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Going Out in Style: Thursday’s Farewell Tour Hits New Haven

December 29, 2011 2 comments

Thursday Farewell Tour
Toad’s Place, New Haven CT
December 28th 2011 

With the release of 2001’s Full Collapse, Thursday changed the course of alternative music. While the scene they helped create may not be remembered in the most favorable light, the band has consistently challenged musical conventions over the past 11 years, and done so with as much sincerity and integrity as any band could.

That is why it is a shame they have never equaled the success of Full Collapse. With each album, the band’s record sales and popularity fell, despite the fact they continued to earn glowing reviews for both their new releases and live shows. In April of 2011 they debuted their fifth proper full length, No Devolucion. It was a radical, “art rock” departure from their earlier work that quickly became one of the year’s best reviewed albums, even if not one of its best selling.

Short openings slots on tours with My Chemical Romance and Taking Back Sunday in front of largely uninterested crowds followed before the band then announced a proper headlining tour. In late November, they proclaimed the tour would be their last, save for a brief run of Australian dates in 2012. The band cited personal issues for calling it quits, but it can be assumed the difficulties of making a living as a band for so many years had taken its toll.

Their final headlining tour would come to a close with a string of East Coast dates during the holidays, with New Haven, CT being the third to last stop. The band had a history of playing at Toad’s, a venerable rock club close to the campus of Yale University. Their final show there would prove to be a memorable one, as both the band and their fans poured all of their energy into one last performance.

The night began with opening sets from Aficionado and Connecticut’s own Make Do and Mend. I was able to catch a number of songs from the latter, and wasn’t terribly impressed until their closing number, “Night’s the Only Time of Day,” which showed quite a bit of potential.

New Brunswick, NJ trio Screaming Females followed, showcasing their bass-heavy brand of garage rock. In addition to playing a very impressive lead guitar, frontwoman Marissa Paternoster is a vocal powerhouse, and her talents help the act stand out from many of their peers. While the band doesn’t have fantastic stage presence, they sounded great, and their set seemed well received by the large crowd that had already gathered.

The main support act was Philadelphia’s MewithoutYou. The band has earned somewhat of a cult following after touring extensively with the likes of Thursday and Brand New in the past, but has never earned the same type of breakout success as those two bands have. They played a nearly 45 minute set that had many in the crowd moving and singing along. They tended to blend at least a few of their songs together, and took only short breaks between others. While I’m not terribly familiar with their work, I would say they sounded much better than they had the one other time I had seen them.

After a nearly 40 minute wait (which is really pushing it at a show with five bands), Thursday took the stage to the tune of No Develucion’s “Open Quotes.” The crowd immediately surged towards the stage as fists flew through the air. While not one of the band’s better known songs, the intensity the band and the crowd displayed during this number would set the tone for the rest of the night.

Next up was “For the Workforce, Downing”, which is one of the band’s best known songs. The intensity was turned up a few more notches as frontman Geoff Rickly climbed on top of a monitor at the front of the stage, grabbed onto a support beam and leaned as far as he could into the crowd. With no barrier separating the stage from the fans, literally dozens of   people made their way on stage during this song alone, forcing the band to take a short break afterward to rearrange all the gear and peddles that had been trampled during the melee.

While Thursday had played 16 songs sets at previous shows, Rickly announced they would be playing longer on this night due to special requests from their road crew, the first of which was “I Am the Killer” from Full Collapse. The band would do a very good job showcasing songs that spanned their career while still featuring six songs from their most recent effort. This was important because this tour would prove to be the only chance they had to play anything from No Develucion as a headlining act.

Throughout the set, the crowd somehow maintained their level of intensity. At times it seemed the only ones getting more of a workout than the fans were the bouncers responsible for corralling crowd surfers as they reached the stage. Even during the set’s more mellow moments, the crowd continued to rage. At one point, Rickly said something along the lines of “We need to play a fast song now because you guys are killing each other during these slow songs.” The band would then launch into “At This Velocity” from 2003’s War All the Time, which was one of the set’s best performances.

For someone who has a reputation for between-song story telling, Rickly’s between song banter was at least somewhat constrained, although he did thank the fans on numerous occasions for sticking with them throughout the years and for their enthusiasm on this night. This enthusiasm would peak during “Cross Out the Eyes,” the song that had helped put the band on the map ten years earlier.

The only full length that Rickly and Co. seemed to ignore was 2008’s “Common Existence”, that is until the schizophrenic  “Resuscitation of a Dead Man” was featured as the last song of the set. After a very short break, the New Brunswick crew made their way back on stage and promised a three song encore, which began with the slowed down “Stay True.” The song was dedicated to the night’s first two opening acts, who Rickly credited with reminding him of “why he got into punk rock in the first place.”

After a nod to the holiday season, the band played the opening notes to

“Jet Black New Year” and the crowd swung back into action. The marathon (once again, considering there were five bands)  20 song set would then conclude with fast-paced closer “Turnpike Divides.”
It was now 12:15, and the sun had officially set on Thursday’s final New Haven show. Their powerful performance reminded everyone in attendance why they had grown to love the band in the first place, and why it would be tough to see them go.   While they may have ended up a casualty of a flawed record industry and shifting tastes, those in attendance are likely to remember Thursday as the band that poured their souls into every album and every live show, especially their last one.

Thursday Setlist Toad's Place, New Haven, CT, USA 2011

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And a farewell two arms, and legs, and heads and all

June 24, 2008 1 comment

Alkaline Trio, Bayside, The Fashion
Toad’s Place, New Haven CT
Saturday June 21st 2008

I now realize I face a huge dilemma in writing these show reviews. I have no idea who, if anyone, will be reading them. Now my first thought is to write a very detailed review that another diehard fan would want to read. However, if you’re one of my friends who I’m forcing to read my blog, you would have probably been there with me if you were that interested in whether the band played that Japanese bonus track from 1998 or what color Matt Skiba’s guitar picks were, and how many he threw out to the crowd (they were white, and he threw out a lot of them, but I wasn’t counting, sorry). Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, because I want my own record of the show, but I don’t think anyone other than myself is going to read the War and Peace version of “Alkaline Trio at Toad’s.” So here is my attempt at a concise and somewhat interesting review of one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.

Not from the New Haven show. Matt has less hair now. I’ve been a huge Alkaline Trio fan for five years now, and up to this point, I had never seen them live. Freshman year, I passed up two chances to see them, once at the Roxy and once at Avalon because I had an exam to study for and a night class. If anything, this taught me the invaluable lesson that school work should never come before your favorite bands, because I ended up bombing the test, learning nothing in the night class, and regretting the decision horribly.

Toad’s is pretty much the size of my basement. And it’s 10 minutes from my house.So it completely rules. Tonight however, the club decided to split the crowd in two, straight down the center by putting up a barrier. One one side was the bar and everyone over 21, on the other side was the merch tables and everyone under 21. Now, I can’t imagine anything more lame than standing near the front of the stage with a bunch of dudes holding beers and barely singing along, so I chose the under 21 side hoping it would be crazy during the show, and of course, it was.

If there’s one thing I like, it’s knives. Really who doesn’t? You can’t deny the pleasure that comes from slicing cleanly and quickly through a steak, or chicken, or some flesh vegetables. That’s why I was amused when a Denmark-based band that no one had ever heard of called the Fashion took the stage to the sound of blades being sharpened and a recorded dialogue about which type of knife was the best. Did you notice that spelling error? It was my sad attempt to keep this interesting for people who couldn’t care less about punk bands from Copenhagen. However, those people should care, because the Fashion were really, really good. Their singer jumped and danced around the stage like a mad man and the songs themselves were full of energy, hand claps, and big choruses. While I don’t know if this band will ever catch on in the US, they sure did manage to entertain the crowd and start the night off on a good note.

Next up was Bayside. Now I’m not sure if you’ve been informed of this, but Bayside is a cult. I learned this from the t-shirts and hoodies that way too many kids wore to the show (even if they are an opening band, that’s still a no no). In addition to being a cult, Bayside is also huge. I’m not sure when this happened, but it’s pretty awesome, and from where I was standing, this might as well have been a headlining show for Anthony Rineri and Co, because everyone went nuts when they steped on stage and began their set with “Blame It on Bad Luck.” One of the things I love the most about Bayside is the fact that there are no gimics. They don’t pull out any keyboards or recordings or string arrangements, they don’t try to look like rock starts, and they’ll happily admit that they worship Alkaline Trio and are thrilled to be touring with them. They simply do their job, which is to  play dark, meloctic rock music very very well. At some points, the singing of the crowd easily drowned out Rineri, who  said every night of the tour had been the best night of his life, and proudly sported a red Alkaline Trio heart logo among the numerous tattos adorning both his arms. When the band could be heard, it was obvious they were hitting every note, and Jack O’Shea is one of the best guitarists around. Rineri also said that the band would be recording a new record shortly and hoped to release it in September. Here are the songs I remember them playing:

Blame It On Bad Luck
The Walking Wounded
They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns
Duality
Montauk
Carry On
Hello Shitty
Devotion and Desire

Now it was time to wait about half an hour for Alkaline Trio to take the stage. The entire time, I’m wondering how they can possibly top Bayside’s set, and wondering how Bayside has gotten so good. Also, this is the part in the review where I stopped to take a break. It lasted about a day, and that’s really too long, so the quality is pretty much all downhill from here. I apolagize for that, especially considering it wasn’t any good to being with.

Anyway, It’s great to see Bayside getting the attention they deserve, and I’m expecting a lot from their new record. So Alkaline Trio. For most of their set, they were very good, borderline great in fact. They kept everyone happy by playing a nice mix of songs from all of their records. They opened with “Private Eye,” and Matt and Dan seemed to be switching off songs. I was more impressed with the songs Matt was singing lead vocals on, mainly because it was pretty difficult to hear Dan, and also because Matt’s songs are just better to begin with. The crowd sang every word, and there was plenty of between song banter including the obligatory “this is the best show of the tour!” after only the third song.Also not from the New Haven show.

While many bands start off displaying a lot of energy and playing their most popular songs first, that didn’t happen here, for I felt each song got better and better, and the show certainly hit it’s peak during an amazing encore. The band finished the first part of their set with “This Could Be Love,” extending it to include a huge crowd sing along with everyone belting out “love for fireeeeee!!!!” After the song, they said their goodbyes and left the stage. Instead of the typical “one more song” chant, the crowd began singing the chorus to encore staple “Radio” at the top of their lungs in unison. It was incredible, and upon hearing it, the band immediately returned to the stage and joined in (from the start of the song, or course). No matter what type of mood you’re in, there’s something wonderful about singing a song about wanting to see your enemies electrocute themselves very loudly with hundreds of other people.

For a band that has been around ten years, it seems like Alkaline Trio is as popular and as vital to today’s music scene as ever, and they should only get bigger with the release of their major label debut on July 1st. It will be interesting to see what the band has planned down the road in terms of touring and promotion of the new album. A fall tour of larger venues with other established acts doesn’t seem out of the question, but it is unlikely such a tour could match the excitement or intensity of the Trio playing all of their best songs at intimate venues with two great opening bands, but we’ll just have to wait and see. The more pressing question is, does anyone have an extra ticket to the New York show?

Songs I remember them playing:
Private Eye
Nose Over Tail
I Lied My Face Off
Mercy Me
New Song (possibly calling all skeletons)
Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
Crawl
Goodbye Forever
In Vein
Every Thug Needs A Lady
Armageddon
Help Me
We’ve Had Enough
Time To Waste
This Could Be Love
Radio