There are some bands you just know you’re never going to see live. Minor Threat? Nope. Operation Ivy? Never going to happen. Joyce Manor? Well, that one is possible…. for people who don’t live in Vegas. (Seriously, why do you hate us, Joyce Manor? We love you!) For a long time, I had the Lillingtons sadly placed on the list, as the Wyoming act was defunct and even if they did reunite, it’s not like Vegas is a hotbed for niche pop punk reunions.
Well I was wrong. Dead wrong.Or maybe just slightly unconscious wrong. The Lillingtons did reunite and they played Vegas not once but twice (you can see photographic evidence of those shows here and here). And in early February, I found myself no less ecstatic to be catching the band for a third time.
The show started with a few pleasant surprises. First, the Beauty Bar’s back patio was absolutely packed just moments after the doors opened. With so many faces unfamiliar, it was like being at a Punk Rock Bowling gig. Second, doors opened on time! I will always give high praise to venues and promoters dropping punk time in favor of actual, “showing the fans respect”-time. And third, local openers Jerk!, whose brand of rambunctious, Lookout Records-influenced pop punk was a perfect fit to kick off the night.
The touring portion kicked off after a speedy instrument change with Orange County’s the Last Gang and Oceanside’s the Bombpops. Both bands, like the night’s headliners, are signed to Fat Wreck, with the Last Gang being a bit more gritty and Bombpops more, well, poppy. The Bombpops have taken on a pretty relentless touring schedule since the release of their Fear of Missing Out full length last year and it seems to have paid off, as there were quite a bit more than a handful of fans singing every word to earworms like “Capable of Lies” and “Be Sweet.”
With the opening sets over it was time for the return of the Lillingtons, who came out onstage to “Drawing Down the Stars,” the closing track of the band’s 2017 release Stella Sapiente. From here, the band bounced between songs from their various albums, with the crowd going particularly wild for tracks from the band’s sophomore opus Death by Television, including “I Saw the Apeman (On the Moon),” “X-ray Specs” and “I Need Some Brain Damage.”
But the highlight of the night came with the set ender, “Lillington High,” an absolutely perfect piece of pop punk that proves the Robert Browning quote that “less is more.” The song is two and half minutes with only one verse and chorus repeated, telling the story of lost high school love and regret. Vocalist Kody Templeman sings with such longing and remorse, it’s really a stellar performance which sounds even better with a crowd of rowdy fans shouting the along with the best cheerleader chant in all of music (sorry Toni Basil), “L-I-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N-S!” Hearing songs like this live makes me realize how lucky we are to get the band in town so often.
Photos by Aaron Mattern | https://www.flickr.com/photos/akmofoto/
The Lillingtons setlist
Drawing Down the Stars
I Saw the Apeman (On the Moon)
Murder on My Mind
Until the Sun Shines
I Need Some Brain Damage
Don’t Trust the Humanoids
Invasion of the Saucermen
Golden Dawn/Knights Templar
Black Hole in My Mind
I Came From the Future
War of the Worlds