LIVE: Plush (& Daughtry) @ Fraze Pavillion, Kettering, OHIO, July 31, 2021
There aren’t many bands I would drive a total of 20+ hours for—to and from an arguably fictional place called “Ohio” nonetheless. Well, as a matter of fact, there’s only been one band I’ve driven that far for, and contrary to a first show in mythical Ohio, they’re a local band: Plush. And they brought a little (read: a lot) of excitement to the midwestern state.
For those who don’t know, I’ll bring in some info from their tour press release writeup.
“Plush is a (mostly local) musical hurricane of women all under the age of 21. It consists of Latham-based rocker Moriah Formica as lead vocalist and guitarist, with Bella Peron (a Maine native and virtuoso) as lead guitarist, and two Hudson Valley super-talents: Ashley Suppa on bass, and Brooke Colucci (aka Brooke C aka Rock Angel) as the backbeat of the band on drums.
Brought together during the COVID-19 pandemic, PLUSH has been making waves, and big ones at that, since their premiere in January 2021. With constant airwave rotation on SiriusXM Octane and on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Top 40 (climbing as high as #24 as of August 2nd, 2021), their (current) lone single “Hate” continues to garner more support and fans as time progresses.”
Clearly, they’ve been noticed, skyrocketing to a level of success countless bands work years to achieve, and they’ve done it in only a couple of months. This weekend was their first ever live show in Kettering, Ohio at Fraze Pavilion. I wouldn’t miss it, and so I drove that 20 hours and consumed copious amounts of regional fast food to see them open for one of their very own inspirations, Daughtry, of whom I am also a fan. So that was a bonus! Of course, I had to pack one of my own photos of him for him to hopefully sign, all while wondering if that was professional. (Is it? It’s probably unprofessional, let’s be honest).
As the photographer who has done the majority of their promotional & live shots, I have had the pleasure of getting to know and befriend this group of kind, skilled, and hard-working women. It was a no-brainer to take a small vacation to come out to support them. On July 31st, 2021 I drove from my Beavercreek, OH hotel to the Fraze Pavilion, which was located in a beautiful park in Dayton. Think of it like SPAC, but smaller with metal bleachers, grassy knolls, and amphitheater seating for butts of all kinds. There wasn’t, however, a pit. So my photographer self was bummed because my photos were limited to like three spots. I digress.
I’m gonna be up front here. This was a completely unique experience for me, just in a different way than it was for Plush. So you’ll get some of my bystander not-Plush-related narration. You’ll get my abridged perspective watching everything unfold before, during, and after the show.
Led by Moriah’s dad to the green room, past stacks of equipment cases stenciled with “Daughtry” and accompanied by the background soundtrack of Daughtry’s soundcheck, I opened the door to their dressing room and walked in. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the slack-jaws on all of their faces. Warming the cockles of my heart, those dumbfounded expressions turned to wide smiles, exclamations, and hugs of joy. I guess they hadn’t been told that I was coming. Very sneaky indeed, Josh. While I can’t speak for those wonderful ladies, I can say that for me, their ignorance of my arrival made that moment feel warmer & sweeter, more intimate, and more memorable.
They were flush-faced and excited, telling me all about how Chris Daughtry had come into the room just a few minutes before and had chatted with them. They were ecstatic, to say the least. Their words spilled out of them faster than water through a spillway on a rainy day. Eventually, they settled down, and their warm up exercises and pre-show jitters resumed. They didn’t look too nervous, but I imagine that for their first show as a group, they were. And if so, they were masking it well.
Now, I’ll skip past soundcheck and all the little photography anecdotes I like to narrate (including me almost crashing right into Chris Daughtry and taking a door he opened to the face), but I know nobody really cares about those. So let’s head straight into their set. It’s showtime.
I snapped a photo of them peering around the stage curtain to absorb their audience, and if there was any evidence left of their nerves, it had evaporated when the golden light hit their faces and they saw the music-lovers waiting for them and the headliner. They had a brief 15-second introduction from an MC, and they were up. They jogged out to their carefully marked places downstage and launched right into their first song.
Like many opening acts and of no fault of their own, the audience took a little while to get their energy up. But as soon as the unmistakable opening riff to Heart’s “Barracuda” rang out, Plush had the audience wrapped around their collective finger. To say the least, the audience loved this. It was during this cover that the audience whipped out their phones, nods of approval and impression emerged, and with it the murmur of acknowledgment that they were witnessing something amazing. They were watching stars be born.
The audience ate these newborn stars up. They cheered in all the right places, participated in a call-and-response portion of a song, and dutifully held their phones up to record these women owning the stage as the orange sun sank below the bleachers. There were even a select few in the audience, donning Plush shirts, who danced and sang and knew all the words to “Hate.”
Most spectacularly of all was at the close of their final song. With Daughtry guitarist Josh Paul standing beside me in the wings, recording them himself, we watched the audience get to their feet and give this group of young women a standing ovation. While I may be of relative youth, I’d like to think I’ve been to quite a few shows in my fifteen years of concert-going. Never in that time have I ever seen an opening act receive a standing ovation. Never. Not once. As I saw this, the happiness I felt swell in my chest was all for them. They had worked so fucking hard and it was paying off. A standing ovation at their first show. Unprecedented.
Elated and riding the high, they returned to the green room giddy with a tell-tale blush of joy coloring their cheeks. Only moments later, there came a knock at the door and in walks the headliner namesake himself, Mr. Chris Daughtry, with a few of his bandmates in tow.
“No way that was your first show,” he said in jest, but with a slight edge of uncertainty to his tone, “you have to be lying to me.”
The ladies affirmed that it was, in fact, their very first.
“You were fuckin’ incredible,” he said at that. No mincing words there. I wouldn’t have wanted him to. Not here. Not now. Not after that whirlwind performance that literally swept the audience onto their feet.
After he suggested a photo op, we shuffled onto the loading dock in the fading light. First, the two bands huddled together for a group shot, wide grins plastered on their faces. And then I (you know, unprofessionally) leapt in for a shot too. I wasn’t about to miss this opportunity. If I was going to break professionalism for the first time to take a photo with a band I was photographing, it was this moment to do it. He is one of my long-time favorites after all.
Photos aside, watching the way Chris and the other Daughtry members interacted with Plush and their supporting cast was refreshing. You may be wondering what I mean. You know how they say not to meet your heroes? Well, I think it’s safe to meet Daughtry. They were kind, funny, genuine people who had absolutely no obligation to repeatedly stop by and say hello, or take photos with the girls or me, or sign my photo print. Or talk about their next tours and say how awesome Lizzy Hale is. But they did. They repeatedly told the ladies again and again how incredible Plush was. They followed each woman of Plush on social media. And they came back for more photos (albeit very strange ones involving a pink worm with googly eyes named Don Gill) after every song had been played, every seat vacated, and the stage was being broken down.
Here’s where I recognize my own privilege in all of this. Getting to be there with my friends, doing what I love and taking pictures, and getting to hang out with a multi-platinum Grammy-winning artist is something I am so entirely grateful for the opportunity to get. And I really just want to give a shout out to the Formica family publicly (again) for putting up with me, my annoying self, giving me the opportunity to have photographed Moriah all those years ago, and everything since that has given me absolute honor to experience all this. It may not sound like it, but I am so truly humbled to have been there and see a show with some incredible people from a vantage point relatively few people will see….
We were allowed to watch the Daughtry set from the wings. And since I had been swatted away from taking photos after less than a song (insert my grumbling and booing here), it allowed me to actually just enjoy the show for what it was. It was so much fun to rock out and sing along, take videos and dance side stage—and watching the girls do all the same things I was doing, with added headbanging. Now I’m sure that in time pieces of this day will fade. But there’s a part I think will remain with me for a long, long time. It was when tears started to fall from my eyes during Chris’ acoustic song on stage. It was in this moment that I realized all of that gratitude I felt. I think the Plush ladies felt it too; all of us collectively absorbing this emotional intersection of varying degrees of luck and wonder and pride and hard work.
Stripped of any stage production to mask any mistakes he may make, a white spotlight pointed at Chris and his guitar as he began to sing one of his earliest songs that helped launch him into stardom. We all watched transfixed, with tears pricking my eyes, as one by one the lights came on in the audience until it was a sea of white orbs swaying as he sang. His voice reverberated around the amphitheater, and all that power and raw emotion and grit that makes his voice so strong and unique moved me. It moved us all, I think, as we reveled in that surreal moment. I captured it in only one photo on my cell phone. Watching those lights float in the inky darkness and wiping away tears with the back of my hand, I once again found myself realizing that this incredible, indelible moment is something that so very few will ever get to see, and how thankful I was to have the friends by my side that got me there.
If for whatever reason you haven’t listened to Plush, please do. Even if you’re not a rock fan, take a listen to their first single. Recognize that even though it is a studio recording, the voices and the musicians behind it are every bit as capable, as skilled, as talented, and kind, and as beautiful as it seems. Well, okay, they might not seem kind with a song like “Hate,” but I promise they are. They have a wide range of musical gifts, wider smiles, and the whole world left to conquer ahead of them. Get ready, start your engines… This first show is just their epic beginning.
Make sure to give all of their socials a like and download or stream “Hate” wherever you get your music!
I can’t really give the Plush setlist because it mostly consisted of original songs that have not been released yet. But you can get an idea of their sound and impeccable skills from the below:
- Ghost of Me
- World on Fire
- No Surprise
- It’s Not Over
- Home (Acoustic)
- Heavy is the Crown
- Over You
- Man in the Box (Alice in Chains cover)
- White Flag