“I went to the show last night. It was like shitty Beach Boys.” – Justin Pierre
Tonight was the first show of Justin Courtney Pierre’s first solo tour. Seeing Motion City Soundtrack live half a dozen times over the years, I am familiar with Pierre’s stage presence. Tonight was something new. Pushing through nerves, Pierre spoke at length with the crowd between songs and gave those in attendance a night just for them. His tour will undoubtedly get tighter by the end of its run. But on his first solo show at Lincoln Hall in Chicago, Justin joked to the crowd the best summary of his entire solo venture.
“I’m incredibly nervous. I talked to my daughter before the show, and she said, ‘You’ll do great, dad!’ I said, ‘Shut up, idiot.’”
Opening the show was surprise darling, Pronoun. I had never heard of them before, but like many others tonight, I’m a fan for life. It says a lot about a band when, after the show, more people are holding their vinyls instead of the headliner. Surprisingly simple, their songs contain an insane amount of melody.
Pronoun, headed by singer/ guitarist Alyse Vellturo, are what rock stars are made of. Watching them play, I couldn’t help but think of the manga Nana, and seeing character Nana Osaki bend rock music to her will. Each song swam with a full, rich sound that made it seem like twice as many musicians took the stage. Despite Vellturo nervously telling the crowd, “This song only uses two chords,” (or “This one uses three!”) Pronoun are remarkably talented.
If nothing else, Pronoun played a song that “they hoped to record some time.” I assume it will eventually be a single. Though unsure of what the title of it is, it’s the type of song that can instantly turn a small band into a sensation.
By contrast, Justin Courtney Pierre was loose. He warned the crowd before the first song, “Some of the melodies and words might change. That’s not on purpose.” Where Motion City maintained a tight, coordinated live show, Pierre allowed his solo work room to breathe. The band had only practiced a hand full of times before hitting the road. Music stands were placed front and center, with Pierre eyeing pages of lyrics and/or sheet music before and during songs.
In The Drink was played in its entirety, broken up with a great mix of songs from Pierre’s career. An older song written for a gay youth site, “Everything That Hurts” was played alongside a new solo song, complete with surfer rock vibe (see the ‘Beach Boys’ quote above) that will be released on an upcoming EP, My Girl Margot.
More than anything, Pierre had the chance to talk to the audience and try something new. Between each song, he’d talk at length with the crowd, changing topics and regularly filling the room with laughter. After one interaction asking about asthma medications, when someone from the crowd shouted, “Doctor says yes!”, Pierre instantly shot back, “You’re not a doctor!”
This solo tour allowed Pierre a chance to play anything. Rushed to learn the songs, the band flew through three Farewell Continental songs, including one called “Tossing and Turning” that he hopes will be on FC’s next release. When it came time for Motion City Soundtrack, Pierre took the stage alone. He wanted to play “without feeling like he was cheating on MCS,” and only played songs that he brought to the band in the first place. Requesting the audience to help sing, he played through intimate versions of “It Had To Be You”, “When You’re Around” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die”.
At this point, it’s impossible to tell if the rest of Justin Pierre’s solo tour will follow the same path, or if this truly is a chance for him play with his live shows and look for something new each night. But if this was him at the height of his insecurities on stage, Pierre is about to start something truly special.
by Kyle Schultz