The Get Up Kids at Clubhouse Music Venue Last Night

At any given point in a man's life, he's got that one shirt -- be it a tee, polo, western, or over-sized Packers jersey -- that just stands a bit taller than the rest of the crowd. A shirt with such a distinguished place in the normal shirt rotation, that he's your go-to-guy when you really need to dress like yourself. Jerry Seinfeld refers to such a shirt in the classic episode "The Marine Biologist," explaining to Elaine what "Golden Boy," his favorite shirt means to him.

When I was 15, I had a Get Up Kids shirt that featured the band name stylized in like The Godfather logo, with puppet strings and all. For years, that shirt was my "Golden Boy," despite the fact that it was black. I wore the shirt all the time, because it fit perfect, sure, but because I boldly wanted to proclaim my love for The Get Up Kids, and their defining albums Four Minute Mile and Something To Write Home About. Defining to me anyway.

As much as as the band meant to me, I never managed to see them live. When they broke up in 2005 -- following an album I didn't much care for, Guilt Show -- I figured I would never get the opportunity. But as seems to be in style right now- The Get Up Kids reformed last year, to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Something to Write Home About. Something must have clicked, because rather than make it a nostalgia trip, the band recorded a new album, There Are Rules, released yesterday, as they played the Clubhouse.

I couldn't help but wonder if seeing the band would be like "trying to go home again," that the Get Up Kids, now in their late thirties, with children of their own, could live up to the expectations of 15-year-old me.

As it turns out, I really didn't need to worry; The Get Up Kids of 2011 aim for an entirely different feel than their younger incarnation. The band was always plagued by the media's desire to categorize them with the burgeoning emo movement, but the new songs played by the band last night couldn't have sounded less "emo:" The throbbing bass-lines, courtesy of Rob Pope, who also plays with Spoon, jerking rhythms of drummer Ryan Pope and synth-led melodies by James Dewees suggested the likes of Devo more than Dashboard Confessional.

"You guys are old," a crowd member shouted early on, and the looks on songwriters Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic suggested that the joke wasn't all that funny. "Nice observation," Suptic remarked.

The new material suggests that the band's reunion isn't just a cash-in. The tracks were more aggressive, tauter and stranger than anything the band has done before. Opening with "Tithe," the band made it clear that the new material would be present, but sliding into "Action & Action" immediately after was clearly the band playing to their strengths; the new songs may have been welcome, but everyone wanted the hits.

The band sprinkled them throughout the early parts of the set, but as their set drew to close, they focused on the catalog, ripping through "Holiday" and "Don't Hate Me," pulling requisite power ballad moves with "I'll Catch You," and sending the crowd off wanting more with "Ten Minutes," which closed their set.

As the lights came on, it was clear that the band wasn't doing an encore. "I'll pick the songs, thank you," Pryor had chided the crowd as they shouted requests. It's refreshing to see a reunited band come across as so focused, interested in creating new sounds, and not just pandering to the shouts of a nostalgic audience. I don't know where it will get the band financially, but The Get Up Kids are making music on their own terms, even if that leaves the audience asking for more. 

Good for them. Though, yeah, I was sort of bummed they didn't play "Central Standard Time."
Set list:

"Action & Action"
"Regents Court"
"Red Letter Day"
"Stay Gone"
"Shatter Your Lung"
"I'm a Loner, Dottie, A Rebel"
"Holy Roman"
"Keith Case"
"Campfire Kansas"
"No Love"
"Walking on a Wire"
"Don't Hate Me"
"I'll Catch You"
"Ten Minutes"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Get Up Kids at Clubhouse Music Venue

Personal Bias: I already told the t-shirt story. If you are wondering what happened to the shirt, I am too, not that it would fit anymore.

The crowd: Mostly white kids, eager to raise their hands in the air and shout every word at singer Matt Pryor.

Overheard in the crowd: "Who ever is farting needs to stop."

Random notebook dump: New stuff is twitchy.  

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.