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Scene Around Town: The Ataris by Isabel Alcantara

The Ataris, The Weakness, Don't Panic, Stay Six and Road to Recovery played the Westcott last night!

PREVIEW: VISIT The AtarisRoad to RecoveryDon’t PanicStay Six and The Weakness on MySpace!

The crowd at The Westcott Theater Tuesday night was one that was constantly in flux. With The Ataris headlining and four bands preceding them, there was an ebb and flow to those in attendance; the constant being the two dozen or so fans who eagerly hugged the stage for the entire night, eagerly anticipating the headliners taking the stage. Opening act Road to Recovery performed the admirable feat of making the sparse crowd a little more lively, with their Taking Back Sunday-esque emo-punk sensibilities getting heads to nod and a promise of high fives to those who moved closer to the stage.

Stay Six, a four piece pop-punk band continued in a similar vein with each member, sans the drummer, rotating on vocals providing a brief but energetic set as the crowd began to fill out more.

Fan-favorite The Weakness brought the crowd to a peak in numbers and energy, handing off the microphone to audience members and launching into energetic pop-punk offerings nestled firmly in Blink-182 territory.

They were followed by Don’t Panic, a no-frills rock band reminiscent of the Foo Fighters with a bit of blues on the side. Though they offered something different stylistically from the other bands, they couldn’t get people moving like The Weakness could. To their credit though, they didn’t seem to have a small contingent of fans dedicated to singing along with them in the crowd.

Finally, four bands and nearly three hours later, The Ataris took the stage without much ceremony. In front of an audience about a hundred strong strung tightly along the stage, frontman Kris Roe quietly chatted with some fans as he and his bandmates set up. Here was a band that many of us listened to when we first started to develop our own musical tastes, whose songs we heard on the radio when we first had an itch to listen to what it had to offer, when we didn’t know the difference between mainstream and alternative and just wanted to find something to sing along to.

In many ways, the band, although admittedly not exactly the same one we heard a decade ago, knew exactly what resonated with its fans while putting aside any sort of theatrics that you might expect from a band that used to receive heavy airplay and be a billboard char topper. Roe himself expressed distaste for “The Boys of Summer,”  the 2003 Don Henley cover that made the band famous to mainstream audiences; when the song was repeatedly requested by audience members, he poked fun at the lineup changes the band has undergone recently: “They don’t know that song,” he said, referring to current members Aaron Glass, Bryan Nelson and Jake Dwiggens on guitar, drums, and bass, respectively.

Ironically, the setlist consisted entirely of old Ataris classics, mostly from their 2003 album So Long, Astoria. In fact, the title track opened their set, followed by “Unopened Letter to the World.” From there, the band played songs from their early albums and back again, including a powerful performance of “Summer Wind was Always Our Song.”

Also of note was the band’s performance of “The Hero Dies in This One,”  which along with “Your Boyfriend Sucks” exemplified what the band did best that night. With terrific control and understatement, Roe at center stage with his foot raised onto his monitor and Glass and Dwiggens at stage left and right, hardly moving from their stances they launched into instrumental breaks from Roe’s clear, poignant vocals that weren’t as brilliant on a technical level as they were on an emotional one.  The band’s final song for the night, “San Dimas High School Football Rules,” exhibited a lot of the same traits, as if they wanted to be remembered more for these more emotionally driven songs than the catchier breed of song they performed that night like “In This Diary.”

Closing the night, Roe stayed on stage after his bandmates exited, and performed “Fast Times at Dropout High.” In a night remarkably full of nostalgia for a band that’s just put out a new single and about to release a new album, those in attendance were able to, for one last four-minute stretch, reminisce with Roe, the one constant in the band whose music we grew up with.

(Photos after the jump!)

— Story by Joshua Rivera
— Photos by Lauren Rosenstein

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