Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Get Up Kids @ Emo's [11/18], First Batch of SXSW '10 Artists Announced

Kansas City isn't often known for producing successful things as of late. (There's that Zack Greinke fellow, I guess. And they'll always have barbecue.) But in the mid-90s, the second wave of emo was bourne out of the heartland, and was led by KC's own Get Up Kids. [Other area emo acts include The Appleseed Cast (still around) and The Anniversary (not so much). Somewhere, there's irony in knowing that the marriage between the lead singers of The Get Up Kids and The Anniversary ended in 2003, much like "true" emo. Zing.]

A lot has been said about this band lately, much surrounding the response surrounding its seminal moment - the 1999 release of Something to Write Home About. It put Vagrant Records at the forefront of a movement, and led to the label's christening of sounds like Saves the Day, Dashboard Confessional, and the like. (Call this developement what you will.) In a resulting move that seems increasingly prescient, the band became alienated from wanting to be poster boys of the sound and style they helped foster, and their next release - 2002's On a Wire - traded pop-punk anthems for campfire songs. This intentional middle-finger to their fanbase was greeted with plenty of frowned looks behind thick-rimmed glasses crossed with arms folded into hoodies at shows, and was recently named by the AV Club as the 10th-most "deliberately confounding follow up to a popular success."

There were plenty of positive reviews - Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone certainly appreciated that the kids were growing up. But the popular sentiment seemed to be echoed by Alternative Press, who wrote “Unfortunately, the visceral energy of their early days is lost in their newfound maturity.” It's an unavoidable truth, and the band members didn't shy away from this fact at all - some choice quotes from various publications:

*Bassist Rob Pope: “We didn’t want to be the ‘emo’ poster boys” (Alternative Press)
*Guitarist Jim Suptic: "The punk scene we came out of and the punk scene now are completely different. It's like glam rock now. We played the Bamboozle fests this year and we felt really out of place...If this is the world we helped create, then I apologize." (Drowned in Sound)
*Guitarist/Lead Vocalist Matt Pryor: "[Nobody], including Vagrant, ever gave that record a chance...We really didn’t give two shits if anyone liked the record or not, we were really confident that we were going to kill this ‘emo’ stigma that we had and take the people with open minds with us and leave everyone else in the dust." (The Post)
*Keyboardist James Dewees: “I felt like we were committing career suicide.” (Alternative Press)

And that’s more or less what happened: On A Wire flopped, and fewer fans were around to hear the band rock out more on the follow-up, Guilt Show, GUK’s swan song. But by keeping their distance from the genre they once so-loved, at least they emerged somewhat unscathed from the implosion of emo from within. If there's anything important to note that resulted from this analytic deconstruction, it's that Pete Wentz is happy. At least he has an incorrectly created, undeservedly granted "Pop-Punk Kid starter kit with bands like Get Up Kids, so kids would know whose shoulders bands like us are standing on. Fall Out Boy would not be a band if it were not for The Get Up Kids." He forgets to mention the Twilight series, Hot Topic, and glitter as other reasons FOB would not be a band. Citations/medication needed.

I've already attended one of their "final shows" in 2004, when they broke up. But as this reunion is for promotion the 10th anniversary of something as indirectly influential and controversial as Something to Write Home About, this felt more significant, a moment to simulataneously relive and place one final nail in the coffin of an era. I went back to Austin just to attend this show, and in their show recap the AV Club Austin (again) did a great job observing a crowd turn cathartic for good ol' emo nostalgia while souring on post-On a Wire material.

As a person who has friends with (multiple!) Get Up Kids lyrics written down their forearms, their music is ingrained in me as a reminder of (gulp) feeling as though I was growing up into an "important" scene. That matters. But I'm 23 - so does new material. For those at Emo's last Wednesday who were not supportive of an act trying to show they could still create - an album's worth of 9 or 10 new songs are reportedly in the mix - have fun being the person who just learned to doodle vampires after a decade of scribbling crude unicorns. "Our" music is aging, and so am I.

In more straightforward/easier to decipher news, the Austinist has released the first batch of bands that will be showcasing at SXSW 2010. Relaying this information requires little introspective insight! Rejoice!

The Get Up Kids - Holiday [mp3] (iTunes)
The Get Up Kids - I'll Catch You [mp3] (iTunes)
The Get Up Kids - Campfire Kansas [mp3] (iTunes)