Thursday night was yet another time warp of sorts for me. I’ve had quite a few of those this year as all these bands or musicians from my younger days are touring again and making new records. It is an exciting time as not only do I get new music from these bands but also a chance at seeing a band live that I didn’t get to at the height of their popularity. Even in the mid ‘90s when I first moved to Austin, I thought living in “The Live Music Capital” meant always getting a second or third chance to see any band I might have missed the first time around. Luckily for me I was right about second opportunities, only the next opportunity to see Gin Blossoms came many years later.
The Gin Blossoms concert at Antone’s Thursday night consisted of a well put together lineup. The opening band was good and their style of modern alternative complimented the headliner well. The second band was slightly better and more polished than the opener. Both bands’ styles of rock suited the Gin Blossoms audience well and they served as the perfect set up for them. It was the best example I’ve seen all year of what a three band bill should be.
Opening band Paper Mache is a new kid on the block here in Austin, having only moved here last year from Los Angeles. A little nervous and timid at first, it was obvious that this show was big for them, if not their biggest of their career. As the band got more comfortable in front of the surprisingly large crowd, they became more fun to watch and listen to. Their slightly edgy but approachable brand of alternative was a good fit for the Gin Blossoms crowd, which consisted of adults old enough to be their parents and a lot frat guys. Most of their set consisted of songs from their current album, Lightning Bug. “Tired Devil” was probably the crowd favorite from their set as that is when the typical opening band venue chatter seemed to lessen. Again, Paper Mache was a great opener for this show.
Stepping it up a notch after Paper Mache was Saints of Valory. Polished, musically tight and with all the confidence in the world, the Austin quartet impressed right away with “My Army” and “Dear Ivy.” I’ll spare you the Coldplay comparisons, but they sound like a band ready for mainstream rock radio that adult contemporary fans can handle. Again, not too edgy or too bland. Despite the approachable brand of rock, frontman Gavin Jasper was full of swagger and is an obvious study of rock and roll poses. The full house they performed in front of enjoyed their set and “Neon Eyes” was their biggest crowd pleaser. Saints of Valory pretty much set the stage for Gin Blossoms.
The night’s headliners came out to a packed house. It was strange seeing frontman Robin Wilson come out and not looking like he did in all those ‘90s music videos. Wilson didn’t have long hair, earrings or the awesomely bad ’90s style clothing worn in some of their music video from back then. Instead he came out looking like he should look, an older and short haired dad type not trying to pretend to be anything he’s not. He came out with a big smile and an extra tambourine to share with fans. It was obvious he came to have fun. Sure the rest of the Gin Blossoms lineup was slightly different than those ‘90s Gin Blossoms of old, but no one seemed to care. It was refreshing.
Gin Blossoms opened with two of their popular hits and best songs, “Follow You Down” and “Allison Road.” People sang along to almost every word and Wilson fed off that all night. The energy and excitement picked up with each familiar hit: “Found Out About You,” “Until I Fall Away,” and “Til I Hear It From You.” Sadly no one was singing along to their songs off of their latest album No Chocolate Cake, but that is to be expected as the band has a long catalog of hits that pop and adult contemporary radio stations all over the country still (over) play to this day. That’s too bad as songs like “Somewhere Tonight” and “Don’t Change For Me” are enjoyable songs. Plus, it was nice to hear new music from Gin Blossoms besides their “greatest hits.”
As I stood there at the front of the stage watching and listening all night to all the countless hits being performed, including “Hey Jealousy” in their encore, I was reminded why Gin Blossoms were one of the best bands in history. They are one of those rare bands that came out in the right era for their genre and that actually wrote good songs that became popular with all types of audiences. It is weird because if you’d stop to think about it, you’d wonder if they ever got that credit or recognition. Maybe it didn’t come formally, but their fans at Antone’s on Thursday night gave them their just due. Maybe they will finally get that somehow after this tour is over. I certainly hope so anyway, because they deserve it.
(Gin Blossoms performed at Antone’s in Austin, Texas on June 23, 2011)