Show Review: The Ataris – So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary Tour at Irving Plaza, NYC (March 30, 2014)

Despite being billed as a ’10 year anniversary’ tour, The Ataris So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary tour actually marks eleven years since the album’s release. To make up for that, Kris Roe was able to recruit former members guitarist John Collura, bassist Mike Davenport, and drummer Chris Knapp (aka, the band’s lineup when the album was recorded) to join him in celebrating So Long, Astoria on the road. On March 30 the band stopped at Irving Plaza in NYC for the final night of the tour with Authority Zero, Drag the River, Gasoline Heart, and Donald Spence providing opening support.

Donald Spence is probably best known as the vocalist of Versus the World (the current project of Mike Davenport, they also opened up on the West Coast leg of this very tour) opened things up with a solo set. I wish I could tell you how lovely his soulful singing voice was, but I missed out on his performance (thanks, MTA). Luckily for me, Spence made several other appearances throughout the night. I happened to enter the venue not too long after Brooklyn’s Gasoline Heart had started. The punk ‘n’ roll (that’s the commonly accepted term, right?) act had a nice energy throughout the half hour that I caught, with a Replacement-influence swagger and presence not unlike similar minded bands like AM Taxi and Architects.

Alt-country act Drag the River came out next and set a very different tone. Composed of Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price (aka, the only two constant members of the band), the duo had a very different energy from that of Gasoline Heart. Authority Zero’s rhythm section backed the twosome up during their set to give a more “full” feeling, while still keeping their laid-back vibes. A majority of the crowd didn’t seem too impressed, with lots of chatter filling the room during the songs, but not enough to distract from the performance once you got close enough to the stage. To balance out Drag the River’s mellow set, Authority Zero came out swinging hard. Without much of a warning, the band immediately launched into a very heavy set list, favoring short and fast songs with plenty of opportunities for the crowd to sing “woah”.

By the time Authority Zero finished up, it was already 10:20, and the stage looked nowhere near ready for The Ataris to come out. Generally this wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not a particularly ideal situation to be in on a Sunday night when you work a 9-5 Monday to Friday job, as was the case for most in attendance. But all that restlessness meant nothing once the houselights went down at 10:45 and the Ataris transported an entire room full of people back to 2003. It may have been years since this lineup of the band has played together, but they played as if they had never dissolved.

As with most full album shows, the setlist stuck to the order of the songs on So Long, Astoria, only slightly deviating by switching “All You Can Ever Learn Is What You Already Know” and “The Boys of Summer”. Roe, Davenport, and even Donald Spence (who was playing third guitar on stage with the band) would occasionally make remarks or tell anecdotes in between songs to the audience- such as how “My Reply” was intended to be the album’s second single until out of nowhere radio stations started playing “The Boys of Summer”, kind of forcing the band to just go with it- but for the most part the night was dedicated to the songs of So Long, Astoria and nothing more.

By the time the band finished their set, it was 11:35, which didn’t leave the band much time to let the audience build up much of a chant for the encore. Roe returned to the stage within a matter of minutes, said he’d play a couple of old songs, and launched into a solo, electric performance of fan-favorite “San Dimas High School Football Rules”. Roe then introduced current Ataris bassist Bryan Nelson to the stage, followed by former drummer Rob Felicetti, and the trio launched into a faithful cover of the Misfits’ “Skulls”. Roe and Felicetti joked about being on TMZ together (in case you forgot, they had a bit of a public feud not too long ago) and it looked as if they’ve made amends since the last time they shared the stage together.

Once the So Long, Astoria line up regrouped on stage, John Collura had some parting words for the crowd: “We ARE The Ataris”. Whether he meant that perhaps there was a future with this lineup or that he was just caught up in the moment of the tour wasn’t clear (although the latter was more likely), it was a great sentiment to end the night on, and the band finished with “I Won’t Spend Another Night Alone”, a fitting closer considering a re-recorded version appeared as a hidden track on the album.

Aside from ending way too late for a Sunday night show, the final night of the So Long, Astoria 10th Anniversary tour was a very satisfying experience for everyone in attendance. The album may be over a decade old at this point, but seeing the band play these old songs still made them seem fresh. No one knows for sure when The Graveyard of the Atlantic will be released, but at least The Ataris will always have the legacy of So Long, Astoria.

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