My favorite feeling in the world is held within those few moments after the lights go out at a concert, just before the band takes the stage. Anticipation and excitement underscored by the cheers of the audience. The way my heart always drops into my stomach, landing in a swarm of butterflies. No matter who I'm seeing, the thrill is always there. It was among the things I missed most throughout the past few years. Throughout September and October 2019, there was a stretch of time where I was going to a concert every weekend including Jesse McCartney and Avril Lavigne. That following February, I eagerly sat in front of my computer champing at the bit to purchase my ticket for 5 Seconds of Summer's No Shame tour, planned for a date that was exactly three years after their stop at the same venue during their Meet You There tour. We all know what happened soon after. But we're not here to talk about that. Instead, let's fast-forward to July 8, 2022 I was finally going to my first concert since 2019, and it just so happened to be seeing my favorite band for the FIFTH time. I've been a fan of 5 Seconds of Summer high school. Even if you're unfamiliar with them, it's likely that you've heard some of their music including "Amnesia" and their smash-hit "Youngblood." A lyric from "Social Casualty" became something of a mantra for me when I was preparing to attend college out of state and was the caption for a few photos on graduation day. 5SOS was a staple of my college radio show and many road trip playlists. "Jet Black Heart" came out within a year of my father's passing and was a source of comfort when I needed it most, and it's my favorite of their songs for that very reason. Needless to say, 5SOS has been a significant part of teen and young adult years. After two postponements, the release of the CALM album and the announcement of 5SOS5 coming in September, 5SOS's tenth anniversary as a band, and changing name of the tour from No Shame to Take My Hand, it was at last time to break out the red-and-black flannel shirt I've worn to every other 5 Seconds of Summer show. Little did I know this would be the best night of my life.
What Is Soundcheck?
Take My Hand is the first 5SOS tour I've been able attend Soundcheck for.
Soundcheck is a VIP event that takes place a few hours before the concert, during which the band performs a couple of songs and answers some questions submitted by fans. It's such a special experience and something I'd always wanted to do.
Those who go to Soundcheck also have the chance to shop for merch before the doors open to the general public—but that doesn't mean they get to avoid the lines entirely. And it's actually in the check-in line that our story begins.
Check-in for Soundcheck officially started at 2:30, but I got to Mohegan Sun for about an hour before to be safe. Even though I know the venue pretty well from having gone to many shows in the arena over the years and working in one of the shops in the mall area pre-pandemic, I had this little bit of anxiety creeping up and a fear of missing Soundcheck.
I didn't have to walk very far from the elevator before finding the line. As soon as I turned the corner, I was in it.
Shortly after was when I met Caitlin, Montana, Molly, and Molly's dad aka PapaSOS. We were going to be there for a while before check-in started, so it was a great opportunity to make some friends. The conversation started off with little things like confirming that this was indeed the line for Soundcheck, introducing ourselves, talking about the band members and so on. Eventually, we ended up on the topic of where we were going to be for the show. My seat was in Section 23, so towards the back of the arena but not as far away from my seat for World War Joy back in 2019. Upon overhearing this, Molly came over and offered me her extra pit ticket. I was absolutely stunned by her kindness—and frankly on the verge of tears for the first of many times that night. I remember stammering and saying something along the lines of "Are you sure?" before asking if I could hug her and moving to join her and PapaSOS, just behind Caitlin and Montana. Montana also had a spare pit ticket, which she gave to Caitlin. In other words, we were not only going to be together for Soundcheck but for the concert itself.
We set up a group chat to update each other in case the line moved while we were in the restroom or while Montana went off in search of someone to give her extra Soundcheck admission to, and just hung out. It made the wait just fly by. Soon enough, we were given a card with a number on it to mark our place in line for when we would be let into the arena, were checked in, and received our VIP laminates. We still had a little more to wait before we were let into the arena, but having the badge around my neck solidified it. I was finally seeing 5 Seconds of Summer again, at a concert I had been waiting more than two years for. I had made some new friends. And we were going to be together in the pit.
My Soundcheck Experience
Even though my question wasn't among those selected for the Q&A, I still had a fantastic time at Soundcheck. There were just under six hundred people in attendance (which sounds like a lot, but remember that the area holds about ten thousand people and was pretty packed come showtime), making for an intimate experience. The staff ensured it was not only a private event but a more personal one by emphasizing that phones and recording devices of any kind were to be put away so we could just be present in the moment. The atmosphere was chill even though I was in an overwhelming state of awe and internally freaking out about being fifteen feet away from my favorite band. They guys were wearing sweatpants and T-shirts, and after plating "Valentine," they just sat on the stage so casually. Not in chairs as you'd likely see at a panel or interview, but just cross-legged in front of the drums. Looking back, it reminds me a lot of the time I saw Donny Osmond and how his show felt like he was telling stories at a dinner party. With 5SOS's Soundcheck, it kind of felt like we were dropping in on a jam session. The guys chatted a bit about the upcoming album and other topics, and Luke semi-inadvertently prompted us to belatedly serenade Ashton with "Happy Birthday."
Following a performance of one of my absolute favorites, "Babylon," they exited stage left and the crowd gradually thinned.
This was the point where those with Soundcheck tickets were able to check out the merch early, as we weren't supposed to leave the arena. I forewent my shopping until after the concert and remained in the pit.
It was still a bit surreal, but finally sinking in.
A Surreal Reality
The concert itself is honestly such a blur. Maybe it's because of the adrenaline, being on my feet for a total of ten hours and powered only by a bowl of Cheerios that morning and a part of a pretzel Caitlin and I shared after Soundcheck, and the still trying to process everything that transpired throughout the day. During past 5SOS concerts, I'd snap a ton of pictures and upload to Facebook albums for the sake of my phone's memory. For Take My Hand, I held off, taking around two-dozen if that, including the first time I've ever been able to get a shot of Ashton himself and not a picture of the screens by the stage.
Part of this, I think, carries over from Soundcheck and the encouragement that we be present in the moment. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I had to soak in every second. The setlist was an excellent blend of old favorites and new tracks, from "Disconnected" and "She Looks So Perfect" to "Old Me" and "My Myself & I." They also performed two songs from the new album that were unreleased; "Blender" dropped within a week of the show and I highly recommend checking it out! I didn't look up the setlist ahead of time, so I was pleasantly surprised by "Red Dessert" and "Castaway" being performed. There are a few songs that are guaranteed to have me in tears at shows, and I now know that "Take My Hand" is also one of them. Following the reinstatement of what I call "The Annual Cathartic Scream Of 'Jet Black Heart'" and an encore featuring "Ghost of You" and "Youngblood," 5 Seconds of Summer bid Mohegan Sun farewell, the lights came on, and I was left in the dispersing crowd, trying to reckon with a myriad of feelings and process everything that had happened. Throat raw. Eyeliner smudged and smeared beyond recognition. A Jet Black Heart full of unwavering joy.
Following a hug from Molly and PapaSOS, I fell into the last of the stragglers leaving the arena, bought my commemorative T-shirt, and exited the arena.
Within an hour, the group chat was filled with messages from the girls I had just met, each speaking to how incredible the night had been and how fortunate we were to have ended up experiencing it together as we did.
As much as I love 5 Seconds of Summer, this newfound friendship is truly my favorite memory of the night.
When I first planned to write a Soundcheck recap, I had hoped it would include 5 Seconds of Summer's answer to my Q&A submission, reflections on how the guys tackle creative burnout and how I was going to apply their responses to my writing routine. But I got so much more out of the experience than I could have ever dreamed. Like Montana said in the group chat, it really felt like fate brought us together for Take My Hand. We entered as strangers but left as friends, already talking about meeting up again next time 5SOS stops by Mohegan Sun. Looking back on the night, I am still so overwhelmed by all of it. I keep rewatching the snippet I filmed of "2011," as if needing to prove to myself that it really did happen. That I really was there. But part of it is also reaffirming one thing: like 5SOS proudly sings, we're finally getting "back to the days when the days were better."