When Lisa at Sneak Attack got in touch with me about covering Matt Pryor and the Where’s the Band? tour, I have to admit: I was a little smirky about the tour. Besides Pryor, I made the snap judgment that it was lead singers from candy pop punk bands, it would be full of teenagers, and I would probably spend my time rolling my eyes a lot. Then I remembered:
- Once the Alpha Site drove to Roanoke on a work night to see Fall Out Boy (and it was a goddamned great show)
- Once the Alpha Site flew to Chicago to see Panic at the Disco on the pretty. odd. tour (and it was a great show)
So really, I don’t have a single smirky leg to stand on. That’s the thing about music: if you love it, it’s not bad. Or worth making fun of. People get to love what they love, and frankly, I still love Pete Wentz. (He saved my life once. That’s another story entirely.)
So I turned off my smirk, fell flat on my face in love with Pryor’s new (released yesterday) solo album May Day, and went out to shoot this show.
First I have to say: whether or not you loved the New Amsterdam, whether or not you loved the Get Up Kids, if you love deft, intimate, heartbreakingly raking songwriting, you need to pick up May Day. It’s sharp and clever and viciously sad and cruel and beautiful, and there was not a track on it that I did not absolutely adore. There were a few 4-star tracks in my iTunes. There were mostly 5-star tracks. May Day is an early contender, with the Onward Soldiers album I wrote about earlier this week, for my album of the year. It is the best break-up album ever, and it made me happy and sad all at once, and it was even better live.
Second, though, I was just staggered by all four songwriters who led up to Pryor last night; Evan Weiss, of Into It. Over It., was charming and funny, and writes in that way that I associate with some of my beloved Midwesterners — story songs about specific events, sly sense of humor — which is appropriate because though he’s from Jersey, he lives in Chicago now. Anthony Ranieri, of Bayside, reminded me of no one more than he reminded me of Dave Hause, and that’s the best compliment I can give because we all know that I think everything needs more Dave Hause. (This tour could have used more Dave Hause, too. Pocket-sized punk frontmen from Jersey! MORE DAVE HAUSE.) His songwriting’s dark and shivery, and his off-kilter voice and disarming stage presence were a delight. Ace Enders, who fronts the Early November, was clearly beloved to the crowd, which was polite and attentive all night, was hilariously self-deprecating and as good in his screamy moments as he was in his quiet ones.
And Chris Conley of Saves the Day, with his lisp and his ‘Bama bangs and his pink Chucks, played Saves the Day’s entire acoustic EP, and absolutely blew me away with his songwriting. “Jessie & My Whetstone”, the third track off the acoustic EP, made me cry, and when he followed the EP up with a disquieting cover of “Eleanor Rigby”, I was completely sold. (And you all know what I think about Beatles covers. (I hate them.) I loved this one.)
Finally: Matt Pryor. He’s charmingly pudgy, he was the only one of the five who brought a beer on stage, he wore a vest and Chuck Taylors (and pants, you idiots), he had me laughing from the first minute. He went through New Amsterdam songs, Get Up Kids songs, songs he’s written for his kids (ALL CHILDREN’S ALBUMS ARE VALID ART, DAMN IT), and songs from May Day. He made fun of the fact that the crowd was young enough to be his children. (Frankly, my Doc Martens, which will be 17 this year, were older than the average age of this crowd. If I had been indiscreet in high school, some of these children could have been my children.) He was absolutely great. I adored every minute of his yet.
It was a fantastic show. I only smirked at jokes. I found some musicians I had never given a thought to before, and I discovered that I really like their songwriting. That’s what a good show should do. This show did it.
Full set here.