Shrewsbury musician faces tough choice after success on tour
By Ryan Massad, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury- On July 13, 2011, “Vans Warped Tour” rolled into Mansfield. Thousands of music fans gathered to hear a large variety of different acts, scattered among eight stages. The more recognizable national groups like “A Day To Remember” and “Asking Alexandria” attracted their usual large crowds, but one local act had one of the most surprising large – and energetic – crowds of the day.
Boston hardcore band “Lions Lions” took the stage for what would be guitarist, and Shrewsbury resident, Van Truong’s final show with the group. Fans left the main stages, flocking to a smaller stage set up in a forest-like area along the outskirts of the Comcast Center. As the set began, the guitar reverb grew loud, and crowd surfers embarked on their journey toward the stage. But this might be the end of Truong’s touring experience; let’s go back to the beginning.
Prior to Truong fully committing himself to being a traveling musician, he was a normal student from Shrewsbury High School. He’d hang around shows at the Palladium and QVCC, until eventually realizing he preferred being on stage, as opposed to being in the crowd.
He met Brandon Davis, who would eventually be the other guitarist opposite Truong in Lions Lions. Davis was already a well-respected member of the local music scene after playing in bands “Therefore I Am” and “Vanna.” Davis first approached Truong with the idea of making music together.
“It was really Brandon that made me dedicate myself full-time to a band,” Truong said. “He called me one night asking me to write music with him for a new band. I quickly realized how much work and dedication are required to be a full-time musician.”
In order to pursue his music dream, Truong changed his life. He dropped out of college and sold most of his belongings, including his car and motorcycle, just so he could afford touring expenses.
Inadvertent networking around the scene introduced Truong to his other band mates, and Lions Lions was born and ready to make some noise.
“I first realized I had gotten into something serious at our first show,” Truong said.
That show was at the Living Room in Providence. The small rock venue was packed with hardcore music fans. Since this was the group’s first tour, the audience had never had the chance to see Lions Lions in person before, but they were excited about the music that this group would make together.
As the band’s popularity picked up, crowds as large as 5,000 would come out nightly to get a taste of Lions Lions. Eventually, the band gained the attention of larger national acts, most of which wanted them to be the opening act on their tours. The groups included “Sleeping With Sirens” and Worcester’s own “Four Year Strong.”
After a few years of non-stop touring, the release of two EPs, and a full album, “From What We Believe,” Truong was faced with a life-changing decision. He had to decide whether to stick with his band, which seemed poised for major success, or to be with his family in their time of need.
“My mother had a stroke two summers ago, and that day forever changed my life,” Truong said. “I was constantly touring, and leaving her behind. I found myself distracted, and not acting like myself. I created stress for myself, and everyone around me. That’s not what touring should be like. Everyone on tour should have fun and enjoy the opportunity.”
Truong made the difficult decision to leave the band, and to come home to his mother. He broke the news to his band mates, and announced that the Warped Tour performance would be his last.
“Do I have regrets of leaving the group? Of course; I gave up everything for the band. I worked hard, sweating on stage every night, just to make enough money to get to the next venue. I miss it very much, but it‘s important that I’m around for my mother.”
As the 2011 Warped Tour came to an end, so did Truong’s days with Lions Lions. It was an emotional time for all the band mates, as they came to the realization that they’d no longer be sharing the stage with their “brother.” They found it hard to imagine that this would be the last time they would perform together. Meanwhile, the talk of the tour was how a local band, hidden on a tiny stage between trees, completely stole the show.
On June 23, Lions Lions had a CD release show for their latest album, “To Carve Our Names,” at the Palladium. Toward the end of a riveting set, the band brought Truong out as a surprise guest, to perform his acoustic track “Tumbling.” The fans sang every word, just as they had sung any song performed by the band.
“I can’t express the feeling I got from the crowd that night,” Truong recalled. “I looked around the room, and saw all the people singing along. Probably the best feeling ever.”
Despite Truong having developed an impressive following, racking up over 25,000 views between the two versions of “Tumbling” on YouTube, he has no desire to be a solo artist.
“I write music to express my feelings, but I don’t know if I can consider my acoustic music a career. It is awesome to get such positive feedback from listeners though.”
Along with spending plenty of time with family, Truong is currently focusing on his career as a photographer and makeup artist in the Boston area. However, local music advocates certainly hope that he hasn’t taken the stage for the final time.
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