I loathe show reviews that just do nothing but say how amazing every band was, and how spectacular the show was, and, by default, get four stars just because they played your favorite songs. Unfortunately, this is going to be one of those reviews, because this will probably be the best show I see all year. Two of my favorite bands touring together with the ex-members of another amazing act? It's bound to be a good time.
The Draft was the band that I was very eager to hear; I generally avoid myspace demos, so going in I was relatively oblivious to what they sound like, except they're the spawn of the dearly departet Hot Water Music. Well, for the HWM fans, the Draft seem to be picking up right where The New What Next left off, with perhaps a bit more melody. The songs had the classic HWM vibe of 'sounding the same yet radically different,' managing to get a crowd who had never heard any material before into circle pits and crowd-surfing within a couple songs. Their set was a generous 8 or 9 songs, none of which I caught the names of due to slurred speech between gulps of beer by Chris. By the end of their set, I could tell that so long as the album pulls off the energy the band had on stage, it would be pretty high up on my year-end lists.
I'm not going to lie and say that the Lawrence Arms aren't one of my favorite bands out there. I had a couple drinks and got promptly to the front of the crowd, where the boys appeared after an intro of "Armpit Vagina." Brendan was as energetic as ever, but Chris looked like he had been making up for a lack of sleep with a little too much to drink. The set was long and blistering with energy so long as Brendan was singing, but I couldn't help but get the feeling Chris didn't want to be there. Maybe I just haven't seen the band enough, but he seemed like he was having an off night. I will say that their set list this time around wasn't the best of choices. The last time I saw the Arms, their set list was peppered with sing-alongs from their entire catalogue. I know that they're supporting the new record, but I was hoping for more older material. Half the 14-song set list was dedicated to Oh! Calcutta!, including the first time they'd played "Lose Your Illusion 1" live and the incredible closer of "Like a Record Player." Other songs through the set were "Nebraska" (by request, sort of a downer), "Turnstiles," "On with the Show," "100 Resolutions," "Porno and Snuff Films," "Necrotism..." and "Presenting: The Dancing Machine..."
Alkaline Trio's set has been reviewed quite a bit throughout this tour, so I won't go into every amazing detail, but if I didn't know any better, I'd say Matt Skiba and the boys had found God. They were just as energetic and fun as the last time around, a welcome change from the past few years where shows had almost become standard. Dan's vocals on the full band version of "Enjoy Your Day" and the captivating "I Lied My Face Off" sounded like he wrote the song yesterday; he flailed in front of the microphone and screamed as if he had just gotten his heart broken. While Portland didn't get "Old School Reasons," it was a great latter-half of the set with only five Vagrant-era songs ("Private Eye," "I'm Dying Tomorrow," "This Could Be Love," "Burn," "Deathbed"). Matt did "Blue in the Face" during the acoustic set and Dan played a song I had never heard (perhaps a new one) titled "Barry" acoustic along with "My Standard Break from Life." The rest of the set was from the good ol' days, a true hats off to the fans who had been there all along.
Truth be told, Alkaline Trio can be done now. They could never record another song, they could not tour again, and I'd be content. If they do record again, tour again, I'll continue to support them because it's this kind of effort that makes you realize why you love a band to begin with. The age difference between the youngest fans and the oldest fans at this show was amazing; it shows what kind of staying power this band has, and what influence they've had. I just hope Green Day does something similar one of these days.
As for the rest of the show, the bands were fun as hell, the venue was smaller than I expected making the setting that much better, and the drinks were relatively cheap. Being perfectly honest, the Larry Arms were probably the worst part of the show (music-wise) due to set list choices and Chris's demeanor being relatively uninviting, but that didn't stop any of us in the crowd from having a grand old time. The only thing I can really complain about were the teenage girls. I'm sorry, ladies, but even when I liked you in high school, you were still annoying. Now that I'm older and wiser, you're all just a pain in the ass. Nothing kills an awesome mood like being up front and having a group of five-footers next to you complain about being pushed around so much. I've never been to a show where I haven't been hit or kicked at least once, but who knows, maybe they'll learn.