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Stroke 9 evokes sentimental emotions

Christie Bolsen | Thursday, March 24, 2005

The first bar Saturday to reach maximum capacity was not State. It was Legends, which achieved one in, one out status and left a line of people waiting on the steps outside, straining to hear chords of their high school and junior high memories floating from the stage as Stroke 9 played inside.Even though the band’s newest album, “All In,” was released in November, it is safe to say the eager audience was mostly interested in reliving a time when they wrote notes in study hall and wore mini backpacks in lieu of old lady purses. Stroke 9 did not disappoint, playing its biggest hits from its first major label release, 1999’s “Nasty Little Thoughts,” as well as other hits and new material.Speeding further down memory lane, the set list included a cover of the terrible dance phenomenon, the Macarena, which conjured visions of those awkward days when the audience would consent to be seen performing the moves in public. The good-natured fans who danced onstage deserved applause, even though seeing it again was like a big neon “What were we thinking?” sign.Stroke 9’s treatment of other covers fared much better – an especially rocking performance of Snoop’s “Gin and Juice” nearly outdid the Stroke 9 staple, “Little Black Backpack.” Watching lead singer Luke Esterkyn croon about his Seagram’s Gin and Tanqueray was so funny that the fight song almost sounded boring in comparison. The band also paid tribute to the quintessential alt-rock nerd band Weezer, with a rendition of “My Name is Jonas,” although one disgruntled fan yelled out, “Play your own songs!”Unfortunately, for both former and current Stroke 9 fans, it probably would have been better for the group to continue with Weezer covers than its own brand of less infectious, albeit similarly quirky pop-rock from its latest album. Just like most junior high boyfriends and girlfriends, the music is admittedly fun but probably will not stick around when something better comes along. If a listener does not take himself or his music too seriously, though, “All In” deserves a fair chance.Inexplicably, one of the most enjoyable tracks is the seemingly random and potentially annoying “Words To Live By.” True to the band’s “songs about girls” genre, but with a twist, it plays like an ADD get-to-know-you question game but prettier. “Do you like to heavy pet? Do you wanna make a bet? Did you surf the morning set?” Another standout track is the acoustically glittery “My Advice,” which slows the pace and spotlights the group’s fun penchant for spelling bee vocabulary. “It’s cold, I know I resuscitate my feelings daily for you / It necessitates this healing, not to bore you.”The rest of the album bounces along brightly. “Set You Free” is a lyrical paradigm of the band: “She stops talking to me / With spiraling eyes that keep on twirling / And that ring, does it shine for me? / Like you said when I was shaking my rusty tambourine around your head.” Its songs still scream “Total Request Live,” but if you like parties and you hate goodbyes, Stroke 9 still has what it takes.