From the Pit to the Crowd: Blue October

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On Saturday, March 25th, I was going to photograph and review Blue October at House of Blues Orlando. I was looking forward to this show. I had the opportunity to photograph and review a shorter acoustic set when they came through with the Goo Goo Dolls in December on the “All I Want For Christmas” tour. When I heard they were touring to support their most recent album, Home, I marked it on my calendar and was fortunate enough to get the assignment. That evening I headed down to House of Blues to get there by 7 PM. I picked up my photo credentials, got through security scan, and headed inside towards the photo pit.

It was absolutely mobbed inside. I had to weave my way through the crowd to get to the photo pit. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was a sold out show. The only thing I always knew is that Blue October fans are very loyal to them. That night’s attendance was certainly supporting it. My friend Anne told me how she and her group of friends would travel together to multiple shows to see them.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if that group of friends were in attendance.

8 PM came around and I realized I didn’t see outside on the sign who was opening for them. The lights dimmed and I headed into the pit. Much to my and the crowd’s surprise, Ryan Delahoussaye stepped out on stage with his violin in hand. He took a quick moment to nod and acknowledge the crowd before playing his violin. The instrumental he produced was haunting, engaging, and pure mastery of the violin. The lighting was kept to dark blues to fit the mood. I moved around the pit shooting photos from all different angles. The crowd was hush truly in tuned to Ryan’s playing.

They applauded after his first song. He moved over to a synthesizer towards the back of the stage to set background music and began to play again to it. The song was just as haunting and slow. Ryan moved around the stage with such grace, eyes closed, truly absorbed into his performance. He continued with a third song that was slightly faster and just as beautiful. After the third song I went upstairs to capture some more images. His next few songs were more intense and he got the crowd engaged to cheer and holler as he played. When he finished, as expected the crowd cheered in approval.

After doing some research I believe some of the songs he played were from an EP titled Tufstrings by Ryan Delahoussaye. The EP was released in 2015. The songs “Symbiotic”, “For My Mother”, and “Prn” all sounded familiar to songs I heard that evening.

As I waited for Blue October take the stage, I had to admit I was surprised to be the only photographer covering the show. The band is very well known, can fill a venue, and from seeing them in December, puts on an amazing performance. The crowd was buzzing with excitement. I watched the crowd floor and could see the anticipation on people’s faces. Security was getting tighter by the crowd since it was so packed on the floor. And before we knew it, the lights went down again, and the crowd screaming in joy.

I quickly moved into the pit and waited. Blue October consisting of Justin Furstenfeld (lead vocals, guitar), Jeremy Furstenfeld (drums), Ryan Delahoussaye (violin/viola, mandolin, piano, synthesizer), Matthew Ostrander (lead guitar), and Matt Novesky (bass) made their way onto the stage. The crowd started cheering even louder. Justin made his way to the mic stand and the band started off with “Coal Make Diamonds” from their Home album. It starts off with beautiful piano keys from Ryan before Justin’s soothing voice comes in. The band was immediately in a groove together and Justin’s falsetto during the chorus sounded amazing. He called out to the crowd to sing along and get them engaged.

The lighting was very similar to when I first photographed with reds and yellows. The band also had two large LED lights on stage that brightened up the stage with white when necessary. The one thing I love about live shows is sometimes very unexpected things happen. Right during the guitar instrumental, Justin walked up behind Matthew and literally grabbed him and nearly pulled him to the ground. Justin was smiling the whole time and Matt was too. Matt did not miss a note the whole time and Justin continued singing as if nothing happened.

The band continued with “Independently Happy” from Consent to Treatment. Ryan got his violin out for this song. Justin sang this song from his heart. You could see the raw emotion he poured out for this song and the crowd was definitely engaged. Blue October was coming out strong and apparently was not holding back for the Orlando fans. They followed up with “I Want It” also from the Home album. Once again Ryan went back to the synthesizer to produce some beautiful keys. Matt grooved along with the crowd with his bass and backup vocals. Jeremy snapped off the drum beats eyes close, feeling out the music as he played. Justin urged the crowd to sing back the chorus of “I want it, I want it”. They were happy to oblige.

And just like that, the first 3 songs were over and I headed out of the pit. I felt special having the pit to myself to photograph the band. I headed my way upstairs to capture some more images. They continued on with songs such as “Say It” from Approaching Normal, “What If We Could” from Home and “Been Down” also from Approaching Normal. And of course they played “Home” the title track from their latest album.

I moved back downstairs to catch some shots from behind the soundboard. The band continued to entertain the crowd with “Driver”, “Sway”, and “Debris”. It was extremely hot with all the people inside the venue and made my way over towards the doors to the smoking area. With the doors opened there was at least a breeze so I enjoyed the rest of the show from there. They finished off a phenomenal set with “Into the Ocean” from Foiled, “Heart Go Bang” from Home, and “Houston Heights” also from Home.  Justin thanked the crowd and the band walked off stage.

It wasn’t long before they came back to the stage and the crowd was beyond pleased. Justin thanked the crowd again and called up his brother Jeremy to sing a song with him. Justin performed an very soul filled version of “We Know Where You Go” from the Home album. It was beautifully performed and heart-felt. The crowd felt the outpour of emotions from Justin and Jeremy. The followed up with “Fear” from Sway, and then the well known “Hate Me” from Foiled. The crowd sang the chorus louder than any other song that night. And finally finished with “Leave It In The Dressing Room (Shake It Up)” from Home. Afterwards, they said thank you to the crowd and walked off stage.

Blue October on the Heart Go Bang tour left the Orlando crowd with the performance they expected. They left them smiling, happy, and hearing some of their well known songs along with some great new material. Blue October put on a phenomenal performance for the crowd that night and I’m sure leaving the same impression to the next stops on the tour.