I only had to see that Smoke or Fire was playing to know that I would be at the 2005 Fat Wreck "all 50 states" tour. I was also curious to see Against Me!, whom I was not too familiar with, but heard very good things about
I was late to the show and got there just as Smoke or Fire was setting up. I missed the Soviettes and still don't know how they sound or how they are live. After sound-check, Smoke or Fire started playing. This was my second time seeing them; the first time was at a small restaurant/bar to about 30 people who probably had no idea who they were. This time the venue was much larger, and the band was more energetic, with a small pit quickly forming as the band tore through almost everything off of Above the City and a couple older songs (prompting me to pick up Worker's Union later on, which was released under their old name, Jericho RVA). The band closed with "Point Break" (yes!) and kids swarmed their merch table. If you haven't heard Smoke or Fire yet, the best way I can describe them is a faster version of Hot Water Music with shorter songs. The vocals are even really similar. Not that any of that is bad.
Next up, a band that I was completely unfamiliar with started to set up. Keyboards were set up. There was a giant EPOXIES banner with little light bulbs that lit up the words. The band's merch all looked very `80s-inspired. I knew the singer was female. I figured I wouldn't really care for this band. The keyboard player/vocalist came out and sound-checked his mic. He told everyone that the Epoxies would be out in 45 minutes. In the meantime, the stage was filled with fog, and about 20 minutes later the band came out to a darkened room. There was a strobe light and flashing colored lights and the fog machine pumping, and the guitarists had lazers attached somewhere on so that it shot out parallel to the guitar neck. I can't say that I care for the band musically, which can be described as pop-punk with synthesizers, but it was really entertaining. All the band members were dressed up in some crazy 1980-inspired plastic/tape/bright-colored outfit. The keyboard player was hilarious and would often incorrectly tell people how many more songs the band had left to play. Two songs into the set he yelled out "This is our last song," which wasn't true. The keyboard player even used one of those "guitar keyboards" at one point. He told everyone to buy 8 thousand dollars in merchandise. The band played for what seemed like a good 40 minutes and seemed to have a pretty good reaction from the crowd all throughout.
Against Me! finally set up and without much said the entire set, played for almost an hour. And honestly, when it was over, I was hoping they would have played for another 30 minutes. Unfortunately for me, like I mentioned, I didn't know much about this band before going to the show but I wish I had. There was plenty of crowd participation during Against Me!'s set, full of stage dives, crowd-surfing, people on stage, people singing into their mics, fists in the air. A fan got onstage at one point and the bass player put the kid on his shoulders while he sang. Towards the end of the set, the stage was filled with people singing, taking over the three guitarists' microphones. They played a few songs off Searching for a Former Clarity and even ended the set with the title track. Against Me! set down their instruments and took off. Everyone yelled for another song and I left, which too bad since outside I heard the band taking stage again for what I assumed would be an encore.
I highly recommend seeing this tour, and really, there isn't a reason you should miss it with it stopping everywhere inside the U.S. This is one of the better shows I've been to in a while and, with the exception of the Soviettes, I can say that all three bands are worth the price of admission.
Smoke or Fire's set list: (the order gets more out of order the more the list goes on. So what? I don't write this shit down while I'm standing there. I may have forgotten a couple songs too, it's been over a week.):
- Fire Escapes
- Cops and Drugs
- Sunday Pints
- 50 Cent Hearts
- California's Burning
- Point Break
- (and possibly a couple other songs off Above the City / Worker's Union…they didn't play "Culture As Given" for sure, though)