Sunny Day Real Estate, Get Up Kids Turn Back the Clock in Austin

After a full week of the extreme chaos that descends on Austin, Tx., every March, locals and visitors alike welcomed a feel-good trip down rock’n’roll memory lane yesterday (March 16) as part of a special afternoon SPIN concert with Sunny Day Real Estate, the Get Up Kids and Die Spitz at Stubb’s BBQ.

For Sunny Day Real Estate, the show was their third on a just-launched North American tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their post-hardcore classic Diary, which went on to inadvertently achieve legendary status amid the nascent genre known as “emo.” That wave had already crested and risen again when the Get Up Kids released their beloved 1999 sophomore LP, Something To Write Home About, which helped establish Vagrant Records as the haven for emo up-and-comers such as Dashboard Confessional and Saves the Day.

These disparate milestones came together on a day when Get Up Kids frontman Matt Prior was celebrating his 46th birthday, making it all the more celebratory for the band to be performing Something To Write Home About in its entirety for just the second time ever. The presence on the bill of young Austin rock quarter Die Spitz reinforced the multi-generational vibes, as grizzled punks could be seen banging heads and pumping their fists right alongside headphone-wearing toddlers hoisted high on their parents’ shoulders.

Despite several members battling the types of illnesses one can barely hope to avoid after playing eight local shows in five days, Die Spitz still brought the thunder with a sound steeped in delightfully grungy sludge. Acknowledging the honor of playing with “two kings of emo,” primary vocalist Ava Schrobilgen seemed particularly worse for the wear health-wise, but that didn’t stop her from climbing an on-stage speaker rig to sing the set-closing “Evangeline” from Die Spitz’s 2023 debut, Teeth. The group also played some as-yet-unreleased new material, which should serve them well on an upcoming spring tour with Teen Mortgage. Be there before all your cool friends talk your ear off about Die Spitz six months from now.

Die Spitz’s Ava Schrobilgen (Credit: Keira Hand)

From the opening drum fusillade and fretboard slides of “Holiday,” the Get Up Kids provided instant emo euphoria during a complete run-through of Something To Write Home About. “It has been a while since we played some of these songs,” Prior admitted, but that certainly didn’t deter the audience from singing along with every word. The Kansas City-reared combo threw in a winking nod to Austin with a snippet of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” before “I’m a Loner Dottie, A Rebel” and, after a loud squeal of amplifier feedback, deemed said sound to be “the best wave of emo.”

Albums such as Write Home marked an important shift in emo from the more brooding fare of the genre’s forerunners to a style informed by bright melodies and urgent tempos — a combination that felt just right yesterday as the sun occasionally peered through dense gray clouds. Whether Get Up Kids will continue to revisit this landmark project on stage remains to be seen, but as part of this Austin one-off, the experience undoubtedly put big smiles on a whole lot of faces.

The Get Up Kids (Credit: Keira Hand)

“It’s amazing to think this all started 30 years ago in Seattle and now we’re here,” Sunny Day Real Estate frontman Jeremy Enigk told the crowd early in the band’s headlining set, which comprised a complete performance of the genre-defining Diary. SDRE’s trials and tribulations have been well documented, but the band has stabilized since returning to the road in 2022 after a 12-year break and was visibly moved by the response. “It’s so awesome to look out at all your smiling faces out there,” Enigk said. “Thank you for sharing your joy with us.”

Three decades on, anthems such as “Seven,” “In Circles” and “Song About an Angel” still induce the chills, their power only magnified with the passage of time. Original members Enigk, guitarist Dan Hoerner and drummer William Goldsmith, augmented by multi-instrumentalist Greg Suran and bassist Chris Jordan, imbued the often inscrutable material with new levels of emotional resonance and depth of feeling — qualities which made Diary so unique in the first place.

What’s more, fans were treated to live performances of several Diary tracks rarely played in the ’90s or subsequent reunion tours. Everyone but Enigk and Jordan left the stage for “Pheurton Skeurto,” a beguiling piano number with an almost nursery rhyme cadence, while the earworm guitar riff on the hard-charging “Round” belied its near-total absence from the band’s setlists for 30 years. In another neat twist, the set opened with Hoerner and Suran alone and strumming the chiming opening portion of the song “8.” Written during the Diary era but not released until 1995’s LP2 (after which SDRE broke up for the first of several times), it was a reminder of how music can often be a great unifier, whether rooted in its original circumstance or recast in a totally different context.

That’s why the seven-minute show closer “Novum Vetus” hit extra hard. Only SDRE’s second new song since the early 2000s, it’s based around a previously unfinished piece of music from a brief period in 1997 when original bassist Nate Mendel was considering rejoining the band. “Every open door is a world turned on its side / all these things we’ve said before linger on,” Enigk sang, his words straddling the chasm between uncertainty and hope at a time when such a distinction is more meaningful than ever.

The Diary tour resumes May 1 in Raleigh, N.C., and two days later, the group will release a new song-by-song version of the album recorded live last year at Seattle’s London Bridge studio.

Originally Published Here.

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