Motion City Soundtrack / Set Your Goals - live in New York (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Motion City Soundtrack / Set Your Goals

live in New York (2010)

live show

If you somehow experience the miracle of managing to avoid even the most minor of traffic delays and find an immediate parking spot in Manhattan on even a Wednesday night, it's still going to take you a minimum of 70 minutes to drive from central Long Island to said NYC borough. So when work locked me up until 5:45 on Wednesday, I'd lost all hope in seeing the Swellers play at this show: They were scheduled for a piss-takingly early 6:30 slot. I then made the drive in with my sister and was miraculously graced with the aforementioned lack of traffic and parking difficulties (this is an incredible rarity); but we still walked into Irving Plaza 7:00 on the dot, and the band was already breaking down their equipment. They'd later tell me they played one of their best sets ever. Thanks, guys.

This Providence was next with a set I had a bit of apprehension about. See, the band's debut, 2004's Our Worlds Divorce, was a pretty excellent, semi-experimental emo-pop affair. But the next release, their debut for Fueled by Ramen, 2006's self-titled, was a little more generic and often leaned too close to that label's template; their most recent, last year's Who Are You Now?, lost me even further with its phoned-in melodies and pointless electronic elements. I knew off the bat the band would play little, if anything, off Worlds, and maybe since I accepted that, their set wasn't half-terrible (for those keeping score at home, they didn't play anything off it). Those electronic elements from WAYN? were stripped away and the band sometimes deployed a triplet layer of guitar that gave a given song a slight atmosphere. Frontman Daniel Young stood freely for some songs and took up the guitar otherwise. Many of the songs weren't too forceful or compelling, of course, but there was nothing cringe-worthy or particularly offensive about what they did, and that's probably all I could hope for from a band that pretty much severed its ties with the core of Gatsbys American Dream fanboys they once held in their embrace years ago.

Set list (7:15-7:47):

  1. That Girl's a Trick
  2. Waste Myself
  3. My Beautiful Rescue
  4. Playing the Villain
  5. Keeping on Without You
  6. This Is the Real Thing
  7. A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
  8. Letdown
The thing that amazed me most about Set Your Goals' set was looking at the audience involved and realizing that this band has all but completely crossed over. Once a marginally gimmicky pop-punk smoke break for hardcore kids, SYG's fanbase is now solely for the kids who want or know nothing to do with youth crew or moshcore revivalism. If you were to somewhat shallowly base it off fashion sense or band tee of choice, you could count on one syndactyly hand the number of hardcore kids in the pit. But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and SYG cater to this crowd like pros; co-frontmen Jordan Brown and Matt Wilson were consistently at the forefront of the stage and encouraging all kinds of crowd involvement, from pogo-ing to claps to singing along.

When I'd seen the band last, Wilson's voice--a common crutch for critics of the band--was too often piercing and out of key, but it seemed smoother and more deliberate here, thankfully. It was a punchy,

For those numerous guest vocalist spots on last year's This Will Be the Death of Us, guitarist Audelio Flores, Jr. filled the role of former Turmoil singer Jon Gula for heavy opener "Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man)"--dude sounded practically identical. Brooklyn resident and I Am the Avalanche frontman Vinnie Caruana provided his grit for the title track (though it would have been way more awesome for the band to reprise their Bamboozle Movielife set, even if just "I Hope You Die Soon").

Altogether, it made for a pretty punchy and very enjoyable set despite half the crowd parking in front whether they had any interest in the band or not. (I would have taken "Work in Progress" over most of the set too, granted.) It's been interesting watching SYG go from headlining a half-filled basement in Miller Place, Long Island for local hardcore kids to commanding a sizable Warped Tour-esque crowd--even in a direct support slot--in a 1000-cap venue in NYC five years later. All the while, they remain pretty grounded; I was exhausted just from watching Jordan calmly and amicably field conversation and autograph requests from a queue of fans at the band's merch table five minutes after the set ended.

Set list (8:00-8:34):
  1. Gaia Bleeds (Make Way for Man)
  2. Goonies Never Say Die
  3. Look Closer
  4. The Fallen...
  5. Echoes
  6. Summer Jam
  7. This Will Be the Death of Us [f/ Vinnie Caruana]
  8. To Be Continued
  9. Mutiny
My fanship with Motion City Soundtrack is probably more dynamic than with any other band; it's weird. I thought they were awful when the hype first began circling around the time of pre-I Am the Movie reissue promotion; a set at Warped Tour 2003 turned me around instantly and I quickly fell in love with the album. But I found 2005's Commit This to Memory mediocre and void of the playful but modest quirk that lured me to the band in the first place. 2007's Even If It Kills Me brought me back a bit. I guess that means I was relatively looking forward to this set.

I still haven't heard the new one, My Dinosaur Life, but many of its songs played during this set admittedly sound promising (and reviews are singing its praises significantly). They're big, but not overdone; they're sincere, but not awkwardly. That sort of sounds like a fair sum-up of their discography, but it's still true.

And no matter what the band did play, they pretty much had the audience locked in. There was a steady wave of finger-points and an occasional crowd-surfer, and said audience seemed to pay attention to all that happened despite a rather straightforward set brushed up with little but between-song in-jokes--a lyrically improvised birthday song to a Josh Terry broke out just before "Pulp Fiction"--and cute in-band banter. Before the show began a box of kazoos sat by the stairs, with a piece of paper Scotch-taped to the side with a message encouraging everyone to pick them up. The band then called for the audience to use them during "Her Words Destroyed My Planet," although from where I was standing I didn't hear much.

MCS also seemed significantly toned down compared to those earlier days, at least in terms of energy and recklessness; the fact they didn't play "Don't Call It a Comeback" is probably testament to that. But I won't blame synth op Jesse Johnson for not jumping off his keyboard too often, if at all; his setup is probably a little more expensive than it was in 2003.

They certainly sedated I Am the Movie fans--like myself--early by throwing in two songs from that album almost immediately, although the only other song that would make the 18-song set would be "Perfect Teeth," which naturally got the quietest reception of the three. The head-bobbing, Moog-heavy "tell me that you're alright" closed the encore and easily had the biggest reaction.

That encore, by the way, began with a collegiate a capella group, Williams Octet (who reminded me of an awful lot of Emocapella, walking out on stage to perform "Fell in Love Without You." MCS vocalist/guitarist Justin Pierre joined the ensemble for the last vocal line or so, and then sung their praises, telling the audience the story of how the band discovered them and decided to bring them out. The performance mostly received cheers, but some jeers too--a fellow near me loudly informed them they were merely stand-ins for a certain hygienic cleansing product. MCS humbly followed them with two quick jams and the night was over before it was even a quarter after 10.

Set list (9:01-9:58):
  1. Worker Bee
  2. The Future Freaks Me Out
  3. My Favorite Accident
  4. Broken Heart
  5. Delirium
  6. This Is for Real
  7. When "You're" Around
    ----- Josh Terry birthday song
  8. Pulp Fiction
  9. @!#?@!
  10. Last Night
  11. A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
  12. Even If It Kills Me
  13. Attractive Today
  14. Perfect Teeth
  15. Her Words Destroyed My Planet
  16. LGFUAD
    Encore (10:00-10:11):
    Williams Octet: "Fell in Love Without You"
  17. Disappear
  18. Everything Is Alright