Newcomers Hey Violet came to town on Wednesday to headline NYC’s Gramercy Theater with a host of industry people in the house, and left nothing to be desired – except maybe another hour’s worth of music, because they absolutely killed the 45 minutes they played. The 5-piece is kind of a big deal, selling out in NYC and apparently most of the tour, along with having a single, Guys My Age, getting significant airtime on the top 40 and pop stations here in town. After seeing them live, it’s easy to understand the hype surrounding Hey Violet, even if they are a band of teenagers with a fanbase consisting mostly of teenage girls.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I decided I was going to cover this show, and Hey Violet surprised the hell out of me by being more rock than their radio-friendly single made them out to be. It’s hard to figure out what exactly they’re about – they don’t have an album yet – from one song on the radio, and I was expecting a completely different vibe from their live show. Lead singer Rena Lovelis is a pleasantly surprising powerhouse with the voice and stage presence of a seasoned rocker, rolling around on the floor like she’s in a heavy metal band, and guitarist Casey Moreta can flat out play.
The real story here, though, is Rena’s sister Nia, who is an absolute monster on drums. You just don’t expect that from a girl in a pop-rock band, who is barely out of her teens, until you see it live and your jaw drops at the sight of a 20 year old girl beating the hell out of a drumkit like she’s been studying Dave Grohl. You don’t see that in an industry where it’s common for girls to be molded into pop singers because management and the label can sell them more easily than they can a band of 3 young girls as rockers.
What’s even more impressive is Hey Violet’s collective ability to kick ass on not only their own songs, but covers of, well, songs I hate. Specifically, on this night, it was a cover of the played-to-death Chainsmokers track Don’t Let Me Down, which Hey Violet turned into an upbeat pop-rock song and absolutely slayed, with Rena showing off her range in front of a bunch of industry insiders and nailing the whole thing while the rest of the band did their part to make it a good, solid rock song. The acoustic version available online doesn’t do their take on the track any kind of justice; it’s something you need to see live to appreciate.
The girls – the Lovelis sisters and Miranda Miller on keyboard/rhythm guitar/backing vocals – have been in a band together for nearly a decade, releasing an album together as Cherri Bomb, which was an all-girl hard rock band that included Julia Pierce on lead vocals. Pierce split in 2013 and the remaining trio of girls decided to replace her with Moreta on guitar and take the band in a different direction, with Rena Lovelis getting her chance to shine on lead vocals. Bassist Iain Shipp joined later and the group became Hey Violet in 2015, signing with Hi or Hey Records and touring as support for 5 Seconds of Summer before finally hitting the road on their first headline tour to show off what they’ve got.
And what they’ve got is a lot of talent, both individually and collectively, which gives them the ability to put on a great show. The only flaw is the lack of a catalog from which to choose, resulting in a 45 minute set that left me wanting more. Regardless, Hey Violet is something totally unexpected and deserving of attention from fans of both pop and rock. There are much bigger things in store for Hey Violet, and this is definitely just the beginning. I expect to see them on festival dates in the near future, and from there, who knows? All I do know is Hey Violet is going to stick around for a while; their genre sells with the right help, and they have the talent to not need any.
Check out our Hey Violet photo gallery. Setlist at the bottom.
Hey Violet setlist:
Brand New Moves
Break My Heart
Don’t Let Me Down
Guys My Age
All We Ever Wanted