April 6th was a punk fan's dilemma in Cincinnati. Anti-Flag were playing at Clear Channel venue Bogart's with the Fat Wreck band Smoke or Fire. Comeback Kid was playing a smaller club with hardcore stalwarts Ignite and upstarts This Is Hell. Finally, indie-punk band Say Anything was playing Jillian's with a bunch of unknowns. I have been pondering the decision of which show to go to for 2½ months now. I chose to go see Say Anything at Jillian's. I was hoping for a more intimate and slightly less violent show from one of the catchiest bands in music today.
I'm pretty sure that Jillian's (a venue that is actually an arcade/party bar) in Covington doesn't put on all-ages shows too often. Mistake #1: X's on one hand for the underage and not the other? I could have faked 21 easily (not that I tried…). But I doubt any of my underage peers would have even attempted to get a beer on account of the extremely high beverage price at Jillian's. Also, some people got the doorman to give them the one X on their palms; all I have to say is, wow. Mistake #2: The concert floor was on the second floor, and the actual stage and floor space was small, yet there was a barricade. This turned out to be a big minus for the kids who crowded the front and proceeded to be hammered against the barricade by people simply wanting to touch the bands. Mistake #3: Part of the floor had some decent carpeting. After waiting around after the show to talk with the bands, I noticed that the carpet now looked like a ghost of its former self. There were some serious tears and pieces of glass rooted in the carpet. Oh well…the folks at Jillian's had it coming.
I know that some of you are probably thinking: "When will he get to the show?" Well, I'm gettin' there. I got to the show that was billed to start at 7:30 at 7:35 and apparently I missed the first of three bands, Ela. I was a tad disappointed, but I was so psyched for Say Anything's set that it didn't faze me in the least.
Next up was Slow Runner. Right from the get-go I had a bad predisposition for these guys. Their bassist came on and I could have sworn he was Ben Gibbard's clone. The singer/keyboardist had the Ted Leo look going, but he wasn't as dead on his look-alike as the bassist was. They played upbeat indie rock that was in the vein of Jack's Mannequin, but when the keyboardist started layering they began to prove their originality. But I think that most will agree with me when I say that when the band they sounded best when the songs were structured around their amazing drummer.
Next was Pistolita, and I was sad to see that another band with a sitting singer was playing, but boy was that a misconception. They came off looking like the previous band, but boy was I wrong. If I had to describe their sound it would probably have to be a twist between Vendetta Red and Hot Snakes. When I say Hot Snakes, I mean the fast punky riffs John Reis championed in both Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt. I was expecting the crowd to get moving and maybe position myself closer to the front, but I was wrong. Instead, the crowd seemed to be staking out the best possible spot to capture Say Anything's performance. If any of you are interested in Pistolita check out the songs "Age" and "Oliver Under the Moon." The lead singer of Pistolita then informed the crowd to the crowd's delight that it was Say Anything's charismatic frontman and mastermind Max Bemis' birthday.
For some odd reason Say Anything always seems to take out bands that Saves the Day tours with. On their last tour they took out Circa Survive and Emanuel, who are on the latest STD tour or the one before that. The reason I mention this is because Pistolita (in the hopes of gaining some respect) mentioned it. I don't know if Say Anything has ever done a STD tour, but I would go.
Next up was Say Anything. All the band members set up their gear (minus Mr. Bemis) and the crowd was getting anxious and testy. When everything was ready, the band went to get Max and get things started. As the band got out on stage they did so to a thunderous roar of applause and clapping. Then they eased into "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" which showcases Max's brilliant songwriting even with such a comical subject matter. The band roared into a great set that included pretty much their entire album …Is a Real Boy. If you don't have this album, then I seriously suggest getting it. It was just recently reissued with a 7-song EP entitled …Was a Real Boy. The EP was originally recorded for an AIDS charity record, but was put on the reissue instead so that Say Anything can record another EP when their popularity heightens. They played solidly all around, and I can tell that their expanded lineup of three guitarists (one I recognized as the Parker half of JamisonParker, and who focused more on his Moog than his Fender), a bassist, Max Bemis, and a really talented drummer. I could tell that Max was really intent on making this show really energetic. Surprisingly, he even led a few hardcore sing-alongs during "Little Girls" and thrust the microphone into the crowd countless times with the audience shouting back the words on "Admit It!!!" (the "finale" of their set). The crowd was having a great time because it was obvious that none of them had experienced the intensity of such an energetic performance that most emo bands tend to steer clear of (with the obvious exceptions of bands like Thursday and Boysetsfire).
One can't help but noticing the hypocrisy surrounding a show such as this. Some of the songs Max writes address the problems and clichés of the scene today. One such song is "Admit It!!!." I couldn't help but notice the amount of people who were the people Max describes in this line of the song screaming with all they had:
You adhere to a set of standards and tastes / That appear to be determined by an unseen panel of hipster judges (bullshit!!!) / Giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to incoming and outgoing trends and styles of music and art
Ditto on "Little Girls:"
I kill, kill, kill little girls / I hate, hate, hate what you are / You're so pretty when you fly right by / I hate, hate, hate what you are / I want to flush out your family line / 'Cuz I'm the punk rock, punk rock star / You're everything I despise / I hate, hate, hate what you are
I would like to stress the importance of Max's recovery from his paranoia. Older live performances I had seen made Max seem devoid of energy and a little testy. The Max in Covington was far from the removed personality he showcased in previous performances.
I think this performance can be epitomized by the actions of one concertgoer. I was waiting afterwards for my ride to show up, and Max Bemis was leaving with his bandmates to celebrate his birthday. Then all of a sudden this little blonde girl yells to Bemis "OMG!!! I LOVE YOU!!!" Mr. Bemis just shook his head and walked away into the seclusion he spent most of the night in. If there is one thing I could say to him, besides excellent show, it would be to interact with his fans more: We don't bite!!!
The set list
- Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too
- The Belt
- Alive With the Glory of Love
- The Futile
- Slowly, Through a Vector
- Yellow Cat / Red Cat
- Little Girls
- Every Man Has a Molly
- The Writhing South
- Chia-Like, I Shall Grow
- I Want to Know Your Plans
- Admit It!!!
Encore (Max solo w/ electric guitar):
- Total Revenge
- A Walk Through Hell