By Tanner Meadows
Wednesday night, Jan. 24, in downtown Austin, nearly the entirety of Mohawk was packed with hair-dyed and merch-clad young adults leaning on the railing of the venue’s multi-layered balconies, standing and facing the stage en masse, waiting patiently for DIY emo-kid superstars Jeff Rosenstock and Joyce Manor, opened by Remember Sports, to appear on the stage and start the show. The North American tour was planned in support of Joyce Manor’s latest album, Million Dollars To Kill Me, released in September of last year.
Remember Sports, from Gambier, Ohio, opened up the night by delivering a basement rock sound with a folkish twang to a crowd of approving and generally in-time head nods.
A personal favorite of mine and many, Jeff Rosenstock, took the stage, backdropped by his signature flag, slightly resembling that of the United States: the stripes recolored and arranged into what most would call a rainbow, the stars removed and the blue box in the top left occupied instead by the number 666 encircled by the white silhouettes of a certain leaf. He began his set with a bit of banter about Red Hot Chili Peppers, a reminder that his shows are meant to be safe and harassment free and that we, the crowd, are responsible for keeping it that way, and finally that, having played Austin a handful of times not very long ago, he and the band would play some deeper cuts, but differentiating between them and the singles is difficult when it comes to an artist like Rosenstock–that is to say, there are no duds.
Audience energy and movement at the beginning of Rosenstock’s set began with all the momentum in one direction: forward towards the stage. People push forward, squish those up in front against the stage, are pushed back for a moment, before surging forward again like rolling waves crashing against a wall of rock. It’s an uncomfy way to dance, people! Side to side motion is key! Luckily, this dynamic was broken by the time Rosenstock got around to playing “USA,” the third song in his set. Rosenstock belted out the chant of the song, “we’re tired and bored,” though the crowd was certainly neither, and played a new song right after that, “The Beauty of Breathing.”
From there on out the show was a blur of light and sound, bodies crashing and bumping and being carried overhead and placed on the stage only to turn around and jump back into a sea of hands. “9/10,” the ballad off of Rosenstock’s latest record, POST-, provided a break in the action. The bright red, curly clown wig of a fan found its way to the stage and onto Rosenstock’s head. Toward the end of his set, having made his way offstage and onto the lowest balcony facing the stage and overlooking the crowd, Rosenstock hung over the railing and belted out the saxophone solo on “You, In Weird Cities” and after returning to the stage and finishing his last song, did a stage dive for himself.
The overall theme of the night was finding a way on top of the crowd and losing your stuff while you do it. Dialogue between who was on the mic, who had found something (driver’s license, shoes, socks, hats, etc.), and those who had lost their things was common. This dynamic became increasingly important as Joyce Manor took the stage and brought the already incredible energy coming off of Rosenstock’s set to a whole new level. They opened up the set with “Heart Tattoo,” and it wasn’t long before someone decided jumping off the stage wasn’t enough and took a dive from the balcony to the right side of the stage.
Joyce Manor kept up that increasingly ecstatic atmosphere throughout their set. More lost shoes, more crowd surfing, so much movement nearly every song necessitated the rescue of someone who fell to the ground. Approximately seven or eight people were down in a heap due to “Christmas Card,” but these types of crowds aspire to be protective and the only things trampled on that floor were beer cans and maybe someone’s glasses. Can’t save ‘em all. Finally, after a three song encore (you can do that when your songs are each about a minute long) the toss of a can by Joyce Manor’s Barry Johnson into the crowd marked the end of the show. A congregation of twenty or so people remained in front of the stage, searching for and sorting out what was lost and found, a whole Doc Marten being held in the air, waiting to find its way back to its uni-booted owner.
Featured image by Victoria Roxanne Hill.