I don’t actually attend Millikan High School, but an old friend told me about Visions Night and I couldn’t resist. Millikan’s Visions Night is basically an art gallery/concert/poetry reading/body painting festival invented to let loose the insane energy of high schoolers.
Before Visions Night, I had heard some excited talk on the social medias about Better Heroes, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.
I certainly didn’t expect a pop punk band with a chick lead singer and talent spread across the band thicker than butter.
Young? Very. But their age didn’t show when they performed. Skilled drumming and extremely impressive guitar work accompanied surprisingly low vocals.
First, some history on Better Heroes. Hunter Allen (lead vocals) tells us the story, “Better Heroes formed when I was playing at a Visions Open Mic Night at Millikan when I was a freshman. A senior named Sina Gnao—who we are on good terms with but [who] is no longer in the band—approached me and said she had a bassist, Zachary Vredenburgh. I was close friends with the dork we call our drummer, Evan Schaid, and that was that.”
A band like Better Heroes with members who are college- and high school-aged definitely run into some problems, especially when it comes to rehearsals and recording. When asked about the issues that arise for BH, Allen says, “I could go with the stereotypical, ‘we have homework, we have to get up early,’ answer, and while that might be true, there are more pertinent struggles.” She continues, explaining, “We are all still just kids, despite the fact that three of us are above the age of eighteen and out of high school. We have so much learning and growing to do not only as musicians, but [also] as people. But, let’s not underestimate the torment of having to get up at 6AM after playing a show on a school night. Evan and I know that pain all too well.”
All of the members of BH have had experience, which explains their comfort on stage. “Out of all of us,” begins Allen, “I think Eric [guitarist] has the most experience when it comes to playing in professional bands. Evan has also been in a series of bands and projects but most of those are in the past and had been for fun… Both of these boys have also played important roles in their school’s jazz programs at Millikan and Poly.
“Michael [guitarist] also had some experience playing in other bands but, once again, as far as I know, it wasn’t anything particularly serious. The same goes for Zack, but both of them have been playing music from young ages, building themselves up on their own time.
“I have also been singing and playing music from a very young age. Better Heroes is the first and only band I’ve ever been in, although I did a significant amount of solo performances in elementary school talent shows…that counts, right?”
At Visions night, everyone knew the lyrics to every song. And I’m completely serious. Better Heroes’ popularity at Millikan rivaled that of Justin Beiber before he dove off the “bad boy” deep end.
Allen expresses pleasure at how well the performance at Visions Night played out: “Visions Night was sick! The Millikan crowd is always so amazing and they give us some of the best shows we’ve ever played.
“What I’ve learned recently is that we, as a band, go up onstage to do the same thing we always do. We make jokes, I flip my hair around a bit, Eric ends up soloing like a spaz on the ground, Evan and Zack do their rhythm section high-five, and Michael mostly just likes to stand in dark corners. What really makes our shows so great is the crowd! “The stage-diving and the singing and the skipping in circles, it honestly makes my heart feel full to bursting when I can see all of these kids having fun. It’s so gratifying like, ‘Hey! Look at what we did! We gave these people something to be happy about!’
“Visions was really just a great reminder that through the sweaty practices, heavy lifting, and petty arguments, we’re doing something that’s important to more than just us. The people, our friends and our fans, they’re what makes it all worth it. I don’t know that I could actually put into words how much we love and appreciate them.
And let me tell you, those Millikan COMPASS/Visions kids know how to get crazy. They never disappoint.”
Hunter Allen had a spectacular sense of humor and after mounting the stage, wasted no time in cracking jokes. If she was at all nervous during the set, she concealed it expertly. She appeared to have been born for the purpose of performing music live.
A mosh pit circled in the small area under the bleachers where the concert took place. None of the high schoolers had any idea how to mosh, but they were so deeply immersed in the music that they didn’t look ridiculous.
At one point during the concert, the lead singer invited friends onto the stage to sing along and encouraged crowd surfing (shockingly, the adult supervisors did not try to stop this…clearly much more relaxed than at Poly).
I don’t always see this at concerts, but it was really clear just how much every single audience member LOVED the band and the band loved every single person in the audience. A bond formed that night between performers and fans that really can never be described.