Streetlight Manifesto is one of those bands that never disappoints live. Ever. Their level of energy and musicianship translates remarkably well from their studio albums to the live setting, which is something that can’t be said of most bands on Victory Records. So when I heard that they’d be rolling through town in February and that two of my friends had already bought tickets, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go see them again.
The three of us arrived at Peabody’s in Cleveland half an hour after the doors were supposed to open, hoping to avoid standing in line in the freeze-your-balls February in Ohio cold, but two lines stretching down at least one-and-a-half blocks each had formed at the two entrances to the venue. A number of people were also getting turned away at the door. The 700-person capacity Peabody’s was sold out.
The mix of people at Streetlight shows is always interesting. Among them, there’s the Punks (with a capital "P"!) decked out in studs, mohawks and Rancid T-shirts, the rude boys wearing their best black suits and pork pie hats just for the occasion, and the marching band geeks experiencing their very first show, all in the same tiny, sweaty room, eagerly anticipating the opportunity to sing along and skank to their heart’s content.
As we entered the venue, Lionize was just taking the stage. Not knowing much about the group, I prepared to listen to another generic pop-punk band, but I was pleasantly surprised to find Lionize performing an unusual blend of soul, reggae and plain old rock, sounding like a mix of 311 and a '70s hard rock band. The addition of a full-time organ player also contributed to the band’s unique sound. A small circle of skanking ska kids continued throughout the set and the band generally seemed well-received by the crowd (I picked up their newest album, Destruction Manual, after the show).
After a short break, A Loss for Words was up next. A bit of prior research on the group left me with the impression that these guys really want to be Four Year Strong but fall short. They both play the same style of pop-punk, they both have rather extraneous cover albums, they both hail from Massachusetts, and the lead singer of AL4W was even wearing his Four Year Strong letterman’s jacket for the first few minutes of their set, but something about AL4W’s debut album, The Kids Can’t Lose, just didn't click with me in the way that FYS albums do. But, to my surprise (again), the band put on a great show and sparked the first instances of '90s push-pits, crowd-surfing, and stage-diving of the night. The songs that put me to sleep on the studio recording suddenly came to life when performed live. After a mysteriously short set—I think they only played about five songs—they finished with a fairly true-to-the-original cover of “My Girl” by the Temptations, thanked the crowd, and left the stage. Maybe I should give that album another listen.
The energy created by the last two bands, however, seemed to diminish as Terrible Things, Streetlight’s third opener, began their set. This is the pop-punk band I was afraid of seeing. Their songs were fairly boring and unoriginal, the band lacked the same stage presence as the other openers, and they felt the need to pepper their set with an unidentifiable Led Zeppelin cover and banter like “Is rock n’ roll still alive in Cleveland?!” The rest of the crowd apparently felt the same way, as the moshing decreased to a minimum and when the band declared they’d be playing their last song, half the crowd actually cheered. Instead of building up the energy and anticipation for Streetlight, Terrible Things proved to be a let down.
Finally, after the longest between-set-change of the night, Streetlight Manifesto took the stage and with the first few notes of “The Receiving End of It All”, the entire room exploded. The 700 concertgoers present all pressed forward hoping for a closer spot to the stage, resulting in an uncomfortable pit with large portions of the crowd falling over at some points. After the first song, Tomas Kalnoky even noted, “You guys look trapped.” From that point on, the crowd seemed to spread out, and everyone in the pit received a little more elbow room. Streetlight again proved to be in top form, even though bassist Pete McCullaugh was conspicuously absent; newcomer Nadav Nirenburg, who took over on trombone after Mike Soprano left, fit in with the group perfectly and had no trouble keeping up with the other members of the band. The band ran through an incredibly enjoyable Streetlight Manifesto set that included most of the songs from Everything Goes Numb and Somewhere in the Between, including “A Moment of Silence/Violence”, “Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Café”, “Would You Be Impressed?” and “Failing, Flailing” among others, although the group avoided performing their infamous medley of “Point/Counterpoint” and “Keasbey Nights”. Highlights of the show include Tomas telling anyone who yelled out “Penis!” during the quiet breaks in the songs to “please punch themselves in the face,” responding “Hah hah! Fuck you too, sir!” to an obnoxious audience member, and forgetting the name of his songs (“This song is called 'We Will Fall'! Wait, no, that’s not right...it’s track 2 on the demo, what is that? Oh yeah, 'We Are the Few'!”). The band closed their main set with “Somewhere in the Between”, resulting in strangers throwing arms around each other, swaying to the rhythm of the music and enjoying every bit of the final raucous sing-along. After a chant of “One more song!” that went on for a few minutes, the group returned to run through their ska-tinged cover of NOFX’s “Linoleum” and traditional show closer “The Big Sleep” before wishing the crowd goodnight and leaving the stage. After an amazing night that involved discovering (or re-discovering) two great bands and enjoying an amazing set from an old favorite, I stand by my original statement: Streetlight Manifesto is one of those bands that never disappoints live. Ever.
- The Receiving End of it All
- Failing, Flailing
- We Will Fall Together
- Down, Down, Down to Mephisto's Cafe
- Point / Counterpoint
- We Are the Few
- A Better Place, A Better Time
- Would You Be Impressed?
- Forty Days
- A Moment of Silence
- A Moment of Violence
- Here's to Life [w/ "A Call to Arms" intro]
- Somewhere In the Between
- Linoleum [NOFX cover]
- The Big Sleep