Photo by Rob Fugate
For Neumos being just about a ten minute walk away from where I live, it’s pretty surprising that I hadn’t been there in my year and a half of living in Capitol Hill. On the night of the Citizen show, my friends and I ran from my apartment through pouring rain to catch the show on time. After waiting in line for an extra five minutes of rain, we got inside with time to spare. I didn’t really have expectations for Neumos as a venue, and I was pleasantly surprised. On top of having a great location (Sizzle Pie is conveniently nearby), I really enjoyed Neumos’ atmosphere and space. I was also shocked to see how packed it was—the show ended up selling out which was a pleasant surprise for the artists.
First on were my sweet Seattle favs, Great Grandpa. The band opened with the distorted, reverb-heavy intro of “Expert Eraser,” one of my favorite songs off of their latest album Plastic Cough. As the song swung into its more rhythmic, poppy sound, the band’s energy and stage presence became clear. Great Grandpa is a live band you can’t ignore or chat with your friend to the side during their set. They captivate the audience’s attention with their energy and unique presence. Vocalist Alex Menne is notable for her quirky stage antics, such as the way she moves around the stage and yelps and screams integrated in her vocals. Alex is truly full of energy and completely immersed in her performance. While Great Grandpa played, I loved looking around the audience and seeing the way people reacted. Most people there didn’t quite know them, but regardless, everyone around me was smiling and seemed to enjoy seeing something out of the ordinary. The band only played songs from Plastic Cough, including sweetly sad track “All Things Must Behave / Eternal Friend” and high energy “NO.” The band closed with another favorite of mine, “Favorite Show.” Unfortunately their original drummer, Cam, could not join the band for this tour, but since the band was in their hometown, he jumped on the drums half way through this closing song. Seeing the joy on everyone in the band’s faces to have Cam back on a song was so sweet, and they gave it their all.
Quickly up next was Sorority Noise, opening with the lyrics “I’ve been feeling suicidal / And if I need remind you / It’s not the coming of my heart and my brain” from “A Portrait Of.” The band continued with a good sampling of their discography, and I was shocked to see the audience opening up small push pits and stage diving. None of Sorority Noise’s music is very heavy or intense, so it was a bit of a weird dynamic to me. However, I did like seeing energy in the crowd, since most Seattle crowds seem to stick to a “I’m too cool for this” head nod. I especially enjoyed hearing songs like “Using” and “Second Letter from St. Julien” since they’re meaningful to me personally. Something special about Sorority Noise is that you can tell that their songs are meaningful to a lot of people in the room by the energy and the reactions you see from individuals. Their emotionally vulnerable and skillfully honest lyrics have a way of connecting to people, which especially comes out in live performance. About halfway through the set, vocalist Cameron Boucher stopped to say a few words, which included a quick recognition of Great Grandpa. “I know that Great Grandpa is a pretty big figure in Seattle’s DIY community and I want you to know that you’re supporting good people,” said Boucher. I thought this was nice of him to add considering all of the recent sexual misconduct scandals in this music scene. It made me feel like the show was a safe space, and it showed me a glimpse of hope for this community.
Photo by Julia Schwab
Finally the headliner Citizen played, opening with the sharp guitar riff in “Jet” off of their new album, As You Please. One of the first things I noticed was how their set-up has changed from when I’ve seen them, and it was especially weird to me to see vocalist Mat Kerekes with a sampler on a tiny table next to him. This is a testament to how their sound has changed—instead of simpler grungy guitars filling their sound, they now have more to integrate into their live performance. Following “Jet” was the As You Please single “In the Middle of it All,” which begins with isolated choir-like vocals that end up complemented by the full band. Citizen’s setlist was also well balanced between albums, and I was especially excited to see them play six whole songs off of 2013 debut album Youth. I didn’t expect them to play so many older songs, but hearing them brought me back to all the times I’d seen Citizen during high school. The first song off of Youth they played was “Sleep,” eliciting an immediate reaction from the audience. A few songs later they played “The Night I Drove Alone,” a true pop-punk finger pointing classic. During this track, the voices of the audience filled the room from everyone knowing the words. Fifteen-year-old me definitely took a stage dive or two to this song in my angsty past. Kerekes held the mic out to the audience for them to scream, “I should have crashed the car / The night I drove alone / Escape from August cold.”
Photo by Rob Fugate
Maybe even more so than Sorority Noise, the crowd’s energy was clear with more pits forming and stage diving occuring. In the past, for similar shows, I was always right there in it, but I feel like I may be reaching a moshing retirement. I rocked out from the side and watched everything go down—maybe this is growing up. The band didn’t play much off of their 2015 album Everybody is Going to Heaven, but they did play its most popular song “Yellow Love.” Although they did play a good chunk of Youth, they also played plenty of As You Please, which the crowd seemed to know most of already. They closed with another classic to scream along to, “The Summer.” Strangely, the show ended as early as 10:30 PM, but I wasn’t complaining because I sure love an early ending gig.
Photo by Rob Fugate
All in all, I had a great time at this show. It wasn’t that I had particularly low expectations, but I really didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Having a positive and fun experience related to this music scene seemed necessary for me. Among recent events and learning that some of the artists I once looked up to are guilty of awful things, I’ve become somewhat disillusioned by a music scene that used to be like home to me. Unexpectedly, this show gave me a little reminder of why I am involved in the DIY scene, and it was a display of the power this niche community has.
JULIA SCHWAB | Where’s my Ugly 2013 Photo with Mat Kerekes? | KXSU Music Reporter