When Motion City Soundtrack began teasing the idea of a reunion tour in June, I was buried deep in my 2019 depression hole. However, the thought of seeing one of my long time favorites again started to clear the clouds away. Finding out, days later, that they would be starting their reunion tour in Chicago on New Year’s Eve made the metaphorical skies turn a gorgeous blue. Tickets sold out in mere seconds to basically every date on the reunion tour. And with the promise of coverage, it was time to hunker down and wait out the rest of the shittiest year.
*cue pages of a calendar flipping in very meaningful and dramatic way*
Ah yes, December in Chicago. That time where our lake freezes solid, everyone is bundled up in so many layers they look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and our lovely city should be blanketed with beautiful frost and snow. Except global warming turned out not to be a hoax after all and Christmas Day and subsequent days afterwards brought us 50 degree weather. But it was finally New Year’s Eve; it was finally the end of the year. I hopped off the train and wandered my way through the downtown streets, grimy and grey with dirty old snow from a brief chill almost a week prior. I wandered into Rossi’s, my favorite darkened downtown dive conveniently located near the House of Blues, and waiting for Mat and his lovely wife Megan to arrive. We chugged down as many cocktails as quickly as we could, knowing that whatever we had to pay at Rossi’s would be FAR cheaper than the jaw-droppingly overpriced drinks inside the venue. With a few minutes to spare before the opening act took the stage, we headed over.
Three piece band Ashland opened the evening. A little Googling (because let’s be honest, I – and many others in attendance that night – were there to see one band and one band only) has informed me that the group is from Central Illinois and was recently signed to Rise Records. That makes complete sense, as their sound is very ‘Rise.’ The band’s new album, Over the Moon, was released earlier in the month, on December 13th. They played a number of tracks from that while interspersing banter about how tough the music industry is and how they may not make it. Well, now they’ve played Chicago’s House of Blues and opened for Motion City, so I’d say they’re killing it.
Next up was Chicago locals Treaty of Paris. It’s always such a humbling thing to find out about a Chicago band that you had never heard about before… especially when you make it a point to make music your business, as I do. It’s just a testament to how vast and foreign this city can be, even to someone who has spent most of her life here. Anyway, back to the music! Again, I did a little Googling on this one. It seems that the band, which formed in 2005, hasn’t put out anything new since 2010 or so. But they have been active none the less. It was obvious that this five piece has a history of extensive touring as they took command of the massive stage without hesitation. It can’t be easy to get and maintain the attention of a drunken crowd on New Year’s, but Treaty of Paris did it. People were dancing and cheering along to their whole set.
I made my way over to the bar just before they got offstage, in hopes that I could circumvent the masses flooding to the bar. Three tall cans for $38 later, I stumbled my way back to Mat and Megan, more in shock than drunk. But hell, it was New Year’s. My shit year would be over soon and Motion City was about to take the stage. Plus I paid for the drinks with credit card. So Future Kendra could deal with that mess in 2020! As the crowd began to stir, Mat rushed to the stage, making sure that he didn’t miss a minute of the three songs he was allowed access to shoot. The red velvet curtains were pulled back and every single human in the venue began to scream as if it was involuntary. And suddenly there they were, Motion City Soundtrack, a tad older than when keyboardist Jesse did his last handstand back in 2016, but looking great none the less.
They opened with “Attractive Today” and rocketed right into “Everything is Alright.” Now, if you’ve even been to the Chicago HoB, you know that the main floor of the venue itself is located on the second floor of the building. Each time I have been to a sold out show here, the dancing and movement of the crowd makes the wooden floor vibrate and bend, so much so that it almost feels like when you walk on a trampoline. Now add in a BAC high enough to get you in trouble with the cops and you’d have my evening. The world swayed as the epic multicolored stage lights threw their beams on the entranced faces of the crowd. But I was busy closing my eyes and singing along. I’m sure I looked just like my parents did when they would tell teenage me they were ‘feeling it’ and I would mock them. Get off my Warped Tour parking lot, er… lawn.
Just before midnight and just after playing “Disappear,” Justin Courtney Pierre informed the crowd that in two day’s time he would be ten years sober. He briefly touched on his history with substance abuse but added that shouldn’t stop us from having fun. Whatever fun means to us, have that… and take care of ourselves. Then the countdown to 2020 began and I found myself shouting at the top of my lungs, willing 2019’s imminent death. 3…2…1! Hundreds of balloons dropped from the vaulted ceiling and everyone was either hugging or cheers-ing their drinks. Of course, there was only one song to play at that moment in time. “Together We’ll Ring in the New Year” may seem like a strange and depressing choice, but it oddly acted as a great palate cleanser between what had been and what could be.
I lost my voice and what was left of my sobriety around the time the set list hit “My Favorite Accident,” a song that I swear was written about my ex a decade before we ever met each other. But there was much more to come. MCS played an impressive 19 song set before leaving the stage and then returning for an imminent encore which consisted of “Let’s Get Fucked Up and Die” and “The Future Freaks Me Out.” There have been so many times when I’ve seen more well-known bands at larger venues, I leave feeling unsatisfied. But not tonight. They gave it their all for 21 songs which sounded so amazing that one could ever guess this was a reunion show let alone the first show in years. While I’m not sure the longevity of the band’s reunion, I hope that there will be many more opportunities to see these guys in the future. And I will be there, each and every opportunity I get.
As Megan, Mat, and I walked out of the venue and met up with our friend Jim, I noticed something. Everyone was bundled up in layers looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and our lovely city was finally blanketed in a fresh sheet of snow, erasing the grey grime of 2019. Maybe it was the memory of having to pay $12 for a Mango White Claw, but I began to tear up, just a bit.
Check out Mat’s amazing photos below along with the Motion City set list for the evening! Happy New Year, everyone!
Everything Is Alright
Her Words Destroyed My Planet
Disappear (Countdown to New Year)
Together We’ll Ring In The New Year
Better Open The Door
My Favorite Accident
It Had To Be You
When “You’re” Around
Make Out Kids
Time Turned Fragile
A Lifeless Ordinary (Need a Little Help)
Even If It Kills Me
This is for Real
Hold Me Down
The Future Freak Me Out