Finals week, ugh! Every college kid (that goes to school for an education not beer) has had his or her head stuffed in a book non-stop for the past three days. Cramming hard and praying that this information will stick by the time the huge Operating Systems Concepts test rolls around. As I drove through Oakland it was obvious it was that time of year, as Forbes Ave. was similar to a ghost town. Not filled with the masses of college students wondering from restaurant to frat house. Well, the streets were uncovered expect for one little place, Club Laga. The line wrapped around the building as tons of kids waited to enter the building for a night of rock, brought to us by Thrice and Alkaline Trio.
I was alone tonight, as my friends considered this show a little to Emo for them, had work, or thought school was more important than two of the best bands in the scene right now. Whatever…
I arrived shortly before Revelation Records recording artist's Since By Man took stage. I had never heard of these guys prior to the their lead singer telling me who I was about to have my ear drums punished by. Now, I know you're not supposed to judge people by how they look, but as soon as you looked at the band you knew exactly what they were going to sound like - a poor man's Thrice. And I was right, they did. For me this band's set just sort of blended together into one big song that was loud, had a lot of screaming, and sounded too much like many of their peers. I don't think I was the only one in a daze as they seemed to have lost most of the sold out crowd three songs into their set.
The whole week prior to this show all I had been raving about was that I'd finally get to see the Alkaline Trio. What kept slipping my mind was that Thrice was going to be there too. Just a few months ago they opened the same stage for a band that split a record with the Alk3, Hot Water Music. I was very impressed with the band and this time around they out did their previous effort. Slamming into the Illusion of Safety track "Betrayal is a Symptom" which gained the audience's attention and never go, until a little mishap. Next up was the title track from their first album, Identity Crisis. The band really came alive midway through the song, feeding off the energy of the crowd. They continued to fly through their impressive set, combining a blend of hardcore, metal, punk and emo that is unparallel to any band in existence. Dustin screamed or sung straight through most of the bands set which included the songs, "Where Idols Once Stood," "See You in the Shallows," a new song "Siloutte" which had that patented Thrice sound more towards the metal side and awesome guitar work by Teppei, "In Years To Come," "(That) Hideous Strength," and "Madam." After taking a quick breather to announce the release of The Artist in the Ambulance on July 22nd the band belted out a possible single to the new album "All That's Left." The song builds the listener up with an intense intro and the song explodes quickly as Dustin and Teppei trade off vocals on the track. It appears that Island Records signing of Thrice has had no effect on the band's signature sound. After a recess while the security guards removed the barricades that the crowd broke, the guys slammed into round two with "Kill Me Quickly." Before another new song "As the Ruins Falls" destroyed our drums harder than it does on record. I missed a song here, but Thrice closed with "To Awake & Avenge the Dead" which is as good as a closing song as they come and it really left me wanting more from this incredible band.
During the break my anticipation continued to grow for Chicago's Alkaline Trio to grace the stage. I'm starting to lose my excitement to go to shows anymore, but my craving to want to see Matt, Dan, and Derek perform some of my favorite songs put that urge back into my body and reminded me of an important and awesome feeling that makes the scene survive so well. It was hot and sticky inside Club Laga as eerie music started to play with flashing red lights while the crowd grew silent. Cheers exploded when the guys took the stage and exploded into the opener "Snake Oil Tanker." With no pause the vocals switched up as Dan shook the audience with "Maybe I'll Catch Fire" he had everyone in the building singing along. "Remember last April when we say Anti-Flag" Matt sung as a little dedication to the Pittsburgh band during "Goodbye Forever." So far my first impression of the Trio was an incredible one, the guitar and bass were loud, crisp and clear, Derek's drumming was stellar and the vocals were just right. Matt gave a shout out for Derek's birthday before leading the crew into "While You Were Waiting," one of the better Alkaline Trio songs as they trade off the vocals and it still sounds so well despite Matt and Dan's very unique voices. Matt was then going to inform the crowd that their new record Good Mourning was coming out soon, but he was quick to catch himself and knew that everyone already had it, and then we got a taste of "If We Never Go Inside." An amazing rendition of "Sundials" was next, followed by another new song "We've Had Enough" the three really came together here and it shows just how tight they are and how astonishing their follow up to From Here to Infirmary will be. Although the crowd has been into the set the entire time they came alive for the Dan Andriano led song "Another Innocent Girl" hanging on to his each word and often overpowering his thunderous voice. As "Continental" hit our ear waves I realized that although the Alkaline Trio may not be one of the best bands to watch live, as they don't do all the flash or glam they sure as hell are one of the best groups I've ever heard play live. I thought they shook the place up with "Another Innocent Girl" but wow; they really agitated every soul in the club when they executed "Private Eye." The opening track of their debut record Goddamnit was next and it was done so well live that I'm sure no one would disagree that it sounded better here than on record and Dan's bass solo was unbelievable. "I Lied My Face Off" came before "My Friend Pittsburgh" or "Peter" which ended with the band quickly exiting the stage. Obviously an encore was coming and I hate when bands do this, there's no point, just wastes more time, they could have snuck "Queen of Pain" or "Stupid Kid" in there (which they didn't play at all). The reactions for the new album continued to be thumbs up as the spine chilling "All on Black" was played. Following up and leaving me in a state of wow was "97." Wrapping the intense evening up was the sinister "Radio." And in what happens to be tradition for the bands coming through Pittsburgh these days, #2 of Anti-Flag was invited on stage to help Dan croon this Alkaline Trio masterpiece. This ensued the crowed to rush the stage and hug their favorite band members before Matt Skiba dove into the crowd himself.
The things that impressed me about the band, was how tight they were on stage musically. I heard a lot of rumors about them playing drunk and usually being sloppy, but there were few mistakes and Derek was right on key on many of the older songs, as if he wrote the drum tracks himself. I was pleased with the variation of songs sung by Matt & Dan, although I didn't get to hear two of my favorite ("Queen of Pain" or "Jaked on Green Beers"). There was definitely a good mix of older material in tonight's set, but I'm not complaining when they were done so well. And despite gossip that the Trio was a bunch of snobs, they showed that they were truly a band for the fans. All in all thought it was a really fun evening, even though I went to the show alone, I had company thanks to some of the greatest musicians around.