Pop-Punk Works Of Art
Geeking Out Over The Where’s The Band Tour Featuring Evan Weiss, Ace Enders, Chris Conley, Matt Pryor and Anthony Raneri
Evan Weiss performs at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, Ariz.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
Feb. 16, 2012 — I can admit it. I geeked out at a concert, but can you blame me?
As a lifelong pop-punk fan, the Where's the Band Tour — which passed through Phoenix at the Crescent Ballroom on Feb. 3 — was a dream come true. The tour, currently in its second incarnation, gives fans the chance to see the front men of some of the most iconic pop-punk bands ever perform in a solo, intimate setting.
"When I was first asked to be a part of this it was special," said Anthony Raneri. "It felt like I was being validated to be included on this list."
While this aspect alone makes the tour unique, the current lineup also makes it exceptional because it functions as a microcosm of the pop-punk canon. The participants — Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It., Ace Enders of The Early November, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids, and Raneri of Bayside — are all top acts from the different stages of pop-punk over the past 20 years.
"It's a little but surreal," said Enders. "When emo pop-punk thing first came about we were all kind of fighting each other for the same thing, but now we are all a family."
Conley and Pryor are veritable Godfathers of pop-punk. Both of their bands sat atop the genre during the golden age of the 1990s. While their bands are constantly in flux and their popularity has waned in recent years, old and new school fans alike still have a special place in their hearts reserved for these two guys and their music.
"They have done everything to make me feel at home," Weiss said in reference to his tour mates. "I have been let down by my heroes in the past, but not here."
Then come Raneri and Enders. Bayside and The Early November took over where Saves the Day and The Get Up Kids left off. Both bands picked up steam in the early 2000s. Bayside is still going strong and remains one of the top pop-punk acts anywhere. The Early November, on the other hand, split several years ago but has since reunited and will play together this spring.
And then there is Into It. Over It., which is really just Evan Weiss. Unlike the other performers, Weiss' band is really just a solo project unto itself. However, his music has the heart and ferocity to let fans know that it would translate well to a full band sound if the Weiss ever forms a full band.
"I am definitely the rookie and they have not let me forget it," Weiss said.
Weiss is the newcomer to the group. His popularity is on the rise, and he represents the future of pop-punk in this lineup. His stage presence and tenacity owes a lot to the previously mentioned artists, but Weiss is definitely forging his own trail as well.
I missed the first song of the Into It. Over It. set while I was waiting outside to get in the show. The life of a small time writer can be so hard sometimes, what with all of the getting into shows for free and the confusion that it causes.
After a small mix-up, Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents was kind enough put me down on the list and got me into the show.
I stepped through the bar and restaurant half of the Crescent and into the venue area just in time to hear Weiss tell a story about being pretentious. As a prelude to one of his songs, Weiss told the story of a friend he made in Chicago that made the decision to move to Philadelphia.
He then made his attitude towards Philadelphia apparent, telling the crowd that he lived there for a while as a kid and hated everything except the Phillies. Long story short, he acted like a jerk and lectured his friend on why she should not move there. She loved it and threw that back in his face.
The song was about Weiss' realization that we all need to support our friends as they take leaps of faith and go on adventures. Life is too short to be a dick.
The rest of the set followed that pattern. And that is what I love about seeing Into It. Over It. play. Weiss is a great story teller and he sets each song up with a such an outstanding frame that the audience, fans or not, feel more involved.
From the more energetic songs at the beginning of the set to the lower-key tunes like "Embracing Facts" and "Connecticut Steps," Weiss was able to interject a sense of perspective and intimacy into his set. And it is that intimacy that makes me excited for the future of the genre.
Upon finishing his set, Weiss quickly unplugged and introduced Enders to a heady applause. The great thing about an all-acoustic set is the lack of set up time. Each artist just jumps on stage and plugs in.
Enders then took the stage and gave an impressive comedic performance to go along with his musical talents. While most of his songs are serious numbers concerning heart break and loss, the guy could not help cracking off a few jokes every now and then.
He could not even get through the first song after telling the crowd that it was about Nicolas Cage. Every few seconds he would stop and laugh before letting everyone know that he could not stop thinking about Cage.
The hiccup was far from disappointing. It was exactly the kind of humor and closeness the crowd was looking for at this type of show. Most of the people there had seen Enders perform at a much larger venue with his band at some point or another, so it was refreshing to see the guy just let loose and hang out.
A couple of girls in the front row could not stop laughing at the guy to the point where he was forced to stop his second song to ask them if he peed himself or something.
By that time, Enders was ready for crowd requests. And boy did he deliver.
During the ending to "Figure It Out," Enders swallowed hard and put some throaty power behind his lyrics. It was raw. Nothing but acoustic guitar, flem and guts. My notes literally read, "he put some gusto on that shit."
After playing through a few more requests, Enders played out with the crowd favorite "Ever So Sweet." The crowd responded and gave the performer a hearty farewell before he bowed out and introduced Conley to even bigger applause.
The next two sets, from Conley and Pryor, were the most sing-along friendly of the night (which was full of sing-alongs). As the longest-running members of the genre, both performers' songs are iconic to all pop-punk fans.
In that vein, Conley played a set entirely made up of fan requests. He had the crowd shout out their favorites and he picked them out of the air.
Outside of a few tunes that require the whole band, Conley pleased the crowd by running through all of the Saves the Day classics.
The audience especially "Jessie and My Whetstone," "Take Our Cars Now!" and "Hold," which Conley played at different points throughout the night.
The songs, immortalized on Ups & Downs: Early Recordings and B-Sides, are originally acoustic numbers and don't always make the set list at full band shows.
Similarly, Pryor tailored his song choices towards the nostalgic. While he did not play an all-requests set, he did go way back into The Get Up Kids catalogue to play old favorites.
After opening up with "Out of Reach," Pryor broke a string on the second song. He tried to get the crowd to help him tell a few jokes while he looked for a new guitar, but he was relegated to telling a few "bad jokes" of his own.
Enders bailed Pryor out a few minutes later by hopping on stage and lending his tour mate a guitar.
The minor hiccup did not phase Pryor and he immediately broke into the fan favorite "Red Letter Days."
Both Conley and Pryor delivered exactly what the crowd wanted. They didn't try to force anything by playing newer and/or lesser known tracks. The guys gave the audience a taste of the good old days and the crowd ate it up.
It was a great chance for old fans of pop-punk to reminisce and for the newer fans to learn about the genre's legacy a bit.
And then Raneri took the stage. As the most contemporary and currently popular member of the tour, he received plenty of applause.
After playing Bayside hits "Blame it on Bad Luck" and "Don't Call Me Peanut," Raneri treated the audience to "Sandra," one of the tracks from his fledgling solo career.
It was a cool chance for the artist to play some of the standards fans are used to hearing while also giving them a unique performance.
In that vein, Raneri also attempted a Bayside track he had never played solo before: "Montauk."
He decided to attempt the song because of the amount of fan requests he had gotten during past tour dates. Because of the complexity of the guitar parts generally played by uber-talented Bayside guitarist Jack O'Shea, Raneri had to work the song out back stage in order to play it solo for the crowd.
And it turned out awesome, albeit with a less awesome guitar solo in the middle.
Despite his extra preparation, there were still crowd requests that Raneri could not play without the full band. He expressed exasperation and admiration, remarking to the crowd that Conley has around 150 songs and he can play almost all of them while Raneri has much less than that and can only play a selection of them by himself.
The audience did not seem to mind, though, and cheered the Bayside front man on anyways.
For the final two songs of the show, Raneri had extra treat in store for everyone who stuck around.
First, he played a crooning rendition of Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark."
If that wasn't enough, Raneri closed out the show by calling Enders onto the stage to help him out with a special tune. Commenting on the fact that he had been told he sounds like Kermit the Frog in the past, Raneri then broke into a sweet and soft version of the Muppets' "The Rainbow Connection" with Enders helping out on the vocals.
It was an odd and fun way to end a very unique night. We all had the chance to watch bands that inspired and continue to inspire each other perform together. The rareness of that sort of chance cannot be overstated.
"This tour allows us to keep everything going and kind of pass the baton," Raneri said. "Matt and Chris passed it to me and Ace, and now with Evan here we can do the same thing."
Five of the most prolific pop-punk artists from different eras of the genre shed their bands and took to the stage to provide an intimate and heartfelt show for their fans.
And I geeked out. But can you blame me?
Wayne Schutsky lives in Phoenix, Ariz. Follow him @ThemanofLetters.
Evan Weiss — http://evanweissmusic.com/
Ace Enders — http://tourtot.com
Chris Conley — http://savestheday.com/home/
Matt Pryor — https://twitter.com/#!/mattpryorsongs
Anthony Raneri — http://www.anthonyraneri.com/