The Get Up Kids, Steel Train, River City Extension
January 23, 2011
Better than: polishing your multi-colored Hot Water Music vinyl records.
Aren't you glad when a reunion tour isn't a fluke? Fifteen months ago, The Get Up Kids triumphantly returned to the DFW area with a well-attended show at the Granada. Thankfully, playing a smaller venue last night didn't deter the band from giving longtime and new fans a worthwhile set. And if you looked at the economics of it, the $22 entry fee was perfect, given how they played 23 songs in 90 minutes.
Promoting a record that won't be in stores until this week (but was sold back at the merch table nonetheless), seven new songs from There Are Rules were played to varying degrees of fanfare. The five-piece opened with a new track and proceeded to play a new one after almost every older song. Mixed with songs from their previous four albums, the crowd seemed appreciative and respectful of what they heard to their virgin ears. The band has never made the same record twice and the new songs sounded influenced by early Wire, XTC, Depeche Mode and The Cure. A very notable highlight was "Automatic."
As tasty as it was to hear new stuff, when older songs like "Red Letter Day" and "Shorty" started up, the enthusiasm skyrocketed. The same thing happened at the Granada show, but it's not surprising. No matter how many records The Get Up Kids put out, people will always want to hear material from their first two albums and early singles. Luckily for them, a sizeable audience keeps coming out year after year.
Since the band began in mid-'90s, they've been able to cut through to an audience of indie rockers, brutal hardcore fans, pop-punkers, and Weezer followers. Looking around the full floor in front of the stage, the all-ages crowd consisted of people who were probably seeing the band for the first time or the seventh time.
Everyone was friendly, letting people keep a spot up front in case they wanted to get a drink or a good camera shot. The only pushing and crowd-surfing was during the encore. And, even then, people respected each other.
Keyboardist James Dewees was absent from the lineup due to touring commitments with My Chemical Romance, but Dustin Kinsey, who has played with a couple of The Get Up Kids in other bands (specifically, White Whale and The New Amsterdams), filled in perfectly fine. Dual guitarists/frontmen Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic showed no sign of wear and tear in their performance. Brothers Ryan and Rob Pope often traded funny looks as they remained locked together in the pocket. And Pope appeared to have plenty of fun playing with a variety of pedals on a pedal board double the size of Suptic's and Pryor's boards.
After 18 songs, the band stepped off of the stage and came back only a couple of minutes later. For the ones who wanted to hear the blockbusters, the encore served such purpose. Starting with their version of The Replacements' "Beer for Breakfast," this led to "Holiday," then "Don't Hate Me" and ending with "I'll Catch You" and "10 Minutes." The time passed quickly, yet it was time well spent.
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River City Extension played a concise 30-minute set at 8 p.m. The eight-piece (!) played a kind of caffeinated folk which bordered on precious twee. With a trumpeter, a cellist, a keyboardist and even a djembe player doubling on guitar to augment the line-up, there was also a mariachi vibe to the songs. The band finished their six-song set by taking most of their instruments into the crowd and literally performing unplugged.
Steel Train, who followed, were a pleasant surprise. Even though they looked like they came from an '80s theme party (where you had to dress up like someone from Repo Man or Revenge of the Nerds), their 45 minutes were quite satisfying. Frontman Jack Antonoff commanded plenty of attention with his voice and stage presence, but the four fellow members did as well, given how they all sang harmonies together. Most of the crowd was familiar with the band's '80s pop-like material and quite often sang along.
Personal Bias: This was my third time to see The Get Up Kids, but it was the first time I actually heard the keyboards cut through the guitars. No disrespect to Dewees or his abilities, but during the previous times, he was completely buried in the mix.
Random Note: Before The Get Up Kids hit the stage, I heard two distinctly different conversations. To my left, a guy had a friendly chat with a couple of other folks, saying he had not seen the band since his teen years. To my right, a couple of teenagers talked about a Twitter war of words that one had started.