By Allyson Bills
It was a trip back in time on Saturday for the Lawrence, Kansas quintet The Get Up Kids at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix, Arizona, literally for both the band and the audience. This was their first time in Phoenix since 2011 when they toured in support oftheir last album, There Are Rules. I first heard of them in 1999 during my freshman year of college; however, I didn’t really get into them until early 2001. I listened to this band throughout the rest of my college years, and was ready to re-live those years for a moment in time as well as hearing some of their newer material.
The Get Up Kids took the stage around 10:22 with funky, circus-like music in the background as an introduction, and a Kansas flag on bassist Rob Pope’s amplifier. Then singer/guitarist Matt Pryor took to the sold-out crowd that this show “was twenty years in the making.” They wasted no time going into “Holiday” which is coincidentally the first song from their album Something to Write Home About, which is considered a classic in emo circles. The crowd was excited and singing along to the chorus, so much so that someone threw a beer can onstage. No one in the band appeared to notice; at least from my perspective.
If you loved all The Get Up Kids’ albums, except for Guilt Show, Simple Science EP and There Are Rules, then you were in luck because their set-list contained none of these albums. What the fans got was a set-list heavily favored towards their first two albums, Four Minute Mile and Something to Write Home About, which are the fan-favorites. It seemed like The Get Up Kids wanted to re-live their early years as the band, just like their fans.
The second song of the set, “I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel,” from Something to Write Home About got the fans riled up in the opening lines singing a capella, “Come tomorrow // I’ll be on my way home.” Then there was a moment during “Out of Reach,” when guitarist/vocalist Jim Suptic and Ryan Pope stood together while playing over Pryor’s lyrics “Start over // There’s no way to begin,” which drew “oohs” from the crowd. “Shorty” from Four Minute Mile got fans clapping on the interlude, which was the most “emo” song, and well-received one of their set that gave everyone around me the feels. It’s emo music, after all; if you didn’t get emotional during “Shorty,” you were missing out.
The songs that mostly gave the crowd those “emo feels” were “Valentine,” which Pryor dubbed as a “love song” to the crowd, and “Red Letter Day” both from Something to Write Home About. Besides “Shorty,” these songs were the most well-received songs during the show. It’s not surprising, because love and lost are always relatable subjects in songs that brings people together. The latter gained considerable national attention when it was featured on MTV’s The Real World: New Orleans soundtrack, released in 2000.
However, the fans didn’t appear at times to be receptive to any of the songs which Suptic was the principal vocalist. These were the times when the crowd was super quiet. This was evident on “Woodson,” from their self-titled EP, is one of the “oldest The Get Up Kids songs,” which really highlights the talented rhythm section of the Pope brothers. This was also apparent on “Forgive & Forget,” from Red Letter Day, which was dedicated to their friend Eric.
The only Suptic-written song which was reciprocated by the crowd was “Campfire Kansas” from On A Wire, which was the only song played from this century. This was the most mellow song of their set with only Suptic and keyboardist/vocalist James Dewees onstage, and the crowd singing along. It was nice to see Suptic have that intimate moment with the crowd, and for them to finally appreciate his songwriting abilities.
The addition of Dewees to the The Get Up Kids after Four Minute Mile has been a godsend to the band. This a guy who has played in a multitude of bands with different styles such as Coalesce, his own Reggie & The Full Effect and My Chemical Romance, and it’s amazing to see how well he adapts to the plethora of musical styles. Having him on the keys for Four Minute Mile’s “Stay Gold, Ponyboy” and “Lowercase West Thomas” adds dimension and texture to these guitar-driven songs that were not otherwise there when these songs were originally released. There was lots of love for Rob Pope from the band, but not so much for James or so it seems. He is definitely the most underrated member of the band.
Before their final song of the set, “I’ll Catch You,” which is fittingly the last song off Something to Write Home About, Pryor addressed the audience that he never thought The Get Up Kids would make it to twenty years because he only thought the band would last “about six weeks.” “I’ll Catch You” was the perfect song to end their set: a slow, but powerful number which again mainly featured Dewees’ talent on keys, and still justified why he is the most underrated member of this band.
After “I’ll Catch You,” The Get Up Kids weren’t done just yet, because they came out to do a five-song encore. The fact that the The Get Up Kids were twenty years older was evident when Suptic pointed out Pryor’s elementary school t-shirt that he wore on-stage (presumably his kids’ school) and talked about parent-teacher conferences. Pryor then dedicated their The Cure cover, “Close to Me” from “Eudora,” to all the teachers out there. Lyrically, the song dedication didn’t make sense, but it was nice to see those be recognized who work in often times a thankless profession.
The Get Up Kids also played another popular cover The Replacements, “Beer For Breakfast.” Through to the very end, there was a ton of love for Ryan Pope, the drummer who is often overshadowed in The Get Up Kids, which Pryor got the crowd chanting his name after “No Love” from Four Minute Mile. Everyone in the band was a winner that night. So was the crowd, which was also treated to “Off The Wagon” from the Woodson EP and “Ten Minutes” from Something To Write Home About. Suptic acknowledged the crowd’s dedication after “Ten Minutes,” stating “hopefully, you’ll be here twenty years from now.”
Overall, The Get Up Kids haven’t lost a beat musically, and their chemistry as a strong as ever. However, throughout the set, I had reservations regarding the variety of their set-list as it was an anniversary show. I felt they were doing a huge disservice to their fans by not including at least one song from Guilt Show, Simple Science EP and There are Rules. These albums exist and deserve some attention in their own right, and are not be forgotten. Musically, they are different from their other albums, but it doesn’t matter because they personify the band’s growth. It’s good to move forward with the times. Hopefully, twenty years from now, The Get Up Kids will include some songs from those albums in their next anniversary show; and more coffee cups onstage.