Uniformed ticket collectors and ushers, leather couches, box seating...all a far cry from the types of spaces fans generally associate with a Hydra Melody concert.
However, the new music in conjunction with an advanced lighting display and hundreds of eager fans meant that the uniquely elegant intimacy of the Empire Theater was the ideal setting for Hydra Melody to celebrate the release of their first full-length album, NOCTURNA.
Drummer Matt Gomez tried to express the feeling of playing on that particular stage. “The Empire was awesome. It was different because it was a place I had never played in my hometown. I was seeing it for the first time and it was…”
And as Gomez searched for the right word, lead singer Jordan Berlanga quietly chimed in,
“It was even bigger than I expected, more intense,” Berlanga explained. “It was a little bit more of a challenge because we knew we had to bring something spectacular to the stage, just because of how spectacular the stage itself was. We wanted this to be more than a show, but an experience, not just moving from song to song.”
He continued, “Having traveled so much and playing with bands like Third Eye Blind and Cartel, there is purpose to the way their sets are written. It’s a huge step for us to not only hone in on that as musicians and writers, but also to be able to pull off that kind of complete show.”
Compared to work from earlier in their career, NOCTURNA is an introspective album, with songs turning focus away from external distractions and instead looking for a deeper level of personal accountability. And the new songs are going over well, as obvious pleasure blooms on Berlanga’s face when Hydra Heads are already singing along to new anthems like "Honey" or "A Cut Above".
Fans, however, were not at all disappointed when Hydra opened their show with crowd favorite “This Road,” as the opening strains sent an ecstatic roar through the audience loud enough to create actual impact with the soundwave. Then came the songs from NOCTURNA, and fans continued to sing along to the new lyrics, as Hydra had been gradually releasing songs online in the lead-up to the show.
Being treated to the new music also meant being treated to the work of Tennessee based producer Will Pugh, who surprised everyone when he joined the band on stage, strapped on a guitar, and began harmonizing with Berlanga’s vocals. The crowd cheered Pugh on as Jason Harari backed up from the mic and continued to jam on his bass. The music was blasting, the band was all smiles, and the crowd was in a frenzy.
And then...there was the drum solo.
The best way to describe the impact Gomez’s drum solo had on the audience is by describing the dazed expressions on the faces of the crowd, stunned by the talent to which they were bearing witness. Throughout each song, Erik Johnson (Colorwave Lighting) mesmerized the audience with a fantastic light show and LED display literally bursting with colors and patterns, but during Gomez’s drum solo the color scheme brilliantly changed to black and white, a pseudo-strobe effect to focus attention on the primal intensity of his performance.
The effect of the lights and screen with the music was appreciated by both long time fans and those who were seeing Hydra live for the first time. San Antonio singer/songwriter Jessica Redgate was struck by the level of production involved in the overall presentation. "It was so high tech, not what I was expecting, but great! There's not anything like what they're doing going on around here."
And that, Berlanga insists, is the point. Hydra Melody is creating music they love the way they want and, in the process, putting on the kind of show that they feel they can be proud of. “The main purpose was to show people what we were capable of, to treat our fans to the new music. Regardless of which venue we play at, we’ve set a bar, a precedent for ourselves. No matter where we go, people can expect to see a damn good show.”