The Format / Piebald / Steel Train / Limbeck / Reubens Accomplice @ Sayreville 8/22

August 23, 2007

Starland Ballroom is larger than nearby venues that this tour would stop at (such as Philadelphia’s Trocadero Theatre), I decided to visit in Sayreville’s fairly large venue on a surprisingly cool August night.

With the poor weather, I arrived late and regrettably missed Reubens Accomplice and most of Limbeck’s set. Fortunately, I did catch Steel Train, a band I’ve never taken much interest in. Ignorantly, I wrote them off as one of the countless generic, uninspired Drive-Thru Records bands that seem to plague the Garden State. Tonight, however, I caught the band live and am ready to give this band a solid listen after a stellar live performance. Songs included “Firecracker” and “Kill Monsters In The Rain”, though I’m not too familiar with their catalog to document exactly what they played. Setting the bar extremely high, however, I was ready to see how Piebald would stack up.

There’s something to be said about Piebald, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what words describe the act from Andover, Massachusetts (though I’m going to rely heavily here on using their standout track, 2000’s “American Hearts” as a focal point). With hardcore origins that progressed into emocore/indie, Piebald became a band that appealed to a wide variety of people–notably outside the mainstream, however, until the aforementioned single saw some airplay on MTV (the song’s line “[America] has broken my American heart” was inspiration for California’s No Way Out changing their name to My American Heart).

Still, the band saw no mainstream success and just a few days before this stop on the tour, Piebald announced they would be breaking up by the end of the month and that their final dates in August would be the band’s last. It’s not surprising that on a night filled with pop acts, very few in the crowd would appreciate the band’s final tour–Piebald never appealed to the casual listener, despite being heavily respected in underground music.

Tonight, however, Piebald performed an excellent farewell set (though making no mention of their breakup the entire evening), easily outperforming the opening acts and even headliners The Format, who always play an excellent set. The band played a nice selection of old and new, and the few Piebald fans in attendance certainly helped liven the crowd up during the band’s harder songs. During their set (and most notably “American Hearts”) the band poured their entire souls into the music and showcased exactly what is missing from the modern punk-pop/emocore scene: heart. Many similar punk-pop and pop-rock acts are now seeing heavy MTV play, but they’re missing Piebald’s American Heart.

The Format brought great supporting acts and certainly had their work cut out for them taking the stage as the final band of the evening, but the Arizona natives are known for their tremendous live show. Sadly, the band’s song selection suffered: eight tracks from Dog Problems were played, but the band missed out on four of the album’s key songs in “Matches”, “I’m Actual”, “Time Bomb”, and “If Work Permits”. This is unfortunate, since the band selected some of the weaker cuts from Dog Problems instead and chose many from their far inferior debut, Interventions and Lullabies. The full set:

Pick Me Up
The First Single
Wait, Wait, Wait
Give It Up
Dog Problems
Tune Out
Dead End
On Your Porch
Tie The Rope
The Compromise
Inches and Falling
I’m Ready, I Am
She Doesn’t Get It

“Inches and Falling” was a last minute addition, inspired by a fight the band had to interrupt midway through their set. Acknowledging themselves as “weak pussy pop music”, the band belittled two kids in the crowd who decided moshing through “Oceans” was a good idea.

The Format perform their songs perfectly: they actually sing in key and don’t get sloppy with their instruments. Poor song selection aside (it really does hurt to see the first quarter of Dog Problems missing entirely and replaced with average tracks from Interventions and Lullabies), the band put on an excellent performance and showcased why they are such a respected pop / pop-rock act. Highlights of the night included “The Compromise” and “The First Single”, crowd-pleasers that got the audience dancing. Title track “Dog Problems” is clearly one of the band’s finest achievements, and the band certainly did justice live to the Queen-sounding song.

It’s easy to recommend this tour with an amazing act like The Format headlining, but with Piebald’s farewell and solid openers like Limbeck and Steel Train, this is a must-see summer tour to close out August. Goodbye Piebald, you will be missed.