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Anti-Flag Brings Angry Back to Boston

February 10, 2010 Leave a comment

“The Economy Sucks, Let’s Party” Tour
The Paradise Rock Club,  Boston MA
February 2nd, 2010

Despite their overtly political lyrics and outspoken criticism  government, big business, weapons manufacturers, and just about every other type of establishment, Anti-Flag has never been a favorite of the punk community. They have long been branded as “too poppy,” and their brief stint on a major record label didn’t earn them much credibility either.

I’ve never shared this view. I  respect the band because they’ve done their best to have their voices heard, unlike so many bands who toil in obscurity for years in a vain attempt to “keep it real,” or whatever they like to call it. It’s because of Anti-Flag that thousands of suburban kids who would otherwise not give a second thought to politics are familiar with the things like depleted uranium, war crimes, government hypocrisy, and anything else the band has ranted about over the past 15 years.

Anti-Flag has always put on an intense and fiery live show, and tonight was no different. The band brought a diverse mix of support bands along with them, beginning with New York’s Star Fucking Hipsters. As front woman Nico de Gaillo and guitarist Sturg traded off gravely vocals, the group received the type of reaction from the crowd that most openers can only dream of. The circle pit raged on throughout their thirty minute set despite the fact that few in the audience seemed familiar with the band.

Next up were Canadian act Cancer Bats. While their array of guitar theatrics and metal breakdowns were amusing for a while, they all started to sound the same to me after a few songs. This didn’t seem to bother the rest of the crowd, as not one, but two circle pits took up most of the  floor.

Aiden, the night’s third act divided the venue like neither of the first two bands had, as some fans rushed to the front while other happily drifted to the back. I was among the latter, and I thought the Seattle “goth punks” tried a little too hard to mimic AFI. Their lyrics dealt mainly with razor blades, death, and drugs. They were laughable at best. However, the band’s performance was as intense and energetic as anyone’s, and lead singer Wil Francis was happy to acknowledge the take it or leave it nature of his band’s material.

After a short wait, the headliners took the stage and immediately got the crowd involved by ripping through first-pumpers “The Press Corpse” and “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington DC.”  An early highlight of the set was “The Modern Rome Burning,”  with its dramatic breakdown that inspired near bedlam in the pit.

While the band quickly moved through the first half of the set, it wasn’t long before front man Justin Sane took to his soap box, criticizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while also praising “the fair city of Boston.” Musically, the band focused on tracks from their most recent release, last summer’s The People or the Gun, as well as 2006’s For Blood and Empire but also mixed in a number of older tracks such as “Drink Drank Punk” and “Fuck Police Brutality” that satisfied everyone in attendance.

While the disaster that was the presidency of George W. Bush has inspired a great deal of the group’s back catalog, it would have been foolish to think the band would soften their approach once Barack Obama took office. At one point, Sane criticized the current president for doing nothing to help the situation in the Middle East, fix the health care system, or crack down on the financial institutions who had “robbed millions of Americans.” While some acts may have jumped on the anti-Bush bandwagon in an attempt to sell more records, it is obvious that this was never the case for these Pittsburgh punks.

After closing the set with “You’ve Got to Die for the Government,” the band would leave the stage before returning for an encore that began with a medley of Clash covers, including “I Fought the Law” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Drummer Pat Thetic and bassist Chris #2 would then climb down into the crowd and help finish the set with the very appropriate “Power to the Peaceful.”

Despite the fact that the set lasted just over an hour, it still provided everything a fan could want, including fist-pumping sing-alongs, raging circle pits, and an impassioned performance by the men on stage. While Anti-Flag might never be remembered as one of punk’s greatest bands, the influence they continue to have, along with their ability to stay relevant while other political bands have fallen by the wayside, is something every band should aspire to.

Setlist was identical to New York show listed below.

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The Flaming Lips Bring Weird to Boston

October 1, 2009 Leave a comment

HPIM1396The Flaming Lips
Explosions in the Sky
August 3oth 2009
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston

It’s amazing how a bunch of chairs can change a rock concert. The cheap plastic furniture takes everything that is great about seeing a band live and sterilizes it. Gone is the crowd energy, the singing along, and the pointed fingers. Instead, thousands of enthusiastic fans are transformed into zombies, herded to their assigned spots by the orange-clad seating chart police. During the show, some fans dare to belt out the songs along with the band, but most simply bob their heads or stare blankly, not exactly urged on by the stranger sitting in the next seat over.

During their show at the Bank of America Pavilion on the Boston waterfront, The Flaming Lips attempted to break this familiar pattern, as is their trademark, they did their best to turn the event into a party of massive proportions, complete with flashing lights, balloons, confetti, and stage dancers. However, Wayne Coyne and company were never able to fully escape the amphitheater trap, failing to connect with the thousands of fans filling the seats despite putting on a solid performance.

The night started with a short performance from an opening band that I don’t recall the name of and no one paid attention to. You know you’re at an amphitheater when…

Next up was Explosions in the Sky, an instrumental band hailing from Texas that has developed somewhat of a cult following. This wasn’t their first high-profile opening gig, for I saw them with the Smashing Pumpkins about two years ago. Their brand of instrumental rock is sometimes soft, sometimes heavy, and never really all that interesting, at least not to me. While I certainly consider myself a fan of lyrics first and instrumentation second, there were some in the audience that thoroughly enjoyed the performance, head banging along to a set that was at times ear-splittingly loud.

Before the Flaming Lips took the stage, their road crew worked furiously to ready the elaborate stage set up, and they were joined by frontman Wayne Coyne. In between taping down setlists and tuning guitars, Coyne tried to pump up the crowd with a number of exagerated fist pumps and hand gestures. The night would only get stranger from this point forward.

Instead of taking the stage, the band was “born” from the image of a large flourescent woman dancing on the backdrop. Coyne was the last to step out from a door in the screen, and he then climbed into a transparent ball and proceded to “roll” over the fans in the first few rows.

The musical portion of the show began with “Race for the Prize,” and while the band would go on to play a number of fan favorites, it never HPIM1384seemed like Coyne and company made a connection with those in the audience. Much of this can be attributed to the venue itself. I don’t have anything positive to say about amphitheaters that are more concerned with selling nachos than with putting fans close to the stage (I think you could just leave it as, I don’t have anything positive to say about amphitheaters—just kidding). Another issue was the distractions the band provided. Large colorful balls, some filled with confetti some not, where thrown into the crowd during the first song. While punching them up into the air was amusing at first, it got old as the set went on.

In addition to the bouncing balls, there was also plenty of confetti, and dancers positioned on each end of the stage. These dancers, even the ones dressed in wolf suits, somehow managed to move and jump around throughout the entire set. Their enthusiasm wasn’t matched by those in the seats, most of whom  simply bobbed their heads throughout the night. This isn’t to say the band didn’t get the crowd interested on a few occasions. “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and “Yoshimi Pt. 1” were highlights of the set, as was “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which was the final song before the encore. The band would also preview three songs from their upcoming record Embryonic, which will be released on October 13th. Of the three, the intense “Silver Tremblin Hands” sounded the best.

To bring the night to a close, the band performed a one song encore consisting of  “Do You Realize,” which finally had the crowd singing along. The show ended on a high note, but it was difficult to not be at least somewhat disappointed with the performance as a whole. While the Flaming Lips gave their best effort to keep the show interesting, their set lacked the intimacy of a club show, and couldn’t match the spectacle or sheer volume of an arena performance. While I would certainly see the Flaming Lips again, I can’t imagine I would be all that excited to do it at a place like Bank of America Pavilion.

Funeral for a Friend Finally Comes to America

January 28, 2009 2 comments

hpim0384The Color Fred,  Angels and Airwaves, The Early November, Metro Station. What do these bands have in common? Well, not much, other than the fact that I don’t think that highly of any of them, and probably wouldn’t go out of my way to see them live. However, I’ve seen all of them perform… twice. Why is this important? Well, I’m using it to show you just how strange it was that January 25th, 2009 was the first time I had the chance to see Funeral for a Friend, one of my all time favorite bands, perform live. The Welsh quintet has made only a select few appearances on American soil as of late, mainly a stint on the 2006 Warped Tour, and a brief summer headlining run to support 2007’s Tales Don’t Tell Themselves. On this night, they would take the stage at the Upstairs portion of Worcester’s Palladium with The Sleeping, Emarosa, and This is Hell.

While I missed both This is Hell and Emarosa, I wasn’t exactly heartbroken, considering this night, at least for me, belonged to Funeral for a Friend alone. However, I did have the (dis)pleasure of seeing The Sleeping in the main support slot. Frontman Doug Robinson did his best to stir up the crowd, and despite the fact that the Palladium sound was borderline atrocious and his vocals were barely distinguishable, he did get those in attendance moving for at least a while. The band started the set by furiously reeling off some of their most aggressive songs, including “Don’t Hold Back,” which had the crowd screaming along with fists in the air. The Sleeping then decided to slow it down, a questionable call considering the crowd seemed to lose interest after this. As the band finished off their set, some made their way for the exits, but most in the crowd began to inch closer to the stage in anticipation for an event that had been a long time coming.

As Funeral for a Friend took the stage, frontman Matt Davies took a second to survey the small but enthusiastic crowd before the band launched into “The Year’s Most Open Heart Break.” The fans near the front were elated by the choice, and sang along to one of the band’s oldest songs. This would be indicative of the rest of the set, for the band did a suburb job of mixing in old favorites with tracks from their most recent release, Memory and Humanity.

From here, the band would play Roses for the Dead, one of only two songs they would preform  from 2005’s Hours. The set would be dominatedhpim0398 by tracks from Memory and Humanity and 2003’s Casually Dressed and Deep in Conversation. Songs from the latter record, arguably the band’s strongest effort, including “She Drove Me to Daytime Television,” “Novella,” and “Juneau” were a more than welcome surprise, and received the greatest response from the crowd. On a number of occasions Davies let those at the front of the stage do the singing while lead guitarist Chris Coombs-Roberts proved that the band’s musical prowess isn’t simply studio magic. While Davies didn’t talk for long, he did make a point of addressing the crowd on a number of occasions,  and at one point  he told the crowd Worcester was making a strong case for inclusion on the band’s next US tour, which he promised would not take another two years to become a reality.

The band debuted a number of tracks off their latest record, including lead single “Waterfront Dance Club,” “Rules and Games,” “Constant Illuminations,” and “You Can’t See the Wolves for the Forest,” which Davies passionately told the crowd was about “not letting anyone tell you how to think or what to do.” While the new tracks didn’t receive the same response as the Casually Dressed favorites, most in the audience did seem to be familiar with them. One unfortunate aspect of the night was the fact that the band did not play what I consider to be the new record’s two best tracks, “Kicking and Screaming,” and “Beneath the Burning Tree.”

hpim0396The band decided to stack the end of the show with some of their strongest tracks, including “Reunion (Into Oblivion),” which inspired a huge sing along and was (somewhat) surprisingly the only song played off of 2007’s ambitious yet sub-par Tales Don’t Tell Themselves. The band would also perform “Streetcar,” the second song from Hours, and then close the set with “Escape Artists Never Die,” a song the crowd had been impatiently requesting all night.

As the band left the stage, the crowd began to chant for one more song, but to everyone’s surprise, the house lights went on and a security guard began to clear the crowd. No encore? Apparently not. The fact the band was making such a rare US appearance, had played for only an hour, and then had the nerve not to perform an encore was irritating to say the least. Despite this fact, the hour they had spent on stage was everything I could have hoped for, as the band executed a great set-list like the well-oiled machine they have obvioulsy become after years of international touring. They sounded great, interacted well with the crowd, and made the long wait seem more than worth it. However, they still have to make up for the lack of an encore. I would suggest another area show sometime soon would do the trick.

Funeral for a Friend Setlist

This Year’s Most Open Heartbreak
Roses for the Dead
Waterfront Dance Club
She Drove Me to Daytime Television
Maybe I Am
Juneau
Rules and Games
Novella
Constant Illuminations
Into Oblivion (Reunion)
You Can’t See the Wolves for the Forest
Streetcar
Escape Artists Never Die

    Fall Out Boy in New York City

    December 18, 2008 Leave a comment

    hpim03341 Whether you’ve been a diehard fan since day one, gave up on them when they got big, or have hated them all along, there’s a good chance that you have some pretty strong opinions regarding Fall Out Boy. The most hated and beloved band in today’s pop-punk/alternative/rock/whatever you call it scene, Fall Out Boy has gone through some drastic changes in the past five years, from Chicago unknowns, to underground favorites, to multi-platinum stars. November 16th 2008 marked another step in the bands evolution, for it was the release day of their 5th full-lenght album, Folie a’ Duex. While it will be difficult to match the success of their past two records, Folie a’ Duex  has received generally positive reviews, and the band’s rise to pop prominence in 2009 is almost assured. Their show at the Nokia Theater in Times Square served as a CD release party, and in typical Fall Out Boy fashion, it was bigger and more elaborate than anyone would have expected. From on-stage camera men, to dancing bears, to a surprisingly strong performance from frontman Patrick Stump, this show pretty much had it all. 

    While the doors were scheduled to open at 7 and the show was to start at 8, that was more wishful thinking, as hundreds of fans waited in the snow and bitter cold for an additional 45 minutes and then saw opening act Tyga take the stage around 8:45. The 19 year old rapper did what an opener is supposed to do in this situation, keep it fun and keep it short. Tyga, along with a second rapper and an MC performed for only about 20 minutes. The set included a cameo from Barack Obama, or at least a masked impersonator of the President-elect, as well as bits and pieces of a number of different pop songs. Throughout the set, an obnoxious advertisement for Nokia was displayed on the stage’s LED backdrop, a reminder of how overly corporate the show seemed at times. While Fall Out Boy themed Nokia banners lined the balconies, the corporate sponsor had helped keep the face value of tickets to only $10. For the lucky fans who were able to avoid the ebay route and score tickets at this price, I doubt the sponsor’s presence was too much of an issue. 

    After a relatively short wait between sets, the curtain opened to reveal Fall Out Boy, who began the show with “Thnks Fr TH Mmrs.” While this ishpim0316 one of their biggest singles, the crowd didn’t exactly erupt, for that reaction was reserved for the start of the next song “Thriller.” The last time I saw Fall Out Boy was nearly two years ago, before the release of Infinity on High, and at that time, they were an “ok” live band, at best. Even this was a big improvement over the first time I had seem them, right after the release of From Under the Cork Tree, when they were a relatively terrible live band. At this show, Patrick’s vocals were spot on, and the instrumentation wasn’t bad either, especially considering  Pete Wentz’s relative disinterest in playing bass. Despite the fact that this was a CD release show, the band would focus mainly on material from their last two albums, playing only three Folie a’ Deux songs. 

    An element of this show (and I’m guessing any Fall Out Boy show) that can’t be ignored is just how much Pete Wentz feels he needs to talk between each and every song. I got the idea Wentz has a general idea of what he wants to mention beforehand, but most of it comes across as being completely off the cuff. Sometimes it works, and sometimes his comments and quips miss completely. leaving the crowd, and even the rest of the band, itching to get back to what everyone came for. On this night, Wentz touched on subjects raning from Twighlight, to the New York Giants, to high school bullies, to Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta’s upcoming vocal cord surgery. Wentz’s ramblings did lead to a good deal of crowd interaction, which is never a bad thing, and it was obvious the band was enjoying playing at a venue that is more intimate than most of their tour stops.

     While Fall Out Boy would go on to blast through “Take Over, The Break’s Over” and “Nobody Puts Baby In The Corner,” the spectacle began with Folie a’ Deux’s first single “I Don’t Care.” The band was joined on stage by two backup dancers and strobe lights flashed on and off, as did the bands instruments, which were outfitted with their own LED displays. After playing more older material, including Take This To Your Grave’s “Chicago Is So Two Years Ago,” the band debuted another new track, “Head First Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet.” At this point, the band was joined on stage by the two original back-up dancers, as well as two more dancers, both dressed as bears. Talk about over the top. The third and final new song Fall Out Boy  would play was “America’s Suitehearts,” this time with only the band members on stage (thankfully). 

    hpim0325At one point, Pete stopped talking long enough to allow Patrick to tell a story, this one about the first time he spent time on his own in New York. While the band thanked the crowd for being so enthusiastic and commented on how New York had always been one of their favorite places, the crowd was somewhat of a disappointment. While everyone seemed to know all of the words, they only sang them for about half of each song, and then seemingly lost interest. This changed slightly with the last two songs of the set, From Under the Cork Tree hits “Sugar We’re Going Down” and “Dance Dance.” As an intro to “Sugar,” the band played a spirited cover of Estelle’s “American Boy.” This was after they had already played “the oldest song they knew,” that being their cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” 

    After a very short time off stage, the band returned for the encore to play “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out,” just in time for the holidays. Of course, this was not until Pete Wentz could deliver another monologue, this one about Gabe Saporta. An interesting fact: Wentz wears currently wears a Midtown wrist band with the lyrics “God I wish I could hate you for the rest of my life” inscribed on it. Midtown is  the criminally unappreciated rock band Saporta left to form Cobra Starship. After waxing nostalgic about Midtown, Wentz would help toss bucket fulls of candy canes into the crowd before closing the show by putting down his bass and grabbing the mic for set list staple “Saturday.” 

    hpim0349

    While Fall Out Boy continues to close shows with the same song they have for years, little has remained the same since their Take This To Your Grave days. Their new record is certainly the most wide ranging and ambitious of their career, and arguably their best. While they are sure to go on to tour arenas around the world in the coming year, their record release show in this intimate Times Square venue was a memorable “only in New York” experience. The day before, the band had put on an impromptu accapella performance in Washington Square Park, and after this show they would hustle across the street to Virgin Megastore to sign thousands of autographs. While they have grown in stature and popularity, it is refreshing to see the way that Fall Out Boy interacts with theirs fans, both inside and outside the venue.

     

    Fall Out Boy Setlist: 

    Thnks fr th mmrs
    Thriller
    Take Over, The Breaks Over
    Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner
    I Don’t Care
    Chicago is so Two Years Ago
    A Little Less 16 Candles
    This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race
    Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet
    I’m Like a Lawyer
    I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy
    Grand Theft Autumn
    Beat It
    America’s Suitehearts
    Sugar, We’re Going Down
    Dance Dance

    Encore:
    Yule Shoot Your Eye Out
    Saturday

    Call It Treason While You Can…

    July 23, 2008 3 comments

    All Time Low
    Hit the Lights
    Valencia
    There for Tomorrow
    July 21st 2008
    Webster Theatre, Hartford

    …treason, because I know that I’ve pretty much breached the faith* of every single person who I had tricked into thinking I had decent music tastes by going to see All Time Low. Yes, their fans are mainly 13-16 year-old girls. Their lyrics aren’t in any way profound or original, and (when they actually keep their shirts on), they wear those obnoxious, florescent scene hoodies on stage. Does any of this stop me from loving All Time Low, and did any of it stop me from enjoying the show? Of course not. I walked out of a stiflingly hot Webster Theatre completely impressed by the band, and not at all regretting the trip.

    After waiting in a pretty long line to pick up my will-call ticket to this sold out show, I finally got inside the doors and, as I had predicted, witnessed a site that reminded me more of a middle school assembly than of any of the other shows I’ve been to this summer. The first band, There For Tomorrow, was playing their final song, thankfully. They sounded pretty bad, and looked like any other pop-punk band trying way too hard to be fashionable.

    Next up was Valencia, gearing up for the release of their major-label debut at the end of August. I’ve seen them once before, opening for Saves the Day, and once again, I wasn’t exactly impressed. While they weren’t bad, they weren’t very good either. After watching their set, I felt the same way I feel after listening to their debut CD “This Could Be A Possibility,” just kind of “blah.” The crowd was sort of into them for most of the set, and got very excited when they finished with “The Space Between.”

    Now, I went to this show knowing that I was probably going to just stand in the back and watch quietly, which I ended up doing. I was completely comfortable leaving the singing to all the little girls, and the moshing to all of the shirtless bros, especially considering it had to be 100 degrees inside that dump of a venue in the bad part of Hartford. This is why I can give a pretty objective review of the two bands everyone was there to see, the first one being Hit The Lights. Now this band, who recently released their second full-length, and first with new vocalist Nick Thompson, has gone through a lot and toured like mad-men over the last three years. That’s why I was so happy to see the crowd go crazy when they stepped on stage. Thompson looks like he belongs in a hardcore band, and you can tell by his stage presence he probably worship Gorilla Biscuits and Cro-Mags at one point. I like it.

    The band played a very good mix of old and new songs, but considering that their latest, “Skip School Start Fights” was only released a few weeks ago, it was understandable that older favorites like “Save Your Breath” and “Speakers Blow,”  had the crowd screaming their approval. The band’s biggest song, “Body Bag” stirred them into a frenzy, and new single “Drop the Girl” was another highlight of the set. Overall, they sounded very good and looked like they were having an even better time being up on stage. If there’s any band I think deserves a lot more recognition than they get, it has to be Hit the Lights. They have the songs and the live performance to be pretty big pretty soon.

    Obviously not my picture. I should probabaly cite it or something.

    Obviously not my picture. I should probabaly cite it or something.

    Next up was, of course, All Time Low. The first thing I have to say about their set is that the light show was awesome. I know, I know, I should be talking about the music first, but I felt all of the colors and strobe lights really added to the performance, which happened to be very good. Thinking of other pop-punk bands I’ve seen in the past, I wasn’t expecting All Time Low to sound all that great, but wow was I wrong. Lead singer Alex Gaskarth has a great voice and put on a very strong vocal performance, never sounding tired or out of breath despite the heat.

    As for the set list, I liked it, but I felt they could have made some better choices. They played a mix of songs from “So Right It’s Wrong,” and their (completely awesome) cover of Rihanna’a “Umbrella.” Every song inspired a huge sing-along and the aforementioned shirtless moshing in the middle of the floor. I just wish they had included “The Party Scene” or “The Girls a Straight Up Hustler,” two of my favorites. Towards the end of the set, things began to get ridiculous on stage (in a rather amusing, “wow these guys like to embarass themselves” kind of way”). It started when when Alex scolded the security guards for manhandling crowd surfers as they came over the barrier. Considering most of them were 100lb girls, and the Webster security guards were being their normal boneheaded selves, his rant seemed more than warranted, and received roars of approval from the crowd.

    Next, Alex stated how he normally wasn’t a fan of lead singers taking their shirts off, but he was going to have to do it this one time because it was just so hot up on stage. Haha, right. This of course inspired ear-piercing squeals from all the 13 year-old girls as Alex shook his head saying “no, no this is not good.” For a guy who writes half of his songs about summer and the beach, he sure looked pasty to me.

    Towards the very end of the set, Alex was left alone on stage to perform the band’s token slow song “Remembering Sunday.” He wasn’t alone long though, as he was soon joined on stage by members of all the opening bands, wearing only All Time Low hot pants and carrying “F**k ATL” foam middle fingers. At one point, a large American flag was unfurled behind him and a beer pong table made an appearance on stage. This happened, seriously. The band finished the set with their hit “Dear Maria, Count Me In” while about 20 other guys jumped around stage throwing ping-pong balls and causing a ruckus. It was pretty amusing. While I would say that this was the typical “last date of the tour prank,” I wouldn’t be surprised if it had happened at every other show on the tour, knowing these bands.

    While Alex had earlier said the band wouldn’t be playing an encore (and after a ton of people were thrown out for crowd surfing during “Dear Maria”), the band decided they would play one more song, that being a great cover of Blink-182’s “Damnit.” While it is obvious that ATL is strongly influenced by Blink, and true that they’ll probably never see the type of popularity their idols did, All Time Low seems to have taken the crown of “best fun summer music” band, and I have to say that the title is well deserved.

    A Pretty good video of the absurdity at the end of the show

    *I know, treason is generally meant to mean “acting to overthrow one’s governemnt,” but I really wanted to make that All Time Low quote work. The third definition of treason is “breach of faith, trechery.” So there. It works.

    It’s Like New York City in the Daylight

    July 15, 2008 Leave a comment
    Terrible camera phone shot

    Terrible camera phone shot

    Alkaline Trio
    American Steel
    The Fashion
    Saturday, July 12th 2008
    The Filmore at Irving Plaza,
    New York

    It’s not that often that I travel to New York to see shows, and it’s even less often that I pay three times face value for a ticket, so needless to say, I had pretty high hopes going to see Alkaline Trio at The Filmore at Irving Plaza in New York’s Union Square. Now my day was already going pretty well considering I had just come from the Mets game, where Pedro Martinez and a host of relievers had 1-hit the Rockies for a 3-0 win. When I walked into the venue, I was taken aback by how small it was, and was relieved to see that, unlike the show at Toad’s Place in New Haven three weeks earlier, the crowd wasn’t split down the middle by an intrusive barrier. What a concept.

    Not I have to say that I love seeing bands live, and I can almost always find something memorable or exciting in every performance. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I walked out of a show disappointed. In that respect, my show reviews are probably quite biased. So maybe if you asked one of the people standing up on the balcony or in the back by the bar, they might say this show wasn’t all that great. I would tell them they needed to have their head checked, because if you ask me, or the hundreds of people I ran into (literally) throughout the set, we would all say it was incredible, and provided about as much fun as you can possibly have at a show. From the nearly perfect set-list to the great crowd, it somehow exceeded my expectations and set the bar so high that I almost sure it won’t be met anytime soon.

    The Fashion

    The Fashion

    The first band to take the stage was the Fasion. I was completely impressed by their set in New Haven, so I picked up their cd and was likewise impressed, but in an odd sort of way. The lyrics, for the most part, are bad. While I usually put a lot of emphasis on lyrics, I can let it slide here because these guys are writing in a second language, and I’m guessing if I tried to write lyrics in Dutch, they would be pretty bad. Actually, if I tried writing lyrics in English, they would also be pretty bad. Anyway,  when you play music that is simply this much fun, who cares about song meanings? So many memorable guitar riffs and bouncy dance beats. Watching lead singer  Jakob Priztlau dance around stage is beyond amusing, and I was left wondering why every opening band can’t be this good. They played for about half and hour, and closed out their set on a very high not, playing like “Like Knives” and “Vampire With Gold Teeth” before leaving the stage to a good deal of applause.

    Next up was veteran Oakland punk band American Steel. Now I only have their latest cd, the extremely well-done “Destroy Their Future.” Apparently, their best record was their first, and this is was why I was surprised that I recognized almost every song they played. While you would think this would leave their fans a bit unhappy, the small group of people singing along and causing somewhat of a ruckus seemed absolutely thrilled with the set. I was pretty happy with it as well, and would love to see at a headlining show sometime soon.

    American Steel

    American Steel

    And next up was, of course, an agonizingly long wait for Alkaline Trio. Again. This one was around 40 minutes. Now Irving Plaza features this projection screen that is rolled down in front of the stage during set changes. Such an idea has great potential, for I don’t think anyone would mind seeing music videos or something along those lines while waiting. However, 40 minutes of distorted, psychedelic nonsense really only makes the wait worse. But finally, the projection screen went up and the band took the stage. Matt grabbed his guitar from a stage hand and practically ran over to the mic to shout out the first lines of “Calling All Skeleton,” and the crowd immediately went into a frenzy. From what I’ve experienced, you can tell a lot about how a show will play out based on the opening song, and I knew this was going to be great.

    The band would then play old favorite “Nose Over Tail” and then another new song “I Found Away.” Now I could go on and on about how each song was, but I might as well just say that the entire set completely ruled. The set list was surprisingly different than the one from New Haven, and they ended up playing five new “Agony and Irony” songs all together, all of which were well received. The crowd was a diverse bunch, including high school kids all the way up to 30-somethings who had been fans since “Goddamnit” was realeased more than ten years ago. I was beyond thrilled to hear them play three b-side type songs, “Warbrain,” “Dead and Broken,” and “Old School Reasons.”

    While the set list was great, I don’t think this show would have been nearly as much fun without the amazing crowd that was there to see it. It’s very rare that every person  knows every word to every song and is willing to screem them back to the band. It’s even more rare that this happens when the band plays a mix of old and new songs and even includes a few b-sides. Walking out of the venue that night, it was impossibe not to feel like you were part of something amazing, like some type of secret community that most of the world hasn’t been lucky enough to discover. At one point between songs, Matt said something that, while as cliche as can be, seemed extremely poignant.”We want to thank you so much for being here, becasue even when times are tough, we’ve always got each other.” As the band then broke into the classic “Goodbye Forever,” everyone in the crowd knew it was true, cliche or not.

    Alkaline Trio Set List (probably not in order)

    Calling All Skeletons
    Nose Over Tail
    I Found Away
    I Lied My Face Off
    In Vein
    Blue Carolina
    Mercy Me
    Warbrain
    Armageddon
    Old School Reasons
    Goodbye Forever
    Dead and Broken
    Crawl
    Private Eye
    Do You Want To Know
    Help Me
    Bleeder
    This Could Be Love

    Encore:
    For Your Lungs Only
    Radio


    P.S. Rise Against, Alkaline Trio, and Thrice tour this fall. Apparently October 14th and 15th at Hammerstein Ballroom, probably won’t be officially announced for a while though. Best tour ever?