At Philadelphia, Pa.’s First Unitarian Church Dec. 2, I corrected a mistake. I finally saw Latterman live. From the crowd’s reaction, a lot of other people were glad to be there too. It was a Long Island love-in with support from friends and neighbors Slingshot Dakota and Yo Man Go, and a mighty fine one at that.
In the five years or so since the band’s break-up, Latterman has nearly passed into punk rock sainthood, and rightfully so. While rumored to be, um, “unreliable” live, the band’s recorded output--three full-lengths and each one solid gold--is nigh perfect. Debut Turn Up the Punk, We’ll Be Singing churns out guitar assaults and unity messages. “King Tough is My New Idol” is my jam. No Matter Where We Go…! distills those sentiments into rapid fire punk anthems. “Doom! Doom! Doom!” is my jam. …We Are Still Alive combines the first two records into a throaty, euphoric mass. “Will This Be on the Test?” is my motherfucking jam. It helps if you were at the right age when they came out--some of the recordings are a little sloppy--but the songs are so gloriously positive that they cannot be denied.
So yeah, I guess you could say this reunion show was kind of a big deal.
Fittingly, Slingshot Dakota and Yo Man Go peppered their sets with stories about how much Latterman meant to them, in addition to upping the unity. Sometimes it got a little ridiculous (SD drummer Tom Patterson is really intense about people talking out their differences), but the tunes were still solid. Yo Man Go reunited specifically for this mini-tour (“We have this rule. If you broke up only two years ago, it means you don’t have to practice,” they quipped) and dished out hardcore jams. Slingshot Dakota was a little different, playing indie-ish keyboard ‘n’ drums concoctions with big hooks. It was still pretty darn punk, but different. Frontwoman Carly Comando told a great story about how Latterman bassist/vocalist Matt Canino encouraged her to start a punk band even though she “only” played piano.
I thought I was lucky to snag a ticket for such an intimate venue. Then Latterman pointed out that this was arguably the biggest show they’d ever played. It also boasted their longest set, though, so in a way I’m glad I waited until 2011 to see them live. The band’s set touched on …We Are Still Alive, but mainly drew from their breakthrough sophomore effort, No Matter Where We Go…!. “Doom! Doom! Doom!” kicked off a string of hits. That song really is just a perfect opener. The guitars announce the song, the drums and then vocals come in and then the whole thing explodes. “Video Games and Fantasy Novels are Fucking Awesome!,”“Yo, Get Into It” and “This Project is Stagnant (Get It Out of My Face)” went over well too. Drummer Pat Schramm messed up the outro to “Fear and Loathing on Long Island,” but that song rules and it sounded OK anyway. Other tunes like “Water Manes at the Block’s End” sounded amazing as well, but it was the Matter material that really hit the audience.
This wasn’t just a nostalgia act, though. The members of Latterman have gone on to numerous projects (Iron Chic, RVIVR, Bridge and Tunnel, Shorebirds, etc.), and this wasn’t exactly a cash-in tour. More like a belated victory lap, complete with rotating line-ups from throughout the years, as guitarists Brian Crozier and Mike “MR” Campbell both returned. They played one new song (“Our Better Halves”) that never got used. It sounded pretty darn Latterman-y and was available on a tour-only seven-inch. The group’s stage banter was great too. Slingshot Dakota and Yo Man Go preached unity something fierce, but nobody talks unity like Latterman. They stuck to the most basic, ground level things, like taking care of everyone else in the immediate vicinity. To that end, guitarist/singer Phil Douglas made it a point to people out for crowdsurfing or stage diving. After giving a full explanation about how jumping from a stage and hitting people in the face is a real douchey thing to do, a kid took a dive maybe 90 seconds later… and kicking out Phil’s guitar cable, ruining the performance. Kinda funny, though.
Generally, though, the crowd was pretty well behaved. All the bands played well. And we all got to cheer on fucking, biking Latterman one more time.