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Grouplove and the Honda Civic Tour's stop in San Diego

Grouplove live at the Cal Coast Theatre (Open Air Arena)-slide0
Photo: Lauren Wilson

Since 2001, Honda has dipped into the arts and music scene by sponsoring a US tour that features some of that year’s biggest musical acts. This year, the Honda Civic Tour features the radio popular Grouplove as the co headliners (along with Portugal. the Man) for the first leg of the tour.

The formation of Grouplove, currently made up of Hannah Hooper (vocals/keys), Christian Zucconi (vocals/guitar), Ryan Rabin (drums), Andrew Wessen (guitar/vocals), and Dan Gleason (bass) was a bit unorthodox. The band (with original bassist Sean Gadd) became quick friends at an art residency in Crete. Some time later, the band decided to fly out to Los Angeles to Rabin’s recording studio. By the end of that year, Grouplove had toured with Florence and the Machine and was voted one of the “Best New Bands of 2010” (Nylon Magazine) Their debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song, was released September of 2011, and spawned 4 singles, one of which, “Tongue Tied,” made it to number 1 on the Billboard Alternative Charts. Nearly 2 years to the day later, the band released their 2nd studio album, I’m With You.

The Honda Civic Tour is still in the first half of Grouplove’s shows, with the band heading east from Colorado and ending their run in NYC in the middle of September. On Sunday, their tour brought them, Portgual. the Man and Tokyo Police Club, to San Diego State University’s Cal Coast Open Air Arena.

Grouplove started their set with “I’m With You,” the title track off of their second album. Rabin appeared first, leading the rest of the band in. White lights flashed bright as the rest of the band danced around on stage. Hooper, dressed in her signature leopard print body suit, was most animated while Zucconi, in a tshirt 50 sizes too big, followed suit. About half way through the set, they performed their hit single, “Tongue Tied.” However, when it reached Hooper’s verse, she changed her bit for a quick cover of Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love.” The most stand out part of the night, for myself, came when the band performed “Slow.” Rabin came out from behind his drums to perform on a single tom in the middle of the stage. The song, like the name suggests, starts slow but builds in ferocity until it explodes with a floor tom solor by Rabin, who plays with two drumsticks that glow blue in the darkness. By the end of the song, Hooper joins in and the two share the tom while the rest of the band gather around.

After their main set ended with their single, “Colours,” they returned to the stage with Portugal. the Man in tow, for an incredible cover of The Who’s “Baba O’ Riley.” An excellent ending, for an already fantastic show.

Hooper and Zucconi’s onstage chemistry is infectious. The pair, a couple in real life, bounced around in unison, chased each other, and at different points were rolling around on stage. The rest of the band, each bring the same explosion of energy as they roam the stage and bounce with the music. The band’s sound, boisterous and fun reflections of youth and their artistic spirit, creates nothing short of a danceable event. Throughout the night, I found myself looking back to watch the audience, each of which were on their feet and dancing at their seats. People danced up and down the aisles, and the enthusiasm from the people closest to the stage and those way up in the nosebleeds was the same.

For the people in the Midwest and on the east coast, there is still time to catch this leg of the Honda Civic Tour. The 2nd leg will be headlined by American Authors and 3BallMTY. Some cities even offer the possibility of winning a Honda Civic with artwork designed by the bands. You wouldn’t want to miss that now would you?