Saturday, July 12th 2008
The Filmore at Irving Plaza,
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 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.
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
Old School Reasons
Dead and Broken
Do You Want To Know
This Could Be Love
For Your Lungs Only
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?
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.
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
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.
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:
Nose Over Tail
I Lied My Face Off
New Song (possibly calling all skeletons)
Maybe I’ll Catch Fire
Every Thug Needs A Lady
We’ve Had Enough
Time To Waste
This Could Be Love