Yellowcard and Matchbook Romance at Axis
For a brief period in my life beginning a couple of years ago and abruptly ending yesterday, I thought pop-punk was dead. Maybe you did too: perhaps you were under the impression, clearly false, that the current generation of MTV-babysat middle schoolers had dumped Blink-182 and Good Charlotte for Beyonce and Justin. Then came Yellowcard.
On my way to Axis yesterday, it was tough to remember whether pop-punk was ever really a legitimate genre, or just a lie my parents made up when I was little to frighten me into being good. And then, before me in all its glory, a Yellowcard audience lured by the promise of a free (unless you count the Snapple bottlecaps) show. Standing amid the trucker caps tipped aloofly to one side, the preeteens too young to realize it’s uncool to wear the merch of the band you’re going to see, the long strings of girls holding hands and leading each other through the crowd like chains of paper dolls, I not only realized I was wrong about pop-punk: I was actually overwhelmingly relieved.
Inside, Matchbook Romance performed a set flush with slack élan. The band’s performance seemed more like a series of carefully replicated studio versions of their songs rather than a spontaneous rendering of rock and roll, but that didn’t seem to register with their battalions of young and impressionable devotees. Yes, the gap between Matchbook and their audience audience was bridged — but it wasn’t bridged by the band’s enthusiasm or candor, since they might as well have been performing from behind a glass wall. It was a connection made almost entirely through the innocent and guileless devotion of their fans.
The on-stage equipment turnover registered with the kids like regime change — their enthusiasm for Matchbook’s emotional pop-rock was conferred more or less instantaneously to Yellowcard, with an equal, if not greater, outpouring of loyalty. And the crowd was in turn met with a band not yet jaded by their commercial success, a band that not only recognized and appreciated the staunch ardor of their fans, but allowed themselves to be inspired by it.
Thing is, Yellowcard’s enthusiasm is what the mundanity of their songs struggles against. The music folds neatly into the confines of safe genre conventions, and the band avoids foreign or original elements like the plague. Their show felt like something being lost and something being found: if Yellowcard’s razorpop is for many the modern-day manifestation of the way raw, rebel-yell, “I don’t give a shit” attitude has gone missing in popular music, they are also a shining example of how passion – even programmatic passion – can be admirable and maybe even inspiring.
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