The Wonder Years (and Friends) Pack a Punch

The Wonder Years Providence Splash

I’m a sucker for opening bands. Oftentimes I will leave a show with a shirt from every band, and that’s a testament to my lack of self-control, but it’s also a testament to the caliber that opening bands are at these days. Long gone are the lineups that exist to sound gross to make the headliner look good. Sometimes, the artists get added to my regular roster, and other times, I let them pass me by, just grateful for the live experience they offered. Last night’s lineup was one of those shows where everyone was incredible and at the top of their game.

The first band of the night was proper., a band from Brooklyn. The band was kind enough to respond to my Instagram message asking for their setlist – love y’all. A three-piece that packed a huge punch, and the lead singer Erik’s stage presence was great. For their first time in the city, they were able to really connect with us in the crowd and everyone fell in love with them. Musically, they have a frenetic punk sound, but there was nothing chaotic about them as a band. Everything was tight, and even though they “hadn’t practiced in the past calendar week,” their set was solid and I wish they had been able to play more. 

PRONOUN from Boston was next, and she also graciously allowed me her setlist after I sent her a DM. I’ve seen her play before, at a Turnover show in 2017, but she was a one-woman show at that point. She has added two more members to the outfit, and a whole lot of experience as well. The first time I had seen her, she didn’t really stick with me for some reason. This time around, she has a few more releases under her belt, and a lot more confidence. With easy vibes, and song titles like “I wanna die but I can’t (cuz I gotta keep living)”, it’s clear that she has found both her niche, and the perfect genre for those of us who use guitars to soothe our mental illnesses.

After a brief intermission and rousing crowd rendition of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire courtesy of the venue playlist, it was time for band three of the night. At this point in my concert career I’ve usually disassociated and want to head home, but of course, I always push through. The sweaty people, the smattering of conversation, and the alcohol seeping through my sneakers is a lot to handle, especially after so long out of the game. But onto the stage steps Future Teens.

Another Boston native band, Future Teens was the perfect act to be third. Not only because of their acclaim in the scene, but for their ability to bring everyone back together. Everyone was dancing to these songs about Boston being overrated and crying in traffic, and the togetherness was palpable. There has been such a disconnect in the scene because of the pandemic and every time a crowd unites – old fans and newly budding fans alike – it feels like old times. Future Teens did just that. It’s always interesting to me when I get to see a band that I’ve only heard about, and sometimes I will deliberately not dive in, and just let the music wash over me that night. Future Teens has made a lifelong fan of me with their show last night. Endlessly energetic, and great music to boot. I didn’t grab a t-shirt from the merch table last night because of how crowded it was, but I have one of their  90’s inspired t-shirts coming in the mail to rep my new faves.

And of course, eventually we make it to the ones we’ve all been aching to see: The Wonder Years. This was my second time seeing the band play (the first was with Tiny Moving Parts, Microwave, and letlive.), but my third time seeing Dan Campbell play – I caught an Aaron West show in 2017. The energy in the room as they finished setting up was undeniable, and as the guys stepped out and Dan said “this is our first headlining show in 21 months,” we knew we were in for a treat. They played tracks from all of their albums, as well as their new Christmas song “Threadbare” for the first time. They pulled out “Christmas at 22” from their back pockets, and according to some fellow attendees who updated the setlist.fm page for the show, they hadn’t played that one since 2014. I’m past my pit days now, but the crowd went wild, and security let up on the no-crowd-surfing rule and let the chips (and the people) fall where they may. 

This was my second venture back into live music, and it’s one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. The Wonder Years have mastered how to put together both a perfect lineup and a perfect setlist, and it’s a joy to see them when they come in from Philly. After this run of shows, they are headed out on a tour where they will be playing both The Upsides and Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing in their entireties.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Goodnight Hiroyuki: A Night with Justin Courtney Pierre

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“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.

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Pronoun

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.

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Justin Courtney Pierre

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

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and just realized he was petting a toy Tyrannosaurus Rex instead of his cat. Boooooo.