When The Matches started showing up on Punk-O-Rama compilations, I was certain that Epitaph Records and, according to my 2004 brain, the genre itself was in trouble. Why would the most influential punk label sign a band like this unless they solely wanted to profit off their popularity? Fourteen years later and it turns out I’m the dick because that’s how running a record label works. Plus, here I am at the Metro celebrating the 10th anniversary of the band’s third album for Epitaph. A Band In Hope not only delivered in the word-play department with the title, but was a much better musical endeavor than I expected from a band I couldn’t stand four years prior. I don’t remember what made me want to give the record a chance, but I’m glad I did because it was hella fun seeing it live ten years later.
Life has been a bit of a fuck-stick lately and I’ve lost track of some shit. Thankfully, Angela has her shit together and reminded me I signed up to see this show. Unlike most people I know, I work Saturday nights and wasn’t able to make the trip across town in time to catch Like Language or The Bigger Empty. They’re both really rad bands and will be playing around town sooner than later. Thankfully Angela got some dynamite shots. Having missed the openers, I resigned myself to a cider and a shot next door while Journey & Def Leppard played at Wrigley. There were a shit ton of people just milling around the streets listening to the concert while not actually attending. It was an odd phenomenon, but now I kind of want to have a picnic in the Taco Bell parking lot for Billy Joel in September.
Looking around at the sparse collection of attendees was a little puzzling. I know people are still super into this band based on how fast their last album anniversary shows and paraphernalia sell out, so I was confused not to see a bigger crowd. It turns out most people were just outside taking in the last notes of “Wheel in the Sky” waiting for the heightened security at the Metro to let them back in. I wanted to join them, but there was no leaving between sets, so I settled in for a show I had been waiting ten years to see that I completely forgot about two weeks before.
Coming out and putting a vinyl copy of A Band In Hope on a record player was a neat idea, but turned out to be a big tease. The pressing sold out months ago and the band didn’t bring any with them to sell. Like with previous album celebration tours, maybe they’ll do a live version of this one too; it’d be worth picking up. The Matches may not play together all that often, but they don’t appear to be one of those bands where that matters. It was hard to look away from all of the dancing, jumping, and all around moving and shaking going on on stage. I hope one day to come to a point in my own work where I feel invigorated by my output from ten years ago instead of in total denial that I had anything to do with it’s existence.
Since the bands I listen to started wanting to have fun/getting old/needing money and doing these full album shows, some have gone better than others. Not every cherished record still holds up at all, much less as a live set list. With A Band in Hope, the energy of the crowd reflected the flow of the record directly as the fans ate up every bit of it. Fists were pumped and favorite lines were shouted back by the surging wall of fans at the front. Everything was going swimmingly, until the curve ball. About six songs in, they started playing old songs and things jumped to 11. Lead singer, Shawn Harris proceeded to spend the majority the next part of the set surfing over the crowd, passing the mic along the way. Here is where I would normally remark about how kids love that shit, but there were a lot of 20 and 30 somethings losing their minds over it, myself included.
After the unexpected deviation, the band finished the record we all came to see and followed with a short set of extra songs. Many heartfelt thanks were doled out along the way and it was a nice moment of appreciation between both band and fans. The night worked out especially well for me since this was probably my only chance to know most of the songs in a Matches set. Plus, who knows when The Matches will be back? Given their tendency to occasionally remember how much people who are not me liked them 10+ years and get back together, I don’t think it will be too long. The members are all still having fun and there will always be fourteen year olds, so there’s reason enough. They could always take a cue from the other bands trying re-surge their popularity and write a new album. That would certainly give them a reason to come back in a decade to celebrate.