February 20, 2010
On Sunday morning I heard Grandmaster Flash, Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Ice-T, and others speak on the origins of underground hip-hop, punk rock, and its subcultures. I knew seeing Epitaph Records’ latest addition Alkaline Trio play a sold-out bar—with zero tolerance for crowd surfing or stage diving—later that day would spark obvious critiques (warranted or not). I’m not easily influenced by any sort of “punk rock code of conduct” per se, but the modern day contrast here ended up being (expectedly) apparent.
Thankfully the crowd was predominantly underage for the reason that adults (if drinking) were restricted to the upper level without the ability to see the stage or crowd (for the most part). I arrived early, unsure how early an all-ages show might start or finish, since at home in Van it could be over by 9:30pm (no joke). While I waited for the opening act to get going, I was impressed to notice This Addiction for sale on both CD and vinyl days before its release. Kudos to Epitaph/Heart & Skull Records (the band’s new subsidiary record label) for the move.
Dear and Departed—a band for which I had rather low expectations—started as the mob started to pile into Neumo’s. They delivered their brand of emotional, new-wave influenced pop-rock. Yearning to sound as intriguing as The Cure while failing further than a modern day AFI—it was at least complimented by a tight performance and remarkable sound that was noticeably fine tuned throughout their set.
I maintained my upper balcony, stage obstructed position as I felt it was an improvement over a stance below, yards away, behind a sea of Hot Topic brood. I hadn’t heard Cursive, the evening’s sophomore act, before tonight. I expected another fitting, teen-friendly or emo act to precede the evening’s pop-punk princes. I was delighted to see and hear something altogether different than either act before or after them. Don’t get me wrong—I bussed down here to see Alkaline Trio—I just didn’t have the highest expectations based on their core audience.
Comprised of a gent on keys, a couple on bass and lead guitar, a front-and-centre amigo on drums, and a guitar laden front man, their tom heavy, wah-wah guitar and complimentary whiny (and sometimes falsetto) vocals produced a groovy post-punk sound that was instantly captivating. They clearly maintained the seal of approval from two thirds of the Trio as Matt and Dan watched favorably, side-stage.
Matt, Dan, and Derek wasted no time plugging new material as they opened with their latest catchy single, “This Addiction,” as well as “Dine, Dine My Darling” from their forthcoming album. They are—in my opinion—one of each vocalist’s stronger album cuts. Although I enjoyed hearing these tunes as much as a personal faves “We’ve Had Enough” and “Fatally Yours” (which was dedicated to Judd Nelson), I didn’t hear the clarity (especially with the vocals) that I’d heard for the opening acts.
The setlist was surprisingly heavy on classic tunes such as “Fuck You Aurora,” “Goodbye Forever,” “Sadie,” and another beloved offering “Continental.” That being said, one of the evening’s highlights was hearing “In Vein” from 2008’s Agony and Irony, which breathed new life as hundreds of kids shouted “woah, woah” in unison with Matt as Dan took care of leads. The amount of singing heard from the crowd tonight was one of the loudest I’d ever heard. These kids knew and sung every last word. I’m not sure if was the fact that I was looking down on them, the band’s vocals being a little tougher to make out, the fact that these fans were simply some of the most stoked I’d ever seen, or a combination of the above but their spirit definitely helped make the evening.
I’d hoped for a slightly different set but the legion of spectators would obviously disagree. Matt and Derek did however switch drum and vocal duties for a tune that didn’t garner as much of the crowds attention but it sure as hell did mine as “Attitude” by The Misfits was covered as the first song of their encore. To top it off, possibly my favorite Skiba penned tune, “Blue in The Face,” finished things off with Matt commencing on his electric (versus the solo acoustic album cut) and the others completing the trifecta. Matt drove the final nail as he finished with the words “So what do you say? / Your coffin or mine?”
…Weasel Was Here
Visit these artists online:
Alkaline Trio “Blue in The Face” live (electric)
Alkaline Trio “We’ve Had Enough” music video