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Motion City Soundtrack and Ma Jolie at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, 9-04-14

 

 

by Vasilis

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 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.

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Ma Jolie Setlist:
Brace, Smile
Upward
A Song About Boats
They Go Up
A Mile of Rope
RIP
88 MPH
Kansas Slam
Cannonball

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.

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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
Broken Heart
Attractive Today
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
Perfect Teeth
True Romance
This Is For Real
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
The Red Dress
Capital H
When “You’re” Around
Last Night
Point of Extinction
Disappear
LG FUAD
Throw Down
The Future Freaks Me Out
Everything Is Alright (encore)
Hold Me Down (encore)

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Frank Turner at the Music Hall of Williamsburg 7-30-13

by Vasilis, contributing writer

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 This is not my first time seeing the wonderfully gifted Frank Turner live, but an artist as talented and engaging as Frank begs you to come back for more. I was lucky enough to catch him 3 times in 24 hours earlier this year at SXSW in Texas, and each show was unique and entertaining. This was my seventh time seeing him live, but it was also my girlfriend’s very first Frank Turner show. She’s not a fan of his work, as his style isn’t her cup of tea (her words, not mine… although I appreciate the British humor in that line) but she was a good sport and tagged along. The Music Hall of Williamsburg only holds about 500-600 people so it was an small room to play in, though he did schedule two shows (both sold out fairly quickly). But as a fan, it’s been fun watching Frank’s U.S. audience grow exponentially with each stateside tour.

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I had never heard of the opener, Ben Marwood, but I always love checking out new acts, and seeing someone perform live first is an interesting experience as you can bypass the issue of studio recorded music and just catch someone in their raw, natural element. Despite being his first U.S. tour, Ben seemed comfortable, if not a little awkward, but commanded the stage well and told engaging stories that drew applause and laughs from the crowd. His British humor and accent fit well opening for Frank Turner, and it was clear he was appreciative of the opportunity and took advantage of it.

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Supporting act Off With Their Heads were certainly an odd pick for this tour, although I had seen them in the past opening for Dropkick Murphys/Against Me! and again this year for Alkaline Trio/Bayside. Their fantastic new album Home is a solid, fast, aggressive punk record that has been making waves on some top punk music sites and their set, like their recorded music, was raw, fast, and aggressive. They tore through a 40 minute set with little talking and a lot of rocking. The only down side was a huge fight that erupted in the pit that led to a big meathead with a bloody lip getting escorted out by security, but not before trying to take down half the crowd. This prompted Frank Turner, before his set, to proclaim “Fuck fighting! We’re all friends here.”

The fight did little to deter the excitement for Frank Turner, who opened his set in style with the catchy, raucous jam “I Want To Dance” which prompted dancing, clapping, stomping, and singing in typical Frank Turner fashion. He played a 21 song set that was very heavy on his last two incredible albums, England Keep My Bones and Tape Deck Heart. He stopped only to tell his stories of heartbreak, drinking, home, and friendship, including an episode of drunk dialing a member of The Dropkick Murphys and stories of his hellish experience spent in an un-air-conditioned Brooklyn shop while writing Poetry of the Deed in the summer of 2009.

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As always, Frank was engaging and on-point with his live set, which is one of the main reasons people continue to come back (like my girlfriend’s friend Alex, who saw both Brooklyn shows and has now gone to 16 total Frank Turner shows). He comes off as truly humble and appreciative of his fan-base and his audience, always remembering the people who have been there with him since the beginning and sprinkling some old classics into his set like “The Real Damage” (one of my personal favorite songs) and “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous”. However, it’s always great to see that Frank Turner fans love his new work just as much as his old stuff, which is a testament to how consistent of a songwriter he is. He began playing songs off Tape Deck Heart way back in 2011 and fans have always shown appreciation and a love for them. Songs like “Tell Tale Signs”, “Recovery”, “The Way I Tend to Be”, and “Plain Sailing Weather” received huge ovations and have become live staples in Frank’s set.

 

The encore brought the best surprise of all. Even though he retired the song at his Wembley Arena DVD performance (2012), Frank brought out old favorite “The Ballad of Me and My Friends” to everyone’s delight. There is nothing cooler than a sold out Frank Turner show shouting “And we’re definitely going to hell!” in defiant unison. He closed his set with fan-favorites “I Still Believe” and “Photosynthesis”, where he implored all the fans to sit down at one point before jumping up and bringing everyone together in harmony and excitement one final time, which is the true mark of a great Frank Turner show.

 

As always, the show was memorable and Frank remains one of my favorite live acts. Though he’s still not my girlfriend’s cup of tea, she said that he put on a fun live show and can see he’s a very gifted musician. She’s even been listening to his stuff more the past few days to try to get into him, and says she likes Tape Deck Heart, which is more than I could have asked for. The long wait for Frank’s next NY show (at Terminal 5, which holds 3000 people!) has begun. November 27 cannot come soon enough.

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