04.03.05 @ Axis, Boston, MA

Let’s be honest- Alternative Press has seen better days. What once was the authority of the underground (albeit for a short while) is now a vehicle for major-label emo and Hot Topic punk. Considering how Editor-in-chief Jason Pettigrew recently urged his readers to go see the Taste of Chaos tour (the My Chemical Romance, Used, and Senses Fail festival of pseudo-goth gimmicks and eyeliner), expectations were low for a tour bearing the Alternative Press name. While the concert did have its ups and downs, a packed house and a strong lineup of up-and-coming talent proved otherwise.

Taking the stage first was Victory Records’ latest next-big-thing project, Spitalfield. The band successfully warmed up the crowd, which responded positively with a weak, emo mosh pit. Spitalfield’s high-energy blast of melodic rock was generic, but entertaining. The Honorary Title began their opening slot with tight melodies and strong vocals, but the songs deteriorated as the band soldiered on through their set. The performance was painful, as the band struggled to continue despite a rowdy and distracting crowd. The lyrics and subtleties of the band’s music were lost underneath the crowd’s murmurs, and by the last song, the Honorary Title was barely audible.

The surprise of the night came from Jonah Matranga (of Onelinedrawing and Far fame) and his new band Gratitude. Despite Matranga’s Creed-like posturing and overtly emo side banter, their performance was one of the loudest and most engaging of the night. Their set, consisting of songs from their self-titled debut release on Atlantic, was full of arena-worthy gems like “Drive Away” and “Last” that captured a side of the band that couldn’t be heard on the record. Even ballads like “If Ever,” which fall flat on the record, soar live with amped up guitars and ever-present sincerity. The band was at their best, and Matranga, who proved himself to be one of the scene’s most captivating performers, revived the mob of unruly music fans.

With incredible musicianship and band chemistry, Minus the Bear cruised effortlessly through an assortment of songs from last year’s They Make Beer Commercials Like This EP, 2002’s full-length Highly Refined Pirates, and their upcoming release Menos el Oso. Along with some of the best song titles of all time (“Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse,” “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo,” “Let’s Play Clowns,” etc.), Minus the Bear had some of the most enthusiastic fans of the night. The band’s complex and intense layered instrumentals were unexpected at a show filled with kids sporting thick-rimmed glasses, and their raw, powerful sound resonated through the stuffy, crowded club.

Apparently, Straylight Run has been influenced by masterminds in the Polyphonic Spree and Dashboard Confessional to spend time between tours building a cult of fanatics. From beginning to end, concertgoers sang every note they could hit, which limited them to songs with John Nolan on vocals (Straylight Run fans should teach this simple rule to Coheed and Cambriafans).  The band busted out the rarity “Costello,” as well as new songs like the quietly melodic “First of This Century” and the jazzy, genre-defying “Still Alone.” Although a false start on the brand new song “Still Alone” prompted vocalist Michelle Nolan to abandon the microphone with an utterance of “this is awful,” the band sounded better than ever overall. Songs from their self-titled debut, including the MTVU staple “Existentialism on Prom Night,” were virtually perfect. The band closed with a lively rendition of “Mistakes We Knew We Were Making,” capping a melodic night of promising alternative rock.

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