By Ryan Barnes
Seeing the Get Up Kids live in 2011 is a strangely uneven experience. On one hand, there’s the impossible-to-ignore nostalgia factor of the band’s back catalog that ignited a certain rabid fervor among attendees at Wednesday’s show. Conversely there’s the recently released There Are Rules, which moves away from the sort of Superchunk-worshipping power pop (I’m going to avoid the “E word” in this review for a multitude of reasons) for which the Get Up Kids is known and into this strange mix of pseudo lo-fi synth and bass indie rock. Mixing selections from both “eras” into one set gave an eerie sense of a band divided against itself.
That isn’t to say that the show wasn’t enjoyable. It was exciting to hear “Woodson” live, even if it was interrupted by an ear-shattering PA explosion followed by 3 minutes without vocals. The fact that a professional venue like Webster Hall had this happen is a bit embarrassing but not altogether out of character for a Get Up Kids show. Hearing the crowd shouting “You break me down!” to make up for the lack of a working microphone brought back a rush of senses from every sweaty American Legion basement show I’ve ever attended. Ditto for the fist fights that bookended the encore, which were another byproduct of the strange dichotomy in the crowd. Get Up Kids shows have always been populated by a strange mix of foot-staring indie rockers, hardcore kids and snowboard bros. When you mix that with lots of booze (Stray thought: How many straight-edge tattoos were present in the room?), you’ll see some fisticuffs.
The Get Ups Kids is one of those bands that inspires such loyalty and embarrassingly earnest feelings in listeners that fans may show resistance to the music evolving. But despite any expectations heaped onto the band, the new songs from There Are Rules held up surprisingly well live. The tracks transformed from roughly produced dirges to these big, atmospheric pounders in the live setting. “Shatter Your Lungs” especially took on this spacey menace, with its growling synth line slithering around the rafters of Webster Hall.
The show indicated that the Get Up Kids may be in it for the long haul and has luckily avoided the trap of reunited bands that they “should’ve stayed broken up”—at least for now.