(Source: Flickr / emik12)
Tonight, a relationship that began 10 years ago comes full circle. In September 2003, the Islington Academy threw open its doors to the gig-going public for the first time, with a headline show from Alkaline Trio. The intervening decade has proven colorful for both parties. The Academy has gone on to host the likes of Kiss, Muse, Paramore, Biffy Clyro and Alkaline Trio’s musical heroes, The Damned. In roughly the same time frame, Matt Skiba’s ghoulish punks have released five albums - spanning the sublime (Good Mourning) and the not so much (Agony & Irony) - while, of late, garnering a similarly variable live reputation. But, with latest album My Shame is True proving a return to form, and excellent appearances at Reading and Leeds, the omens for this 10th anniversary shindig are good.
Hand picked by the headliners as part of a K! competition, all-girl rockers Roses & Pirates only found out they were opening this show four days ago. This is a bittersweet triumph, though. In March, their drummer Fay Howell passed away suddenly. As a result, the trio are performing acoustically, celebrating their bandmate with the warmly received Lost Treasure.
The support bill is completed by Max Raptor, teasing their forthcoming album via the boisterous Grace and Favours, and The Drowning Men, who end with the polka stomp of Courageous Son.
While playing a venue of this modest capacity may be a pinnacle for these bands, this reconvening highlights that Alkaline Trio’s success has plateaued in recent years. They haven’t taken a step down, size-wise, to return tonight, like fellow venue alumni Biffy Clyro would be if they were appearing. And, unlike fellow pop-punk threesome, Green Day - whose very name receives a surprising chorus of boos when mentioned tonight - they remain criminally underrated. This is confirmed by the brilliance of this career-spanning set, beginning with a turbo-charged Private Eye before visiting newer highlights (I Wanna Be A Warhol) and even going back to “the first song we ever wrote,” 97 - a tune that predates this very venue by six years.
"This is the best crowd of the tour," Matt confesses. He may say that to all the crowds, but for sheer enthusiasm it’s hard to see how this one could be bettered. So, everyone back here for the 20th anniversary 2023?
5 MINUTES WITH MATT SKIBA
It it good to be back at Islington Academy after 10 years?
"It’s weird, because it seems like it’s gone by really quickly. It seems like only yesterday when they were saying ‘Oh, you’re the first band to play this venue!’ and then I look at the photo in the hallway [of the venue] of us playing here 10 years ago, and it suddenly seems like a long time ago. The time has gone by so quickly but, at the same time, so much has happened to us since we played here. It’s an honour to be back, but it’s very surreal. I’ll tell you that. I mean, the place is great and the people are great but, for us as a band, it really dates us in a sense… holy shit!"
How would you say you’ve changed as a band?
"I think we’ve just gotten better at it. Like any profession, hopefully with time you get better at it. Me and Danny’s [Andriano, Alkaline Trio bassist] one rule was always: if it stops being fun, we’ll stop doing it. Okay, this job isn’t fun 24/7, and it’s not as glamorous as some people might think, but I concentrate on the time when I’m onstage, because I’m in love with that. I think we got better at being really present and realizing, ‘This is the only time we’re going to play this show’ and making it as good as we can."
"What would the Matt Skiba of today say to the 2003 version?"
"Hmm, the one today would say, ‘You’re going to play this venue again in 10 years - so I’d get your shit together!"
Do you see yourself being here for the 20th anniversary show?
"Well, I certainly hope so!"
Ahead of their blistering set at Reading, we caught up with the band to discuss their legacy, the secrets to their survival, the catharsis of their latest album and how punk will never die.
"England always feels like a second home to us," said bassist Dan Andriano. "So coming and playing the Lock Up Stage, which has always been a huge champion of our band and we appreciate everything that Mike (Davies) has done - it’s important to us.
"We’re with some great bands like Quicksand, RX Bandits and a lot of good friends."
When asked about the secret to appealing to generation after generation of punk fans, frontman Matt Skiba said it was a simple matter of biology.
"I feel like most of the rejuvenation of fans comes from people having children, oddly enough," said Matt. "That’s when you know you’ve been a band for almost 20 years. New people get turned onto it, and I think the thing about English fans is that in the States you’ll neversee a Slipknot t-shirt at an Alkaline Trio show, but here half of the kids are wearing Slipknot and Alkaline Trio shirts - it’s not as snobby, gentrified or segregated. People are more open-minded here.
"Also, people fuck and have way more children here who turn out to be babies who turn out to be Alkaline Trio fans. If these two punkers were to fuck and have a baby, and that baby had ears then it’s going to like Alkaline Trio."
Watch the video interview @ the source