By Frank Miller
Pop punk was alive and well at Ace of Spades on Tuesday night.
Left for dead after a bygone decade saw acts like Blink-182, New Found Glory and Fall Out Boy either break up or grow up, the genre has given way to the fickle tastes of the masses who are always hunting the latest and greatest.
Motion City Soundtrack, with its wild-haired and bespectacled lead-singer, Justin Pierre, was always a little off-center when it came to the pop punk label.
The band’s eccentricity is a big reason why it hasn’t hobbled off into complete obscurity like so many of its brethren.
Opening for the group was the Minneapolis-based Now, Now. A trio featuring two female guitarists and a male drummer, the band laid into a barrage of lo-fi and fuzzy songs that, at first listen, all sounded very similar.
Not to say that Now, Now lacked talent or diversity, but its scruffy, mid-tempo set list probably takes more than a few listens to discern the intricacies.
Following Now, Now was Jukebox the Ghost, another trio whose live show is obviously a point of pride for the group.
Featuring a keyboard player, guitarist and drummer, the group brought a little bounce to their step and the difference in crowd reaction was palpable.
Ivory tickling, albeit digitally, will conjure up comparisons to Ben Folds, and the trio certainly doesn’t shy away from that influence. However, their sound has a little more bite to it than the “Brick” crooner’s.
Opening with “Attractive Today” from its most widely acclaimed album, “Commit This to Memory,” Motion City Soundtrack amped up the crowd by playing its recognizable songs early and often.
It’s always a little awkward catching a show for a band that is trying out material from a new album. It usually puts a screeching halt to audience participation as lyrics and tempos are still unfamiliar. However, Motion City Soundtrack’s hits like “L.G. FUAD” were peppered in at all the right moments to keep the audience’s interest piqued.
Newer songs, especially “True Romance,” reflect that the band hasn’t lost its knack for crafting melodic and catchy tunes that disguise self-deprecating lyrics. Getting a crowd to bop along to words like “I’m a screw-up of epic proportions, a walking hand grenade,” is therapeutic on some level, as the band’s warts-and-all approach makes neurosis feel like a badge of honor.
Shuffling out of the venue, I couldn’t help but remember that pop punk’s most redeeming quality was its ability to undercut angst and channel it into something fun.
Motion City Soundtrack, never a band to shy away from their saltier emotions, provided a nice reminder that songs about hang-ups and character flaws don’t have to deflate the party.