By Dustin Verburg – Program Director
Fifteen years ago, the landscape of punk rock was changing. Bands like NOFX, Green Day, The Queers and Screeching Weasel pioneered an infectious, rebellious and unpredictable punk pop sound that drew heavily from punk’s three-chord past and influenced hundreds of imitators. Bands like the Get-Up Kids, the Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate fathered the modern concept of emo, borrowing from the fiery sound of Washington DC in the 1980s, updated with 90s angst and alienation. The valedictorians of each of those genres, Alkaline Trio and Cursive, played at Boise’s Knitting Factory on Feb 22nd, 2010.
The Dear & Departed opened the show. Though they hail from Orange County, the band started in England, a fact that their attire and stage presence betrayed. The Dear & Departed mixes cool and detached post-punk with nervous and catchy pop punk. Their guitars were sharp and floating in reverb, the vocals were clean and prominent and the rhythm section was versatile enough to tackle a perky pop punk anthem or a moody post-punk dirge. They were on and off the stage quickly and hardly stopped to talk to the audience at all.
Cursive readied their complicated and elaborate equipment setup quickly, and began playing before the crowd could even come to a full roar. Cursive is a bi-polar, experimental kind of band. Equally comfortable with explosively heavy and fractured punk rock and intensely emotional indie crooning; few bands have the command of dynamics, dissonance and song structure as Cursive. Two guitars, drums, bass, keys and trumpets were woven together effortlessly with Tim Kasher’s singing, yelps and screams. Though Cursive never stayed in one musical place for too long, their set flowed perfectly and seemed over all too quickly.
The stage was cleared of almost everything, monitors included, for Alkaline Trio’s performance. The three-piece band stormed the wide-open stage as they smiled like madmen at the crowd. Guitarist Matt Skiba carefully set down a fifth of Jim Beam atop his amplifier before striking the first chord. Alkaline Trio has spent much of their career singing about alcohol, tobacco and depression, so it seemed natural for Skiba to finish nearly the entire bottle (minus some he poured into a plastic cup for Dan Andriano) before the set was over. Alkaline Trio played songs from all of their seven albums, and never lingered in any era for too long. Though talented, tight and well rehearsed, Alkaline Trio’s live sound is raw, stripped down and overflowing with energy.
Everyone in the crowd seemed to sing along during “Continental,” “Sadie,” “Armageddon,” “Fuck You Aurora,” which drew moments of sincerity from Skiba. Their Boise show happened to coincide with the release of the band’s new album, This Addiction, which he said he was honored to celebrate in Boise. Alkaline Trio was much chattier than Cursive or the Dear & Departed, and seemed genuinely grateful for the opportunity to play (and as Skiba said, that was not just the whiskey talking). The audience shouted, “Radio! Radio!” for at least half of the show, and when the band finally launched into “Radio” near the end of their brief encore, the Knitting Factory went crazy.
Cursive and Alkaline Trio rose above their peers in the 90s to become the punk rock titans they are today. Fans of both bands, young and old, left the venue knowing that they had just seen two history-making bands, still in their prime, putting on an amazing show.