It’s a great feat to coordinate plans for an 11 friend meet-up. It’s a great band that can inspire those plans in the first place. To get 11 friends with diverse music tastes, living in different cities to unify around one Canadian pop band and commit to a Friday night show proves how great of a band and time Alvvays is.
Our group was told to move multiple times as we waited for the second half of the crew to get through the Metro’s security screening on Friday night. There isn’t much room for a group of 11 to roll together at a Metro gig, and Alvvays’ sold out show was already packed to the point of sweat and spilled drinks during opener’s Frankie Rose’s set.
Rose’s trippy black and white album artwork played on a screen similar in size to what grade school teachers roll out for lectures. In a sold out crowd the setup was underwhelming, but the band’s whirly synth pop filled the venue and held the audience’s attention enough to encourage head bops.
After Rose’s set I ventured upstairs to see what the man checking me off the press list had mumbled about 3rd floor access. When I saw a velvet roped off area I was waved inside by a bouncer, my press sticker elevating and regulating my fandom. The view from the VIP area was great, but the dancing prospects were not. I ventured back down to my group of friends on the floor, the way a pop show is best experienced in my opinion.
The crowd grew a bit restless during the long break between Rose’s set and Alvvays start time. Someone in my group sleuthed out their Instagram story, the band was playing records backstage as of 19 minutes ago… Frankie Rose had ended their set around 8:20 — over 40 minutes ago.
“Alvvays? More like never,” one of my pals joked.
When the band finally took the stage at 9:03 they took their places in front of the venue’s velvet curtain, no screen in sight. This is Alvvay’s second tour post-2017’s sophomore album”Antisocialites.” I attended the band’s November show at Thalia Hall, and comparatively the sound at Friday’s show was underwhelming. The keys were muted, a disservice to Kerri MacLellan’s vital contribution to the band’s signature spacey sweet sound on songs like “Party Police,” and the guitars shrieked a bit too heavily during a few songs. There was also an overwhelming amount of smoke machine effects, especially noticeable during “Plimsoll Punks” – perhaps to embody the punk aesthetic.
With no projections and muted sound, the band compensated with their rock band banter and genuine enthusiasm. Lead singer Molly Rankin relayed an anecdote about the band’s trip across the border from their homeland, Canada. (Chicago’s show was the first of their American tour.) A border agent asked bassist Brian Murphy if he had any tattoos. He didn’t. The agent then asked him why he hated America. The question prompted the band to realize that none of their members had a tattoo.
Quips like that made the show experience: Even though their other shows on tour will hopefully have better sound and more dancing, the band rooted Friday’s set in unique anecdotes and an excitement around their first night of tour. During “Forget About Life” on the refrain “underneath this flickering light,” I transcended beyond the pom-poms hitting my cup, as the girl in front of me swayed in an adorned dress, to hone in on Rankin’s crooning as she jammed under the technicolor spotlight.
Although I was awed by the VIP press experience offered, I stick by my opinion that critics should review shows through the fan experience. Being in the crowd between opener and headliner, I absorbed comments and reactions. A girl in front of me yelled “I’m on Lexapro and I’m still crying” at her friend during “Forget About Life.” These little insights proved my theory that Alvvays connected with the crowd beyond screens and sounds, their fans were present in shared sentiment.