The Lawrence Arms hadn't played New York in over four years, if I'm not mistaken. Their last bill here was a rather amazing Fat Wreck CMJ showcase at Brooklyn venue The Hook (which might be done, as I haven't been to it since) on November 1, 2006, alongside Strike Anywhere, Smoke or Fire, None More Black (playing their last show before the hiatus) and Dead to Me. Yeah, I just spelled it out to make you jealous, really.
So with this short northeast run, they made their time here worthwhile, playing a double bill in one night at the new Knitting Factory. While I'll always miss KF's lower levels, this main space is just tremendously improved. It's notably wider yet just as intimate; you can stand in the back of the room and still see everything perfectly. If you wanted to avoid the sloppy, drunken bro-punk pits that ran rampant during these two shows, your vantage point was still a more-than-acceptable one.
I missed AM Taxi's first set, but I imagine their second was more of the same--which wasn't bad. It sounds like a dismissal to label them a cheaper version of the Gaslight Anthem, but that's not a put-down; the band's peppy, gravelly pop-rock with light punk edges got heads bobbing and a couple fans even thrilled to sing along with highlights like "Dead Street" and "The Mistake." And, at least on the second show, threw in a cover of the Clash's "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" that, sadly, no one else seemed to recognize.
Set list [second show] (10:21-10:51):
- Dead Street
- Shake, Rattle and Stall
- Paper Covers Rock
- (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais [the Clash cover]
- Fed Up
- The Mistake
I'm not sure how extensively we've been covering White Wives, so it took me by surprise to hear they included two members of Anti-Flag (as well as someone from the Code). While their sound was not as easily classifiable, it did vaguely resemble a more mature and experimental branch off A-F. They had three guitarists and probably six times as many pedals, with a bevy of sounds being carried through the band's aggressive, indie rock-tinged punk. It had its moments: There's one point that came in the opener to both sets that sounds just like Bridge and Tunnel (along with extra percussion from Chris #2); it's beautiful, but some generic fast beat followed it and it was so frustrating. (They went a little overboard on the reverb sometimes, too.) If they take the former direction on whatever release they're prepping, I'll back it wholeheartedly. With their co-vocalist's shaky delivery and scrappy frame, I was probably just hoping for a Desaparecidos feel at times, which didn't necessarily happen. I honestly started to doze a bit during set no. 2, but the opening riff of "Where Is My Mind?" snapped me back to attention. They played only through its first chorus; despite the tease, I was pleased--although, again, c'mon audience. You don't know the Pixies? This song, even?
But then, the Lawrence Arms. Man, it is weird to watch a three-piece play in this day and age. But the lack of second guitar allowed for greater space to be given to slurred sing-alongs from both band and crowd. Yeah, TLA was drunk, especially Brendan. No surprise there, and moreso the second set. But it was a treat to be witness to both: The band only repeated two songs, and while they were visibly drunker during the sophomore set, it was hardly sophomoric. Both sets ensured plenty of pre-Fat classics like "100 Resolutions," "Brickwall Views" and "Turnstiles," but the first set catered more to late-era fans, with half of their 2009 7", Buttsweat and Tears and a small handful from 2006's Oh! Calcutta! dished out too. The second set went heavy on The Greatest Story Ever Told, and when it started with a fantastically energetic and cathartic trifecta of "Recovering the Opposable Thumb," "Turnstiles" and "The March of the Elephants," I felt vindicated for staying for the encore set despite a morning shift at 7 a.m.; hearing four more TGSET songs completed the feeling of gratitude. Sure, it might be impossible replicate Matt Allison's incredibly warm and moving guitar tones on "The Raw and Searing Flesh" in person, but Chris McCaughan did his best replacement with a layer of Schwarzenbach-like distortion to manuever the chilling classic through its sweeping opening.
A couple totally random stage-divers and the push-mosh atop the slippery floor is probably an accurate depiction of the audience; the latter reached a level of mildly irritating during the second set, naturally. But we were funny at least; Brendan, who would come to the front of the stage either sneering or grinning in a shit-eating manner when he saw everyone singing along, found his fragmented banter wearing on the crowd's nerves at points; they would chant "Chris! Chris! Chris!" (second set). When he thanked us for not yelling "Lagwagon!" at them--well, you can guess what happened when the next song came (first set). It proved that the band had refused to recycle even banter for set dos. And when Brendan broke out into an off-the-cuff cover of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" that developed entirely too far into it, it did not seem scripted. And when he switched instruments with Chris for the first set's encore? That too. And they pulled it off admirably.
Set list [first show] (8:31-9:24):
- Great Lakes/Great Escapes
- Necrotism: Decanting the Insalubrious (Cyborg Midnight) Part 7
- The First Eviction Notice
- On with the Show
- The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City
- The Devil's Takin' Names
- There's No Place Like a Stranger's Floor
- Quincentuple Your Money
- Brickwall Views
- The Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure
- Jumping the Shark
- 100 Resolutions
- Hey, What Time Is "Pensacola Wings of Gold" on, Anyway?
- The Redness in the West
- Like a Record Player
Set list [second show] (12:00-12:58):
- Recovering the Opposable Thumb
- The March of the Elephants
- Presenting: The Dancing Machine
- Cut It Up
- Brickwall Views
- The Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure
- Lose Your Illusion I
- Spit Shining Spit
- Every Rose Has Its Thorn [abbreviated Poison cover]
- Beyond the Embarrassing Style
- Chapter 13: The Hero Appears
- Are You There, Margaret? It's Me, God
- The Raw and Searing Flesh
- The Disaster March