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Rocking the Riviera

Maureen Bush | Monday, February 2, 2004

The first large pop punk tour of the year breezed though the Windy City Jan. 30, leaving the young adults of Chicago with a warm feeling despite the biting cold outdoors. Motion City Soundtrack, Sugarcult and co-headliners MxPx and Simple Plan took the downtown Rivera Theater by storm that night, filling the theater to the brink and pleasing the anxious crowd. The show opened with Epitaph recording artist Motion City Soundtrack from Minneapolis. This excellent blend of unusual vocals, electric keyboards and beats was a powerful way to start the night. The band played their much too short eight song set with flare. They began their set with “Cambridge” and continued by playing the majority of the songs on their full-length album, “I Am the Movie.” Lead singer and guitar, Justin Pierre, has an excellent voice, and the quality shone through to the crowd of exuberant teenagers. Motion City Soundtrack is rounded out by Joshua Cain on guitars and back-up vocals, Tony Thaxton on drums, Jesse Johnson on moog (a small keyboard-type instrument), and Matthew Taylor on bass and backup vocals. Their set flowed beautifully as they finished up with fan-favorites, “The Future Freaks Me Out” and “My Favorite Accident.” This band has an amazing amount of talent and this was evident as they played their set. The group could do something spectacular in the future. As Simple Plan lead singer Pierre Bouvier said later that night, “Give it up for Motion City Soundtrack. We’re OK. They are great.” The next act of the night was Santa Barbara, California’s own Sugarcult. This powerful pop-punk foursome put together an excellent set that was very well received by the crowd who was looking to take the energy level up a notch. Sugarcult did just that entering the stage to with popular song, “Stuck in America.” The high energy continued through the night as they played songs from their full-length album, “Start Static,” such as, “Daddy’s Little Defect,” “She’s the Blade,” and “Pretty Girl.” They also played their new song, “Memory,” to supplement the older favorites. This song is on their new full length titled, “Palm Trees and Powerlines,” which is scheduled to be released on April 13. Leading the way was singer/guitar Tim Pagnotta, with band mates Marko 72 on guitar, Airin on bass and vocals, and Ben Davis on drums and vocals. Their hooks were incredibly catchy and kept the crowd jumping the whole set. Their clever use of lyrics enhanced the melodies. The music had enough pop credence to draw the crowd in and was smart enough to keep them excited for the next song. Sugarcult played an excellent set and made one lucky fan’s night by pulling him out of the crowd to videotape the set for their impending DVD they will be releasing. Members of the band could also be found out by their merchandise booth during the show and after the show to take pictures and sign autographs for the fans. This kind of attitude, supplemented by their punchy music, will help them continue on their path to fame. Next in line was veteran Christian punk act MxPx, hailing from Bremerton, Washington. Made up of Mike Herrera singing and playing bass, Tom Wisniewski on guitar, and Yuri Ruley on drums, MxPx has released over 11 albums since 1995, the most recent being, “Before Everything & After,” released in August on A&M Records. They began their set with “Play It Loud” and kept up the intensity all night. They played their set like the veterans they are. The show was an excellent mix, hitting both old favorites and the newer songs. They played “The Next Big Thing,” “Southbound,” and brought out the acoustic guitar for “Quit Your Life” among the others. Like Sugarcult, they made two girls’ night by bringing them up on stage to have the band’s first ever bass-off. The band gave each girl a bass guitar and had them battle it out to see who was the best. Neither girl had ever played before, but the use of crowd participation was a hit with the fans. After the bass-off, the band finished up with a cover song followed by one of their own, having Wisniewski sing “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” They left the stage and came back momentarily to break into a cover of “Summer of ’69” and popular song, “Chick Magnet.” As always, they finished their set playing “Punk Rawk Show” to the delight of the crowd. The set was perfect length and was well planned. Hearing the older songs was nice, but it was a surprise that they played only six new songs in a 17 song set list. Still, it was a well played set that kept the predominantly Simple Plan fan crowd happy. The final act of the night was northern neighbor Simple Plan from Canada, with Pierre Bouvier on vocals, Chuck Comeau on drums, Jeff Stinko on lead guitar, David Desrosiers on bass and backup vocals and Sebastien Lefebvre on bass and back up vocals. These French-Canadian punks were the highlight of the night for many of the teens in the crowd whose resounding screams filled the building as they took the stage to the Star Wars theme, “The Imperial March.” They immediately ripped into their set, playing many of the songs off their 2002 debut album, “No Pads, No Helmets… Just Balls,” including radio hits, “I’m Just a Kid,” “Addicted,” and “I’d Do Anything.” This high-energy band is very reminiscent of fellow pop punk band Good Charlotte. Both have catchy hooks and fast paced anthems for disillusioned teens who want to scream their frustrations about growing up. The band played their songs and made jokes between them in Blink-182 fashion for the captivated audience. After playing some of their songs, the band really kicked in covering Pink’s, “Get the Party Started”, The Black Eyed Peas “Where’s the Love”, and also the Turtles’ “Happy Together”. Hearing so many cover songs in one night was a bit surprising.Bouvier and his acoustic guitar provided the second encore of the night with Simple Plan’s latest radio hit, “Perfect.” Bouvier started the song himself, but then stopped and allowed the thousands of voices in the Rivera to do the work for him. Halfway though the song the rest of the band joined him on stage and they filled out the rest of the music in an excellent end to the concert. Overall, it was a well-crafted tour with an interesting mix of different bands. The talent of some of the bands was over the heads of the kids who were seemingly there for one purpose, to see Simple Plan. Simple Plan deserves a lot of credit for realizing this talent and taking these bands on tour to give them exposure to the masses.