Last Friday, June 15th, veteran rockers Motion City Soundtrack celebrated the release of their fifth studio album, Go, with a sold-out show at The Troubadour. When I interviewed frontman Justin Pierre last fall, the band was just beginning to lay the foundation for the new album, so it was incredible to not only see the record come together, but to join my fellow Los Angeles MCS fans in welcoming Go to the band’s discography.
The Front Bottoms hold a special place in my heart as well — I’ve been a fan of them since my days on the East Coast, and they are as disarmingly honest and unabashedly unpolished as I remember. With Brian Sella’s vocal stylings that bring to mind punk heavyweight Max Bemis of Say Anything and Mathew Uychich’s simple and powerful drumming, the duo serves up an incredibly refreshing brand of indie rock/punk all their own. The boys opened with “Flashlight” and were drenched in sweat by the end of the next song, “Rhode Island.”
The Front Bottoms songs are quirky, anecdotal stories filled with deep emotional insight, personal details, and humor, and those in the crowd unfamiliar with the pair were quickly won over. “The Beers” and “Swimming Pool” in particular turned concertgoers into new fans as heads nodded at the recognition of relatable descriptions of awkward adolescence. As Sella joked with the crowd between songs, it felt less like a major venue and more like a friend’s basement (a popular location for The Front Bottoms’ first shows). Uychich didn’t hide behind a massive drum kit, and the simplicity of his set demonstrated his incredible skills as he drummed on every available surface and was angled open to the audience. “Legit Tattoo Gun” and “Maps” closed the set, and Motion City Soundtrack couldn’t have chosen a better opener.
After a performance by The Henry Clay People, who were a blend of The Front Bottom’s vocals and Motion City Soundtrack’s energy, MCS came barreling out of the gate with “Circuits and Wires” off Go. After releasing a new album, bands usually focus their live shows on new music, but Motion City Soundtrack knew some of us have followed them for over a decade, so the evening was filled with songs spanning all five albums, all performed with the same white-knuckle energy MCS’s live shows are known for.
Older repertoire dominated the night with songs like “When You’re Around” and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet.” Frontman Justin Pierre skipped talking too much in between songs to not only “save his voice” but also so they could pack fan favorites like “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” and “My Favorite Accident” into the set. Keyboardist Jesse Johnson head banged out of control while guitarist Joshua Cain and bassist Matthew Taylor never stopped moving.
As Pierre’s voice began to break during “Broken Heart,” the crowd happily filled in as there were so many cues for gang vocals in their songs. It was one big party, and we were just as much a part of the celebration as the band onstage. Classics like “A Lifeless Ordinary” and “Better Open The Door” were followed by newbies “The Worst Is Yet To Come,” “Timelines,” and “True Romance.”
Switching back to classics, the power-pop band performed “Attractive Today” and “Everything Is Alright.” The biggest crowd sing-along of the night “L. G. Fuad” made everyone lift up their arms and curse social awkwardness. The lengthy four-song encore included “Disappear” and the band’s breakout hit “The Future Freaks Me Out.” The band also played the 2002 song “The Red Dress” and ended with the breakup anthem “Hold Me Down.” Motion City Soundtrack performed with the same energy and intensity they’ve showcased over years of touring, and with Go, the band shows no signs of slowing down.
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