding that the band’s French audience is usually 70 per cent female.

Rhiza-Pascua

He says Alias focuses its marketing for the band’s shows around online media including Infoconcert and Limonadier.

The Olympia Hall concert will be Paramore’s second of eight European dates in January, the first will be at Spain’s 4,300-capacity Saint Jordi Club in Barcelona.

Live Nation Spain executive director Carlos Asmaratas is promoting the show.

“They last played Spain in July 2011 at Vistalegre during the third album tour and sold nearly 5,000 tickets,” he says.

“This is the first Paramore show in Barcelona and the first in Spain in almost seven years, so expectation is high and we anticipate the show will sell-out or come close to that. The band has a really strong following that is very active on social media, so we are mainly marketing the show through those channels, magazines and via retail activations in stores such as FNAC,” Asmaratas explains.

Paramore then moves to the UK where they will play some of its biggest arenas, including London’s The O2 (21,000) and the SSE Hydro (13,000) in Glasgow.

Dave McGeachan at Scotland’s DF Concerts has worked with the band and Meall since the outset.

His first Paramore show was at the DF-owned 300-capacity King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in 2004. Since then the band has worked its way up the ranks playing the likes of Glasgow’s The Garage (700) in 2006 and the O2 Academy (2,500) in 2008, before playing their first Scottish arena show in 2009 at the SECC (10,130).

Ryuhei-Ando

McGeachan says Paramore’s concert at The SSE Hydro, the band’s second at the venue, is well on the way to selling-out.

“The band always puts everything into their live performance and the feedback from fans has always been amazing,” he says.

SJM’s Phillips says the show in Wales at the 7,500-capacity Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff sold out the day tickets went on sale.

“The arena tour is doing exceptional business and considering the way the rock market is at the moment, it is a huge result,” he says.

Keeping the show on the road for all the European dates in early 2018 is Beat The Street, which is suppling two 14-berth and one 16-berth double-decker tour buses.

“It’s always quite straight-forward working with Andrew [Weiss]. He knows what he needs so there isn’t a lot of chopping and changing, which we get with some tours,” says Beat The Street’s UK-based operations manager Garry Lewis.

 

Feeling the heat

In February Paramore will fly out to warmer climes for shows at Australia’s Rod Laver Arena (15,000) in Melbourne, Qudos Bank Arena (21,000) in Sydney and Brisbane’s Riverstage (9,500).

Before the month’s out they will have performed shows in New Zealand, Philippines and Japan.

Mercado says the band has worked hard to make sure the show continues to evolve as it moves to new territories and venues.

“They’ve worked up additional programming and content for the run in 2018 as they bring the tour into bigger venues and markets we have not hit in a while,” he says.

Weiss says the production will be an upsized version of the projection-driven show that toured in the US and Mexico in autumn 2017.

“We will add IMAG and some enhanced video content to broaden the imagery for the larger venues,” he says.

Illustrating just how far and wide Paramore’s fanbase is spread, the band has a huge following in the Philippines. Tickets for the Mall of Asia Arena (20,000) show in Manila sold out in minutes.

“We even had to add new sections to accommodate more fans and they sold out in just eight minutes,” says Rhiza Pascua, president and CEO of MMI Live.

MMI primarily used social media to market the event, which proved an economical and hugely effective way to raise awareness. “Our Facebook announcement post reached 3.4 million people without any paid ads or boost posts. Everything was organic,” says Pascua.

Having worked with the band since the 2010 tour supporting the Brand New Eyes album, MMI also promoted Paramore’s visit to the Philippines three years later.

“We have history of working with the band so everything has been smooth sailing so far. Even though the band was on hiatus for a long time, there is still very strong interest from fans here,” Pascua says.

Promoting the show at Japan’s 2,500-capacity ZEPP in Tokyo is Creativeman Productions, which forged a relationship with the band from when they played its Summer Sonic festival in the city in 2009.

“Many bands play ZEPP as a step up to the legendary Nippon Budokan [14,000],” says Creativeman product manager Ryuhei Ando. “Eight years have passed since Paramore last toured Japan, so there are fans who’ve been waiting eagerly and fans who may have lost interest after such a long absence, but I believe the show will sell-out,” says Ando.

“In Tokyo, we still do old-school promotion using media such as radio, free magazines and flyers, as well as social media,” he says.

Two months after the Asian leg of the tour comes to an end, Paramore will launch their third Parahoy! concert cruise. The ship will take fans from Miami in Florida to Nassau in the Bahamas, a journey that will run from 6 April to 10 April.

The festival-in-a-boat will see the band head a bill that includes Local Natives, Judah & the Lion, Mewithoutyou, Now Now, Halfnoise and Mija. Other shipboard entertainment will include Q&A sessions, theme nights and ‘Paraoke’ with the band.

“Parahoy! is such a unique event for the band and their fans,” says manager Mark Mercado.

“Not only does it allow the band the opportunity to bring some of their favourite artistes on board to perform, they always put together a couple of amazing shows and fun activities.

“We work with the Sixthman team in putting each cruise together over the span of about 18 months. It’s a very special event for all of us involved, including nearly 3,000 of the band’s biggest fans.”

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