Poster Children at Bottom of the Hill, by Patric Carver
Poster Children (photo: Patric Carver)

Bottom of the Hill is celebrating their 25th anniversary as a central force in the local music scene, so it is fitting that pivotal rockers Poster Children would play there while touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their watershed album, Daisy Chain Reaction.

Opening bands Taxes and Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends warmed up a crowd that was already boiling over. Taxes’ Robby Cronholm urged the crowd to come closer to the stage by stating, “the disparity is getting to me,” before swinging into a melodic set that was pleasurable if forgettable. Aside from a few technical difficulties at the start of their set, Taxes displayed proficiency and passion. However, proficiency and passion alone do not make for entertainment. Taxes has been around for a while, but vocally they sound like a band just getting started — literally trying to find their voice. I hope they do, because Taxes’ romantic nature was very inviting and endearing. Sadly, this romantic nature manifested itself better in the chocolates and roses that the band bought for concert goers to keep with the anniversary theme of the night than it did on stage.

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends, however, played a set that was absolutely captivating. Their heavy guitars and unison shouts reminded me of a time when rock and roll still rocked. With an air of Van Halen and a touch of the blues, Neutron bolted into their set with “Chair of Antlers,” a roaring and winding fever pitch that transported me back to the amazing rock of the otherwise miserable Reagan era. They were jointed on stage by the talented Cyndy Melanio from La Fin Absolute du Monde for a few tunes including “The Aristocrats.” When belted out by Melanio with Neutron throwing passionate riffs at the crowd, the song became nothing short of rock theater. There never seemed to be a moment when Neutron was off — a perpetual showman in the best way. Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends proved that not all class clowns and creative thinkers were silenced by the Ritalin-dispensing ’90s. Some of them still hit the stage and play rock music.

Regardless of how good Neutron played, nothing could have compared to the delight that was Poster Children’s set. If I had to pick one word to describe their set it would be joy. Everyone had a good time during this set.

Poster Children are the best kind of rockstars. They walk a line between being performers of celestial caliber while still being completely approachable. “Does anyone have any questions before we get started?” the slight bassist Rose Marshack asked of the crowd before letting a fan hold her Travis Bean bass to feel its heft. The crowd is full of admirers, to be sure, but it also seems to be full of friends as well. That’s the atmosphere that this band creates.

It wasn’t just good feelings and Kumbaya, though. There was plenty of rock. Bringing in heavy guitar sound and manic lyrics, Rick Valentin looked positively possessed through most of the set. His brother, Jim Valentin, complemented him on guitar as they tore through songs with a wicked fervor. Marshack appeared to be keeping time as much as drummer Matt Friscia as she pounced back and forth on the stage like a human metronome, her wild dark hair flying about. She often held her hands up making a pushing motion, as if she was trying to create more space in the ether for all their sound.

The crowd pulsed along with the band to songs pregnant with force such as “Dynamite Chair” and “Cancer.” They rocked and swayed to the anthemic lullaby “He’s My Star.” They begged for more even when the house lights came up and the bar tenders were issuing last call.

Seeing the show, one could easily forget that it has been nearly a decade since they last toured. In line for the ladies room after the show, I overheard someone say, “There’s always a fear that when a band like Poster Children goes back on tour after so long that they’ve forgotten what it means to be on stage.”

I’d argue that there’s two problems with that statement. Firstly, Poster Children belong on the stage — they own it. There’s no way they could forget was it means to be up there. Secondly, there’s no band, “like Poster Children.” Poster Children are an entity all unto themselves.

Let’s just hope it’s not another decade or so before they come around this way again.

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