Jawbreaker / Composite / Neutrals at Great American Music Hall, San Francisco

Neutrals were good, really dug them. 1990’s punkish indie rock played by three guys who looked like they were teens in that era. From what I could make out of the lyrics, it sounded like at least a couple of their songs were about California. At one point in their set, they made a joke about the show being a "punk rock parents date night" and asked people to raise their hands if that was true of them. A fair amount of the audience did so...

Composite was an all-girl punk band. Good music. At one point the lead singer made a statement on the #MeToo movement - 1. People need to communicate boundaries, 2. People need to respect each other’s boundaries, 3. Everyone needs to practice strong consent. Hardly anyone in the audience applauded this. Really, guys? Disappointing.

Jawbreaker, holy shit. It started out pretty packed. They started with Boxcar, audience went nuts dancing and singing along. West Bay Invitational was next and that went well too, good audience participation.

Chemistry started off rocky because Blake accidentally skipped the next song in the set list. The other guys caught on to what was happening and joined up with him. Blake stumbled over some lyrics in the second verse, but quickly recovered with a grin.

After the song was over, Chris told Blake about the skipped song and so they played it next - Save Your Generation. Then came Million, which Blake introduced by saying something about it being a series of events. He cracked a joke about it “ending with heading down to Turk Street and mainlining pure bleach.

Then came Want, which the crowd went nuts for. This was another song that got one of the best audience reactions of the night. Lots of singing along and dancing in the pit. I think this was the one that Blake introduced by saying, “Contrary to what @huffpost says, Jawbreaker is more than just Chris’s band. Adam Pfahler plays drums and I sing.

Sea Foam Green was next. Blake introduced this one by saying it was another song in a long line of road songs. “By the Dashboard Light…King of the Road, Hit the Road Jack… Head Games by Foreigner… no that was not one. Anyway, this is a road song.” Audience had a pretty good reaction to it.

Jet Black - I think this was the one that Blake intro’d by saying he(?) likes to bloviate. After announcing this, he paused for a couple seconds to look into the audience. Finally someone yelled “I don’t know what that means” and Blake deadpanned “I don’t either.

Jet Black brought out a quiet intensity in the audience. No one was dancing hard, but you could tell people were feeling it. At the end, the band split up the voiceover narration. It began with the usual, “Sometimes when I'm driving on the road at night, I see two headlights coming toward me, fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly head-on into the oncoming car.” But then here, rather than launching into the next part of the quote, the band cut off the narration and began playing a roughly 2 minute instrumental portion that built in crescendo until the final part of the voiceover kicked in (“I can anticipate the explosion: the sound of shattering glass, the flames rising out of the flowing gasoline."). The instrumental break was fucking amazing and a great addition to the song. I would love it if they released that as an alternate take someday. 

Housesitter came next. Audience was pretty mellow during this one, you could tell most people weren’t familiar with it. 

Condition Oakland - Something happened during this one (not sure what - broken guitar string?), so Blake stepped back from the microphone for a bit. He fiddled with something over where his guitars were. As he did this, Adam and Chris kept playing and the audience filled in with the lyrics. Finally, Blake came back and consulted with Chris (while Chris and Adam still played) about how to handle the rest of the song. Blake then stepped back up to the mic and they picked up the song at one of the early choruses. The rest of the song went good. Hearing the Kerouac readings in person was amazing - they were so crisp and clear. For me, that was one of the highlights of the show. After the song ended, Blake said something like “Good thing we don’t have any extra guitars.

Next came Ache – both the band and audience got a little mellower for this one.

After Ache, Blake asked the audience if they liked the tempo of the show. A few smattered “yeahs” and cheers in response. So they launched into Accident Prone next. This one is a big fan favorite (at least among people I’ve known), and the audience got pretty into it.

Kiss the Bottle came next and the audience went absolutely nuts for this one. After KTB ended, the band waved goodnight and went offstage. At first I was afraid people weren’t going to cheer them back. Some people left the floor, the pit shrunk a bit, people were giving tepid applause. Jawbreaker haven’t been doing encores at their recent shows, but I started clapping and stomping, along with a couple others. Finally enough other audience members joined in, and we got a pretty good stomp going, so the band came back out.

Sluttering - this was the one I’d been waiting for all night. I can’t tell you much, except that they played it and it went fine, because I ran into the pit as soon as it started and spent the rest of the song spastically dancing and screaming along.

Boat Dreams From the Hill - Blake announced, with a certain tone in his voice, that this would be the last song of the night. I stayed up front in the pit for this one. This one must have had a pretty good audience response, because it felt like audience around me was going nuts. I remember lots of people singing along and a guy crowd surfing next to me. I remember the pit came more alive for this one (compared to Sluttering) and feeling the pit sway back and forth in a gentle rocking motion as people crushed together. When I wasn’t singing along and dancing, I remember watching a couple in front of me... the girl was out of it. I don’t know if she was drunk, stoned, or just deliriously happy, but she was kind of falling over backward with her eyes closed, smiling. Her boyfriend/husband, who was dripping with sweat and laughing, was holding her up and twirling around in circles with her while he sang along. It was actually a pretty beautiful scene.

After that song, Jawbreaker put down their instruments, waved bye, and quickly got off stage. I joined up with Nolan again, and we spent some time looking at instruments and gear on the stage. And then we left. On the way out, Nolan saw someone who looked familiar. Thinking it was someone from a Sacramento band, Nolan approached him and asked “excuse me, are you in a band?” The guy kind of gave him a look and sarcastically said “Yeah, Metallica.” His friends laughed. Nolan persisted saying, “no really, you look familiar to me. do I know you?” At that point the guy softened and said he was in AFI. Nolan snapped his fingers and said, “That’s it. Okay, sorry to bother. Thank you for your time.

And we walked off to the car. We sang Jet Black on the way from the parking garage to my hotel, where Nolan dropped me off.

One of the best nights of my life, hands down. I’ve been waiting almost 20 years to see that show and honestly never thought it would happen.