Alkaline Trio was one of the many pop-punk bands to ride the tidal wave of 90s popularity to mainstream success, but among the few who made it out alive. Whereas most of their contemporaries succumbed to the changing of the tide, Alkaline Trio continues to trudge along, having released their most recent album “Damnesia,” a collection of their most popular songs in a stripped-down acoustic form, only a year ago.
On Wednesday night, Alkaline Trio’s primary vocalist and guitarist Matt Skiba stopped by the Barn for the first stop on a short West Coast solo-acoustic tour. He was greeted by a packed house eager to sing along to their favorite Alkaline songs as well as choice numbers from his solo work. Local musician Flat/Wheeler and Kevin Seconds of the almighty hardcore punk band 7 Seconds rounded out the show.
The man who wrote “Young ‘Til I Die” with 7 Seconds 28 years ago, Kevin Seconds’ current work largely revolves around getting older. But in true 7 Seconds spirit, he sees his age in a characteristically positive light. As he talked about the “crispy” sound his guitar makes after having dropped it too many times, he said, “I’m 50 now, and I’m getting more and more brilliant.”
In his second show at the Barn in 12 months, Seconds curated his set with a balance of both upbeat and mellow songs, punctuated with crowd chatter and finely honed anecdotes. Stories about how he wrote his songs, like when he confusedly stumbled across a group of kids playing bicycle polo one day and how that encounter led to “Sunday Afternoon Bicycle Polo,” gave his music an added livelihood.
Seconds also played a new song, “Deaf Ears,” which will be included in a new 7” EP release this year.
All of the night’s acts had good senses of humor, and Seconds didn’t shy away from his own slightly self-deprecating bits. “I was trying to write a song for Johnny Cash, but I can’t really with my Mickey Mouse voice. When I listen to some of the old records, I think I sound like Mickey Mouse.” All in all, his set was fun and friendly, and people couldn’t help but dance by the time it ended.
Self-described as a “ramshackle affair,” Matt Skiba’s performance was as intimate and informal as you’d hope it to be. He walked onstage and showed the audience his setlist, which wound up serving no purpose whatsoever. The set was primarily chosen by shouted requests, and many of the obliged requests were for songs he had largely forgotten the lyrics to.
In these situations, a performer would traditionally be met with boo’s and projectile fruit and/or beverages. For Matt Skiba, this was not the case. In fact, he managed to turn it around and make the show even more fun.
Skiba sought the help of some “smarty pants” up front to coach him through a few moments of lapsed lyric recall, and everyone laughed it off. He then went on to describe other notable musicians’ thorough back catalogs and their blatant inability to remember lyrics. He cited Billy Joel and Elton John as two notorious cheaters, hilariously lambasting their use of teleprompters at shows. At least Skiba gave it some effort.
Despite the disorganization, nothing could stop the Barn-filling sing-alongs to Alkaline Trio classics like “Bleeder,” “Blue in the Face” and wildly popular closer “Radio.”
The night’s climax came when Skiba gave a speech about 7 Seconds’ influence on him when he was young, and particularly Kevin Seconds’ role in that. “Thanks to him, thanks to posi-core, I turned out alright.” He then brought Seconds out to perform a duet of “Soul To Keep (For Phyllis),” a song from their 2002 split album.
By the time he left the stage, Skiba had played 20 songs, most of which he hadn’t even planned for. But that’s what made the show so special; it felt as though a group of friends had gathered to hang out, tell jokes and sing along to some great music, all informal, and completely devoid of teleprompters.