It’s been ten years since crazy-haired Justin Pierre first posed the question “Are you feeling fine?” to fans of the Moog-riddled pop-punk that is Motion City Soundtrack. Despite all the changes the years have brought to us, we all stood together on a snowy night last Saturday answering that same old question with the answer of “Yes, I feel just fine” in chorus at the top of our lungs. Fans new and old filled the Gothic Theatre despite the snow to help the midwestern band celebrate the tenth anniversary of their most critically acclaimed album, Commit This To Memory. In the past ten years the group has continued to create: releasing three more albums with another on the way later this year, but the passion surrounding the tracks of their Sophomore release has been proven to be insatiable. Accompanied by recent radio darlings Brick & Mortar, as well as another familiar face of the past, William Beckett (formerly of The Academy Is…), Saturday’s show was a beautiful mix of new and old from beginning to end, mixing nostalgia and passion with excitement and forward progress.
Opening the night was the two piece Brick & Mortar based out of New Jersey. This band has seen an absurd amount of love from the local alternative radio station 93.3FM (KTCL), and it seems to be paying off. The band played at the Black Sheep in Colorado Springs last week and will be back in another three weeks to play as a part of KTCL’s annual St. Patrick’s Day “Kegs and Eggs” lineup at Lodo’s on Friday, March 13th. Making use of tracks and drum pads to accompany the strictly bass-and-drums duo, their live sound was surprisingly full for their small stage presence. Lead singer Brandon Asraf’s interaction with the crowd was unique from anything I’d ever seen before: quirky, quiet, yet deep and connected. He took time to speak with fans about the meaning of each song, and his personal belief that success can come from anyone and anywhere. Coming from humble beginnings themselves, it’s fabulous to see such a passionate group working their way into the touring community so quickly. The band’s discography currently only contains a 7-song EP, which gave them just enough material to fill their 40-minute set. Opening with “Keep This Place Beautiful”, the group’s radio singles like “Locked In A Cage” and “Hollow Tune” certainly got the most applause, but fans were bobbing and moving throughout the set. Although their songs sound great live, their show leaves room to be just as exciting as the music they’re performing, which can only really be perfected by playing live more and more. You can bet we’ll be there the next time they come through Denver, excited to see the progress and change.
After a quick changeover, the duo on stage morphed into the one-man act of Mr. William Beckett. Known best for his days as the frontman for Fueled By Ramen darlings The Academy Is…, Bill Beckett has been touring as a solo act for the past few years, using his full name as a stage handle and performing much more pop-centric songs compared to the alternative sounds of his past. Although the focus of the evening was the celebration of Motion City Soundtrack’s album anniversary, it was hard to neglect that this year also marks the 10yr anniversary of The Academy Is…’ debut release Almost Here. I hadn’t really thought much about how much old vs. new material I expected out of Mr. Beckett until he opened his set with a beautifully reimagined version of “The Phrase That Pays” and was immediately sent spiraling into what he referred to as “Nostalgia City”. Seeing Beckett’s name on the bill was certainly a nice addition to a show I was already excited for, but I hadn’t realized how happy i’d be to hear his music until his set started, really making it the unexpected highlight of the night for me. Like Brick & Mortar, Beckett took time to talk about the history of each track he was playing during his set. Reminiscing about his time touring with Fall Out Boy, and working with Cobra Starship’s Gabe Saporta on a music video idea, it was amazing to realize how much time has passed since all of those bands ruled my musical conscious. Playing acoustic versions of his new tracks, Beckett’s new music reflects growth and experimentation for the artist. Mixing fun harmonies and unique instrumentation with his recognizable writing style, it was really great to hear so much progress and change in the music he’s creating. I haven’t seen him perform his new material with a fully fleshed out band yet, but after playing only three of his new tracks, it’s certainly been added to my “to-do” list. Playing old hits like “Down and Out”, “About A Girl”, and the fan favorite “Attention”, he ended the last song of his set with the line “let’s get fucked up and die” - sparking an uproar from the audience, proving just how ready they were for what was to come next.
Charging onto stage to kick off the evening’s highlight, Motion City Soundtrack didn’t hesitate as they kicked off the night with the chords of “Attractive Today” - the crowd was going insane, belting along every word as Justin Pierre attacked the microphone. I’m a huge fan of the anniversary tour “fad” that’s going on right now (especially since I personally credit the music produced from 2003-2006 as the reason I chose to pursue a career in music), but there are certain pieces to this concept that can be problematic…like when the hit single of your record happens to be the second song of your album. Although fans were ecstatic to hear “Everything Is Alright”, it did feel a bit odd to hear the group’s hit so early in the evening. While it made for an electric beginning to their set, anyone who wasn’t a diehard fan of the group didn’t have as much left to look forward to after the first ten minutes. It might have made things a bit weird for the passive listeners in the audience, but again, playing the album front to back is kind of the point of anniversary tours. I back the group’s choice to stay true to the record, and even though some may have seen it as a speed bump in the show’s set list, the rest of the night was a dream set for any serious fans of the group. Group crowd sing-alongs to “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die” and “Together We’ll Ring in The New Year” gave way to an encore filled with B-sides and fan favorites like “Invisible Monsters”, “A Life Less Ordinary”, and second encore including “Last Night”, “Capital H”, “This Is For Real” and “The Future Freaks Me Out”.
Although the band’s live dynamic has certainly shifted in the past decade, their passion for performance and the enthusiasm of their fans has certainly stayed the same without fail. A true treat for those who choose to treasure these older records, the Commit This To Memory anniversary tour was all that it should have been: a fabulous homage to times past, and a great celebration of the shared love of music that keeps us all going to shows no matter how much snow falls in one single day.