As the crowd began to chant the final few lines of The Starting Line’s classic song, “The Best of Me,” the band left their instruments on stage and waved goodbye, serenaded by their own lyrics as they departed from the stage of In The Venue on March 29.
This final song of a nearly two hour set marked the last time the Philadelphia-based band will be stopping in Utah for an indefinite time frame. Only a month prior to this final performance, the band announced they would be going hiatus.
“I think we’re all appreciative of what we’ve had and what we’ve been given and where we’re at in our career, but there comes a time when you want to see what else is out there and want to focus on different things,” said Matt Watts (guitar) in an exclusive interview with The College Times before the show. Kenny Vasoli (vocals/bass) was also in that same interview in the basement of In The Venue.
In the dimly lit pool hall, which is also referred to as the dressing room, Vasoli and Watts recounted what they had accomplished over the past eight years as a band as well as the events that led up to the decision to take a break.
“Basically, just doing this monotonously for eight years kind of drives us all to want to do other stuff for a little bit,” said Vasoli of the decision. Watts added that he felt that in relationships like this “people tend to start to grow apart on certain levels at some time, and — granted we’re all still friends — I think it’s one of those things where creatively everyone just needs to branch out for a minute.”
This branching out for three of the members of the band is coming in the form of new projects. Vasoli is working on getting an album ready to release this summer with his new solo project, Person L. Watts and Tom Gryskewicz (drums) are starting up a new project with some other friends from Philadelphia called The Seventy Six. In the interview, Mike Golla (guitar) was described as looking forward to spending time with his family.
The band announced their break in an online press conference through the popular music Web site Absolutepunk.net. After making the initial announcement, the band answered questions from fans on the site about everything under the sun.
“We didn’t just want to write a blog about it and have kids just take the news and that be it. We wanted to answer any questions that people might have. Absolutepunk is a great supporter of us,” said Vassoli of the decision to make the announcement through Absolutepunk. Watts added, “We just wanted to be in communication with our fans and keep them in the loop.”
To make what is, for now, their last trip around the country as memorable as possible, the band played a set of around 21 songs broken up into three- or four-song blocks. Playing from their entire catalog of songs, the group looked back into their 2002 release, Say It Like You Mean It, and their debut EP, With Hopes of Starting Over, for a large chunk of the material they played during the show.
Also coming in support of The Starting Line were label mates Steel Train, an up and coming band called Four Year Strong, and longtime friends Bayside. As the crowd filed in and began to fill up the floor, Steel Train opened the show by playing material from their recent release Trampoline.
Trampoline, though a departure from their earlier folk-heavy material, is full of driving guitars, flowing key arrangements, hooks, and a sensible, smooth rock feel that the band translated superbly live. Songs like “I Feel Weird,” “Black Eye” and a cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” captured the attention of most everyone in the audience, even a lot of people who hadn’t heard of the band before.
Following Steel Train were the hardcore group Four Year Strong. Providing their own unique blend for hardcore, which is dripping with melodies and catchy hooks, the group plowed through songs from their new record Rise or Die Trying.
Their set was cut a bit short, though, when Josh Lyford (synth, screaming) dove into the crowd to surf, and when he came back to hop back up on stage, was not recognized by security.
The bouncers proceeded to usher him away from the stage, though members of the band and stagehands tried to offer Lyford a hand back up. When they became more involved in trying to help their band mate back on stage than in playing, they quit their set a couple songs early and abruptly left the stage.
New York’s Bayside captivated the crowd as well, playing a good variety of songs from their discography, including “Masterpiece,” “Carry On,” and “Devotion and Desire.” A band burdened with the passing of their drummer and other hardships, they exude a brand of rock that, though dark, glimmers with light and hope.
At the end of their set, vocalist Anthony Raneri announced that the band would be heading into the studio following the tour to record a new album set to be released later this year.
Then, capping off an already wonderful show, The Starting Line blew away the crowd with a performance that included all of their best-known songs from the past eight years of their existence. Vassoli poured his heart into the lyrics and the band put the same intensity into the music.
“(We’re) just trying to take it all in and make the most of it and really have a good time with it,” said Vassoli before the show, about what the band is trying to put into this last round of shows.
As the band played an encore, which included the track “Need to Love,” from their latest album, Direction, and “The Best of Me,” an overwhelming feeling of gratitude fell over the venue as both the band and the crowd expressed their goodbyes.
Vassoli talked about times like these, saying, “Seeing so many kids that know the words — there’s no feeling like that. Writing something and then seeing a bunch of people enjoying it and listening to it a lot: It’s just such a great feeling to see people connect with something like that.”
The band is also putting their hometown performance in Philadelphia from this tour onto a live CD/DVD that will be released in the near future. There are also plans to eventually release a set of demos called the We the People Demos.