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MxPx Allstars @ YMCA Auditorium (19.10.12)

We’d use two words – “stoked” and “ skeptical” – to describe how the crowd in the YMCA Auditorium felt as the doors opened at 6:50pm.

Judging by the murmurs in the crowd, it was obvious that many weren’t so sure about MxPx Allstars being held in this auditorium that seemed far too reminiscent of a 90s school hall. I mean, come on, Mike Herrera and his band deserve better, no? Perhaps the hall has had its fair share of golden days, but for now, it didn’t seem to appeal very much, other than being a just another event venue. But we were in no position to complain – we were satiated with the opportunity to watch our teenhood hero play live.

At 7:20pm, the four-piece band did just what most opening bands hope to achieve, getting the group of some 70 early birds pumped up with head-bobbing tunes like ‘Escape’ and ‘Remembering’. With traces of pop punk in their melodies, we’d think they’d be happy to have their music compared to that of Foo Fighters and The Ataris.

Halfway into the band’s set, frontman Izzad Radzali introduced Zan from local pop punk group Attention! The New Portsdown, as the band’s stand-in lead guitarist for the night, playing in place of the original member who had work commitments.

We were especially impressed with their song ‘Aku Menunggu’, for despite it being sung in Singapore’s “first language”, it was a rock ballad, relatable even to the non-Malay-speaking community. And gradually, the whole “school hall” joke from earlier in the night didn’t seem so bad after all, for the sense of familiarity we had with the place took us back to the nostalgic days where punk rock and post-hardcore still reigned supreme.

Plainsunset took the stage next, and with their years of experience in the music scene, lead vocalist and guitarist Jon Chan must’ve said these Thank You speeches one time too many, for he good-naturedly uttered what he had called “a long chunk of typical” acknowledgements, before ending the speech shyly with a special but brief mention that tonight’s show was his “first time playing as a married man”.

Formed in 1996 (a heads up, that’s just 4 years after the birth of Blink-182!), the five-piece band has been largely admired by young bands for their success on both local and foreign grounds. Clearly, they have lived up to expectations. By the second song, they had already charmed the audience into singing “When the sun rises again, I will be there with you my friend”. And by the fourth number, ‘Checking Email’, the crowd, led by the enthusiastic members of You And I Collide, pretty much went crazy.

Unfortunately, the venue’s sound system didn’t quite do the band justice. The vocals sounded muffled and the lead guitar parts were obscured. It was a tight act nevertheless, and we’ve got to give it to this 16-year-old band for their high-energy acts throughout the set.

The best was yet to come. Mike Herrera and his all-star band took the honours to do their soundcheck behind the drapes. What a better way to start a show than from behind the curtains, with all that suspense? At 9pm, the band was all set to go, and the crowd hustled forward, many of them already yelling the lyrics from MxPx’s large discography of songs, in uncontainable anticipation.

Mike Herrera stood by the right of the stage, and for a long moment, his presence just felt… divine. We would think that for many, it was a surreal feeling having him back in Singapore since his last show at Singfest in 2007. The band got the ball rolling with the predictable but highly anticipated, ‘My Life Story’. There was no need for warming up – the crowd went wild the moment the drummer gave the starting cue. The anthemic ‘Tomorrow’s Another Day’ came next, and the moshing began almost instinctively.

We could go on for hours describing the scene for every song Mike Herrera played, but to cut a long story short, with so much energy in the crowd, it was as if the audience had downed several cans of Red Bull before the show. In fact, the number of stage dives that took place got so out of hand, that just before the outro to ‘Middlename’, Mike had to remind us to “be careful” and “not jump on the face”.

It was nice that Mike took care to play their early numbers from the 90s, mentioning that he knew Life In General is Singapore’s favourite album. He also played two songs from the band’s latest release, Plans Within Plans. When the set ended with ‘Chick Magnet’ (his jazzy bass solos were just brilliant), we were disappointed– not with Mike, but with the fact that the venue had policies for activities to end by 10pm.

With the rowdy calls for an encore, the band came back up to play another four songs. Despite a broken string, guitarist Jack Parker gave Mike the thumbs up when asked if he could go on. Of course, the crowd favourites were saved for last, and the band ended the show with ‘Punk Rawk Show’ and ‘Responsibility’ – so apt for all of us who were once teens and are now all grown up and tied down with adult responsibilities.

The crowd sang and moshed as if we had all telepathically planned to do so with the “Fuck it, these three minutes, I’ll be a kid again” attitude. Couple that with fans climbing on to the stage singing alongside Mike and ingeniously taking self-portraits with him with their front-facing phone cameras, and others who took the final opportunity to crowd surf. The crew had no control over the crowd and had to resort to pushing everyone off stage. But all’s well that ends well, and the MxPx Allstars show was definitely made a night to remember for the 200 fans who came down.

If an MxPx show doesn’t make you feel like you’re 15 again – made even more convincing with the school hall setup – we don’t know what can.

Never mind the speakers that seemed to be throwing hot and cold tantrums at the crowd. Never mind the handheld cameras that seemed to block your sight. Never mind the missing members of MxPx’s original line up (okay, maybe it would’ve been awesome if the rest of the group were here too, but you know what I mean). Because despite all that, we’d have to say that this gig was the real deal. It was kickass.

A noteworthy strike off the bucket list; a pat on the back if you missed it.

By Serene Yap