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When The Emperor asked me to do my first review ever for Racket Magazine (first ever review anywhere) I was scared!  The more I thought about it the more I thought why not?  How hard can it be to write a review of the singer of my favorite bands, The Alkaline Trio!? Let’s roll.

I have been a fan since I first saw them live at the Anaheim HOB in 2001.  As soon as Radio came on and the entire audience shouted from the top of their lungs the now infamous, “I’ve got a big fat fucking bone to pick with you, my darling” I was hooked! The next day they did a “Secret Show” at Cal State Fullerton and I dropped everything even called in sick from work to see them.  That is when my dedication (some call it stalking and/or worshipping) began.  I also realized I was not alone, they have a very dedicated following.  When you go to a show you can feel the love because people are shouting out every word and then you look around you see can see the love with the skull/heart logo proudly tattooed on so many in the audience. I am not alone. Because of my tattoo I feel a little bit like I am married to band.  With this tattoo I made a vow to stick it out through the good, the bad and the decent records.

When Matt Skiba released his 2nd Solo album in July of this year I heard the song, SOS on Myspace and found it pretty solid and then I heard the rest.  I mean the title of the album says it all, Demos…it sounds unfinished to me.  I  saw he was playing a Solo show in NYC I of course had to go even if the album was not my favorite.  (Can I pause and give a shout out to Ducat King?  I mean seriously thanks for not raping us with those “convenience” charges!)  I figured since I absolutely loved Matt’s split with Kevin Seconds the should would be good enough for me.

Off I went to The Mercury Lounge. I missed River City Extension, Dave Hause and was (un)lucky enough to catch Brendan Kelly of Lawrence Arms fame.  Boy was he hammered! Hammered to the point of not being able to tune or play his guitar and he sure as hell couldn’t remember the lyrics admittedly so!  So, that sucked but was mildly amusing for a few minutes.

Mr. Skiba was ready to rock and roll right after Mr. Kelly’s exit stage left but unfortunately they made him wait 15 minutes.  I admire him for his enthusiasm to get up there and make up for Brendan’s shitastic performance. Another drink and now its time! He takes the stage and the crowd immediately starts yelling out different song titles.  He came through with all the classic Trio songs: Bleeder, My Friend Peter, Fuck You Aurora, Sorry About That and even some not so classics like Emma and getting some help from Dave Krause during Blue in the Face.  He belted out a few of his solo songs like Good Fucking Bye and my favorite, Demons Away.  He got a request for Warbrain but said he couldn’t do it unless he had a bassist and drummer. He eventually obliged even without getting a bassist and drummer.  He instead ended up with Dave Krause and random guy who requested the song! Random guy got to sing the entire song by himself.  Pretty damn cool for that dude!  I can’t say I was surprised that he played so many Alkaline Trio songs because his solo catalog isn’t huge, but I was surprised he didn’t play ANY songs from Demos!  Not a one!  If I’m going to be honest this wasn’t the worst thing in the world though!

When the time came for him to wrap it up and he chose to do so with what else but the song that hooked me, Radio.  He invited anyone who wanted to help him sing to get on stage (he got a lot of folks to join him, not surprisingly).  I don’t know if he was just being lazy or what but he didn’t have to sing much during this show!  It was one giant sing-a-long! Only things missing were a campfire and Kumbaya.  So much fun!  I’m not sure why but Matt Skiba performing solo has so much more stage presence than when he is with the band.  I’ve seen 40+ Alkaline Shows, his other band, Heavens (RIP) a time or two and a handful of solo shows and for whatever reason his solo shows always leave me feeling the love from him.  He’s not only able to because of the smaller venues but gets intimate with the crowd asking to see some guys back piece that had something to do with Alkaline Trio (dude, you really should have gotten on stage to show that bad boy off).  He then joked about how shitty some of his own tattoos were before complimenting Dave Hause’s much better ones.  At one point someone shouted out “play a happy song!”  He joked about never have written a happy song and that he never cared much for them.  I think the real kicker was when he offered the crowd a little more of himself when mentioning that he and his girlfriend had gone back to their hotel room the night before in Chicago and cried due to the overwhelming response from his fans.  I never really see this type of connection or interaction at an Alkaline Trio show.  All I know is he is clearly happy to be making a living singing for his fans and as a fan I am happy too!

I have to give Matt’s portion of the show a solid 10. Sure he messed up a few times and his voice wasn’t the best I have ever heard it and I don’t even care that I happened to overhear him outside before the show admitting he hadn’t practiced for the shows, you know why?  It doesn’t matter his fans are his fans and aren’t going anywhere.  The fans know exactly what they’re going to get at his shows…an evening full of great songs from a really humble devil worshipper, errr Satanist!

-Kasey Knappe