Gig Review

Alkaline Trio
Plus Zico Chain, The Terminals
Sheffield, Octagon
25th February 2006

Alkaline Trio                   Zico Chain                The Terminals

Doors were set to open at half seven, but we decided we'd be fashionably late and turn up about eight. As you do. After finishing our current pints, and nipping to the toilet, we set off. There was a light drizzle, but all in all I was pleased to find it wasn't as cold as I had feared it would be. We dashed round the corner, and there was the Octogan ahead of us, with reems of people going in. The queue went off round the corner. "For fuck's sake," I exclaimed, as we trailed the line of fans. Saying that, it did move with tremendous pace, and within about five minutes, we were inside. First things first, merchandise. Both myself and Jon bought tshirts, and put them on over our existing clothes, then moved into the main room where the first support band were playing.

As you enter the main performance room, you join the crown on the side, and are pretty much placed right into the tenth row. It's not like your usual venue where you'll be ploughed in at the back, and have to battle to the front. Most of this fight had been done for us. We knew northerners are notorious for being tough, and us "southern softies" might have a job getting anywhere in this crowd, but we still sure as hell tried. I grabbed Jon's wrist, and surged into the mass of bodies. Working our way towards the centre as well as forwards. Three girls, whose height combined couldn't have been more than about twenty centimetres, were stood about fifth row, and clearly couldn't see anything. Always something that has baffled me. Why go and see a live band, if you cannot really actually see anything anyway. But anyway, we stopped our surge just behind them. The girl in front of me complained I was "breathing down her neck." In all honesty, if you're going to complain about such a frequent occurence at a rock gig, then you're just a plan idiot. She tried to make a tough remark; "if you're going to do that, go around me." She didn't expect me to respond, but I did, and pushed in front of her. I don't think she was too pleased, but to be fair she had basically just asked me to. Like a catalepsy, we once again started our surge forward. It's a little known fact, that getting to the front of a crowd is not about strength, but tactics. Like waiting for someone to stick their arms up and cheer, and using that extra bit of space to squeeze through. Or sticking your leg about two foot further than your torso, and slowly using it to pull the rest of you through those ahead of you. After about ten minutes, we found ourselves with only one person, and about two foot of space, between us and the bands.

To my knowledge, I only thought there were one support band, however there turned out to be two, and this band had the talent of a small duck. There was nothing remotely memorable about them. The members chose to cover their mouths with bandanas, for some unknown reason, and then play terrible music. I think they were called Terminals or something, but the fact remains that they weren't anything special. Maybe it was just bad sound, as in all honesty, the Octogan wasn't exactly a great venue. The ceiling was very low, and with that kind of amp power in such a small space, the sound was pretty terrible, for all of the bands that played. Perhaps further back, the sound got better, I wouldn't know, I was in the thick of things, and loving it.

On came the second band, The Zico Chain. These were the guys I thought were the only support band. They were dressed as kangaroos. Actually, I made that bit up. You could go as far as to say I lied my face off. It seemed they had a bit of crowd support, the guy in front of me was certainly singing along to a couple of their tracks. Or maybe he had just picked up the words, as every song they played seemed identical to the one before. They had more to offer than the Terminals, but didn't seem to really have anything amazing. Their songs consisted of some deep angry guitar sequences, rumbling basslines, and tidy drums and vocals. I'm sure a studio recording of the group would be more entertaining than that performance. Such a venue isn't really the place to pick up interest in new bands, as I don't believe they have the opportunity to exploit their full potential.

Once the Zico Chain had left the stage, the roadies bundled on to set up the Alkaline Trio's stage. As one blonde-haired guy taped down the setlists to the stage, everyone in the front three rows was up on tiptoes desperately trying to read it's contents. It's hard when it's a few feet away, upside-down, and slanted away from you, but most of it was still decipherable. We'd worked out the first few tracks, and the last two. This was going to be a great set.

Finally, all the lights went down, and the cheering began. An explosion of applause and screams, an eruption of praise for the American three. Out of the darkness, came a tune everybody knew, and everybody loved. Private Eye. The crowd were jumping all over, singing along, all singularly competing for the attention of Matt Skiva, who had his left boot planted on his mic stand, stamping a beat furiously. Derek refused to look at the crowd, and his vision was nearly always focused on something to his left. Matt Skiva kept gaving out into the crowd, making eye contact with a fan, pointing at them, nodding and smiling. He was having a whale of a time. Dan was keeping himself to himself, and strolling between his mic stand and the drum kit, as he did for all the gig. Matt was walking all over the stage, and as for Derek, well, it's hard to wander about with a drum kit. Saying that, I'm sure it's achievable. Private Eye merged effortlessly with Mercy Me, and the great music continued.
My Friend Peter was changed to My Friend Simon, and dedicated to a friend of theirs. When this track had finished, Matt approached the microphone.

"This next song is for anyone who bought an EP called I Lied My Face Off."
Everyone cheered, whether they'd bought it or not. Matt went and spoke with Dan and Derek, and then returned.
"Actually, it seems my reading skills aren't very good. This is still for you guys who bought it, if you want, but this song aint on there."
Cops. Great song.

Following this song, was Queen Of Pain, and Nolan came onstage as a second guitarist. I noticed, during the gig, that 90% of what he played, was identical to that of Matt's. Did they really need that extra 10%? Couldn't they have managed without and remained the Trio throughout? As well as playing the same as Matt, he was pretty much dressed the same too. All in black. Shirt, tie, waistcoat, trousers, shoes. But he was stood far back against the speakers, and was practically camouflaged. Matt looked amazing all in black, and really fitted the frontman role, his left boot still pounding the stage to the beat of the track. To his left, Dan was kitted out like a french convict. Horizontal black and white striped jumper, and black trousers. And hiding away on the kit, Derek was in a black suit and red tie, to match his shade of eye-shadow. His sweeping quiff over his eye finished off his image, which is that of a Good Charlotte member. He didn't look very happy to be there, in all honesty.

The day before this gig, it was Matt's birthday. He had taken one card on stage with him, and asked for the person responsible.

"Is this really you? Really? Thank you. I will keep this with me forever. Thank you. Turning thirty was never so easy."
He placed it back on top of his speaker, and the music started once again.

Crowdsurfing began. One of the worst things about going to a gig, having a highly inconsiderate bastard hurl themselves over the crowd, and boot you in the back of the head. What is the point. You go to see a band, not to climb on people.

A few people in the crowd were holding up a banner saying "free the memphis three, prevent this tragedy" referring to the guys on death row at the moment. Matt read this, and spoke a bit about it. Prevent This Tragedy wasn't on their setlist, but because of this banner, they played it anyway. And good on them. You have to have a certain amount of respect for a band who can just randomly chop and change their setlist. Not all bands have that much flexibility, because they don't feel comfortable playing all their songs live. After the track, like the end of every other song, all the lights went down except for the one shining up on their skill backdrop, and applause erupted from the fans.

More great songs followed. Maybe I'll Catch Fire, Crawl, Deathbed, I was Prayin', Hell Yes, Cooking Wine, Poison, You've Got So Far To Go, Warbrain, We've Had Enough. The crowd were enjoying it, and so was Matt. He'd strut around the stage and grin at individuals, handing out picks and joking with the crowd.

"Hey, I know you don't really care, but well, I can sympathise with that."

They then played This Could Be Love, which in my opinion was played brilliantly, and their best song perhaps. It was another one that you could be sure everybody knew, screaming along. And just like the time previously I saw them, they didn't miss the spot for crowd interruption, getting us to follow "this could be love" with "love for fire." As we all chanted back, Matt's face lit up. This was their "last" track, and they walked off. Everybody knows that when you go and see a band, there's at least one encore. They were clearly coming back, even if the demands for "TRIO, TRIO, TRIO!" hadn't started. So "reluctantly," they came back, to the piano intro of Time To Waste. This track was a close second to the one before, and was played very well indeed.

"Last time we played in Sheffield it was, erm..."
Matt looks over to Dan, who shrugs, he doesn't have a clue.
"I think it was a much smaller place, about five or six hundred people, and a load of things got stolen."
Dan still has no idea, and turns to look at Derek.
"Anyway, this is our last song, thank you Sheffield."

Radio. Excellent. A great end to a fantastic gig. More applause than you can shake a stick at. Everybody moved out into the bar area and viscinity.

Myself and Jon stayed in the bar, got a drink of water and waited for the crowd to disperse. Randomly I strolled up to one of the other gig attendees and shook his hand. He was wearing a Ross Noble t-shirt. Couldn't really help myself. I have exactly the same one.

When we left, we stood in the foyer of the University student area, to keep out of the cold. There was a man trying to clear the area.

Review by Thom

 Alkaline Trio

Dan Andriano (Bass, Vocals)
Derek Grant (Drums)
Matt Skiba (Guitar, Vocals)
 Zico Chain

Chris Glithero (Bass, Vocals)
Paul Frost (Guitars)
Ollie Middleton (Drums)
 Band Related Links
Alkaline Trio Myspace
Zico Chain Myspace
 Review Score Code
- Top Cheese
- Brilliant
- Pretty damn good
- Ok I guess
- What Was That?