High School Paper: Rearview Mirror Show Review

by Adam Wiltgen

This was originally created for a writing assignment in an English class during my junior year of high school. It was also later published on various Rearview Mirror fan sites / forums. I submitted this piece, along with another I wrote in the same class (my review of Silverchair’s Diorama), to the Rochester Post-Bulletin when I applied for the Teen Beat writing position I held during the following academic year.

Show Review: Feb. 14 & 15, 2003
The Warehouse La Crosse, WI
Note: This review was written in the days following the shows. Not long afterward,
the band decided to continuing using the name Rearview Mirror. They’ve stuck with it ever since.


Friday’s and Saturday’s shows at the Warehouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin marked the beginning of the end for seven years and two plus CD’s worth of music for a band called Rearview Mirror. It was well known by all going into the shows that the band would be moving on and undergoing some much needed changes. To understand the future however, one must understand the past.

The four original members of Rearview Mirror grew up together in Cresco, Iowa, forming the band in 1996. The band started out with: Matt Olson – Guitars, Adam Ptacek – Vocals, Jason Ptacek – Bass, and fan favorite, TJ Kammer – drums; who was replaced by the more talented, former tour manager Andy Blessing in September of 2002. By 1999 they had enough material to put out an independent CD. They used the cash made by playing gigs to pay for the 2,000 copies of Blown Out that were printed. Blistering and powerful, the disc is very impressive, especially considering it was released when they were all still in high school.

In 2000 the band got their big break. Acclaimed producer Steve Lillywhite discovered the band on the internet and flew to La Crosse to see them play at the Warehouse. Rearview Mirror signed with his label, Gobstopper records, which is a subdivision of a very large independent entertainment company called Palm Pictures. After months in the studio their major label debut All Lights Off was released to the public on June 4th, 2002. From late 2000 until late 2002 Rearview Mirror set the Midwest rock scene on fire with their single In the Beginning getting significant area radio play and with a hoard of shows and tours with the likes of Nonpoint, Flickerstick, Days of the New, the Toadies, Sevendust, P.O.D., The Blank Theory, and Filter among others.

However, fame and good fortune in the music industry are not easily attainable these days. About six months after the release of All Lights Off, Gobstopper/Palm was deteriorating from the inside out and didn’t have the cash to push the album the way they should have. So Rearview Mirror didn’t get any lucky breaks that let bands explode onto the rock scene; Things like critical radio/TV/internet promotion or hooking up with the right band on a large scale national tour.

So now Rearview Mirror stands upon the dawn of a record label change. To do that however, they have to terminate their current contract by changing their name and retiring all of their previous music. That brings us to the present: a band giving themselves and their fans one last hoorah with the music they built their careers on and a peek at the music they plan to start new careers on.

Friday the 14th’s show:
To set RVM’s scene for you, Matt had grown a cool looking, big wooly beard that drew some comparisons to that of a lumberjack’s. Adam was wearing a thrift store style Hawaiian type shirt he claims to have stolen from a friend. The two of them also were, as usual, playing barefoot. Rearview Mirror opened up with four songs from their indie CD: Hold your Eyes, Stain, Other, and Beautiful Like You. These songs are really guitar driven and show off their amazing early song writing skills. The band kept reminding the crowd that these were old songs, that they don’t like playing them anymore, and want to put them behind them.

Friday’s versions of the Blown Out songs were a bit shakier, but still powerful. Adam earned a few laughs when emphasizing the lyrics in the song Stain referring to his former drummer, “TJ! Where the **** are you at?!?!” The concert continued as they burst into the songs from All Lights Off. They played pretty much the whole album except for the overplayed single In the Beginning and the monotonous mosher Animal. Some of the highlights included the extended ending on City Walls, the combining of Like They Were and Guilty into one powerful opus, and an intense performance of Stronger Before. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowd was impressive especially during Stronger Before.

The band returned onstage for an encore of two songs. The first was a totally unexpected
version of the song Fame from the album Blown Out. You could tell they hadn’t attempted to play it in years, although everyone there enjoyed hearing it. RVM finished the night with a new song called On and On. It was the only new song they sang Friday and, of course, it was fantastic.

Saturday the 15th’s show:
RVM opened up with 5 songs from Blown Out. The same ones from Friday’s show, only this time they played Fame first. You could tell a night’s show and a days worth of practice had been put in. The parts of the old songs were much more fluent and powerful. The confidence that was lacking in the older songs on Friday was definitely there Saturday night. The band knew this was their last show as Rearview Mirror and they were pulling out all the stops along the way.

They continued that into the spectacular All Lights Off portion of the concert; right before
the intense outro of Stronger Before, Adam made a call out to a small group of people sitting in the back of the venue, asking “Did you pay to come and sit on your ass back there?…..Get the **** up!” He continued to do things his way by saying after the song that, “For seven bucks you could sit on your ass at home.”, and then started to compliment and high-five the mass of people near the stage. The All Lights Off set was the same as Friday’s only for this show they chose to omit the song City Walls also.

The encore was the most pleasing part of both the shows as they came back to sing six new songs. Two of them were brand new and had never been performed live at all. The new songs were more powerful lyrically and vocally. Melodies were exchanged on and off with the typically amazing guitar riff. All of them were impressive, especially the song they said Matt wrote called Solutions. The song is kind of an anthem for the changes the band is making and their “We’re doing it our way” philosophy to music. This is gratifying for the all the fans, because that is the only way to make it with original music.

The crowd was much, much larger on Saturday than on Friday. Probably because of the bad
weather Friday, the fact Friday isn’t a weekend and people might work, and Friday night’s show wasn’t technically their last show anyway. At any rate, it was great to see all the people there being excited about something positive like RVM’s music.

It is great the band is moving on and it’s great they went out like they did. Giving everyone
another chance to hear them is great for the fans. When Adam was asked about the direction of their new sound after the show Friday, he said “Do you like the Beatles?…Well, we want that sound, but we still want our edge too.” The band is heading to the studio very soon and should have a CD under a new name/label by the end of the year. Good luck guys.


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