Friday was a difficult night for Hana Pestle, who was in a car wreck that nearly took her life hours before her performance at the Babcock Theater. Pestle was visibly distracted onstage, and told her audience, “We’re lucky to be alive.”
Pestle’s car, driven by her record producer and boyfriend Ben Moody, hit ice on the highway between Butte and Billings as the couple returned from a performance in Missoula the previous night. Moody lost control of the car, which slid into a semitrailer, bounced back into their lane and spun into a roadside ditch. The vehicle was totaled, but Moody and Pestle were remarkably unhurt.
Pestle, who was unable to rent a car because of her age, and Moody, who forgot his wallet and therefore was also unable to rent a car, were able to get a 26-foot Uhaul to drive the remaining two hours to Billings for the concert.
Onstage, Pestle was plagued with technical difficulties. “I can’t seem to catch a break today,” she said. As she launched into “Just a Phase,” from her debut album “This Way” that was released last month, Pestle said, “Hopefully all this bad luck is just a phase.” Moody joined her on keyboard for duets on the last two songs, including the album’s title track, which the couple co-wrote.
More than 300 people were in attendance at the Friday night concert. Many came out to see hometown sensation Pestle but plenty were there for headlining act Secondhand Serenade. The first song from lead singer John Vesely’s lips started the mostly teenage audience swooning. Boyfriends clung to their girlfriends as Vesely delivered a slew of candied songs, including the band’s main hit, “Fall For You.”
In performance Vesely was not as charming as his lyrics purported him to be. His ostentatious stage banter ranged from announcing he couldn’t care how to pronounce “Bizoula” (the band also performed in Missoula last night), to addressing his need to urinate throughout the concert, to practically auctioning off his “disease-free” band members for post-performance sex.
For all his cocky and obnoxious behavior, Vesely has a small claim to fame. His second album was released to a bit of clamor, and he’s been in the studio recording with The Fray producer Aaron Johnson.
The band performed some new songs—which Vesely said few people had heard—that showed promise with more rock and synthesized beats. But the rest of their repertoire completely lacked originality and modern appeal.
Secondhand—meaning (of goods) having had a previous owner—is so ironically apt for Vesely’s band name. The music he channels harks back to Dashboard Confessional, at times even progressing in the exact same structure as hits such as “Vindicated,” “Stolen” and other Dashboard songs written by indie pop and acoustic emo pioneer Chris Carrabba.
Known for his audiences singing his sweet songs with him, Carrabba did it first, and he did it best. Vesely lacks the candor, creativity and intellect to carry that torch.