JV All*stars at the Main Street Cafe, 1 August 2008

My crew was standing on the street outside Main Street Cafe when the maroon Dodge van with Nebraska plates rolled down Wyandotte.  It had been at little more than three years since I’d seen JVA at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis; during that time the band had released “Girls Forget Your Boys…” in Japan, toured the US, taken a year off, and recorded their new album “Take Me Back To Spectre.”  I’d moved to Kansas City, had three jobs, joined Five Star Crush, and written three records.

The theme of distance – geographic and relational (and the title of the band’s first full-length) – has kept JVA beautifully and almost achingly relevant for me as I’ve moved around the midwest, through circles of friends, away from some of the things I grew up with, and recognized that for better or worse I’m not particularly good at keeping in touch.

“Well, it’s wrong to say I wish you would stay;

Good luck in Boston,

I’ll see you around…”

The All*stars are heading up a four-band, 10-day package tour.  Young openers Get Down!, Four Word Cause, and Avery all played serviceable, appropriately impassioned pop-punk.  Sets seemed short, which I assumed was the venue’s responsibility but found out later from Eric Mellow is just the way these bands play shows.  Jill noted that keyboards are apparently the new necessity for the genre.
Avery’s rhythm guitarist cranked out a nice, rich tone with a borrowed Telecaster that, on its own, made their set sound 50% better than it would have otherwise.  Punk bands take note; rediscovering the midrange of your guitars and amps can make you sound bigger and better in a hurry.  It’s probably the best bang-for-your-buck sonic enhancement you can make!

It’s never less than thrilling to see four quirky, unassuming Lincolnites* shuffle around the stage, plugging gear in, checking mics…  and ripping into their first loud, fast, catchy-as-hell tune.

JVA tore through tracks from “Take Me Back To Spectre,” closing with a brand-new tune (“Prevention Kids,” demo up on their MySpace) and two from “Girls Forget Your Boys Forget Your Girls.”  The sound was good, though Mikey and Eric’s vocals weren’t loud enough (not too many bands have three lead singers, but the guys have gradually come to share songwriting and vocals almost equally).  I rocked out, sang along where I could, and generally lost myself in a moment that blended the new and the old.  New and old friends, new and old music, and an honest but hopeful look at the distance we’ve traveled and the road ahead, embodied in sound.
Afterward Nick was talking about when the All*stars played what seemed at the time to be their last show, which was howie&scott’s “signs.comets” CD release in 2004.  I remembered the show but not the weight it carried at the time.  Eric told me his grandma has had some issues with meds but is doing well now; we used to practice in her basement and eat leftover pizza with Milford kids.

We went to Jill’s house, where the band spend the night (Thanks, JG!), wrapping something like nine years of life and music into one moment, and it was heartening to think about time and friends and songs.  -h
*Mikey and Matty are originally from Wayne, how punk is that?!