There are very few things that will make an aging scene dude feel his actual age more than anniversary tours that celebrate anything over a decade. Hitting 20 years of Page Avenue, the blisteringly catchy debut album by now 20-plus-year-old Story of the Year, is pretty wild to consider. I still have a distinct memory of catching them live with Saosin (featuring Anthony Green on vocals, just after their debut EP released) on the small stage at Birch Hill Night Club in New Jersey. Me and like 25 other people had a hell of a time.
The year is 2024, and significantly more folks were in attendance this time around. And here I am, there I was, in the crowd just the same.
My good buddy Ed was able to check out the tour at their stop at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey (one of my favorite venues in the state) - I think you should check out what he had to say about the show since it was almost 2 weeks before their Cincy date, they make for good points of comparison.
Now on to the show…
Youth Fountain opened up the night with a solid set of rock forward anthemic emo - a reasonable and well thought out choice for a tour opener. However, and unfortunately for the band, it was nearly halfway through their set that they realized that all the crowd could really hear were the drums and the bass - vocals and guitar were almost non-existent. Once the crowd alerted the band to what was up - another really strange occurrence I’m not sure I’ve ever seen at a venue of that size - they sounded great, and had a fun stage presence that worked well with the bands that followed.
Of the 3 bands on the bill (we love a 3 band bill, don’t we folks?) We The Kings ended up being the one I was most surprised by. Youth Fountain impressed simply by virtue of holding their own, sound-wise, with the other much more established bands. Story of the Year still sounded great, and were just as energetic as they were 20 years ago. We The Kings, though, brought a bit of fun, dare I say whimsy to the stage. As vocalist Travis Clark noted, he missed his kids, and as a parent myself, I understood the sentiment. The crowd indulged in his ask to record a silly dance for one of his kids, and the crowd, again, popped off when they found out they were filming for a music video. As a set, it was a lot of fun - though there were long stretches of not playing music, and, oddly enough, some of the same initial sound issues that plagued Youth Fountain - and made for an ideal waypoint between openers and headliners.
I admit I had not anticipated such a strong set from Story of the Year. I may have lost touch with the band over the last two decades - evolving taste and the ravages of time will have that kind of effect - but watching them perform tracks from the record they’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of, Page Avenue, I was easily reminded why I enjoyed them so much in the first place. The soaring choruses, the well placed screamo-adjacent breakdowns, lyrics you can just as much hum along to as shout at the top of your lungs. Sometimes when you make an album that happens in a very particular place and at a very specific time in modern music history, and it sticks, it continues to mean something and sort of lives a life of its own, that is absolutely worth celebrating.
The band cleverly mixed in some of their favorites - and their fan’s favorites - while playing tracks from the album throughout their hour plus set. It was a really great way to acknowledge the legacy of their debut while reinforcing that, “Hey, yeah, we just put a new record out and actually, we have a lot worth listening to!” Even with the weight of 3 weeks of touring quite obviously at play, the band was still full of energy and constant movement, they sounded great and worked through an honestly terrific mix of tracks from across their now 20 years as a band. Well done, and well played.
Sound issues notwithstanding - and the genuinely confusing way they were treating photographers at the show - it was a good night at Bogart’s. A majority of the staff continue to be awesome, helpful, and protective while we’re in the photo pit doing our thing. The fans were there to have a good time, and they did exactly that for a solid three and a half hours. It was only 20 years of memories to sing along to, after all.