After having many a facelift in its long existence, punk rock talk machine Say Anything bore themselves a new lineup for their latest tour in support of their new record Hebrews. This new lineup, featuring familiar faces like Fred Mascherino (Terrible Things, ex-Taking Back Sunday) and Kenny Vasoli (The Starting Line, Vacationer), was joined by the incomparable duo-turned-four-piece The Front Bottoms, along with The So So Glos, and You Blew It! as the tour made its way through Philadelphia to play the Electric Factory, quite possibly the biggest room of the tour.
I’ve been a fan of You Blew It! for quite some time, yet have never gotten the chance to see them live prior to this evening. The band was continuing the support of their newest record Keep Doing What You’re Doing and showed their wildly talented chops to a sea of seemingly disinterested people. As the band played “Terry v. Tori”, my favorite of theirs, people around gave me a look of confusion as I screamed the words back to them, but those few fellow fans I could find joined me with fervor.
The one band on the bill that I hadn’t heard of–let alone loved–was The So So Glos. I didn’t really know what to expect from them, but the four-piece family band delivered pure-hearted punk as if from its roots, in a classic New York-style sound. They kept everyone on their feet and pointing with every drumbeat.
Next up were The Front Bottoms, and if you, the reader, know me at all, you can probably tell how amped I was to see one of my favorite bands yet again. The band absolutely did not disappoint; they came out with a barrage of tracks from Talon of the Hawk, their self-titled record, and even “Jim Bogart” from their brand new EP Rose, a collection of six older TFB tracks revisited and re-recorded. Complete with giant inflatable letters to spell out their acronym and even wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men during tracks like “The Beers” and closer “Twin Size Mattress”, the band attacked just about all of the senses with their infectious indie rock tone and left everyone wowed and impressed.
Finally, it was time for Say Anything to take the stage. Last I saw the band, I caught (literally) just the last three songs on their previous headliner supporting the re-release of their rarities collection. Prior to that, I hadn’t seen the band since November of 2010 in this very same venue with Motion City Soundtrack, Saves the Day, and A Great Big Pile of Leaves. Needless to say, I was anxious. When the lights went out and the band entered, they burst through the silence with latest single “Six Six Six” from Hebrews. It was already interesting to see how the string arrangements of the record came across live through guitars. I got to continue shooting during “Spidersong” and “Burn A Miracle” before I had to make my way back to the bar. It wasn’t until I got back there that I realized that something simply felt…off. It appeared that a good portion of the crowd had left after The Front Bottoms’ set and not many people were as into Say Anything’s set as they were less than a year ago in a smaller venue. But once songs like “The Writhing South” and “Do Better” began, the crowd gave off that familiar energy I had been longing for. Their set was broad and included songs from just about every release. The night took a turn for the adorable as frontman Max Bemis’ wife (Sherri DuPree-Bemis of Eisley) and toddler daughter Lucy entered the stage for the former to join the band in singing “Cemetery”. Following that, Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms came back out to sing “Hebrews”. The band closed their set with their quintessential anthem of the MySpace era, “Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too”. Their encore included “Boyd”, “Belt”, and a solo acoustic rendition of Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s “Got Your Money”.
As I left, there was a very noticeable split between the attendees exiting the venue. Half claimed that it was the best show of their lives while the other half expressed their distaste and that Say Anything as a whole had “run its course”. Me? I thought they did just fine. Bemis certainly knows how to control a crowd and make the most of his stage presence. But at the end of it all, it’s his job to worry about the band, not yours.