Walk Off The Earth
Photos and Article By: Jennie Walker
Going to a Walk Off The Earth show is like getting invited to the best house party, ever. You might expect it to be like other parties - people absentmindedly moving about, not really sure what to do, maybe you spot the host a few times amongst all the people around you, but, it's not. Instead, it’s like that house party that has the fun disco ball in the living room, everyone is singing along to their favorite pop songs, and the host takes time to greet every guest. You feel included, like you belong in this group of strangers who just want to have fun.
The show started off with a fun skit about the band accidentally being in New York instead of Portland's State Theatre, complete with a Baby Driver like car chase scene. Then, from the depths of the stage rose the four members of Walk Off The Earth. They dispersed, the keyboard on the upper left side of the stage remaining empty, and jumped into their first song of the night. Four songs in came the first cover: Outkast’s “Hey Ya.” Then came “Alright” - a Walk Off The Earth original, “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, and the first so-called “song sandwich” of the night, a medley of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” “Stand by Me,” “Shape of You/No Scrubs/No Diggity,” and “Closer” though I might have missed some others. The night continued in this way, original songs being interspersed with covers, the occasional mashup, and one other video skit. They even brought out opener Gabriela Bee for a cover of “Rise” by Jonas Blue. Everything was bright, colorful, and energetic until about ten or fifteen minutes before the end of their set. Having just finished another song sandwich, culminating in Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” frontwoman Sarah Blackwood finally spoke about the empty keyboard.
Known as “Beard Guy,” band member Mike Taylor’s death was announced on December 30th, 2018.
“This was his favorite song to play,” Sarah told the crowd. “He loved to hear you guys singing.” Then the lights dimmed, and three spotlights came up on the keyboard as the tribute video started to play “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Whether or not people knew Mike Taylor, everyone was singing along to the words as the crowd and band alike gazed up at the combined clips of Beard Guy playing at shows, dancing backstage, laughing, and living life to the fullest. It was a touching moment to see tribute paid not only in words, but through well loved music. “2000 of our closest friends,” the band said when describing the crowd at one point during the show, and it felt as though they were truly honored to celebrate the life of one of their closest friends with the fans that appreciated their music so much.
Once the video was over, the four members took the stage once again to sing “Sing It All Away” as a lyric video played onstage. In contrast to the previous tribute, the stage was doused in vibrant pinks and blues and purple, and the balloons strung to the ceiling were finally released. Smoke Machines went off all across the stage, opaque air getting caught up in a blue to purple to white gradient. Phone flashlights shone from the back of the theatre as people waved them back and forth like lighters. The song itself is a joyous anthem about letting music take away your worries, and, combined with the effects, both visual and physical, it became a celebration of what the crowd has just participated in for the last hour and a half. Despite encountering death and sadness in the past few months, the group’s mission was to deliver a concert dedication to happiness and living. They certainly delivered.
When you strip down the lights and the crazy production elements of the concert, which includes oversized balloons, lazers, and confetti cannons, singing along really does feel like you’re at karaoke night with exceptionally talented people. Anyone who’s seen their YouTube videos knows that Walk Off The Earth often plays other people’s songs better than the originals. Armed with talented vocals and a myriad of unusual instruments, the group manages to keep songs feeling new, even those that aren’t their own. Seeing these covers in person is like discovering your favorite song all over again, you can’t help but smile and dance along.