Last week I went to see an Alkaline Trio show at Ram's Head Live in Baltimore.
I'm a pretty big fan of them, but have only seen them at a relatively short SXSW show and had never seen a show at Ram's Head Live, so I was pretty excited leading up to it. They aren't exactly a punk act, but for lack of a better term, and the fact that a lot of punks seem to like them, they get labeled as such and often treated as such too.
Punk fans can be a funny lot, and being a sellout is typically seen as one of the worst things a band can do. However since many modern punk losers shop at places like Hot Topic I feel like them calling a professional act a sellout without really knowing the whole story pretty laughable. It seems that there are some groups calling Alkaline Trio sellouts these days.
A few days before the show I was surfing the net and decided to look into what they had been up to in recent years, and saw some random whining from fans and promptly ignored it. It seemed that the Trio had signed to a major label for this years' record. I could really give a shit, one way or the other and it seemed reasonable after their two previous albums (both on Vagrant Records) had managed to make it into the Billboard top 25.
On their own site I a reference to them playing 'Zumiez events', and looked into it out of curiosity. The Zumiez Couch Tour seems to be a free skate and music deal that did about 10 dates in the spring/summer. At malls. I knew something was wrong, but it was so odd it took me a while to figure out what was going on. They did free shows at malls. They did a mall tour, not unlike Tiffany or any of a number of boy bands. I was pretty stumped by that, I must say.
Reading more on their site they apparently have a new shoe out too. I thought that was odd, but the thing that really got me was it's by Nike. That's a whole new level of strangeness for me when it comes to a band. Alkaline Trio-Nike shoes? Really?
The shoes are a limited edition, and there are messenger bags too that were available first only at one store in Huntington Beach. There is even a video about the making of them. I watched it, hoping it would shed some light on this very odd (to me) situation.
It starts with some scenes of the lead singer Matt Skiba surfing, and then goes on to show him later describing the process of getting the shoes designed and made. The shoes are red and black supposedly because they are a Chicago band and love the Bulls so much. Surfing, Huntington, Chicago. Sure I see how direct that connection is. Why not.
There were none of the other band members present, there are two more if you are unsure what the titular Trio was referring to, so it was all Matt all the time. He said that they were bike messengers when they met and started the band, so there are tire tread graphics on the shoe. I believe the founding members of Alkaline Trio were all bike messengers, but Matt has been the only one left since 2000. I have no idea if the other guys like bicycles or not, but that seemed a little odd to me.
I don't suppose it helped the whole presentation much that during the filming of the vignette Matt, who I had always thought was a great songwriter with interesting lyrics, sounded just like a dumb band guy.
In any case we went down to the show with high hopes to see some good music from poorly spoken sellouts on Friday evening. The area around the venue was a nice parkway type shopping/food/bar area that was all fenced off for the weekend with guys carding to get in. There was an open air stage with a mediocre cover band for free, and bars outside as well at the established ones along the sides. It looked really cool, but we had to get to the show.
Once we finally got inside and found out that we were more or less on time with our planned schedule we got some drinks and checked the bar out. That place was AWESOME. I'm not sure, but design wise it was the best, or very nearly the best place to see a show I've even been to. It was very open so you didn't get too crowded or claustrophobic. It had seating right at the front by the windows, that was way away from the stage but had flat screen TVs to watch if you wanted to relax. Almost everywhere else in the entire place had some sort of view of the stage. The first floor more or less surrounded the stage on three sides, and there was a second floor that was all open so you could see the stage from almost all of it including the bleacher type area in the back. There were even some catwalks as a faux third floor to see the stage from up high. There were bars on all three sides on the first and second floors, so it was hard to get more than 100 feet from a cold beverage. There was even a pizza joint on the second floor with more TVs so you could watch the show while eating.
Probably my only gripe with the place was the charges added to the ticket. I hate it when venues add charges to tickets that can't be avoided. To me those should be part of the ticket price. It's not a $17 dollar show, it's a $22 show. I mean if they are going to charge me $2 for ME to print MY tickets, how is that not part of the service charge? The service charge that shouldn't even exist. Fuckers.
The show was pretty good, and it looked like a sold out crowd. I was pretty entertained by how much Mat Skiba on stage reminded me of an evil Neal Patrick Harris.
Had some drinks, saw some rock, and still had time to stop off at Asylum for more drinks on the way home. All in all a good time. Except for those fucking service charges, anyway.