Who are they?
This Southern California–based alt rock band has been making waves in the alternative scene since they successfully crowdfunded their debut EP Young Lore in 2013. With a voice like U2’s Bono and a dramatic stage presence like The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, lead singer Travis Hawley is a mesmerizing presence, both on the stage and in your headphones. Citing a range of influences from The Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend to Bruce Springsteen and U2, this band offers a little bit of something for everyone, and you’ll be lost in Hawley’s voice and passionate lyricism from the first song you hear.
What should I listen to first?
“All For You”: There’s a reason this is their most–played song on Spotify. There’s a tenderness to this track, and Hawley’s voice croons with loving emotion without losing the guitar–heavy rock charm that makes Night Riots who they are.
“Spiders”: It’s rare that a live version of a song is better than the studio version, but this song translates beautifully live. Hawley starts out alone on stage with his guitar, and the song builds into a full–band powerhouse that stands out as one of the highlights of their show. This rendition captures all of the rawness of the lyrics without losing the crowd with a slower song.
“Nothing Personal”: This track stands out from the others in its fierce anger. The lyrics (“I’ll be the king, you’ll be the filth I wash away/ Nothing personal”) are aggressive, and the beat will get stuck in your head. Hawley’s voice draws you into his emotion, and you’ll feel it as strongly as he does.
What are they like live?
At this stage in their career, Night Riots has been opening for higher profile alt bands—including Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, The Maine, and K. Flay—and yet they manage to hold their own in an opening spot, which is no easy task. Hawley carries the band’s live show to a level rarely reached by bands of this caliber with an unrivaled stage presence and an impressive ability to connect directly to large crowds. On this most recent tour with The Maine (another must–listen band), they paid homage to the late Tom Petty in a beautiful way—they faded their own song “Breaking Free” into Petty’s “Freefalling,” and it felt genuine and so right. They also have arguably the coolest on–stage tradition of any band out there—about halfway through their set, they bring single drums to the middle of the stage and shut off all the lights in the venue. In a clearly choreographed drum break, they use sticks that light up red or blue when they hit the drums, making for one of the most incredible onstage spectacles you’ll ever see.
Why should I care?
Night Riots puts on a live show like no other, and Travis Hawley’s beautifully unique voice deserves to be on everyone’s playlists. Their songs are full of the type of passion and emotion that make you want to sing and dance and fall in love. They’re that good.