A number of weird things happened at last night’s Sorority Noise show in Long Beach, and before discussing Remo Drive I think it’s important to run down them real quickly.
The first would be that it was in Long Beach at all. Originally scheduled for the Constellation Room, a 300-capacity side room in Santa Ana’s The Observatory, the show was rescheduled last minute to DiPiazza’s, a half tiki-bar half-pizza joint known for booking small local showcases, not regional fourth wave emo acts. To give you some kind of indication of the drastic difference in setting, size, and preparedness, at the end of the month the venue will be “Jammin all the hits!” when they play host to Fantana, a Santana Tribute Band; if you mention Long Beach Softball, you can get three dollars off, although off what is unclear.
The second was the between sets music selection, at least leading up to Sorority Noise. After Remo Drive’s set concluded, without missing a beat the venue speakers rang in with Jim Atkin’s all-too-familiar “Are you listening / Whoaaaa ohhhh ohhhh ohohohhhhh” and a minor singalong to Jimmy Eat World’s “Sweetness” kicked in. The sensation was slightly jarring — venue’s rarely play into radio hits as background music, and I can count on maybe one hand the number of times I’ve ever seen a venue crowd break out into song between acts. What would unfold while Cameron Boucher and company set up their equipment on the tiny stage was the venue’s spontaneous interpretation of Emo Nite, rattling off hits to the delight of both a youthful all ages crowd, who were treating the mini-DJ set as an extension of the show, and to us older nine-to-five working shlubs who actually lived the radio peak of those songs. Included in the set was Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” Taking Back Sunday’s “You’re So Last Summer,” and Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” (in which not just one, but a NUMBER of kids pushed their way up to the front of the stage for what become a mini-headbang sesh with their friends).
The third weirdest thing occurred once “Ocean Avenue” ended. The event happened very quickly, and to whose fault it was I can’t say. The anticipation of another singalong, clearly somewhat built up by a crowd who seemed enthusiastic and a venue whose energy was building really beautifully into Sorority Noise’s last set in O.C. for the foreseeable future, was cut down by some low register guitar picking and a whispering voice singing “Watch you, on the one’s and two’s / through a window in a well lit room.” The savvy crowd quickly picked up on the blunder as a number of cries of “Turn it off!” and “Shut this shit down!” rang out. Clumsily, Brand New’s “Failure By Design” was turned off and that all-too-familiar “Are you listening / Whoaaaa ohhhh ohhhh ohohohhhhh” rushed back in until Sorority Noise properly took the stage a minute later.
All of those things were weird. And all of those things have certainly stuck with me in the hours after the show ended. But I’m not sure anything will stick with me more than Remo Drive’s set, which felt in many ways pretty weird. I haven’t been to other tour stops where the rising Minnesota rock act have opened for Sorority Noise, but if last night was any indicator, the billing of the two almost needs to be flipped.
Greatest Hits, the band’s loftily titled and excellent 2017 debut, was a splashy and defiant statement, so much so that its cheeky name got an unquestionable pass (and an eventual signing to Epitaph). Perhaps the albums greatest strength, and something that maybe gets slightly overlooked in this current wave of small venue rock acts, is how straight forward it is. In a wave of similar bands being influenced by sweeping 90s slackerism, twee noodling, or math rock, Remo Drive are pretty plainly a rock band, and a really good one at that. If the band rests on the laurels of making hooky, punky rock songs with crunchy guitars and see-sawing vocals for their follow-up, you’d see probably very few complaints.
But what was lost on me listening to Greatest Hits last year was how many of these songs would fit right in next to “Ocean Avenue” or “You’re So Last Summer,” not because their sound is similar (it is) but because of how easy they are to sing along to. From the clapping breakdown during “I’m My Own Doctor” to the quick, succinct phrases that make up “Art School,” Greatest Hits, as well as the bands new three-track EP Pop Music, lended to the live show surprisingly well.
As I watched Remo Drive, my jaw dropped a number of times. If a local had walked in accidentally for his slice of ‘za and that night’s drink special, they’d have assumed this was the band people were there to see. Just as many people knew and sang all the words, at least by an eye check, to every song Remo Drive played as they did Sorority Noise, and the energy between the two was fairly topheavy. The crowd surfing and pit made for a rawkus environment that DiPiazza’s was decidedly unprepared for; a number of times I saw kids surf the crowd and kick the speakers or lights that were hanging precariously close to the stage and my heart stopped for fear that they might become dislodged and fall on the crowd. With normal sized ceilings, this was a restaurant, not a rock venue, but Remo Drive and the crowd seemed unfazed by time and place.
Song after song turned into a singalong. None of them were quite as universal as “Sweetness,” but then again few are. When the show ended, dozens of teens and young people emerged from the crowd, shirts dripping with sweat, and you couldn’t help but feel like it was Remo Drive, not Sorority Noise, that they were there to see. During a night that saw former emo idols being torn down in real time, at a show where one of the scene’s buzzy statesmen was retreating away at the height of his power, a future idol emerged by kicking the door down telling us that they’re not about to eat shit daily for long. Remo Drive aren’t going anywhere, and you’d do good to go check them out because soon that crowd’s level of energy isn’t going to be weird anymore.