The Scene: The crowd was not at all what you would expect for a band that started out on the Christian-dominated label Tooth & Nail Records. There were several men with face tattoos, one gentleman had a full scalp tattoo, and lots of people had full arm sleeve tattoos. Many people consider MxPx to be a Pop-Punk band, but the crowd looked pretty fierce last Thursday. The Facebook event page listed only 42 people attending one hour before the event, but the Bluebird was packed from the pit to the balcony at the beginning of the show. Although the website listed the event as being $20 at the door, the venue charged $27 instead, and many were annoyed at the upcharge. It had been almost two years since MxPx played in Denver but many eager fans braved the freezing temperatures, icy roads and dangerous driving conditions and paid the last-minute upcharge to see them again.
Opener: The Potato Pirates. The usual Potato Pirates “fan club” was surprisingly absent that evening; there were no studded outfits and only a few people sported Mohawks. Most shows the Denver band plays are packed with teenyboppers who seem to only like The Potato Pirates–they usually leave before the main act. Singer/guitarist Vinny Capaldo-Smith even asked the crowd if anyone had seen them perform before; most of the fans they usually play for sport the band’s logo on anything they can, leaving no question as to which band they were supporting. The band’s set list was solid; they played some crowd favorites like “Work Horse” and “Fuck the Radio,” a new song called “Thinkin’ Bout Drinkin’” and the often asked for but seldom played track “Williams Street.” The Potato Pirates played with even more energy than usual. The sound system was great, Capaldo-Smith’s lyrics were clear, however Scott Risch’s (vocals, bagpipes, keg drum) microphone could’ve been louder. Andrew Williams’ (bass) and Steve Stackhouse’s (drums) microphones were the perfect volume; their sound shook the wood floor of the venue without reverberating in your ears. The band had great stage presence. At one point Risch jumped into the pit while singing, shoving several people around him. The Potato Pirates finished with “A Lesser Man,” a great track with an amazing performance by Risch on the bagpipes. Even though some of the crowd was unfamiliar with the music, the band had the whole crowd dancing around to Stackhouse’s superb drumming and chanting when appropriate.
Opener: Allister. The Back to the Future theme song played as the Chicago-based band Allister arrived onstage, perhaps alluding to the band’s three-year hiatus, which ended in 2010. They started their set with the “Scratch,” a great song to start a great set with (the popular track was featured on the video game Project Gotham Racing 2). The pit area of the venue was packed mainly with girls, which is rare for Punk shows in general, but a common site for Pop-Punk bands. It was the first time the band played at the Bluebird and eight years since they played Denver in general, playing last with the band Mest. The area around the stage was filled with dedicated fans, singing along to all their favorite lyrics, but looking past them there were many people who didn’t seem to know any of the band’s music. Allister had great energy; one guitarist, Kyle Lewis, threw his guitar over his shoulder and the members jumped around stage, they looked as though they were having a genuinely good time. This was enough to get the crowd going, people were dancing and the crowd clapped appropriately during “Runaway.”
MxPx: The Bremerton, Washington based band MxPx played an awesome set Thursday night; many of the songs they played were from the album Life in General, including “Andrea,” “Move to Bremerton,” “Middlename,” “I’m Ok, You’re Ok,” and “Chick Magnet.” During the middle of the set, all the musicians in the band except Mike Herrera (vocals, bass) filed offstage, allowing him to do a solo acoustic performance. He played “Dead Man Walking,” a track from his other band, Tumbledown. This second band is labeled as Alternative Country, but the solo performance didn’t have the Country twang that Tumbledown performs with, just Herrera’s sweet and soulful voice, which hasn’t changed much over the past 21 years. Herrera also played a cover of the Rancid song “Olympia WA,” a song about a hanging out in a city an hour away from Herrera’s hometown of Bremerton. They also played “Screw Loose,” “Wrecking Hotel Rooms,” and “Lucky Guy.”
Herrera does a weekly podcast, and is very comfortable in front of a microphone; he talked and joked with the crowd throughout the show, garnering laughs when he mentioned that he went to the infamous Denver restaurant Casa Bonita, saying he didn’t get sick because he didn’t eat the food. The band walked offstage one more time during the set. Fans chanted “MxPx,” hoping for an encore, a request that the band obliged, finishing the set with “Doing Time,” and finally “Punk Rawk Show.” The band played all the crowd favorites, even some requests, and everyone left with giant smiles on their faces, ecstatic to have seen such an underrated but highly influential band.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: C