Live Review: Motion City Soundtrack, Sydney 2015
Motion City Soundtrack / Awaken I Am / Oslow
Manning Bar, Sydney 28/08/2015
Review: Matt Doria | Photo: Kane Hibberd
It was an expectedly freezing night on the University of Sydney campus, and as skies bled dark, a line of several hundred twenty-somethings stretched around the Manning Bar building. For most, this was more than just the average ‘concert’; this was a night of celebration, a night to reconnect with our embarrassing past selves as we commemorated the tenth anniversary of Motion City Soundtrack’s 2005 opus, Commit This To Memory, a key pillar of the iconic mid-‘00s emo scene.
First up to the plate tonight were local indie rockers Oslow. Their set was 30 straight minutes of spellbinding Poison City-esque pot rock, a broadly paced promenade that did little to brew energy in the crowd, but succeeded effortlessly in inducing most of us into a trance state. A narcotic stew of wobbly basslines and fuzzy riffs, it was far too easy to lose yourself in the enthralling smog of Oslow’s drawn-out instrumental sections. Channelling equal parts Luca Brasi and Trophy Eyes, Dylan Farrugia’s raspy vocals brought a spacey glow to the typical ‘troubled suburban kid’ sonance, an imitative, but unquestionably captivating sound.
A brooding synth build-up kicked Awaken I Am into play. The genre-defying Brisbane quartet were all over the place throughout their set, a vexatious amalgamation of erratic dance punk laced with two-step breakdowns and glitch hop tweaks. Reminiscent of Sonny Moore in his From First To Last days, vocalist Adam Douglas’ glossy pop harmonies felt ill-fitted to the band’s metalcore-influenced instrumentals. There’s potential to be found in their outside-of-the-box approach, but focusing too hard on emulating various styles to a T and not fusing them into their own sound, Awaken I Am just came across as a group of kids trying too hard to be unique, and the lack of movement in their audience represented this.
Waves of avidity flooded the air as Motion City Soundtrack burst onto the stage. An otherwise tiresome crowd immediately tore into a whirlwind of animated excitement as the first notes of “Attractive Today” blared out from the speakers and teleported us back in time to 2005. Warm-ups aren’t necessary for the Minnesota emo-rockers, keyboardist Jesse Johnson in his element from word ‘go’ and drummer Claudio Rivera thrashing away like he’d never thrashed before. His vocals stunningly evolved and more structured than they were 10 years ago, frontman Justin Pierre did an amazing job of bringing Commit This To Memory into 2015, especially evident when the band kicked into their breakout single, “Everything Is Alright”.
Everything was not alright, however, when their set was abruptly hijacked by a terrifying and insufferably loud glitch in the mix. This was a continual affair throughout the first half of the set, but in true MCS fashion, the band didn’t let that hinder the celebrations, turning the sonic disruptions into a running joke about spaceships and alien invasions throughout their stage banter. As to be expected, comedy was at the forefront of their set, the five-piece riffing off of each other with a wealth of dick jokes and pseudo-awkward repartee between songs.
An anthemic enactment of Motion City Soundtrack at their most hysterical, “L.G. FUAD” initiated a flare of chants so loud they overpowered Pierre. An impromptu intermission followed, as the band were forced off stage to negotiate with their extraterrestrial visitors. Friends were made, drinks were drunk, and when Motion City Soundtrack returned, the atmosphere reverted almost instantly. The rest of the album shuttered past in a blaze of liveliness and high school nostalgia. With the record itself a meticulously polished body of work, it was refreshing to hear the imperfections and stripped back feel that a live show brings.
Closing track “Hold Me Down” was met with bittersweet appreciation, but with half an hour left to their schedule, Motion City Soundtrack were far from finished with us. The quintet raced back out and powered into recent single “TKO”, triggering a seven-track ‘encore’ that tapped into (almost) every era of the band’s history, highlighting Commit…’s predecessor, I Am The Movie, and peculiarly skipping entirely over Go. Cuts from their upcoming sixth album Panic Stations fell flat, which was odd considering they were more or less designed for the live show.
And of course, by some evil stroke of luck, the set was not without one final blaring interruption from our alien overlords as the band wrapped their performance with the irrefutable classic, “My Favourite Accident”. We had come full circle, and, well… It was actually kind of awesome.