Live: The Get Up Kids Battle PA Blowouts And Crowd-Surfer Fistfights At Webster Hall
Better Than: Kickboxing while listening to Mineral.
The lead guitarist didn't flub all his parts. The crowd did not react with eerie, motionless indifference to every single new song. And the vast majority of the overamped dudes crowd-surfing in the front row did not basically get into a fistfight with a roadie at the show's conclusion. That much I know for certain. Nonetheless: a lotta flubbing, a lotta motionless indifference, and, yes, some good old fashioned fisticuffs to dramatically conclude this, a cheerfully nostalgia-soaked emo show. This was a weird one, folks.
The basic idea tonight is the crowd goes immediately apeshit for anything off 2000's beloved, era-defining, alt-rock anthemic, still quite excellent Something to Write Home About, and scarcely deigns to bat an eyelash at much else. Certainly not the new songs: The recently reconvened Get Up Kids (the pride of Kansas City, Missouri, playing Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight) have got a new album, There Are Rules, with some OK bass-heavy dirges -- "Keith Case" is a scuzzy, unapologetic Secret Machines rip, and not a bad one -- that nobody much wants anything to do with. Here's a show where frontman Matthew Pryor eventually finds it necessary to say, "That's the last new one. Now we're gonna play a lot of old shit." Meanwhile, the old shit has its own problems: "Woodson," introduced as "the first song we ever wrote" and pleasingly brash, feral, and garage-rock noisy as a result, is beset halfway through by a total PA freakout that unleashes an ungodly ear-piercing screech, followed by several minutes of blown-speaker ambient chaos to which the band is mostly oblivious. "You build me up/You break me down again," we all scream into the void, trying to drown out the din. It's a pretty unpleasant and still actually pretty rousing moment.
My, but those Something to Write Home About songs are fantastic; "You're just a phase I've gotten over anyhow," we all howl during the manic power-pop of "Red Letter Day," clearly kidding ourselves. But the momentum comes and goes: the catchy, gnarly fist-pumping bromide "Don't Hate Me" is immediately followed by the slow, maudlin, vaguely dub-inflected power ballad "Walking on a Wire," an energy-sapping downer that leads to an encore that starts out half-hearted and then gets, ah, a little too full-hearted. All night the occasional crowd-surfer will get too close to the stage and be immediately shoved back off by a remarkably zealous roadie; more surfers appear, a few security dudes materialize, the band starts scowling, and suddenly the zealous roadie is throwing a few haymakers at a particularly irritating fella as the band is filing offstage, a bizarre end to a bizarrely uneven show, though I'll take bizarrely uneven over straight-up boring, even if the lead guitarist sounds like he'd be better off playing left-handed.
Critical Bias: My friend regales me all night beforehand with tales of old Get Up Kids shows he's seen, including one in a church basement in Philadelphia more than 10 years ago where there was apparently like a 30-on-30 hardcore-vs.-emo brawl during the band's slowest song. And lo, tonight, during the tender ballad 'I'll Catch You," Pryor is heard to remark, "No stage-diving during the slow songs. What is this, Philly?"
Overheard: Hysterical laughter from my friend after the Philly thing.
Random Notebook Dump: When you walk in the club and you realize you just missed the opening band, and they're carrying their gear offstage and one of the dudes is wearing a poncho, all you can think is, "Whew."
Action and Action
The One You Want
Red Letter Day
I'm a Loner Dottie, a Rebel
Shatter Your Lungs
Close to Home
Don't Hate Me
Walking on a Wire
I'll Catch You