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  • Writer's pictureChristine

AWOLNATION Brings New Meaning to the Word Intense!

I wasn’t planning on doing an article on the AWOLNATION show for a couple of reasons. First, writing this blog is a passion of mine, but not my full-time job. I was seeing 3 shows in 3 days, and keeping up with everything I need to do in order to put a good article together, seemed overwhelming with everything else going on in my life.

Second, while I like AWOLNATION, I had actually bought tickets to the show because I wanted to see the opener – Nothing But Thieves. So, I figured if I had to drop a write-up of one of the three shows last week, the AWOLNATION show was the one to drop.

But then I saw the show, and I decided the next day that I had to do an article and share the show with all of you. So, I’m writing this from memory and not the set of notes that I typically take during a show. And, I don’t have any video to share, which I’m now regretting because words can’t explain the intensity of the show.

AWOLNATION on stage at The Fillmore with red lighting giving a cool effect.

This picture perfectly defines the level of intensity throughout the entire AWOLNATION show!

Keep reading to find out more!

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The Fillmore is one of my favorite music venues in Philadelphia. The size of the room is perfect. Even if you stand all the way in the back, you are still close enough to have a great view. The acoustics in the room are fantastic. The bathrooms are spacious and clean (always a plus!). Parking near the venue is easy and inexpensive. Plus, the venue is located in the Fishtown neighborhood, which has lots of restaurants and bars to choose from for your pre-show or post-show food and drinks.

The outside of The Fillmore lit up in neon.

The Fillmore is a great venue, and it’s surrounded by a complete entertainment complex including restaurants, bars and even a bowling alley.

The “original” Fillmore opened in San Francisco in 1965. During the ‘60s and ‘70s, that version of the Fillmore was the focal point of the psychedelic music scene. It helped launched the careers of bands like The Grateful Dead, Santana, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors.

The Philadelphia version of The Fillmore opened in the fall of 2015 in a 125-year-old metal building. The AJAX building was converted into a 25,000-square foot facility, that is really three venues in one. The main room holds 2,500 people. It has a large main stage, along with a large bar on each side of the room, a large bar in the back, and a balcony area. The Foundry is located on the second floor of the facility, and holds 450 people. It has a small stage, a large bar, and several comfortable seating areas around the perimeter. Finally, as you enter the facility, you will be in what is called Ajax Hall. This is a lounge area where you can get food and drinks before the show. There is usually a DJ playing music before and after shows as well.

The DJ set up in the lounge area of The Fillmore.

There is usually a DJ playing in Ajax Hall before and after the show.

The lit up bar area on the side of the room.

One of the side bar areas. Depending on the show, the bar area may be barricaded off so that only people 21 and over can enter.

Tip #1: As mentioned above, The Fillmore is located in the up and coming Fishtown neighborhood. There are plenty of food options for grabbing a bite before the show. Two of my favorites are Frankford Hall, which serves German food and beer, and Fette Sau, which serves barbeque. If you want something a little less pricey and much more down to earth, grab a burger at Johnny Brenda’s. A Philadelphia institution itself, they also have live music regularly. It’s a great place to stop in after a show.

For this show, we decided to check out the new Yard’s brewery, which is a few blocks away. While you have to drive from there to The Fillmore, it’s only a quick 5-minute drive away. Yard’s recently opened the new location. Their original location was quite small and had no kitchen. The new location is huge, and has a kitchen with a full menu. We just sat at the bar to grab some beers and a quick bite. While the food was good (I had the ½ chicken), the service was lacking. Even though there were three bartenders covering the bar and they didn’t appear to be busy, you had to wave to grab their attention when you needed something, rather than them being proactive. Also, beware if you sit at the bar. Don’t put your hands underneath the bar. My husband reached under there to grab his napkin off his lap and took a chunk out of his thumb on something sharp underneath. I heard the woman next to me complaining about the same thing.

Tip #2: Parking near The Fillmore is easy. There are two lots located near the venue. The cost to park is typically $10-15. If your timing is good and you don’t mind walking a little further, you can typically find parking on Frankford Avenue or the surrounding neighborhood streets. Most of its free, but be sure to read the signs to make sure you aren’t parked illegally. Also, be aware that the trolley comes down Frankford Avenue. I’ve seen people that haven’t parked close enough to the curb, and the trolley can’t get through. They will have your car towed if you are blocking the trolley route.

Tip #3: Because the venue is so small, there really isn’t a bad spot in the room. I usually hand out in the back next to the sound board. That keeps me out of the crowd. From there, I also have good access to the bar and to the bathrooms.



Irontom was formed in 2012. Based out of Los Angeles, the band is made up of Harry Hayes (lead vocals), Zach Irons (guitar), Dane Sandborg (bass), Daniel Saslow (keys), and Dyl Williams (drums).

The band’s sound was influenced by recent bands like the Artic Monkeys, as well as classic bands like Led Zeppelin.

Irontom’s most recent album – Partners – was released in May of 2017. The album was produced and mixed by Alain Johannes, who has worked with artists such as Artic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age and Chris Cornell.

Irontom is a very interesting band. I guess you could call lead singer Harry Hayes “quirky”. He is full of energy, and seems to do these kind of strange hand/arm motions while he’s performing. Lead guitarist Zach Irons (who also plays guitar for AWOLNATION), is right handed but plays the guitar left handed, so it looks a bit bizarre.

Irontom on stage at The Fillmore to open the show.

Irontom was the first of three bands to take the stage. Note the way Zach plays the guitar!

The band kicked off their set with “More to Explore”. They played 6 songs in total. This is definitely a band that gives 100% in their performance. Their music has some potential. I need to listen to their recorded music more carefully to decide whether or not it’s something I like, and whether I would give them another shot live.

Irontom playing on stage at The Fillmore.

I loved Irontom’s energy. They were really engaged with the crowd, and the crowd loved it!

Irontom is currently on the road supporting AWOLNATION. They will be touring throughout the month of March. Check out their website at for more information.

Set List:  More to Explore, Live Like This, No Matter What, Brain Go, Partners, Be Bold Like Elijah


Nothing But Thieves is based out of England. Formed in 2012, the band is made up of Connor Mason (lead vocals/guitar), Joe Langridge-Brown (guitar), Dominic Craik (keyboards/guitar), Philip Blake (bass), and James Price (drummer).

In 2014, they signed with RCA Records, and released their first album – Nothing But Thieves – in October of 2015. The band first gained attention in 2015, when their single off the album – “Itch” – made it onto Radio 1’s regular rotation, as well on Sirius XM satellite radio. A second single – “Trip Switch” – followed, and ultimately hit #1 on the U.S. alternative rock charts.

Nothing But Thieves released their second album – Broken Machine – in September of 2017. The single “Sorry” off the album also gained some radio play and success in the U.S.

Despite the fact that Nothing But Thieves hasn’t gained a lot of commercial success on the radio in the U.S., they have a very devoted following who have supported them during their live shows.

I love Nothing But Thieves live. I think Mason has an incredible voice, and the band puts on a great show. Unfortunately, because there were two opening acts, NBT didn’t have time to do many songs. I would have loved a longer set from them!

Nothing But Thieves on stage with Connor Mason singing.

Lead singer Connor Mason has an incredible voice!

They opened their set with “I’m Not Made By Design”, and just cranked through things to get as many songs in as possible. Mason even commented at one point, that he apologized for not taking more time in between songs, but they didn’t have much time.

For me, the last three songs of the set were all I needed. It started with “Trip Switch”, which is my favorite song of theirs, followed by current single “Sorry” and wrapping up with “Amsterdam”, which I think is a perfect closer.

Nothing But Thieves performing at The Fillmore.

Nothing But Thieves only had a chance to play a short set, but it was a great one with lots of energy!

Before going off stage, Mason hinted that they would be back to Philadelphia in September. I’m anxiously awaiting the concert announcement!

Nothing But Thieves is currently on the road through the end of March, supporting AWOLNATION. In April, they have several international dates on their schedule. You can find more information on upcoming tour dates on their website at


AWOLNATION was formed by front man Aaron Bruno and is based out of Los Angeles. Bruno had been a member of several other bands before forming AWOLNATION. In 2009, Red Bull Records approached Bruno about using their recording studio for free. He took advantage of the offer and recorded a few songs, which led to him signing with the label.

The band is really all about Bruno. He’s had a rotating set of musicians with him as part of AWOLNATION. That includes the current line-up, which includes a couple of members of opening band Irontom – Zach Irons (guitar) and Daniel Saslow (keys).

The band released their first album – Megalithic Symphony – in 2011. They had commercial success with three singles from the album – “Sail”, “Not Your Fault” and “Kill Your Heroes”. In fact, “Sail” peaked at #10 on the U.S. Billboard Rock charts and went platinum. In support of the album, AWOLNATION hit the road extensively, playing 306 shows between 2011 and 2014. In 2012 alone, they played 113 shows.

AWOLNATION released their second studio album – Run – in 2015. During this time, guitarist Drew Stewart left the band, and was replaced with Irontom’s Zach Irons. Irons had four days to learn all of AWOLNATION’s songs so he could step in during the tour. While Run didn’t have the same commercial success that Megalithic Symphony had, the band continued to hit the road hard to build up their fan base.

AWOLNATION’s third studio album – Here Come the Runts – was released on February 2, 2018. The album was written and produced by Bruno. According to Bruno, he wanted to make a rock n’ roll/pop album that was inspired by artists that he grew up listening to such as Dire Straits, The Cars and Tom Petty. The first single off the album – “Handyman” – is currently getting heavy radio play on alternative rock stations across the country.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of AWOLNATION. I love their song “Sail”, but I had been listening to their new album and found it to be a little too mellow. Then, when I saw the stage set up – which consisted of lots of potted plants and a wood slat backdrop – I was even more concerned about which version of AWOLNATION we were going to get.

AWOLNATION on stage with potted plants and mellow lighting. Bruno is wearing a poncho and hat.

The stage set up – including the potted plants – made me think this was going to be a mellow show. I was wrong!

When the lights went down, the band came on stage minus Aaron Bruno. As they started with the new album’s title track – “Here Come the Runts” – I could hear Bruno singing, but didn’t see him. We suddenly saw the crowd all turn our way. We looked up, and there was Bruno perched up in the balcony right above our heads!

Once Bruno made it back to the stage, things got even crazier. You know it’s going to be a crazy show when the lead singer tells the audience that when they are crowd surfing, they need to be good to each other and if anyone falls down, pick them back up.

Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION on stage

Lead singer Aaron Bruno is really the heart and soul of the band, and he gives you everything he’s got on stage.

The first four songs were very intense, before AWOLNATION went into a slower version of their hit “Kill Your Heroes”. After that, the intensity went right back up and stayed there the whole show. There were a couple of slower songs like “Table for One” and current single “Handyman”, during which Bruno encouraged everyone to light up their cell phones. But the majority of the show was just a crowd surfing/mosh pitting sort of experience!

Of course, the culmination of it all was when AWOLNATION closed with “Sail”. This was one of those shows that left you physically and mentally exhausted at the end, even though their set only lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes or so.

If AWOLNATION is coming to a town near you, check them out. I promise you will feel like you got your money’s worth!

In support of the new album, AWOLNATION has hit the road on a headlining tour, with dates throughout the U.S. through mid-March. They will continue touring in Europe throughout April. You can find more information on the band and their upcoming tour dates at

Have questions about seeing a show at The Fillmore in Philadelphia? Want to know more about Irontom, Nothing But Thieves, or AWOLNATION? Comment below or e-mail me at

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