Headlining punk band heats up snowy weekend

Welcome Back Weekend got off to a rocking start last Friday with the help of a punk rock show sponsored by the College Union Board (CUB) and WTSR, the College radio station.

The concert, held before a nearly sold-out crowd in Kendall Hall, featured Matchbook Romance as the headliner along with opening sets from Raleigh St. Claire, a student band from the College, and Days Away, who performed at the Rat last year.

Matchbook Romance has gained a steady fan base and recognition since the release of its first full-length album, “Stories and Alibis,” in 2003 under Epitaph Records.

“We like to play college shows because college students are our peers,” Ryan Kienle, Matchbook’s bassist, said. “It’s a more laid-back, different environment. We consider college shows to be more of a hang-out session than actual work.”

Singer Andrew Jordan echoed this sentiment when the group took the stage, remarking to the audience, “This is a really chill show. I like this.”

The band played a number of songs from “Stories” and also included an acoustic song from their recently released split with label-mates Motion City Soundtrack.

“I liked the concert, and I think it was great that they played such a small show here. It made things more personal than a normal concert,” Laurie Mandara, sophomore psychology major, said. “I enjoyed it, but I think it would have made more sense to have a concert of this sort in a different setting, maybe the Rec Center, so that people wouldn’t be restricted to sitting in seats. The music was great and the cost was minimal, but I saw a lot of people who wanted to stand and dance, which was not appreciated by the staff of the event.”

Although the set-up of Kendall Hall prevented students from truly interacting with the band, their applause, cheering and participation during fan favorites like “Tiger Lily” and “Promise” showed that they were truly excited to have Matchbook play at the College.

The boys of Matchbook Romance hail from Poughkeepsie. Their success story is unique, as they achieved popularity and an eventual contract with Epitaph Records through self-promotion on the Internet.

“We got the golden ticket. Totally Willy Wonka style all the way,” Kienle said as he reflected back on the band’s signing.

Still, he maintains that musicianship is the key to the signing of a good band. “Be honest musicians,” Kienle said. “Sound the way you want to sound. Don’t try to sound like ‘the scene.'”

Jordan remarked on the similarities among many of the punk bands that are making a name for themselves at this time. “There are a lot of cookie-cutter screamo bands out there right now,” he said. “It’s been done before, and it’s lame. Our new album’s not about that.”

Their next album, set for a tentative release in late summer, was named by Alternative Press magazine as one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2005.

Two thousand three’s “Stories and Alibis” focuses a great deal on personal relationships, and although the band does not have any definite lyrical content at this time, it seems that the next album will follow suit.

“Andy writes about people in his life and things he sees,” Kienle said. “I’m sure that every song will have to do with some kind of relationship-whether it is boyfriends, girlfriends, parents or divorce. He provides a really human perspective by taking things from other people’s lives and combining them with his own.”

Kienle admitted that there is some pressure to live up to the expectations and praise that many popular punk magazines and Web sites lavish upon them.

“There is a lot of build-up for this album,” he said. “If we don’t come through, who knows what will happen? But I’m confident either way. We will make music that we want to play and put out a record we love.”

Matchbook’s show at the College was the first they had played since beginning a two-month hiatus in December. The band decided to take this time off to gather material for their new CD and to spend time with their families before the intense months of touring.

At the beginning of February, they will embark on the first ever Epitaph tour with Motion City Soundtrack and The Matches.

“This tour is going to showcase the younger generation of Epitaph,” Kienle said. “The label is so huge and has done so many great things. I feel like the torch is being passed on to us, and we are part of something greater.”

Despite an upcoming Alternative Press cover, a new video for their single “My Eyes Burn” and a spot secured on the main stage for this summer’s Vans Warped Tour, the band remains down to earth and is not phased by their recent success.

“All I know is, I have enough money to make it ’til next Friday,” joked Kienle. “And really, what more do you need?”