Motion City Soundtrack
May 19, 2016
Thursday night, droves of pop-punk, emo and indie music fans packed into Numbers to celebrate the catalog of Motion City Soundtrack. Formed in Minneapolis in 1997, MCS has enjoyed consistent success and an ever-expanding fan base. Even so, after almost 20 years of penning poppy and fun yet introspective music, the band has decided to call it quits. No surprise, all their Houston fans RSVPed to their Going Away.
For a generation of kids who fell in love with music (and girls) at the Warped Tour, Motion City Soundtrack has been a mainstay of the pop-punk scene. Their audience embraced the music, as somehow the group managed to remain fresh and interesting in a scene that has been overtly critiqued and marginalized by media and audiences alike. How? Quite simply, MCS’s quality far exceeds that of most of its contemporaries.
As the band opened with “Back to the Beat” and charged directly into “Cambridge” and “Capital H,” several things were clear: 1) Original lineups tend to work best, and the audience could feel the synergy these guys have cultivated; 2) This band has never slowed down and does not half-ass anything, from lead singer Justin Pierre’s unmistakable voice to drummer Tony Thaxton’s hard-hitting passion; and 3) The overall performance, especially when contrasted with that of other groups of their genre, is simply superior. MCS has a way of bringing their music to life and making the audience feel completely involved. The audience is part of the story. The story is theirs.
Next came “Her Words Destroyed My Planet,” fan favorite “It Had to Be You,” the sweetest “Make Out Kids,” “Time Turned Fragile” and “L.G. F.U.A.D.” Throughout this group of songs, MCS’s other best identifying quality absolutely shone: Keyboarded Jesse Johnson is a Moog artist. The sound he contributes to the band truly makes the band. Every one of their songs is slightly better simply because of Moog.
Singer Pierre thanked the audience for “bringing the love” and “bringing the vibes,” and he was accurate. The crowd was electrified. Looking around the floor, it became abundantly clear that there is still an extremely large fan base for this type of music. This exposes a major hole in many concert calendars, but specifically local festival lineups. The kids want what they want.
“Last Night,” “My Favorite Accident,” “This is For Real” and “Attractive Today” kept the show rolling on. Guitarist Joshua Cain showcased another band trademark, banging his pickups and distorting the sweet pop into something much more funky. “Point of Extinction,” “True Romance,” “A Lifeless Ordinary” and “Hold Me Down” played in a row as the crowd sang along to every song and knew every word, regardless of from which album the song was plucked. They would have sung the Seinfeld theme if the band had played it. The regular set closed with the bombastic fan favorite “Everything Is Alright,” likely history’s most fun and rousing song about anxiety attacks. Somehow, MCS can even make those a blast.
After a brief and extremely loud call to the stage, the band returned for a three-song encore: “Anything at All,” “Even If It Kills Me” and, of course, the pièce de résistance, “The Future Freaks Me Out.” Certainly, there is a sweet irony for the band, closing a farewell show with this song: one of their first major hits, close to the inception of their success, decreeing a fear of moving forward into the unknown. It must carry a much different meaning for the band now.
Thursday’s electrifying performance showcased a 19-song set including songs from all six of Motion City Soundtrack’s studio albums, seamlessly woven into an unofficial “best of” concert. If the crowd at Numbers was sad to say good-bye to their favorite indie pop-punk heroes, it wasn’t evident. They were simply having too much fun.
So, How Was the Opener? Atlanta’s Microwave kicked off the night with some awkward banter and straightforward screamo. The kids still like this? Apparently, yes. Scenesters The Spill Canvas were next, playing a “meh” poppy emo set that could have been plucked out of any year since 2000.
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Personal Bias: It’s been ten years and three cities since I have seen Motion City Soundtrack perform live. They were always one of my favorites from a certain time in my life, and seeing them again felt like flipping through a hysterical stack of mental Polaroids. To quote one of their contemporaries, “thanks for the memories.”
The Crowd: Wider age spread than one would imagine at a pop-punk show, but MCS has been around since 1997, so the band and the fans grew up together. Very diverse audience who LOVE LOVE LOVE this band and were delighted to bid them adieu live.
Overheard in the Crowd: “Ohmigod, I’m only wearing two MCS pieces…do you think that’s enough?” – a kid who will eventually learn.
Random Notebook Dump: The future freaks me out, too. Thanks for playing “Make Out Kids.”