Certain bands and musicians come into your life and make a lasting impression. Maybe it’s their lyrics that hit you in just the right spot, infectious beats that get stuck in your head for days, or a voice that is truly unforgettable. When a band or musician like that leaves the scene or retires from music, it can be a truly heartbreaking realization that you may never hear those songs live again, see that face again, or let those words take you over and get lost it in at all. That’s what happened to Motion City Soundtrack. I was at their last show during Riot Fest in Chicago and I said my goodbyes. It was hard, but I did it. I’ve been hoping and praying that the band would announce a reunion show after a year or something and realize that they had made a terrible mistake breaking up. Although that didn’t happen, vocalist Justin Courtney Pierre announced a solo tour that would be stopping in Saint Paul. Okay, I knew it wasn’t a Motion City Soundtrack show but if I could at least hear Justin’s voice and his get-stuck-in-your-head songs, that would at least tie me over until the band realizes that the world needs them right now.
Kicking the night off was Pronoun. Although my friend and I looked Pronoun up online while sitting at dinner before the show, we weren’t able to find much. Hell, we couldn’t even figure out if it was a band, a solo project or where they/she was from. We were a bit skeptical. Maybe it was the anticipation to sing along to childhood songs (because, let’s be honest, although it was a solo show, there were obviously going to be a couple of Motion City Soundtracks songs thrown in), or maybe it was the exhaustion coming over us after stuffing ourselves to the brim with Thai food. We were a little less than bright eyed and bushy tailed as we criss-crossed through the crowd to get to the front of the venue. It’s not that we didn’t want to see Pronoun, just, again, that anticipation and Thai food had us all messed up. That’s when Alyse, the singer, took the stage and instantly had my friend and I with our jaws on the ground and stars on our eyes.
I don’t know how to explain the effect that Pronoun had on me. I may have never heard of Alyse, her band, or her music before but I instantly felt a sense of comfort as she played through songs full of honesty, fun, catchy melodies, and well, just talent. Sweet and simple was the name of the game. A couple of songs in, Alyse admitted that she only knew two chords when she started playing music. She went onto say that she didn’t let those two chords hold her back and now, here she was, playing a sold out show with Justin Courtney Pierre in his home town. She urged the crowd to find their two chords and get over it. Cheesy? Absolutely. But the way she said it in an almost nervous tone with this giant smile on her face as she gazed out across the sold out audience was one of my favorite moments of the night.
The comments she made between each song (and she definitely talked between majority of the songs) added this realness to Pronoun that some bands forget about. “I’ll be at the merch table after this. I love to talk about HGTV, The Great British Baking Show, and house pricing in your city. I don’t know why I told you that.” It was honest, it was real, it was like talking to someone you just met but you knew you would turn into fast friends. That attitude was reflected in her music. It was honest, non-scripted, and real. I may have walked into last night’s show not knowing a thing about this New York musician but I left with a new favorite. Friday night was their first time in Minneapolis (yes, she called the Saint Paul crowd Minneapolis which instantly got her into a little bit of trouble but, when we all forgot about it, she was still talking about which was absolutely charming and hilarious) but I truly hope it won’t be her last. Pronoun is definitely in the running for the best opening act I’ve seen this year (and with over 150 shows under my belt so far this year that’s really saying something).
The stage changeover between Pronoun and Justin Courtney Pierre was ridiculously short and, in no time, Justin and his crazy hair was front and center on the stage surrounded by a true super group. Full disclosure, I haven’t followed Justin since his days in Motion City Soundtrack. I had yet to listen to his solo album and still haven’t gotten into his side project Farewell Continental. Had I been following him, the shock wouldn’t have been so great when I realized who he was playing with. With Tommy Rehbein (Small Town Burn a Little Slower) on guitar, Lydia Liza (soloist from here in the Twin Cities that I’ve recently become obsessed with) on guitar and back-up vocals, David Jarnstrom (BNLX) and, most surprisingly and the one that really got to me, Shannon Burns (of The Forecast) on bass, it was hard to not get butterflies. I’ve seen super groups before but not one that screams my angsty teen years the way this one did. The Forecast was one of the first bands I ever saw live and Shannon had a voice that has always stuck with me so seeing her on that stage may have been a bigger highlight than being able to see Justin and hear songs of my childhood. Can you tell I was stoked?
Although I couldn’t sing along to the first handful of songs that were Justin’s solo songs, the music gave me the same feeling his music always has. It was upbeat and fun to the point that, on first listen, it could easily get stuck in your head, and the songs were full of honest lyrics. There was something so familiar about the unfamiliar songs but that’s no surprise. Justin’s voice is unique and comforting and, no matter if it’s solo, in Motion City, or in Farewell Continental, it stays a constant reminder of nostalgia. After a number of solo songs, the band jumped into a block of three Farewell Continental songs. I still couldn’t sing along with the fans around me but I knew my time was coming.
The band left the stage and left Justin standing center stage with just his guitar and a microphone. He explained that Motion City Soundtrack went on a hiatus, or breakup, or whatever it was mostly because they didn’t want to tour again. He went on to explain that he did a dishonor to the band by going on tour again but he wanted to honor them by not playing MSC songs with his super group. And, with that, Justin jumped into a block of MSC songs that instantly whisked the sold out audience into a haze of nostalgia and sing-a-longs. It was perfect but was made more perfect by the surprise appearance of original MSC guitarist Josh Cain who joined in on a couple of songs. Although still acoustic, the audience wasn’t letting a single word get away and the excitement reached an all time high as everyone screamed along to “Everything is Alright”. I was lost in the moment, lost in the crowd, lost in everything and, in that moment, everything was absolutely perfect.
Last night was a hometown show for Justin Courtney Pierre and that’s exactly what it felt like. It wasn’t a bunch of people too cool to cry along to some of the slower songs and wasn’t a crowd that was going to let a single moment pass them along. I talk about wanting to capture the vibe of some shows in a glass jar to open up on one of my dark days. Last night was one of those shows.
Will Friday night’s show end up in my top ten of the year? Quite possibly. Missed it? You will have a chance to see the same lineup tonight at the Entry and there are a few tickets left 🙂