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May 13, 2011

ARTICLE: On The Road With My Chemical Romance: Catching Up With the World Contamination Tour

“The highways I call home…”
When My Chemical Romance first announced their North Eastern “World Contamination” tour dates in support of their brand-spanking new album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, my friends and I decided to purchase a block of shows so that we could enjoy the experience together. In 2006, the band changed up their punchy, punk-infused sound with the epic, classic rock-inspired The Black Parade, promoting the album with large-scale arena tours replete with black confetti, props and explosions.
On this go-round, though - introduced through a similarly mysterious viral marketing campaign with the help of the band’s newly revamped blog space and twitter accounts - MCR scaled things down with the back-to-basics approach of playing local clubs sans stage tricks – just them and the audience, the way that it used to be before they broke big with their sophomore album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. For those of us unlucky enough to have missed that era of their career, this seemed like a prime opportunity to recapture the heart of that energy.

This album is quite the departure for My Chem - who like to remain full of surprises. Fans who were initially expecting a “love letter to rock-n-roll” ala Gerard Way, were ill-prepared for the synth-laden infusion which touring keyboardist James DeWees (Get Up Kids/Reggie and The Full Effect) expertly captures onstage. However, once you get past the strange new sound, the album is gripping in a manner reminiscent of Glasvegas’ excellent self-titled debut of 2009. Killjoys flows really well and the lyrics still communicate the band’s sarcastically nihilistic yet rather uplifting view of the world, which has always resonated with listeners. Plus, Ray Toro’s classic shred can still be found throughout. As the band lost drummer Bob Bryar during the interim of scrapping one album and making this one, The Bled’s Mike Pedicone has been filling in on skins this tour and is doing a very fine job of it.

At the end of last year, the band treated both their former and current hometowns to a series of tiny showcases plus a local club date. Roseland Ballroom was the first of the tri-state club shows in years (not counting the benefit show at Maxwell’s, which, though for a great cause, was too rich for most people’s blood.) Once the disastrously death-defying security crush was abated (their door situation is very poorly managed,) the place blew the fuck up. It was a frenetic, sweaty affair for all of us and the band seemed jazzed on the more intimate format – everyone was definitely looking forward to the upcoming spring dates.

The band played two consecutive nights at Terminal 5 in Manhattan a couple of weeks before hopping onto this tour, which was a bit of a hot mess. As is the way with fanbases such as this one, which these days enjoys being on barricade much more than they do tearing shit up in the pit, line drama tends to ensue. There were arguments, tears, and hollow threats of violence as the inevitable exhaustion set in from spending too many hours shivering on a rainy sidewalk. Terminal 5 has excellent security control, however (the exact opposite of Roseland) so the entry itself went by with little incident.

The opening bands set the bar very high: The respected The Architects from Kansas City (who I could go on about for days, but we’ll limit that to their own interview here and review here) and Neon Trees came out shooting and never ran out of bullets. Both will walk away from this tour with new fans, of that I am certain. My Chemical Romance is a band that no one wants to follow, however, and they rode that energy flawlessly. The band reintroduced some sorely missed classics: “Hang ‘em High,” “Thank You For The Venom,” “Vampires Will Never Hurt You,” and “Our Lady of Sorrows” and closed out the show with the much-beloved Killjoys track, “Bulletproof Heart.” The smile never left Ray Toro’s face. There were hugs and pats throughout and Gerard and Frank Iero finally got to have some local crowd contact in what has to have been years now.

Both band and fan took five to catch their collective breath for a couple of weeks before starting up the first leg of this tour, and then it was off to the land of long bus rides, improper diet and strange sleeping patterns for all. My group had decided to meet up in Boston and then road trip it from there. It was kinda rad, because the House of Blues is located directly across the street from Fenway, and on game nights, the area is jumping into the wee hours; the streets were filled with music and steak tip heroes.

Boston was an awesome gig – it’s a cool town and the people there are mad chill. The pit was fun as hell, and we met some new folks – all with tales to tell about how My Chem’s music had changed their lives; a phenomenon that I’ve found fascinating since I first read about it in an article several years back. Everyone has a story, everyone has scars, and everyone embraces these lyrics as though they’d been written for them personally.
I’ve seen this with other bands as well: The Bouncing Souls, Alkaline Trio, Bright Eyes, Thursday (who hopped onto this tour in place of Neon Trees - Circa Survive takes over for them in Florida starting May 18,) but the level of devotion that has resulted from this connection is quite impressive (and a bit unnerving at times, as there are some boundary issues associated with that.) These fans would absolutely follow their band into the sun, as noted by Mikey Way.

Leaving a kickass gig like Boston to hit up a seated theater in Philly could’ve been a letdown, but the bands turned it up to eleven and had us dancing in the aisles, which turned out to be lots of fun. The hotel night was a welcome respite before the mania that was the anticipated double nighter at the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey. The guest list for those dates was so astronomical that local opening band’s This Good Robot’s own family was forced to wait around outside Will Call with the commoners (we enjoyed meeting them however – their pride was evident, which was nice to see, and they had funny stories to tell.)

Starland is always a pain in the ass, because they market their Star Parking as a form of early admission, but hardly ever honor it, causing multiple line-ups, confusion and frustration overall. The energy in the crowd was definitely high the first night but spotty the second, which was unfortunate, because the performances were even better that night than they had been thus far. The saddest moment of all had to be when Thursday introduced themselves to the crowd “…in case you don’t know us…” Back in the day, My Chem used to open for Thursday, who ruled the scene in Jersey. Security still remembers catching all of the bodies non-stop for an hour and a half straight. Here, the only bodies there were to catch were fainting kids several rows back from the barricade.
Also slightly disappointing for some was the lack of anything particularly special for Jersey. The band added “Venom and Sorrows” back into the mix and played about a half hour longer, which was cool. Gerard gave a nice speech about coming home and Frank stage dove, but other than that, it could’ve been any other stop along the tour. I was hoping (and I think they were too) that My Chem would come out and perform “Jet Black New Year” with Thursday, as Gerard’s vocals are on that track, or that there’d be more Bullets material as Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly produced that album. But we were denied on both counts.

Speaking of catching bodies, though, DC was by far the best (and our last) stop on the tour for that. The surfers were pretty consistent and the crowd boisterous (although I wasn’t terribly appreciative of the elbow in my kidney for three songs straight, which almost led to an ejection for both of us.) The 9:30 Club also had the best security situation by far – early entry was handled efficiently and fairly simply by numbering the first thirty people in line and letting them in before the rest of the crowd.)
Since December, we’d been running consistently into a pair of girls from Colombia, who are working here as au pairs and were using all of their vacation time to follow My Chem. We’d been looking out for them – making sure they weren’t sleeping alone and had enough food and water – and apparently we weren’t alone. The bands had befriended these girls and had offered them guest list for any stop along the tour that they wanted, plus a couple of meet and greets. As DC was their last night as well, they received a shout-out onstage from The Architects and a flag that they’d made for My Chem graced one of Frank’s amps as the band played.

When Frank and Mikey came outside to sign before trekking the fourteen hours to their next stop in Atlanta, we thanked them for looking after our friends and ordered them to get some rest. We received some appreciation from them in return for being the familiar faces in the pit along that trip, singing along and making the place feel more like home.
As we made our own trek home, I reflected upon all of the memorable little moments of the tour: the laughter, the voicelessness, the solidification of friendships alongside the snippy little moments that can only arise from extreme fatigue, a few beers, a few tears and a whole lotta dancing. I thought to myself that, just like the bands, I want to do this forever, or at least until I am no longer physically able.

I’ve been reading my way through the other reviews, photos, etc. from this tour so far and I’ve gotta say: I’m extremely disappointed at some of the comments being made – not so much at the band, but at one another. My Chem’s message to their audience has always been about acceptance and not everyone is honoring that credo. It may be time for the parents to give another lecture to their brood.

Overall, though, the band seems invigorated with newfound energy and an already burning desire to get started on album number five, and the fans seem happily saturated by their presence, so all is mostly well. The band has been dropping hints about an upcoming tour here this summer, so keep your eyes peeled and keep on running.


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