Pop-punk has acted as a gateway drug into musical subcultures for many a generation, and while there are plenty of catchy punk-rock bands to lure in young listeners, few have had the staying power of Alkaline Trio.
The Chicago based group has put out consistently great albums that never stray too far from their roots, while simultaneously evolving in subtle ways with each. The dark nature of the band's lyrics have also given its albums the edge of maturity that have made them a band fans keep as they grow, rather than just a nostalgic guilty pleasure.
Several generations of Alkaline Trio fans convened within the walls of Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live last night to scream the "whoa-oh-ohs" of songs, both classic and new, at the top of their lungs. And the band delivered the anthemic choruses in spades.
Off With Their Heads, a rough sounding punk band that hails from Minneapolis, opened the night. It has gained quite a bit of notoriety in the state of Florida as a consistent fan favorite at the Fest in Gainesville each year. The band played a set of melodic snotty punk rock to an enthusiastic early crowd.
Off With Their Heads' screaming punk was followed by Bayside's smooth crooning and ripping guitar solos. Frontman Anthony Raneri appeared donning a Cock Sparrer T-shirt that was just large enough to cover his Alkaline Trio tattoo and gave an exuberant greeting to the swaying crowd that lined Revolutions floor and walls. The band cracked into "Devotion and Desire" from 2005's self titled album, and the trend of nostalgia heavy material continued through the band's energetic set. Raneri's lyrics about relationships gone awry and the shitty end of being a social creature were all but drowned out by the excitable crowd's singing, and the frontman reveled in his ability to rile the crowd up with playful glances at individual audience members and mid-song check-ins on how Fort Lauderdale was doing. Bayside ended its set with "Dear Tragedy" and Raneri freely roaming about the stage as a tech handled his guitar parts and the crowd reached out toward the singer.
The stacks of amplifiers resting on stage were decorated with burning candles to set the vibe for the dark heroes of pop-punk. When the Alkaline Trio's intro rolled through the speakers, the roar from the crowd was staggering. While it's no secret that Alkaline Trio fans are a dedicated bunch, we still did not expect the kind of response we witnessed last night -- at least not in 2013.
Singer/guitarist/punk icon Matt Skiba came out holding a pastel pink Fender Jazzmaster and a pair of matching Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, contrasting the man's otherwise black garb and metaphorically mirroring the duality of Alkaline Trio's music. While it can be disappointing for fans of the band's classic albums to catch them on a tour supporting a fresh release, the crowd screamed out every lyric of new jammers from My Shame is True, as if the record had come out in 1998. The band opened with "She Lied to the FBI" and if we had not known better, we might well have assumed it was an old track based on crowd response.
As is generally the case, Skiba and bassist Dan Andriano's voices locked together and weaved in and out through out the airtight set of anthemic punk. "Mercy Me" was a particularly fun early highlight of the set, and favorites like "Sadie" and "Blue Carolina" called fingers to the air as fans screamed lyrics back at the smiling band.
As is always the case, watching drummer Derek Grant effortlessly hammer out intricate fills while singing harmonies is half the fun, and it is our opinion -- especially after last night's performance -- that Grant is one of the best drummers to come from the punk world in years. Crowd interaction from the stage was sparse, save for a fun anecdote about "Uncle Mike" (Ness) of Social Distortion and a few pleasantries, but the band played a lengthy set and if that's the price to pay for a few more tunes, we're cool with it.
Alkaline Trio's encore ended with the somber "Radio" and a nostalgic, sweaty shout-along. While music critics are expected to get down on bands that don't do much to evolve, we'd like to think we're not alone when we say we sure hope Alkaline Trio never changes what they do. And we are certain we're not alone when we say we're looking forward to the band's next South Florida performance.