The Lawrence Arms - Pub Rock - 2/14/14

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The Lawrence Arms Pub Rock 2/14/14

It's safe to say that I had a better Valentine's Day than the majority of the Valley. Unlike most of you, I didn't have to deal with either setting sky-high expectations for a beau or sulking about being single -- I just got to see my favorite band play its first Phoenix show in five years, and it was worth the wait.

Admittedly, I'm biased -- I saw The Lawrence Arms three times last year in Las Vegas and Chicago, but nothing beats watching a beloved band in your favorite town.

It's clear that Phoenix was longing for this show -- the crowd was already crazed during Nothington's opening set but went all out as Larry Arms opened with "Chilean District," the first track from its first full length album in eight years, Metropole.

This was followed by "Great Lakes, Great Escapes," which I've grown accustomed to hearing as an opening song. My memory gets a little fuzzy after that, because I couldn't even reach my phone to take notes. My car keys already had fallen out of my pocket, so I didn't want to risk losing my phone and not being able to find a way home, so here's what I recall from the rest of the show.

I spoke to bassist/vocalist/all-around hilarious frontman Brendan Kelly before the show. He told me their set would be an experiment since the band was testing out new songs in Scottsdale. With that, I was expecting to hear the bulk of Metropole, but the selection of new songs was appropriate for a band that's touring on an album that just came out.

Most of the standout tracks of Metropole were included -- "You Are Here" was fun, and "Seventeener (17th and 37th)" was introduced as the band's love song. Kelly then told a story about a couple that got kicked out while the band played the song because they were fucking in the crowd, and somehow a third person was involved and stuck a finger in a butthole. That was more or less the extent of Kelly's funny stage banter, though he also asked who was lonely and desperate on Valentine's Day.

He introduced a few of the band's songs that clocked in right around a minute and a half. "Drunk Tweets" was best received of the short songs, as the crowd didn't have to know the lyrics beyond the repetitions of "fuck you."

The set was also full of old favorites: "Necrotism," "The Slowest Drink at the Saddest Bar on the Snowiest Day in the Greatest City," "Cut It up," and "The Ramblin' Boys of Pleasure" are always a blast to hear live. "Are You There Margaret, It's Me God?" remains one of my favorite songs to hear, thanks to Kelly and guitarist Chris McCaughan's dueling vocals. When I saw the band open for Alkaline Trio in Orange County decades ago, sections of the crowd alternated vocals. That wasn't the case Friday night, as the crowd instead continued shouting the whole time, which works just fine.

I've seen Lawrence Arms more times than I can count over the past decade, but what keeps bringing me back is the variety. Every show seems to include some sort of surprise, and in Friday night's case, it was the band's encore.

After the crowd chanted the band's name and enticed it to return, each member was called back on stage one by one by name. Kelly said he already performed the songs the band planned on, resulting in requests for songs like "Nebraska" and "Hey, What Time is Pensacola, Wings of Gold on Anyway?", but Kelly muttered The Greatest Story Ever Told, as McCaughan strummed a few notes and launched into "The Raw and Searing Flesh," which I can't recall hearing since the band performed at Modified Arts in 2004 or so.

The Greatest Story wasn't over yet: "Flesh" transitioned into "The Disaster March," which was also a bit unexpected, but ending the show with "Good friend, how loud do you want life to shout her answers in your ear?" was pretty incredible.

I may not have had a date and I may not have gotten lucky Friday night, but The Lawrence Arms show made for the best Valentine's Day I've had yet. Instead of spooning, I was in a mess of people who swayed around and thre elbows, and I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Lawrence Arms at Pub Rock

Personal Bias: I think it's clear, but if there are any doubts, the timebat was my first tattoo, and I'm leaving for California this morning to see two more days of Lawrence Arms.

The Crowd: Lots of guys in their 30s who got pretty rowdy.

Overheard in the Crowd: "I'm gonna go to Slipknot next" -- the guy behind me who got frustrated from all the pushing.

One More Thing: If you have long hair, please put it in a ponytail if you plan on headbanging. Getting a stranger's hair stuck in a healing nose ring hurts like a motherfucker.

Find any show in the Valley via our extensive online concert calendar.

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