The Lawrence Arms - live in Columbus (Cover Artwork)

The Lawrence Arms

live in Columbus (2003)

live show

This show was held in the Distillery in Columbus, Ohio, a small pub/music venue. It was supposed to start at 8:00 PM, but didn't actually get going until 10:30. First thing I noticed was Brendan of the Lawrence Arms sitting on a bar stool drinking a beer. Alcohol Brendan = Fun Show.

I don't remember who else played that night besides the Lawrence Arms, and frankly, I don't care. The first band was some local deal that sounded like a hardcore Taking Back Sunday. Ok. Next was a 3 piece rock and roll type band that sounded pretty good, but got quite repetitive after a bit. They played some 80s cover for their last song that I didn't know but everyone else seemed to know the words to. They also did this freaky thing where the guitar player and bass player would lean their heads on each other's shoulders and play (picture two Rams in the wild locking horns). They went on for about a minute like this with everyone in the audience just sort of looking at each other asking, "Why are they doing this?"

Then it was time for what 95% of the audience came for, The Lawrence Arms. As the band set up, it was quite obvious that Brendan was plastered. And believe me, I know the difference between trashed Brendan and sober Brendan. Just the week before I was at the Pittsburgh show (held in a lecture hall at the University of Pittsburgh, quite cool) and he was fine. Tonight though, he was stumbling around the stage uttering incomplete thoughts into the mic every now and then. Halfway through the set up, he jokingly asked if anyone would buy him a beer and a shot of Jim Bean. Sure enough, right before the set got started, he was handed his alcohol.

Now it was time for some music. "Hesitation Station" was the opener. It was quite humorous to see how well Brendan could actually play while being so drunk. They sounded good, he managed to remember all the words, and he had that familiar insane look in his eyes (if you've seen them live, you know what I mean). Next up was Chris and one of my all time favorite Lawrence Arms songs, "First Eviction Notice." Chris sounded phenomenal live. If you ever thought that maybe they added some "effects" on their albums to enhance his voice, well no, he really sounds that great. Next up was one of my favorites from "The Greatest Story Ever Told." With its bass-only intro, it's a good thing they played "Alert the Audience!" early on (I'll explain in a bit). This is possibly one of their catchiest songs to date and it obviously translates very well when played live. I was pleasantly surprised that most of the people who attended the show knew the words to even the new songs. The week before in Pittsburgh, I think myself and maybe three others were the only ones who were really there for them (Rise Against was the main draw). After this we were treated to a "Ghost Stories" classic, "Turnstyles." At this point, things got quite interesting.

"Turnstyles" ended and there was something wrong. What could it be? Did Chris slice his finger on a guitar string and have to go to the hospital? Did a drunkard in the crowd pick a fight with Neil behind the drum set? No. Brendan broke a string on his bass (haha). So this was a quick fix, right? The band called for their guitar tech after Brendan unsuccessfully tried to fix things himself. Basses from the other bands were graciously offered, but none of them seemed to work. It was concluded after a few minutes that his amplifier was no longer outputting any sound. Most bands at this point would pack it up and call it a day if they didn't have any bass. Brendan said screw it and grabbed the mic. They would play the rest of the set without bass. "I haven't done this since I was in a ska band." Perhaps one of the coolest quotes ever (for those with slightly lower mental capabilities than most, he was referring to the legendary Slapstick).

As you may guess, the crowd was about to explode (there was only about fifty of us though, but still, we were going to explode, take my word for it). Brendan asked the band for some fast songs (and obviously ones that weren't very bass-centric). Of course, one of the best fast, crowd moving songs would be "Presenting: The Dancing Machine." Everyone went wild as the first dark chords of the song were played. It was truly a sight to see, everyone in the small venue was surrounding Brendan. Anyone close enough screamed into the mic and my friend even got to sing the line "fuck what we say and all that we do, I'm saving myself for something beautifully true." You have to remember that Brendan was drunk as he ever is, so this basically added to the chaos of the situation. Next they played "March of the Elephants" and then a song off "A Guided Tour of Chicago" (can't remember which one, though I CAN say it wasn't "An Evening of Extraordinary Circumstance" or "Eighteen Inches," my two favorite). Since they took up so much time during the whole bass confusion, they now had to play their final song. For this they took requests from the crowd. My friend and I yelled "Quincentuple Your Money" at the top of our lungs. Yep, they played it. Before they started, Neil requested that Brendan sing the bass line in the beginning. Of course everyone joined it. It was pretty funny to hear the whole audience screaming out each note. Everyone was going wild at this point, beer was flying everywhere, and there was such a surge of people at one point that Brendan was knocked over. He sang part of the song on his knees then got up. They eventually finished, and everyone stuck around for a few minutes to congratulate them on such an awesome show.

On my way out, I grabbed one of the new Larry Arms t-shirts (four of the new ones were designed by the fans through a contest on their website). This easily ranks up there as one of my favorite shows ever. The only thing that could have been better was a few more songs, but hey, I can't complain. Just before we left I noticed another band was setting up. I think everyone in the bar felt bad for them.