It pains me to think that most people that have heard the name Matt Skiba associate him as the man who took over Tom DeLonge’s spot in Blink-182. While this is true, to me Skiba, along with Dan Andriano and Derek Grant will always be synonymous with Alkaline Trio, a band that formed 22 years ago with Skiba (vocals, guitar) being the surviving original member. Andriano (vocals, bass) joined a year later and Grant (drums) rounded out the line-up in 2001. This was around the first time I ever saw them play - it was December 14, 2001. They played in this little auditorium that belonged to the Ethical Humanist Society. This place used to host all kinds of shows back in the day, and it was kind of appropriate that they were all punk shows. They encourage ethical culture, or ethical humanism, which is a progressive philosophy dedicated to the greater good of humanity. There’s no supernaturalism, just the belief that what you do and how you act in this life is what matters most. Pretty punk, huh? But I digress… So I go to this show. Yes, a show. Where you hand some guy $10 at the door and maybe he stamps your hand. And I got to see Alkaline Trio, in my hometown of Garden City, NY with Long Island native’s Brand New and Taking Back Sunday. Yea, it was a monster of a show. And they were all at the beginning of their careers. I was a senior in high school and living my best life.
Fast forward 17 years, and I’m seeing them again. Only this time, in a sold-out 1800 person capacity venue. Yea, I’m definitely still living my best life.
But before we get into the great Alkaline Trio, I must mention the openers. Kicking off the night was Ogikubo Station. If you’ve ever heard of Asian Man Records, and I hope you have as they’ve put out some of the best punk and ska albums known to man, than you know the name Mike Park. He founded Asian Man Records, and Alkaline Trio’s first two albums and EP’s were put out by them. There is a long history between these two, so it made sense that Mike Park’s new duo along with Maura Weaver of the band Mixtapes would be openers. And Mike made it very clear of his love for the band and their relationship throughout the years. Mike and Maura were backed by a full band and their sound was infectious. Bright. Poppy. Professional. They recently released their debut full length album, We Can Pretend Like, which you can order through the Asian Man Records website.
Next up was together PANGEA. With a more garage rock sound then the previous upbeat Ogikubo Station, the lights dimmed and William Keegan (vocals, guitar), Roland Cosio (guitar), Danny Bengston (bass) and Erik Jimenez (drums) took the stage. The blue and magenta lights teased the audience the entire set, casting a certain mood that fit appropriate with the sound. Having last released an album, Bulls and Roosters, in 2017, and with another 3 albums under their belt, these west coast rockers seamlessly played throughout their set. The gritty surfer rock vocals paired perfectly with melodic distorted guitars. The crowd felt a surge of energy that drew people closer into the already packed venue.
And then it was time for Alkaline Trio. Touring in support of their new record, Is This Thing Cursed?, this is their first full US city tour since 2013, when they released their last album, My Shame is True. They’ve played some one-off shows and a few select full album show dates, but it was nice to see them back in the swing of things. And Brooklyn, NY welcomed them with a sold-out crowd. From the moment they took the stage, with their trademark skull in heart logo hanging behind Grant’s drums, there was a sudden shift in energy that exploded with the fury of drums and guitar followed by the deafening sound of the crowd as they sang along to the opening lines of “We’ve Had Enough” off of their 2003 album Good Mourning. People had waited a long time to sing these songs together, and it was very surreal to get to do it with 1800 other people and the musicians that inspire them. While there wasn’t much audience interaction, it wasn’t noticeable because everyone was just in awe of their fine-tuned and album stretching set-list. They reached back to their debut 1998 album, Goddamnit, with hits “Cringe” and “Clavicle”. They closed the night with “Radio” off of the 2000 album Maybe I’ll Catch Fire. They sprinkled in songs from From Here to Infirmary and Crimson. They played 22 songs spanning all 9 of their studio albums. At one point the backdrop changed to a red phone, still showcasing the heart and skull logo in the middle, teasing their most recent release. They played two new songs, “Is This Thing Cursed?” and “Demon and Division”. They are one of the few bands that I’ve ever seen that has crossed decades with their music and included at least one song from all of their albums during their concert. That’s an impressive and respectable feat. I think what impressed me the most, though, was there wasn’t anything fancy about the show. They didn’t need a flashy light show. They didn’t need any special effects. They didn’t need stage props. Alkaline Trio trusts their music and their audience enough to just deliver a kick ass set-list and enjoy the time spent together. And that’s exactly what happened.
We’ve Had Enough / Blue Carolina / She Lied to the FBI / Blackbird / Mercy Me / One Hundred Stories / Cringe / She Took Him to the Lake / Clavicle / Is This Thing Cursed? / Sadie / I Wanna Be A Warhol / Every Thug Needs A Lady / Demon and Division / Time to Waste / Crawl / I Found Away / Private Eye / This Could Be Love / Fine / Warbrain / Radio