Alt-rock band Paper Route teamed up with AirBnB to deliver a series of “up-close-and-personal shows” on the band’s current tour.
Last Thursday night, Paper Route delivered an intimate performance in Harlem. A few minutes before show time, the small crowd moved from The Honeywell – where they sipped complimentary cocktails – to the next-door café, The Chipped Cup. Surrounded by framed, aged photos and crystal chandeliers, the audience took their seats on wooden chairs and leather couches. The members seated in the front row were so close to the band’s equipment that if they leaned forward just a little and extended a finger, they’d touch it. Paper Route – composed of Nick Aranda, JT Daly, and Chad Howat – move in and around the equipment, greeting fans and waving to familiar faces, until “Africa” by Toto begins to play and Howat shows the crowd his best magic tricks.
The show, it’s clear, is not your regular live concert. Oh no, it’s part of a new initiative set up by AirBnB as part of their Music Experiences platform. The goal? Bring artists closer to their fans and their community, resulting in a completely fresh and unique travelling experience.
“We have this vision and we really believe that these intimate music experiences can basically provide a transformational experience for travellers visiting that city, locals living in that city,” Riccardo Ulivi, the NYC Marketing Manager for AirBnB, explained. “Imagine going to Tokyo and seeing a really cool, iconic Tokyo punk band in a really intimate space.”
Paper Route is the first band to collaborate with AirBnB on this new project. While they may not be New York locals, their fans’ reaction to the performance suggested that they might as well be from the Empire City. Numerous audience members leaned forward onto the edges of their seats. Others swayed in time to the music. Almost everyone asked a question (or two).
The band started their set with two of their older songs, “Enemy Among Us” and “Last Time.” In both tracks, the members fluidly incorporated vocals, keys, guitar, and electronic sounds, delivering an opening that struck right at the emotional core of the audience.
Many of the songs were divided by small anecdotes of the band’s past experiences – touching upon the song’s inspiration, other times that they performed the track, or simply the story behind its title – and questions from the audience. The first question was met by smiles of approval from the band members.
“Why did you choose the name Paper Route?”
In response, Daly and Howat shared memories of growing up in the Mid-West. Namely, Howat intimated that his father worked the paper route when his family fell on hard times. It stuck with him, as did the exchange that prompted the next track, “Sugar.”
“I wrote this song for the girl I was dating [at the time]. I proposed to her and…she’s now my wife.”
And so it continued for the rest of the evening. Each song was intercepted with dialogue concerning the band’s past and present moments. Paper Route shared insights into the cover art for Real Emotion, the church’s influence on their sound, and mental health and marriage’s impact on their writing. The band and AirBnB also incorporated a video and disco lights into the performance. The former was available via a clickable link sent in the event’s confirmation email and the latter was used in connection to a slow-dance sequence for a lucky couple from the audience. Within each exchange, the sincerity between the audience and the artists was palpable.
“These guys are incredible,” Ulivi said in a pre-show discussion, “[The show is] funny. It’s intimate. At [the] show, a couple on a first date ended up slow dancing in front of everyone and it was the most magical first date that they could have had. It’s really cool. And, y’know…if you play a 50,000-person stadium, you’ve got security and a huge stage, and you’re not really connecting with your core audience and your fans. This is a platform to allow [artists] to do that.”
Beyond connecting with fans, Paper Route delivered a phenomenal musical performance. The band members incorporated a range of instruments from maracas to tambourines to a small kid’s toy that alters sounds. (The last one sounds peculiar but only the members of The Strokes and U2 have the same device i.e. it’s legit). Daly’s vocals soared within and across songs. The lead singer demonstrated an incredible range in terms of both style and tone. On the keys, Howat consistently delivered bold, poignant melodies. Aranda switched between electric and acoustic guitars, strumming out catchy, dynamic riffs on both. In a sentence, the performance was cohesive, emotionally-rich, and truly entertaining. From the banter to the harmonies, Paper Route did not miss a beat.
So, what now? Who’s up next on the AirBnB tour? Ulivi shared the company’s plans.
“This [event] is a unique case. Going forward, the idea is that when you’re in Mexico City, the artists will be Mexican artists that represent the culture, the community, the city. It’s really a platform for emerging artists to connect more with fans, to amplify their own efforts. We’ve got some really cool stuff that we’re working on behind-the-scenes, so think about how big this could go. Think about local and global…We’re all really excited about it.”
The excitement extends beyond the company and the artists. It, of course, touches the fans. Towards the end of the evening, a dedicated fan of Paper Route raised her hand to say “thank you.” After all her times meeting the band members and seeing them perform live, the fan believed that this event was something extraordinary. It was clear that the band felt the same way as they thanked everyone for joining them on this night in NYC.
“This has been our best show so far,” Daly intimated, “and I’m not just saying that! Y’all are beautiful.”
For more information on AirBnB and Experiences, please check out their site.
All images courtesy of AirBnB.
Images feature the San Francisco and Los Angeles AirBnB x Paper Route events.