Alkaline Trio / Test Icicles / Mike Park - live in London (Cover Artwork)

Alkaline Trio / Test Icicles / Mike Park

live in London (2005)

live show

Initially, I was reluctant to go to this show -- not because I'm not a fan of the Trio, simply because I'd seen them twice already this year and didn't want overkill to set in. Eventually however, my friend convinced me, and as I hadn't seen them at the 4000-capacity Brixton Academy before, I caved.

Sunshine, a Czechoslovakian band and favourites of Dan Andriano, opened the show to a very thin crowd of early arrivals and seemed lost in a space of that size. Musically, they're not bad, peddling a Hives / Hot Hot Heat-esque brand of dance-punk (or whatever it's called these days), but not many people's attention is really held. Once they finished I got myself a beer and prepared to see for the first time the man who pretty much gave tonight's headliners an opportunity.

Mike Park generally evokes something of a mixed reaction. Some admire his message and his music, while others believe him to be too preachy. I personally am a big fan of the bands he fronted, especially Skankin Pickle, but hadn't heard much of his solo stuff. He came out with a little screen (put onto a chair, it's that fucking small) depicting images that he feels we should take notice of. It took a few songs to get used to his music, must of which were culled from the recent North Hangook Falling. Only when he finally turned to face the crowd and told the backstory to "I'm in Love With a Girl Named Spike" did he get people's attention. I was taken aback at how good a fast ska-punk song sounded when done acoustically, and the very few Pickle fans in attendance had a good old sing-along. He also explained his affinity for Alkaline Trio -- so much so that he was ordained just so he could preside over Matt Skiba's wedding -- which provoked Skiba to come out and give his former employer a hug. It was undoubtedly cheesy as all hell, but it was also cool to see how much Alkaline Trio appreciate his help, and once he departed the stage most people were applauding and asking for more.

The mood changed drastically though once Test Icicles, a much-hyped band in the U.K., took to the stage. It's fair to say that they don't fit in at all well on a bill such as this one, but the reaction they recieved was pretty much negative all around. Admittedly, their music, which if I had to describe would be Blood Brothers-ish only with a drum machine, isn't my cup of tea particularly, but only a couple of songs into their set people start heckling them. One of the singers incited the crowd by playing the opening chords to Nirvana's "Rape Me" and then saying "Oh shit, I though we were on MTV," or something to that effect. The band perservered on and made occasional additional comments before finally departing, with the crowd singing the old British terrace anthem of "You're shit and you know you are." The truth is, they are by no means shit, but their appearance on the bill was somewhat mystifing. It was a bizarre scenario to say the least, but I imagine Test Icicles will shrug it off and carry on.

I have neglected to mention that the sound hadn't been all that good so far, but it only reared its head fully when the Alkaline Trio started playing. They opened with "Back to Hell," "We've Had Enough," and "Maybe I'll Catch Fire," but it was difficult to make the songs out until one of them started singing, and frustratingly, this was the case for most of their set. The snare drum was surprisingly barely audible and took something away from the sight of Derek Grant, who is a very good drummer to watch. It did have a significant effect on the show and while they did wheel out some older stuff -- "I Lied My Face Off," "Cringe," and "She Took Him to the Lake" were great to hear live for the first time -- they don't have quite the effect that they should've, which I thought was really a shame.

The Trio are a decent live band and execute the songs flawlessly, but they were severly hampered tonight, and what should be one of their biggest and best headlining shows to date, especially in the U.K., turned out to be a little bit underwhelming. Songs they also played included "Deathbed," "Armageddon," "Mercy Me," "Burn," "The Poison," "Sadie," "Time to Waste," "This Could Be Love," and "Private Eye," and they closed with "Radio," which turned out to be the highlight of their set.

Simply the case of a good and talented band getting ruined by an awful PA.