wheres-the-band-tractor2.jpg
Dave Lake
Matt Pryor (left) encourages the audience to sing along with Anthony Raneri and and Chris Conley.
Where's the Band? Tour

Feb. 11

Tractor

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Aging Emo Singers Take a Cue from Aging Punk Singers and Go Acoustic at the Tractor

wheres-the-band-tractor2.jpg
Dave Lake
Matt Pryor (left) encourages the audience to sing along with Anthony Raneri and and Chris Conley.
Where's the Band? Tour

Feb. 11

Tractor Tavern

Q: What's an aging emo rocker to do once his band's popularity flatlines but he still has kids to feed and a mortgage to pay? A: What aging punk singers have been doing for the past half-decade: Hit the road as a solo act. Taking a cue from the Revival Tour, which was established in 2008 and features a rotating roster of punk singers playing acoustic sets, the Where's the Band? Tour is a similar idea with an emo bent. While the Revival Tour features guys like Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music, Dan Andriano from The Alkaline Trio and Tom Gabel from Against Me!, the Where's The Band? Tour, which concluded its latest set of dates on Saturday night at the Tractor in Ballard, featured Matt Pryor from the Get Up Kids, Chris Conley of Saves the Day and Anthony Raneri from Bayside amongst others.

The most striking difference between the two tours is that one aims to push acts into the future (Revival) while the other seems to revel in nostalgia (Where's the Band?). The Revival Tour is the more established brand, an annual outing filled with musicians who have forged a unique identity outside of the bands that made them famous, whereas Saturday's Where's the Band? Tour offered predominantly unplugged versions of popular songs from the various songwriters' main projects.

I arrived too late to see sets from Ace Enders of The Early November and Evan Weiss from Into It. Over It., but caught the bulk of the set from Chris Conley, frontman for Princeton, New Jersey's Saves the Day, whose 2001 album, Stay What You Are is an emo benchmark, having sold over 300,000 copies and propelling the band to a major label deal. Conley's 30-minute set was loose and relaxed as he took requests from the crowd and even Twitter, though not every request could be accommodated. "Shit man," he said, while pushing his bangs from his face. "I've forgotten all those songs."

Matt Pryor followed, and of all the acts on Saturday's bill, Pryor has done the most to establish an identity for himself outside of The Get Up Kids, including records with The New Amsterdams, Reggie and the Full Effect and a pair of solo outings. Pryor was the evening's elder statesman, a topic he joked about. "I am as emo as the day is long," he said during some back and forth with the audience. "I invented that shit," he added, though he quickly amended the statement. "I invented the good emo." Pryor's set included songs from his various bands and recent solo album May Day, but the crowd reacted most enthusiastically to his Get Up Kids material.

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Anthony Raneri of Bayside occupied the evening's final slot, performing sans guitar thanks to a finger injury, which found the night's other acts joining him onstage to provide accompaniment. "I don't know what to do with my hands," he said, saying it was only the second time he'd ever performed without a guitar. Raneri's material had a heavy Chicago punk influence, primarily The Alkaline Trio and the Smoking Popes, the latter of which he covered during his set, which also included a song from a recently-released solo LP.

The show concluded with the entire lineup of musicians performing a trio of covers together, "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppets, "Linoleum" from NOFX and "Boxcar" from Jawbreaker. "It's like an emo variety show," Raneri said, a statement that seemed to sum up the evening pretty accurately. Though there weren't any dancers or juggling, there was a friendly feeling to the show and no downtime between sets. The camaraderie between the acts was apparent, especially on the tour's final night, with each act thanking the others for a great time. And even if the tour doesn't do as much to define these artists' identities the way the Revival Tour does with its acts, it doesn't hope to. The recipe is right there in the name. The goal instead seems to be to present some favorite songs by some emo favorites in a unique way, which is exactly what Saturday's show offered, and the packed Tractor crowd drank it in.

Overhead in the audience: "He's really unattractive," said a woman nearby in regards to Chris Conley. "Isn't he too old for an emo haircut?"

BTW: Blink-182 singer Mark Hoppus asked Matt Pryor to play at his wedding but Pryor declined. "I didn't want to go to his wedding," he said. "But it wasn't personal," he added. "I don't want to go to most people's weddings."

 
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