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Rising Alt-Pop Powerhouse Caroline Romano Energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix

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The warmth of a quickly approaching summer in Phoenix was not enough to keep crowds of fans away from the Crescent Ballroom on a busy Saturday evening. While the steady line of fans were predominantly there for co-headliners Smallpools and Grayscale, many soon found themselves charmed by the fervent, youthful energy that alt-pop singer Caroline Romano brought to start off the sold-out show during her opening set.

Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.
Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.
Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.

Walking the line between explosive alternative rock-like choruses and entrancing indie pop melodies, Romano is a rising star with a natural talent for live performance. Watching the young artist on stage, it would be difficult to tell that this is her first time touring, though she’s no stranger to the music industry as a whole. At just 22 years old, she’s already amassed over a dozen singles, an EP, and a debut album. Just a day prior to the show, the latest of these singles ‘Doesn’t Matter’ was released with more planned for the remainder of 2024.

A few minutes after the conclusion of a rowdy performance by fellow supporting act The Romance, Romano was greeted by a wave of cheers as she took the stage. The set began with the uninterrupted flow of lyrics that open the first few verses of ‘Tell Her I Say Hi’, recounting a past heartbreak drenched in deception and not so subtle betrayal. Softly declaring that “I was smothered in what I thought was love / but it’s just what you do”, Romano quickly escalates into a gut-wrenching outcry of resent in the chorus of “You said you loved me, that was a lie / right through your teeth while you look me in the eye”. For those in search of relatable post-heartbreak anthems to blast at any time of day, look no further than Caroline Romano and her straightforward yet piercing lyric writing. The song choice quickly piqued the interest of the crowd, making her signature sound known to everyone before moving further into the set.

Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.
Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.
Rising alt-pop powerhouse Caroline Romano energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Smallpools/Grayscale coheadlining tour.

Taking a break to introduce herself to the now eager audience, Romano quickly moved into her next two songs ‘Hurt People’ and ‘Body Bag’. Throughout both, the stage became Romano’s personal runway as she marched back and forth to engage every side of the packed room. During ‘Body Bag’, the infectious rhythm of the song made it difficult to not want to dance alongside Romano at times. It’s clearly a hit in the making! The two tracks are currently unreleased, which is a shame considering how obsessed the crowd was with both. Until the day that either one of the tracks is released, we’ll just have to attend more of Romano’s live shows to hear them again.

The last few months have seen Romano hard at work honing in her sound with a steady stream of single releases since November of 2023. One can only hope that the plethora of new music is building up to a new EP, or even a sophomore album. A highlight among these singles is “Used by You”, where we see Romano lean further into the combination of semi-soft vocals backed by alt-rock instrumentation as she belts out “I’d rather be used by you / than you be something I lose”. Her lyrics paint the picture of unrequited feelings in a romantic situationship, something that at least a few people in the crowd found themselves relating to as they nodded their heads enthusiastically in time with the beat of the song.

Catching her breath for a moment, Romano took the moment to ask the crowd for their help on the next song ‘Doesn’t Matter’. At the end of a particular line, “You locked on the door and I hold my breath”, the singer kindly asked that everyone present gasp, expanding on a small gasp included in the recording of the song. Much to her excitement, the crowd was eager to help and filled the room with a collective gasp at the end of the line. While the slowed pace of the song was a bit of a departure from the energetic production and upbeat vocals that her music typically carries, it provided an opportunity for Romano to demonstrate her versatility and resistance to being exclusively boxed into a singular genre moving forward.

As the short set neared its end, my personal favorite among Romano’s discography, ‘girl in a china shop’, found its way onstage. The first verse began slowly spreading its sonic wings as it approached a launching point with the lines “I am a lightweight, I am a daughter / I am a dead weight, I am a monster”, seeing the singer proceed to passionately belt out “I am a girl in a china shop”. The frustration-laden anxiety anthem feels tailored to the experiences of early adulthood that many of us in our early 20s find ourselves navigating on a daily basis. In the unfamiliar chaos of fully controlling what direction the vehicle of our life moves in, it feels almost too easy at times to lose our grip and crash in places we shouldn’t. In ‘girl in a china shop’, Romano finds herself feeling as if she breaks everything she touches and, in turn, struggles to break free of self-imposed feelings of shame.

Coming to a close after an all too short 30 minutes onstage, Romano walked off stage to the sound of momentous applause and cheers from a thoroughly entertained crowd. Without a doubt, she warmed up the stage well for the co-headlining bands that would soon occupy it. For those who haven’t had the incredible opportunity to see this rising powerhouse perform live, it is an absolute must. All we can hope for now is that Caroline returns to Phoenix soon to serenade us once more.

Show Date: 05.04.24 // Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom // Rising Alt-Pop Powerhouse Caroline Romano Energizes the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix
Photos & words by Brian Mecinas

Brian Mecinas
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Based in Phoenix, Arizona! Environmentalist by day and concert photographer by night <3
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