ALEXISONFIRE + Story Of The Year + Kill Radio @ Metropolis

By Jordan-na Belle-Isle - Canadian Invasion - 06/29/2005

On a humid Montreal Wednesday evening, a packed Metropolis housed three of those newfangled emo/screamo quasi-punk bands that are all the rage with the young ‘uns these days. It was a threesome of angst-ridden music with only one winner who emerged sweaty and victorious from the weeping anthems, pained shouts and quick guitars.

First up was Kill Radio from Los Angeles and who could easily be placed in the pop-punk category, with their blond golden boy lead singer elliciting schoolgirl screams from the females. Kill Radio’s repertoire consisted mostly of catchy, slightly angry, punk. The kids dug it, pumping their fists to the rhythm, throwing their bodies in the air. Yes, there was a mosh pit but aside from that, Kill Radio’s set was pretty safe, bordering on radio-friendly. The only thing preventing these guys from being Clear Channel’s bitches was their staunch anti-Bush/America sucks stance. “We’re from America but don’t worry; we’re the good ones”. Their merch featured T-shirts that mocked Bush. More power to them yet their opposition seems to be their only raison d’être, just another band that cropped up with the anti-Bush movement, hopping along for the ride. Politics in music is a good method of getting your message to the younger generations but it occasionally begs the question: are you just trying to cash in on a political movement that easily profits financially from its popularity? It seemed to be the case with Kill Radio who seemed a bit too safe and flat with their political “message.”

All in all, Kill Radio’s set was pretty neutral; I didn’t love or hate it. I won’t rush out to buy the album nor will I clamp my hands over my ears when their songs pop up on some punk kid’s myspace. They were an ideal first opening act, enjoyable but not even close to stealing the show. It made it easy for Story Of The Year to make their grand entrance. This will henceforth be known as the “spaceship has landed” entrance: blinking lights in the darkness and weird atmospheric noises that suddenly explode as the band hops on stage and rips into one of their quicker songs. At first, Story Of The Year gave off infectuous energy with their jumps, spins and screams. They sang about being oppressed and standing alone, the omni-present sensitive themes set to loud punk guitars and screaming lyrics. This band is fully aware of their role as entertainers for the young minds. It was all about audience participation, one gimmick being that whenever the lead singer would say “Montreal”, the crowd had to scream the drummer’s name. They maintained a safe balance of acting like cocky rock stars (“Who wants to lay out drummer? He has a really huge cock.”) to feeling the plight of the common teen. Hey, we might be on stage, but we suffer just like you. It seemed a bit too well-orchestrated and the lack of spontaneity and sincerity left me a bit cold. Yet despite my personal criticism, Story Of The Year seems to understand the anger and thoughts of their target audience very well and manage to package it all very neatly in a way that reflects that anger but never in a deep or dangerous way. Teen angst has become a commodity and these guys know exactly how to cash in with their catchy singalong anthems.

Headliners Alexisonfire could teach Kill Radio and Story Of The Year the benefits of not trying too hard yet stepping up to the plate by being honest about what you do. They didn’t need the buildup entrance or to rile the crowd or to wax political. From lead singer George Logan’s first signature scream, the crowd was with them. Their energy was not derived from juvenile pranks like jumping off of speakers or from capitalizing on a common enemy; it came from their music and fed the crowd into an hour-long set that ended all too quickly. Logan sounds a lot less like Scooby-Doo live, his deep-throated screams meshing beautifully with Dallas Green’s soaring vocals, backed by tight guitars and drums, surprisingly easy and pleasant to listen to while still knocking a punch or two and kicking your ass. Their music is creative and avoids the stereotypical singalong choruses which are standard for empty, insta-hits; it’s not so much about the glaringly obvious, spoon-fed themes. It’s music that makes you think and listen in a different way while giving you room to feel and experience through your ears and body. Just like Kill Radio and Story Of The Year, Alexisonfire are angry but they project this emotion in a way that is believably raw and unpolished so you can see the beauty and the filth. Alexisonfire does not make their music safe or easily marketable; it’s an acquired taste. If you like it, it’s because it reaches you on a specific level, not because all the kids are singing it. Their success lies in the fact that they have managed to take their music to a mainstream audience that obsessively buys merch and goes to show in copy-cat herds by simply doing what they do without the gimmicks and hype.

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