Alkaline Trio, Leftover Crack and Bomb The Music Industry! are three of the mont important guitar-based groups to me.  I’d seen the first two a couple times each before, but I hadn’t had a chance to see the latter-est of that list until last night.  The experience exceeded my expectations.

Bomb The Music Industry! is known to give some iffy sets.  Sometimes Jeff performs with only an acoustic guitar, sometimes he has an iPod as a backing track/drum machine, sometimes he’s too drunk to give a good show.  For this tour, BTMI!’s got the full band, including the occasional live trombone.  Amazing.

Perhaps this lineup is the way it is because this tour’s (potentially) supposed to be the band’s last.  The group announced that news a few weeks ago via blog post, in which Jeff claimed that they’d most likely be visiting various cities as Bomb The Music Industry! for the last time (vague phrases like “most likely” included to avoid backlash if the group ever did decide to reunite).

The venue chosen for the band’s supposedly final Los Angeles show was called All Different Colors— a tough-to-find, tiny space squeezed between two convenience stores in a strip mall in industrial East Downtown LA.  Aside from the Greyhound bus station across the street, there’s not much activity in the area.  And the only way to recognize the venue is by the hand-scrawled “ADC” on the wall adjacent to the entrance.  And, tonight, of course, the crowd of people gathered outside in between opening sets to catch some air.

That outside-crowd was usually quite large, despite the fact that few were smoking cigarettes or other things you’d expect from a group of people standing outside a music venue in Los Angeles (the average age at the show must’ve been below the 20-mark, so I suppose it’s a good thing nothing like that was going on).  People were gathered on the sidewalk not out of the usual cigarette-smoking want, but for fresh-air need.  It was HOT inside the venue, and the only chance to feel any sense of temperature-related sanity was to stand near one of the two stationary fans in the room or to go outside.

After a few issues setting up, BTMI! began their set around their slotted 10:30pm time.  When all of the instruments really kicked in after a lengthy build-up, a few audience members starting tossing balloons into the air.  This started a balloon-hitting frenzy, and soon the party items were being kept afloat by the crowd and band alike (as well as being accidentally popped, occasionally).  Jeff commented that someone needed to bring balloons for all of their shows in order to keep the crowd entertained.

The band paused mid-set as they questioned whether or not they should play the song that they wanted to play before Jeff reasoned— “we’re in LA, we have to play it, right?”  They immediately dove into a cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” that stayed surprisingly true to the original.  The band also played their ska-style cover of Pavement’s “Gold Soundz” later in the set.

As far as their own songs go, BTMI! played several newer songs, off the group’s Vacation album.  These tracks, such as “The Shit You Hate,” are much less ska-oriented, and quite different than the band’s earlier discography.  Thankfully the band also broke out the old hits such as Get Warmer’s “I Don’t Love You Anymore,” which Jeff humorously introduced as a “new song.”  Despite warnings about the band’s tendency to be sloppy and unorganized on stage, they played fairly tightly and together.  Of course the group’s music is, itself, sloppy, but the full band worked together well.

Highlights of the set included renditions of “Stand There ‘Til You’re Sober” and “Congratulations John On Joining Everytime I Die.”  The latter song is interesting to analyze this many years removed from its release date, because it’s about a BTMI! member leaving the band to join a more popular group in the hardcore scene.  The lyrics include the repeated refrain of “nice going asshole,” so the “congratulations” in the title is quite sarcastic.  But while that move probably made John some money at the time, BTMI! has maintained an extremely passionate and dedicated fanbase while those other hardcore bans have lost their popularity.  Yet, still, the band charged $10 at the door at a tiny venue in East LA for their supposed last tour date in the city.  People that listen to similar music to me all around the country have usually heard of BTMI!, but they’re still not a “big” band.  It’s interesting how widespread their influence is despite never breaking through in a traditional sense.

Late in the band’s set, Jeff’s microphone started giving out.  After attempting to fix it by swapping cords and other methods, Jeff shook the microphone out, sending water flying all over the stage.  After that, it worked properly again.  The mic was drenched in his sweat.  “I’ve been doing live sound for over 9 years now and I’ve never seen anything like that,” the bassist commented.  That was the least disgusting sweat-related thing seen in the sweat-drenched room.  It was so hot in that venue.

The band’s stage banter wasn’t as drunken and funny as it usually is/could’ve been, which Jeff credited to him being too relaxed from “smoking weed and drinking beers on the beach all day.”   If musicians talking on stage is something you’re looking for, though, Jeff recommended the fan-made Paul Stanley compilation called People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest, which consists of 70 tracks of the artist’s stage banter from KISS shows.

At some point in the set, Jeff commented that he loves playing in LA and that he’s “90% sure” they’ll be back at some point.  “Why’d you lie to us, asshole!” someone yelled out when he said that, to which Jeff replied with a smirk and a new song.  It’s more likely that the band simply loves doing what they do, touring around, playing their songs and watching the audience scream back every word.  If this isn’t their last tour, I can’t blame them at all.  And I’ll go see them next time they’re in my city.

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