This has been a hectic autumn for Forever Unknown. I suppose that’s appropriate, as they are a group of high school kids, but I don’t think any of them had envisioned what would happen as their summer break drew to a close.
Shoot and release a music video? Check. Play ComFest in Columbus? You know it. Win a contest to open a sold-out show for Bayside? Check and mate.
But perhaps the crowning achievement of their wild 2019 was the release of their debut EP, Study Hall. To celebrate that release, the quartet grabbed a few of their friends and booked a release show at CD 102.5’s Big Room Bar.
The most intriguing thing I found when I arrived at the venue was that there were more people in the pit with X’s on their hands rather than the stamps signifying those who were over 21. I suppose that was to be expected, but on a personal level I felt a swell of pride knowing that good local music was being passed down to the younger generation, rather than leaving them behind.
Dayton rockers Wreck League opened up the evening with an energetic set, and everyone’s favorite easy-drinking cookout rockers Courtney from Work played second. Local pop punk titans We Are The Movies, who had brought Forever Unknown along for their most recent album release, followed third and even invited singer Micah Stromsoe-DeLorenzo on stage to sing with them for a tune. In our prior interview, Micah told me that the guys in WATM had been amazingly supportive in their journey so far, and that they were super excited to have them on board for the show.
I know I said that the band brought a few friends, but by the time they took the stage the venue was packed back to front. I could barely swim forward to get near the stage in between sets, where we were treated to Micah and We Are The Movies guitarist Mike O’Leary playing Cyndi Lauper’s classic hit Time After Time before the rest of the group joined her. Micah’s voice is uniquely different from the ‘80s singer’s wail, and it made for a fun prep before the rest of the quartet came out.
Standing on either side of Micah were guitarist Blake Bennett and bassist Sully Gerdeman, with guitarist Jacob Hutmire to the far right. Drummer Evan Pond completed the ensemble in the back. Amusingly, and perhaps to the horror of the parents around me, fans of the group started chanting “F-U” as they finished tuning their instruments.
The band opened with Gravity, which featured a heavy opening hook from Hutmire. Micah’s wonderful wordplay was on full display right off the bat with the line “gravity is my enemy, the sky is falling and no one else can see.” I asked her about using an unrecorded song to open the set, and she said it was one that they were hoping to record the next time they were in studio.
Up next was Speedy Boi, another unreleased track that the crowd seemed quite familiar with. Hutmire again dropped a big fat lick right off the bat before the rest of the boys joined in for the punk-tinged number.
“We love playing Speedy Boi,” Micah told me after the show. “It always gets people excited and moving!”
Not only was the crowd around me moving, but they had a great back-and-forth rapport with the charismatic lead singer. “I’m going to assume you all know this one by now,” Micah said as her bandmates switched instruments behind her. Pyramid Scheme was one of the songs that the band played en route to winning the Instaband contest that netted them their first recording contract. For this one, Hutmire grabbed the bass and Gerdeman switched with Pond behind the kit.
It was certainly interesting watching them all swap out instruments, and that became the theme for the rest of the night. On Home, it was Bennett’s turn to play bass while Gerdeman and Hutmire were on guitar. Micah said that someone once told her that this song reminded them of “walking home after a breakup in 2007,” which she felt to be the ultimate compliment.
The song definitely had a mellower feel than the previous ones, and Micah sashayed across the stage as the boys played behind her. Again it was the words that pierced me, specifically the lyric “Your voice still haunts me like an unholy ghost, and I hope you’re finally calling me home.”
The crowd around me started to dance as the band kicked into their most upbeat number of the night, Don’t Know Where We’re Going. In fact, there were so many people dancing at the Big Room Bar that the floor underneath me was shaking. For a moment I feared that we might even be disturbing the radio station below; it was loud, it was wild, and it was a ton of fun.
You honestly wouldn’t believe that no one on the stage was over the age of 17 with how the group carried themselves throughout the set. That’s not to say that they weren’t all beaming with massive smiles, but they all held their own with each note strummed and each beat punched into the drums.
For Manifesto, they were each back with their original instruments, and the song featured a wailing solo from Hutmire that caused a small mosh pit to break out in the middle of the floor.
Micah announced that she had a surprise song for all of us as the band started strumming out the familiar opening chords to Young the Giant’s hit Cough Syrup. Micah said that she always loved singing the song and made the call to have it a part of their set for the evening. People were again jumping and moving, and at least half of the voices were singing along to the tune, myself included.
As the song finished, there were voices around me calling out for different members of the band. More smiles and waves were exchanged, and the band got back to their EP with Paper Pyromaniac. Hutmire had previously said that he loved how different this song was from the others, and you could see it in how his guitar soared all over the song, as well as how Pond attacked his kit.
For whatever energy the rest of the band brought, you could tell that they all rallied around their magnetic front-woman. I know I keep using their age as reference, but Micah carried herself with a relentless appetite for excellence and commanded the stage with sensibility far beyond her age. She raised her arms and pushed the crowd to dance on as she sang about unbridled passion in Bury Me. Once again the floor was shaking, and I had to take a moment to look around me and witness the excitement on every remaining face.
The band had to stop for a moment and try to find a towel for Bennett, who had apparently cut his finger open and was bleeding all over his guitar. Of course, that’s the price to pay when you rock hard. Wonder Emporium is another kicker that crawled into my ear and was stuck in my head after the show ended. Unfortunately, a bleeding finger was the least of Bennett’s worries for the night, as his amp had been acting up and had cut out entirely for the previous rendition of Paper Pyromaniac.
Micah asked the crowd if it would be alright if they played the song again because of that, to mixed looks and murmurs. However, someone behind me shouted “It’s your show, just do it!” Eventually, everyone agreed and they went ahead and rocked it out for a second time. I will tell you that with Bennett’s amp functioning properly, the song went from powerful to thunderous, and I had to look to the right to see if the walls were shaking along with the floorboards.
The band left the stage to clamorous applause and immediately the call of “encore” was echoed back and forth around us. Micah took the stage and thanked everyone for attending, and Pond soon joined her with his acoustic guitar to play Six, the opening track from Study Hall that was also featured in acoustic form at the end of the EP.
The two played the first half of the tune and paused as the remaining three members took their places to rock out the remainder of the song. It was a truly distinctive way to end what was a uniquely memorable show.
The cheers and applause were deafening as the band departed the stage once more. People were running up to the members to congratulate them on a great show, giving hugs and high-fives. The energy was as favorable as I’ve ever experienced. Having seen them twice, I can tell you that they’re only getting better with each performance.
If you have the chance to see them any time soon, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you missed out.
- Gravity (unreleased)
- Speedy Boi (unreleased)
- Pyramid Scheme
- Don’t Know Where We’re Going
- Cough Syrup (Young The Giant cover)
- Paper Pyromaniac*
- Bury Me*
- Wonder Emporium*
- Paper Pyromaniac (redux)
* denotes track off of the new EP, Study Hall