Wakey Wakey – Vulkan Arena, 19.03.16

Wakey Wakey, aka Mike Grubbs, is back in Oslo. Last time he played at Parkteateret. This time, Wakey Wakey is the headlining at Vulkan Arena with Elizabeth & the Catapult and Chris Cubeta as support.  Grubbs caught everyones attention by being featured on the television series One Tree Hill in the seventh season, seven years ago. The songs of him that were featured throughout the season, were so beautiful that the artist name Wakey Wakey never left my mind. He is now out with a new album “Overreactivist“, and we can definitely expect some songs from there, but hopefully some OTH-classics as well.

© Else Solheim

I enter the venue in the middle of Elizabeth & the Catapult’s last song. Half of the audience is sitting on the floor, which makes me think that I haven’t I missed anything exciting. But then I hear her amazing voice, and I realise that I’ve missed something special.

It is not a long wait until Grubbs enters the stage – with one girl playing the violin, and Chris Cubeta on guitar. I can’t help but notice that they are sharing the backstage area with the metal-guys that are playing at Pokalen, the venue downstairs from Vulkan Arena. It is such a contrast being at a singer/songwriter show, with long-haired metal dudes walking by. The heavy bass and drums can be heard from the show downstairs, just to set the mood right.

Wakey Wakey and his two accomplices start the evening off with “War Sweater”. Kind of a slow start, but a wonderful song. They continue with the title track from “Overreactivist”, which is more upbeat than the first song. Before presenting the third song, Grubbs takes his time to chat with the audience. He is commenting on the metal music, and confesses that he always wanted to play in a metal band. The audience laugh, because he must be joking, a singer/songwriter doing metal? The three musketeers on stage try to make the next song a metal one. “Great Lake Love” is far from metal, and I am glad they played it like it’s suppose to be – just beautiful. But don’t get me wrong, I love metal just as much as I love Wakey Wakey, but that song can never be metal.

During “Got It All Wrong” we get the first sing-along from the crowd. We finally get the name of the girl on the violin, Sarah, and she is amazing. I am so glad he brought a violinist with him on tour. The concert would not be the same with out her. So talented.

© Else Solheim

Grubbs speaks to the audience again, presenting an oldie, but goldie.. with metal. It is hilarious that we can hear the other show. Not just hear, I can feel the heavy beat trembling under my feet. It is great to see how Wakey Wakey handles the extra music to his concert, he embraces the metal with open arms. The oldie, but goldie is “Feral Love”. He whistles in the song, but also tries to growl. It doesn’t fit in at all, which makes it funny. He is not exactly Abbath from Immortal – but nice try.

He now presents to us the guy on the guitar, Chris Cubeta. The ones who came to the show early, got to see him as the opening act. Chris is also the producer of most of Wakey Wakey’s work, like “War Sweater”, “Brooklyn” and the newest album. They play “Homeless Poets” from Overreactivist, and continue with another song from the latest album, with a sing-along from the crowd on “Golden”. The violin in this song gives me goosebumps. It is one of my favourite tracks from the album – and it is even better live.

Mike Grubbs takes the stage alone, while Chris and Sarah gets a little break. He says he is going to play for us a real super oldie.. that goes great with a double bass drum, he says while hinting to the metal music. He sings “Blame You”, and his powerful voice really shines through in this song. His voice is so clear, and he hits the notes perfectly. Not only does he write his own songs, plays the keyboard, but sings so beautiful as well.

© Else Solheim

Having the stage on his own, he interacts even more with the audience. Telling us how amazing the venue Vulkan Arena is. And also that this is the most fun he’s had on the tour. He probably says that in every show, but I’ll take it. He continues chatting by saying that metal people are the nicest people there is. Joking that he must say that, because they are all taller than him, and he is also scared of them.

Grubbs presents to us the dumbest song he has ever written. Yes, he said dumb. It’s basically about a guy that enters a bar and sees a girl, he says. I’m gonna sing this song from two perspectives, the first one is from the guy’s perspective and the other one is from the girls’, Grubbs says. He tells us that the guy walking in to a bar is Bruno Mars. So Bruno Mars goes in a bar and says.. and then we hear the lyrics from “Irresistible”. Which is a duet Wakey Wakey originally did with Jilliette Johnson, but he already told us that he is singing from both perspectives tonight. He is going to sing from her point of view as well. Now we get the female perspective: Rihanna. She is not here, but I will portray here, he says. He gives us a visual by saying that: Rihanna is in a bar, naked in a bathtub. Naked in a bathtub in a bar? Yes. Of course we can picture that. First he sings by trying to sound femaleish, but then puts his mask on and sings like Wakey Wakey.

He ends his time on stage by singing his hipster-lullaby “Stop the World”. A friend of Grubbs called the song a hipster-lullaby, probably to make fun of it, but Grubbs took it as a sweet thing to say.

Sarah and Chris joins the stage again, and they play “1876 – The Brooklyn Theatre Fire”, “Big Town Love” and “Take It Like A Man”. Mike Grubbs takes the microphone again and tells the crowd that he was on a tv-show called One Tree Hill. There are some girls in the crowd that is screaming bealtes-fan-style, obviously OTH-fans like me. Wakey Wakey plays “Dance So Good” which was featured on the series. The whole crowd sings along to the words “so beautiful”. It is not a big crowd, but a setting like this needs the intimacy, which makes this show so unique and memorable for the ones of us that are here.

© Else Solheim

“Adam & Eve” is Grubbs’ favourite song from the newest album, he says, while trying to growl like a metalhead again. Followed by a beautiful performance of “Almost Everything”. Which for me, was the highlight of the show – pure perfection. From joking around and failing at growling, it doesn’t take long until he gets serious. He tells us about how he came to write “Car Crash”. He woke up one morning and his girlfriend was gone, and she never came back. It is a huge contrast from all the joking that he has done, to suddenly become so serious. It is nice to see a more human part of him, and not just the funny guy that he is.

They end the evening with “Brooklyn” a OTH-classic, a sing-along on “Light Outside” and “Heartbroke” from the latest album. I’m not sure if I counted right, but they played 21 songs for us. It may have started off a bit slow, but the atmosphere in the venue changed radically with the setlist. From a boring start, to goosebumps, to laughter, to nostalgia, to sadness – it has truly been an evening with lots of feelings, and most of all a great show. I applaud the three people on stage, they were amazing and gave us a night to remember.

For full gallery click here.
For the review of Overreactivist click here.