Motion City Soundtrack / Sherwood / The Higher / The Forecast @ Philadelphia 7/23

July 24, 2007

On a surprisingly cool summer night in Philadelphia, I arrived at the TLA in time to catch the first band, The Forecast. I thought Sherwood was the first opener, but it seems they moved up in the world and were now direct support. In any case, The Forecast were stunning; I had never heard of the band prior to this show, so I didn’t know what to expect at all. Bassist Shannon Burns seemed to split vocal duties with guitarist Dustin Addis, and the pair harmonized well and effectively used the female/male combination of vocals to its full potential. Songs ranged from mid-tempo to all-out punk blasts, each song sounding unique and certainly enjoyable. This band is not a typical Victory Records band, I’ll definitely be checking out more of their material.

The Higher followed and didn’t live up to The Forecast by any means. Their music is very synth-driven, but it was all just sampled into the PA–a huge turnoff to live shows, in my opinion (now-famous Panic! At The Disco used to do this on their early tours, and it just turned me off immediately). Although very The Academy Is…-influenced ( unfortunately without the lyrical wit, catchy hooks, or musicianship), the band struggles live. It all comes off very stale, and very boring. Little girls definitely eat it up, though; a group of girls in front of me from what had to be middle school were attempting to dance to this the entire show. Mix in a mash-up cover of Akon and R. Kelly, and you have the perfect recipe for the type of band I’m absolutely sick of.

AbsolutePunk.net’s oft-plugged Sherwood took the stage next. To be completely honest, I didn’t buy into the AP-hype, and never really listened to these guys. That was a mistake. Sherwood came out swinging, with live synth, pummeling punk-pop guitars, and a “Grounded For Life”-era Donal Logue lookalike frontman with an amazing set of pipes and demanding stage presence. Sherwood was performing the new wave of punk-pop flawlessly, and I was along for the ride. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a band I didn’t know ANY words to as much as I did Sherwood in quite some time. I hope they’re as energetic and sound as good on CD, because I’ll definitely be picking up their material.

Minneapolis, Minnesota based Motion City Soundtrack finally took the stage, coming out to a party beat of heavy bass and dance-styled music playing over the PA (quite a change from a band who just one year ago came out to the first track from Refused’s The Shape Of Punk To Come). I’ve seen this band more times than I have fingers (and perhaps toes, as well), and the setlist has been basically the same for the six years, so I was excited to see how they would perform the new songs live.

For those keeping score at home, the band played:

Throwdown
The Future Freaks Me Out
My Favorite Accident
Perfect Teeth
Modern Chemistry
Capital H
Mary Without Sound
Attractive Today
Everything Is Alright
Make Out Kids
Time Turned Fragile
LG Fuad
Better Open The Door
Hold Me Down
Fell in Love Without You
This Is For Real
Broken Heart

You Wouldn’t Like Me (Tegan and Sara Cover)

Those seventeen songs should be correct (but are obviously out of order). The new material sounded great. Frontman Justin Pierre was as quirky as ever, this time giving out his cell phone number (or actually, “Tom’s cell phone number”), through a sign flip-book that also contained other sayings, including “YES”, “NO”, “LET’S CHAT”, and other random things. If you get to this tour, you’ll understand what I mean. He may be off the drugs, but his elevator still doesn’t go to the top floor.

The band sounded exceptionally tight (as always); drummer Tony Thaxton is a core part of their live shows, and very under-rated in the world of punk-pop. He kept perfect timing through the band’s chaotic frenzy of dual guitars and Moog, and it’s really amazing how consistently well the band performs live.

Motion City Soundtrack channeled an energy into the crowd that feeds off their own performance; they’re genuinely loving and enjoying every second of the performance, and the crowd feels it. I remember sitting with the band on their tour bus the first time they saw themselves on MTV, and their emotional reaction was very similar to The Wonders’s hysteria when they learn “That Thing You Do!” is on the radio.

Definitely pick up Even If It Kills Me come September, and if this tour rolls through your town, don’t miss it.

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