If a band was a lover, then Alkaline Trio reminds me of an awesome person you date whose friends suck, or rather, are clueless to common sense. But, of course, you deal with these people because you are in love…and I do love Alkaline Trio. (We will get to their confused friends in a minute.) On tour for their latest album, Damnesia, Alkaline Trio played at the Masquerade on Thursday, August 18th with two opening acts, The Drowning Men and Me Without You. The last time they played the Masquerade was back in March 2010 for the album, This Addiction. So for me, this is the second time I’ve seen this three-piece band live. (I only discovered this punk group within the past three years even though they’ve been around for 15.) Alkaline Trio, composed of Matt Skiba (vocals, guitar), Dan Adriano (vocals, bass), and Derek Grant (drums), is a great band to see live because they always play a solid set.

Their music roots may be firmly planted in punk rock, but they have a catchy pop alternative feel which makes them accessible to the masses as shown by the alternative radio airplay and success of their 2001 album, From Here to Infirmary. This means that the crowd at their show is always a mixed bag of people who fascinate me because the band sings dark songs about death, fire, booze, drugs, and love lost with overtones of horror, not exactly the poppy punk Green Day stuff that most non-punk rockers seem to love.   So, yes, I went to a punk rock show and was in a room two-thirds full of non-punk rockers. Sure my punk rock purist heart was a little disheartened, but hey, I’m all for people loving good music, so I sucked up my snobbery and rocked out with them. What I really don’t get and was totally bothered by was the large number of girls wearing tank tops, shorts, and flip flops…No kidding! When did people start wearing flip flops to shows? That’s the easiest way to lose a toe! I’ve always worn steel-toed boots or kicks to shows because I never knew when some dancing or moshing fools would fall into me or someone would accidentally drop a bottle on my toes. Come on ladies, use some common sense here! The non-punk rock guys ranged anywhere from hipsters to frat boys. Combining all these non-punk rockers in one room made the vibe not as energetic or excited as I would have liked it to be, but then again Alkaline Trio sounded fantastic and for the most part it was just a big ol’ sing along (which I love!). Much to my chagrin, but probably thrilled the security team, was that there was no mosh pit or crowd surfing at this show. One girl tried to crowd surf, but fell straight down as soon as she jumped into the crowd. There were a whole bunch of guys jumping up and down, singing along with their hands in the air where a mosh pit normally would’ve been found. From what I could tell, the punk rockers were hanging out in the back singing their heads off and dancing.

The first opening band for Alkaline Trio was a five piece band (keyboard, two guitars, bass, drums), The Drowning Men, hailing from San Diego, California. Out of the five guys playing in the band, two had full Zach Galifianakis beards and three had mustaches, equaling way too much hipster in one room for me. And then it got weird…the band had this funky polka meets atmospheric mood meets circus music and merry-go-round carousel music style. I wasn’t sure whether to dance or jam out or talk over this band until a different one came on stage. It was very unusual. Not saying that they weren’t good because the boys could play their instruments well, it was just that they seemed to lack a unifying band sound. At the end they even went into a preppy kind of ballad song. I was confused, so I will classify them as atmospheric polka circus rock. I think they are creating a new breed of hipster genre rock, which was definitely not my style and didn’t even have a punk rock vibe to it. (Also, please don’t confuse this band with the now defunct hardcore band, Drowningman. I guarantee that you will be sorely unhappy if you do.)

I had been told that the second opening band, Me Without You, was one that I should definitely check out. When they took the stage, the nerdy lead singer with black hair and old school black glasses instantly reminded me of Milo from the Descendents. This held a lot of promise for the band in my eyes. They even started out with songs that sounded reminiscent of the Descendents as three-fourths of the crowd was rocking out and singing along to their songs. Then their set took an unexpected turn for me as it ventured into hardcore with a little scream-o on top and then went into an alternative country type of sound. Again, I was confused about the unifying identity of this second opening band – was this a punk band, rock band, or one with a mixed alternative sound? I would like to give this band a second shot since they came highly recommended to me. I think I will check them out on YouTube or find some MP3s of their stuff for further analysis.

And finally, we have my beloved Alkaline Trio. I was curious to see how this show would go because their newest album, Damnesia, is basically a greatest hits album, but performed in a semi-acoustic style with the addition of strings, pianos, and synths. They included three new songs (“Olde English 800,” “I Remember A Rooftop,” and a cover of the Violent Femmes “I Held Her In My Arms”) on the album, but all were performed in the same semi-acoustic style. At the Masquerade however, they rocked out plugged-in without the additional help of any other instruments or sounds. I love this venue because when bands start rocking out hard, you can feel the music in the floor and you just cannot help but move your body to the beat. The boys’ voices and instruments sounded great and I have yet to be unimpressed with their live performance. They even dedicated one of my favorite songs, “Nose Over Tail,” to Atlanta! Towards the end of the set, they had a guy friend propose to his girlfriend on stage. Of course she said yes and they dedicated the song “Clavicle” to the happy, newly engaged couple. The trio finished their set with “Radio” and went off stage as the crowd chanted, “One more song!” Be careful what you wish for folks, because that is exactly what Alkaline Trio gave the Atlanta audience – just one more encore song. They ended with “My Friend Peter” and the show was over a little before 11:30 p.m. even though their set list noted that they planned to play “Crawl” and “97” as encore songs. Again, use your common sense people, bolster the band’s ego and yell their name when you want an encore and that way you might get more than expected from the band. Show them some love!

P.S. Dear Alkaline Trio, Want to run away with me and leave the opening bands and awkward crowd behind? Your coffin or mine? xo, Laura

Alkaline Trio’s Set List for August 18, 2011 at the Masquerade in Atlanta:
In Vein
Private Eye
Nose Over Tail
Goodbye Forever
This Is Getting Over You
Old School Reasons
Mr. Chainsaw
I Lied My Face Off
Lead Poisoning
Mercy Me
San Francisco
This Could Be Love
If You Had A Bad Time
You’ve Got So Far To Go
Blue In The Face
Olde English
My Friend Peter