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Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: Inside Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour Experience

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MusicLive CoverageConfronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: Inside Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour...

Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: Inside Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour Experience

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On April 14th, 2023, Waterparks graced us with their newest album, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. Dedicated to reflecting on religious guilt, the album introduces a conceptual environment where one who experiences shame can confront and move past it. This space doesn’t just hand out refreshing catharsis though; first you must face your darkest vulnerabilities. Welcome to The Property, feel free to make yourself at home — the Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour is bringing it to a city near you.

Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.

Last week, fans of the Houston trio dressed in their most vibrant reds and packed into Philadelphia’s The Fillmore as they waited in anticipation for what would come from the extravagant set laid out before them. Known for riddling their artistic choices with hidden easter eggs, Waterparks has trained their biggest supporters in unearthing their creative motivations and this night was bound to be no exception in investigating the devil’s-in-the-details sentiment.

A red curtain hung from center stage and on either side sat two red doors, both marked with a green cross. Like an angel poised on one shoulder and a devil lurking on the other, each cross faced opposite ways, revealing we were in for more than just live music. We were in for a night of heavy contemplation inspired by some of life’s deepest brain-rattling contradictions.

We were being trusted with a key to The Property for a night and, knowing that with great power comes great responsibility, we collectively chose to unlock it.

One by one, the band emerged from the thought-provoking portals and commanded the room with a theatrical performance. Vocalist Awsten Knight visited every inch of the crowd sporting a bedazzled cowboy hat whose inner brim had the word “SOULSUCKER” lined around it like a halo. Meanwhile, guitarist Geoff Wigington ascended upon a set of towering stairs before flying off of them and drummer Otto Wood perched atop a platform while the energy on his face seeped into his arms and out through his drumsticks.

Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.

Before digging into the meat of their latest record, the band moved through a collection of songs from their past eras, showcasing prime examples of their electronic-tinged pop rock roots with “Stupid for You” from 2016’s Double Dare, “Blonde,” from 2018’s Entertainment, “Watch What Happens Next” from 2019’s FANDOM, and a medley of songs from 2021’s Greatest Hits. No matter the era, fans recited lyrics flawlessly as Awsten took turns singing into the mic and pointing it toward the crowd of combined voices that filled the room powerfully as one.

Early in their set, the band reflected not only on their past releases, but on their past visits to Philadelphia too. They reminisced on playing smaller rooms or opening for others throughout their career and expressed their gratitude for their listeners who continued to show up in growing droves. Despite the venue’s size, the band still made the experience an intimate one as they joked around with individual members of the crowd in between songs. In one moment, they took a request to play “Group Chat,” a 14 second interlude designed to introduce each of the members (and they played it three times). In another, Awsten started a Geoff and Otto chant everyone was eager to participate in.

As this sentimental dedication to the past ended and we had been reminded of the continued support gifted to us from the world of Waterparks, the band exited the stage and retreated through the red doors before everything went dark. It was time to put all of the symbolism into action. It was time to face the pent-up contents of The Property.

After a moment of silence, a singular spotlight illuminated a white sheet hung across the entirety of the stage. It revealed a contemplative silhouette of Awsten navigating his very personal and tumultuous relationship with religious guilt. Here, its definition slowly faded in; the name placed on learned trauma through the teachings of the church. This exposé of realization provided a gateway into understanding the shame he once felt when facing his natural thoughts, feelings, and urges and when trying to untangle himself from the complexities of his religious experiences — and all of that shame had latched itself onto the thick and seemingly never-ending walls of The Property.

Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.
Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: inside the Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour experience in Philadelphia.

Men in hazmat suits rushed around the vocalist’s vulnerable silhouette so as not to be impurified by his perceived toxicities. The thumping of their steps grew louder as a blue poison dart frog leapt straight off the cover of INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY and across the screen, echoing Awsten’s perceived toxicities into the room with a ribbit. The words “everybody is a god once you make it out of The Property” poignantly faded onto the screen and the weight of this space’s significance shone. Suddenly, the white curtain fell and took the walls of The Property with it.

Now overgrown with greenery, the doors opened as the band re-emerged from them and floated into the eerily heartbreaking “SOULSUCKER.” The crosses painted on Awsten’s eyes emitted a sour green glow as he sang the lyrics to the unreleased track: “We never made it out of the loft / let alone the property / ‘Cause Awsten’s scared of fucking failing / And you’re just scared to leave” fell upon us heavily. In that moment, the fear-filled gravity of facing the unknown pierced the room. Before we settled into the safety of surrendering to it, the band swept us off our feet with “SNEAKING OUT OF HEAVEN,” a song that celebrates surrendering, instead, to what you love. With it, we triumphed over the gripping control of fear and watered our own metaphoric plants to flourish in a life outside of The Property.

Healing isn’t all rainbows and butterflies though; sometimes it’s seeing red and nothing else. The record reflects the aggression that comes with confronting bottled up feelings in its angrier tracks like “RITUAL” and “REAL SUPER DARK,” both whose grotesquely captivating sounds pushed their aggression to new heights live. The cherry red-drenched room transformed Awsten into a fiery character whose actions became the physical embodiment of ferocious emotion coping. He sprinted from side to side as he clenched his fists and directed a series of mighty punches into the sky while the instrumentation’s frenetic spirit spewed the songs out into the crowd’s frenzied, red-fueled energy.

We took a breath following our therapy session of expelled anger as Awsten asked if we had ever attended a Waterparks show, expressing his interest in making sure no two tours were the same. The catch in this conversation is that we could hear him, but we couldn’t see him. We directed our befuddled gazes around the stage until we realized he wasn’t where we expected him to be; he was in the center of the crowd armed with a piano. The second his hand hit the first key of “High Definition” we were mesmerized and the world stopped; the magic was that all of the anguish and hurt we had just finished launching around the venue stopped with it.

The end of the night drew near as a dreamy vocal transition indicated the start of “FUNERAL GREY,” the very first single that marked the band’s new era and a song whose excitement still felt fresh. The room erupted into a sing-a-long of the song’s explosively catchy chorus with “She wore a sweater in summer weather” belting for all of Philadelphia to hear. That same energy was matched not just in the encore, but even once the show ended as giddy chatter swirled around the room between those thankful for having witnessed the illuminating, mentally-stimulating, and downright inspiring Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour.

Seeing Waterparks live is an experience words can’t fully encapsulate. It’s dancing to upbeat songs one moment and crawling deep within your mind to uncover your greatest fears in another. It’s finding the power to make art out of life and the bravery to make life out of art. It’s deciphering details that enhance the overall world of their music in a way you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Above all, it’s a community of others willing to participate in all of this together. So thank you Waterparks, it’s been a pleasure.

Show Date: 03.20.24 // Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore // Confronting Demons and Embracing Liberation: Inside Waterparks Sneaking Out of Heaven Tour Experience
Photos & words by Suzanne Leszczynski

Suzanne Leszczynski
Suzanne Leszczynski
Hi! My name's Suzanne and I like to capture the world of live music in Philadelphia; immortalizing moments between music lovers is what motivates me. I'll catch you at a show soon!

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Suzanne Leszczynski
Suzanne Leszczynski
Hi! My name's Suzanne and I like to capture the world of live music in Philadelphia; immortalizing moments between music lovers is what motivates me. I'll catch you at a show soon!

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