‘Observer’ writer meets Emblem3

By Skylar Whitman, Senior Writer


There are songs that make me happy and there are songs that make me sad, but overall, there is nothing more powerful to me than the universal language of music.

Emblem3 is a pop-reggae male trio made up of Keaton Stromberg, 17, Wesley Stromberg, 19 and Drew Chadwick, 21, three boys originally from Sequim, Washington. Despite common assumptions, they are not a boy band like One Direction because they play all their own instruments as well as write and produce their own songs. After placing fourth on Season Two of The X Factor USA in December 2012, Emblem3 was signed by Simon Cowell to SyCo Records and Columbia Records. They released their first single in April 2013.

On March 23, 2013, I traveled five hours to New Jersey to meet the band and watch them perform. On April 14, I went to National Harbor to watch their free acoustic show. On Oct. 18, I went to Selena Gomez’s Stars Dance tour at the Patriot Center, where Emblem3 was the opening act. Finally on Feb. 27, I went to the Fillmore in Silver Spring to see my fourth Emblem3 concert on its first headlining tour, #BandLife.

My friends and I lined up at 10 in the morning. At exactly 2 p.m. after four hours of standing in line, security opened the Fillmore doors and let us sign in and get our VIP lanyards and wristbands. After check-in, we had to sit outside for another hour and a half. At 3:30 p.m., we were led single-file into the stage room. We were about to be treated to a three-song acoustic show preview, and we were standing in the center front row.

Wesley and Keaton’s sister, Breezie, came onstage before the boys did. She talked to us about Team Inspire, a global movement that Emblem3 and the boys’ friends created back home, dedicated to bringing a sense of self-worth, compassion and humility to young people around the world.

Emblem3 opened the acoustic show with “Girl Next Door,” one of the more popular songs on their album Nothing To Lose. The boys’ harmonies, paired with the song’s sexy lyrics, mesmerized the crowd, and everyone was singing along.

After “GND,” Wes, Keaton and Drew excited the crowd by singing the first song that they performed live on The X Factor, a cover of “One Day” by Matisyahu.

Concluding the acoustic performance, the boys sang their original song “Sunset Boulevard,” their audition song for The X Factor. Even though it was a small acoustic show, the reaction from the audience was incredible.

After a short question-and-answer session, my friends and I got in line for a meet-and-greet. Because there was music playing, I, embarrassingly, started dancing and quietly singing to myself. I looked up and Wes was smiling at me. He started singing and dancing along with me.

At past meet-and-greets, security rushed us to take the photo and leave, but this time we were able to talk to the boys and hug all three of them. I walked over to Wes, Keaton and Drew and asked if I could have a “cute, close group hug.”

After the professional photo was taken, we were allowed to take selfies with the boys. Wes took my iPhone from my hand and took the photo of the four of us himself. We all hugged, and it was over.

When the meet-and-greet ended, my friends and I ran back to the stage and ended up in the front row on the right side, next to the speakers.

Jackson Guthy, who was featured on The Ellen Show in 2011, opened the show and MKTO, a musical duo consisting of Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller, pumped up the crowd as the second opening act.

Finally at 8:40 p.m., Emblem3 appeared onstage on skateboards, performing tricks on different ramps and mini half-pipes. The band opened with “I Love LA,” a track on its album about the boys’ favorite parts of the West Coast. The crowd was full of energy and excitement, jumping up and down in sync.

The boys later performed “XO,” my personal favorite on the album, which they mashed-up with “Santeria” by Sublime.

Keaton introduced the band’s second single, “3000 Miles,” a song about being on tour and away from home. The last time the boys performed this song, Keaton said he was homesick. He admitted that the song makes him emotional. This time, he said he felt right at home because he had some friends and family on tour with him, and that his fans are part of his family now. Everyone in the crowd held up their cellphones and swayed back and forth, calmly singing along as the boys sang and played guitar.

After Emblem3 sang tracks from the album, the boys changed it up and sang five original songs which they wrote and produced before The X Factor: “Jaiden,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Indigo,” “True Friends,” and “Curious.” Fans in the crowd seemed more excited to hear these songs than the ones from the album, and expressed this by belting out every word.

When they sang “I Wish,” the raffle winners from the Q and A were brought onstage. A cancer patient going through chemotherapy was also brought onstage and Drew sang and danced with her during the song.

The final song before the encore was the band’s first hit single, “Chloe.” Being the most pop-y, “One Direction-esque” song on the album, some hardcore fans did not seem too happy about this being the closing track. Despite the hate and embarrassment a lot of fans have for the song, everyone jumped up and down and sang along because of how catchy it is.

The boys left the stage and the audience immediately starting screaming “Emblem3” repeatedly. When Wes, Keaton and Drew came back to the stage for the encore, they thrilled the audience with a cover of “Hotel California” by The Eagles.

Following the cover, they ended the show with “Sunset Boulevard.” Just when I thought the acoustic show audience was loud, the reaction to this song was so intense that I am still having trouble hearing.

Overall, it was an amazing concert and I am hoping the post-concert depression wears off soon.