Kids in the Hall

I can’t remember exactly what I did on my tenth birthday. Other than lose my virginity, of course. I probably spent the rest of the day eating cake, opening presents, watching Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and searching with a magnifying glass for germinating shoots of pubic hair.

Which pretty much describes what has happened at each subsequent celebration of the day I emerged — eight months premature — from my mother’s womb with what I’m told was an ungodly amount of body hair.

But I realize that not everyone has the panache to ring in each passing year by delving into succulent pastries and the formidable Rick Moranis canon. So I was willing to reserve judgment when I arrived at The Granada last weekend for the two-night bash being held to honor a decade in the life of the Get Up Kids.

There were no baked goods. No screenings of Spaceballs. And there was (sigh) no magnifying glass. But there was Mud Man, Leather Guy, Sign Girls and hundreds — or was it thousands? — of other people who had flocked to pay homage to the Kids paying homage to themselves.

“Happy Birthday!” lead singer Matt Pryor shouted, to himself apparently, before the first show on Friday night. “We’re the Get Up Kids from Kansas City, Missouri.”

Well, duh. That’s why we’re all here, Matt.

But we had to forgive Pryor a little posturing in the name of posterity. These shows were, after all, being recorded for a prospective Get Up Kids DVD and live album retrospective to be released this summer. This was a historic event, both because it was chronicling one of the area’s most successful bands and because it was rumored to be the last opportunity to do so.

“I don’t think they’re breaking up, personally,” Beth Karst, a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, told me. “But, it is the 10th anniversary, the DVD shoot, and there are the rumors … so I figured I’d better see them while I can.”

Beth is right. The band probably isn’t breaking up. Officially. But with Kids busy having kids (Pryor, I’m looking at you) and other side projects — New Amsterdams, Reggie & the Full Effect, New Found Glory and Black Pool Lights among them — another lengthy hiatus is all but certain.

So the crowd wasn’t taking any chances when the band launched into the first show with “One Year Later,” a song with ominous lyrics: Got your full attention/Over hours of speculation …We’re not running backwards/Don’t you know that we love reunion shows?/This is not a swan song/But it goes: If we had known what we know now/One year later, we’d still be around.

Interesting first song, fellas. Not exactly tripping over ourselves to kill that speculation, are we? Then again, most of the band’s lyrics could be construed as intricate hints foreshadowing the Get Up Kids’ demise. These guys did help birth the kind of emotional rock that allowed a generation of musicians to introduce hearts to sleeves.

Still, it was hard to resist extracting double meaning from ‘say goodnight’ means goodbye (“Holiday”) or I don’t want you to love me anymore (“No Love”). Call it the vulture instinct. But the band seemed anything but dead, even when Pryor stopped to catch his breath two songs into the weekend.

“I’m getting too old for this shit,” he panted.

“Speak for yourself,” keyboardist James Dewees countered. “That was only two songs … we have about 30 more to go.”

He wasn’t joking. The band tried to leave no song unturned during its two-hour, two-encore sets, playing selections from Four-Minute Mile (1997), Guilt Show (2004) and everything in between.

Many tunes were played both nights, with similar results. Namely, enthusiastic near-capacity crowds thrashing to “Shorty” and “Woodson” and wailing along with “Mass Pike” and “Campfire Kansas.” For all those who begrudge the Kids’ success, there was nothing but love as the band playfully poked fun at themselves and the audience.

“Thanks, guys,” Pryor said, singling out some Sign Girls. “I think that’s our first sign in 10 years.”

The sign, aptly enough, read: “Thanks for 10 years.”

Then there was Leather Guy. One of the Kids noticed him in the crowd during the second show. And then they all did.

“Check out the dude in the leather jacket.”

“Are you wearing leather gloves, too? That kicks ass.”

“Everybody meet Leather Guy.”

“You’re going to get so much dick in that jacket.”

But it was Mud Man who caused perhaps the biggest stir.

“That was my neighbor Pete — the Mud Man — who just hit me with the microphone stand,” Pryor said, pointing to the diminutive dude with curly hair who had launched himself out of the crowd and onto the stage. Pryor then recounted the time Mud Man appeared wearing only mud from head to toe.

This was too much. They were just making shit up now. The Kids-next-door thing could be taken only so far. So I sought the truth from the man himself.

“It’s true,” Señor Mud confirmed, “But I wore shoes, too. Chuck Taylors — you gotta go in style.”

Fair enough. So what’d you think of the show?

“Matt rocks,” Mud Man said. “His guitar sounds like someone starting a Weed Eater.”

Flattered, I’m sure.

I wanted a second opinion. I had decided even as “I’ll Catch You” still hung in the air that this had been the finest two-night birthday celebration I was sober enough to remember afterward. But what did I know? I spend my birthdays eating tortes and watching My Blue Heaven.

“I’m not the biggest Get Up Kids fan around,” Beth said after the last note was played. “[But] it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever been to.”

Listen to Beth. She knows what she’s talking about.

Categories: Music