In November 2013 I was lucky enough to be able to sit down and interview Justin Pierre, frontman of one of my most beloved bands of all time, Motion City Soundtrack. It still stands as my favorite interview I have done for this site, with Pierre being an incredibly interesting and insightful subject. As the interview was winding down, I asked about a full-on I Am The Movie tour, as the band had just announced a New Year’s Eve show where they would play the record. He expressed his doubt about that happening, but brought up the possibility of a Commit This To Memory tour, to which I nodded furiously while trying to play it cool and hide my frantic excitement at the idea. Unconvinced, Pierre left me with this quote: “I notice like Weezer did a Pinkerton tour, and we’re not Weezer or anything, but maybe a handful of people would come out if we did a Commit This to Memory tour.”
Fast-forward 14 months and I was standing in a packed house at The Filmore in Charlotte, waiting along with a legion of fans to hear one of the most important records to come from our scene.
Motion City Soundtrack holds a special place in my heart. Of the handful of bands that I consider as all-time favorites, they are not only the one that I got into on the ground floor, but they are the one that I haven’t outgrown or wavered on any of their material. That longevity is a testament for how strong the band is in every facet. I can’t think of many bands that I hold highly with long careers where I view an earlier work as their crown jewel, sans nostalgia. But that’s how I feel about Commit This To Memory. That record is Motion City Soundtrack at their peak in every single way.
Following a tumultuous, technical-difficulty-riddled set from Better Off and a wonderful performance by Copeland, who breathe an entire new life into their songs in a live setting, Motion City Soundtrack took the stage to thunderous applause and ripped right into the frantic opener “Attractive Today”. As they tore through each track with the enthralled crowd hanging on their every word, it became obvious that this was a record that struck a chord with an entire subset of like-minded people. It was an album that had an effect on people, and it is easy to tell why.
The most intriguing aspect of Commit This To Memory, to me, is its absolute contradictive nature. Motion City Soundtrack has mastered the art of crafting impossibly catchy, hook-laden, upbeat pop-rock songs that can be soul-crushingly dark at the same time. There’s something to be said for songs that have to be dug into and processed to fully get to the core of the message and the overall feel. Superficially, Commit This To Memory is a glossy pop record that balances its infectiousness with its bite. When dug into, it is a frenetic glimpse into the mind of someone struggling with a whirlwind of illness and addiction. The record’s ability to cater to both of those aspects, on the outside and the inside, is not an easy thing to replicate.
Between songs, the charmingly frazzled Pierre attempted to put little tidbits about the record into succinct messages. The results were mixed, but he did provide some insight into the songs, mostly pertaining to his struggle with alcoholism. Those stories, while not being groundbreakingly new information, were a nice addition to the performance, and added to one of the aspects of the band that drew me in to begin with: the vulnerable, singular voice on the record. I don’t mean that as an indictment on the rest of the band’s performance and contribution, but I have always seen Motion City Soundtrack as the very singular voice of Pierre, something that I found fascinating. Every song feels like a soul-baring experience for Pierre and that adds to the impact that they have on the listener, exlempified beautifully when he broke into the haunting “Together We’ll Ring In The New Year”.
Musically, the band put on one of the finest performances I have witnessed. Having seen them four times prior to this, I’m comfortable saying they have always been one of the tightest live bands around, and this particular show ranked near the top of the list. Every intricate detail of the album was reproduced flawlessly, and the overall atmosphere that the band exuded was that of a group of musicians proud to be playing their work in front of an appreciative crowd.
As Commit This To Memory came to a close, I was reminded of the brilliance that closes out the record. It’s been mentioned before that “Hangman”, the penultimate track, stands out among the rest of the album, and proudly bears the fingerprints of the album’s producer, Mark Hoppus. I never read into those as negative qualities, as it has always stuck with me as one of the best songs on the record, and is given a new life live. The grumbling bass line and droning synth intermingle and offer a contrast to the sunny glow of what had come before it. It was followed, of course, by the final song on the album, “Hold Me Down”, a track that I would throw into any discussion of best closers ever. As many times as I’ve seen it, nothing will top the chest-caving emotion that “Hold Me Down” brings when performed live. It will forever stand as the best song that Motion City Soundtrack has written and it puts a bow on one of the albums I hold most near and dear to my heart.
As we all knew they would, the band returned for two encores filled to the brim with hits. As I basked in the magnificent glow of monster tracks like “Last Night” and “Capital H”, it occurred to me just how important Motion City Soundtrack has been and how reverently I have always held their music. And as I looked around at the sea of people singing along, I realized that I wasn’t the only one that the band affected. Commit This To Memory is an enormously significant record to me and to thousands of other people like me, and sharing this celebration with them and with the band was a truly wonderful experience. Here’s to another ten years of being alright.