Being just one of a handful of gigs that Kansas emo standard-bearers The Get Up Kids are playing this year means that anticipation for this set is already high, but the fact they're playing second album, 1999's Something To Write Home About, in its entirety means that it's higher than usual. Of course, that means the potential for disappointment is greater, too.
Riot Fest: The Get Up Kids
Venue: Humboldt Park, Chicago
Post-hardcore heroes revisit their classic Something To Write Home About album
Luckily, the five-piece do that record justice and then some. Despite internal differences and problems in the past, resulting in a short hiatus between 2005 and 2008, all five members are in high spirits, noticeably joking around and having fun. They also feed off the energy of the crowd - a gathering of people old enough to know better but young enough to pretend, all of whom gave this band their hearts the first time around when they were teenagers.
As they do on the album, Holiday and Action & Action kick things off with angsty aggression, a rush and roar of broken promises and dreams that still pain all these years later. What's more, though they too are older, the band play these songs as if it were 1999, full of the same raw power and emotion that defined them back then, yet somehow also tighter, more confident. Playing off the band's heartbroken yet romantic reputation, frontman Matt Pryor addresses those who may or may not be watching the band from the Ferris wheel in the near distance. "If nobody is getting engaged up there right now," he jokes, "we're not doing our job right."
Engagements or otherwise, though, they are. Ten Minutes and I_'m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel_ - the latter accidentally played out of sequence due to Pryor's excitement at playing it - sound phenomenal, the added weight of nostalgia after all these years increasing their emotional reach.
And even though the slower songs - Valentine, Out Of Reach, a stunning version of I'll Catch You, the record's last track - aren't necessarily festival songs, they're still an important part of this moment and have just as many people singing along, arm in arm and savouring the moment. When that last track is over, Pryor announces that they're going to play their debut in full, but he's joking. There's only time for three more songs, so they blast through Coming Clean, Shorty - which burns with more urgent desperation than ever - and Don't Hate Me. "Maybe we'll come back next year and play that whole record properly," says Pryor before the band leaves the stage. You can already count people saving up for the tickets, travel and accommodation on the off-chance that might happen.