When you think of free shows in Brooklyn, you picture dingy bars with no-name locals bringing friends and family to watch them awkwardly and energetically rip through a short set in the hopes of building a big enough fan base to hop one day make it big. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, as these shows are often a lot of fun with the right bands. However, it’s rare to see a free show in one of Brooklyn’s premiere venues featuring one of the most well-recognized emo-punk bands of the past decade perform a near-perfect setlist.
Thanks to Converse Rubber Tracks, this scenario became a reality on Thursday, September 4. As part of the Converse Rubber Tracks Live Concert Series (which features bands that have recorded in their Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Brooklyn), Minneapolis’ Motion City Soundtrack announced a free show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg with Philadelphia punks Ma Jolie. The show “sold out” instantly and created quite a stir, as the band has not played many shows in 2014 in preparation for their upcoming studio album (set for an early 2015 release).
Ma Jolie, the opener “hand-selected by the headlining act”, took the stage at 9pm to a warm reaction of fans mainly there to see the headliner.. With no prior knowledge of the band, I was pleasantly surprised with their enthusiasm and uninhibited energy. They played loud, fast punk songs that went above the typical 2-minute threshold but never quite overstayed their welcome or felt long-winded. The group chose to use their 30 minutes to throw as much music at the audience as they could, stopping only to express amazement and gratitude at the opportunity of opening a show for such an influential band. Their dynamic presence and unbridled energy made them the perfect opener for Motion City Soundtrack, a band whose live shows exhibit the same brand of zany, off-the-wall enthusiasm and electricity.
Ma Jolie Setlist:
A Song About Boats
They Go Up
A Mile of Rope
Motion City Soundtrack, who haven’t headlined a New York City show in almost two years, walked out at 10pm to a packed room. While opening with “My Favorite Accident”, a fan-favorite from their decade-old debut I Am the Movie, I was surprised and a little saddened to see the song receive a lukewarm reaction. The crowd was unusually reserved, singing along without much movement for such a lively song. The fans had a similar reaction to the poppier single “Broken Heart”, leading me to dread that the crowd merely came to take in a free show. However, once Commit This to Memory opener “Attractive Today” blasted through the speakers, the crowd erupted as the wave of stage divers and moshers took hold. The song proved to be the adrenaline shot that reinvigorated the crowd and helped the band settle in and open up.
From there, the band mixed it up with choice cuts from each of their five studio albums. What made their performances so enjoyable is that, even with so many popular singles to choose from, they always manage to throw in some deeper cuts to the audience’s surprise and pleasure. At this show, the band brought out the quick and punchy “The Red Dress” and the wacky and uncontrollably urgent “Capital H” (from their first album) along with the cathartic and in-your-face “When You’re Around” and the serene and beautiful “Last Night”, each of which brought about an appreciative response. The group even shocked themselves by performing “Throw Down”, one of their oldest songs, at the request of a front-row fan. Justin Pierre playfully mimed his inability to play the song but learned it with the help of guitarist Joshua Cain and played it at what he referred to as “75 percent capacity”. Fans didn’t seem to care, as they crashed and danced around the pit in pure bliss at the surprise of the night.
The setlist was heavy on the quintet’s first three albums and only sprinkled in the singles from their latter two releases My Dinosaur Life and GO. While many enjoy those albums, you’d be hard-pressed to find any complaints from the crowd. The band’s setlist was as good as anyone could have possibly hoped for going into the night. Of course, no Motion City Soundtrack performance would be complete without hit songs “The Future Freaks Me Out”, which inspired a frenzy of dancing and jumping, “Everything Is Alright” and the mellow, emotional “Hold Me Down”, which calmed down the crowd in a hushed sing-a-long to close off the 80-minute set.
The band’s Brooklyn set marked the first time I had the opportunity to see them perform live with new drummer Claudio Rivera (ex-Saves the Day), who replaced long-time drummer Tony Thaxton at the start of 2013. He fit in well with the band’s jovial, high-energy performance. His liveliness on stage was matched only by keyboardist Jesse Johnson, who is a ton of fun to watch as he parades around the stage in between his piano riffs and pleads with the crowd to give him everything they’ve got, which always seems to work. Throw in Justin Pierre’s adorably awkward presence and the group’s tireless enthusiasm and on-point instrumentation and you had a fun night all around.
Motion City Soundtrack Setlist:
My Favorite Accident
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
This Is For Real
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
The Red Dress
When “You’re” Around
Point of Extinction
The Future Freaks Me Out
Everything Is Alright (encore)
Hold Me Down (encore)