2024 Concert #1: MxPx & The Ataris

MxPx in concert on stage and audience in the foreground

I first heard MxPx 28 or 29 years ago. At the time my family was still a church-going family. This was my first experience with the idea of a youth group that played rock song versions of the praise music. So I was jazzed to go to church every Wednesday and Sunday. The middle school youth group also had a CD lending library. Thus was I introduced to DC Talk, Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, and MxPx via their album Teenage Politics. At the time, although my household wasn’t one of those that was against dance, alcohol, or whatever books religious folks paniced about (since Harry Potter wasn’t out yet), we weren’t allowed to listen to current secular music because it was a bad influence. We mostly didn’t really know what we were missing. We didn’t have to listen to the religious station because, again, my parents weren’t fanatical about secularism, they just didn’t think rap and modern rock was something we should listen to. So we would listen to the oldies station. To this day, I know just about any pop song from the 50s or 60s. All this is to say that I had no reference point for punk rock. Compared to the other Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) artists out there, this was fast and hard and loud. I was fascinated. Also, unusually for CCM artists at the time, the music was more about being a teenager than it was about God. That’s not to say that God and religion aren’t mentioned on MxPx albums, but they weren’t the majority of what the songs were about. 

Let’s do a quick comparison between MxPx’s Teenage Politics and DC Talk’s Free At Last

TrackMxPx – Teenage PoliticsDC Talk – Free at Last
1Sugarcoated Poison Apple – this one is one of the most Christian with the titular apple being temptationLuv is Verb – about how love is Biblical and has been misused by society
2Do & Don’t – A song about not knowing what you want to do when you grow up.That Kinda Girl – about how one should look for a godly woman for their girlfriend/spouse
3Teenage Politics – a song about how parents don’t understand what it’s like to be a teen nowadaysGreer – a skit/joke track that’s really just an intro into the next one
4Punk Rawk Show – a song about going to a punk rock showJesus is Just Alright – I mean, it’s right there in the title
5The Opposite of Intellect – a song about the singer doesn’t want to grow up and have to deal with all the BS of being an adult.Say The Words – again about love, Christianity, and the Bible
6False Fiction – another Christian song – basically that it’s impossible to have real hope without GodWDCT – another skit
7Falling Down – about people at the top trying to stay up thereSocially Acceptable – about whether it’s socially acceptable to be a Christian
8Moneytree – a song about not wanting to sell out to capitalismFree At Last – a gospel track that riff’s on Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech
9Rainyday – a song about an unreliable relationshipTime Is… – about how the time to proselytize is running out
10Like Sand Through the Hourglass…so are the days of our lives – this song mentions trusting in Christ when the world gets chaoticThe Hardway – about how some people have to learn the hard way to turn to Christianity
11Democracy – a very punk song about the failure of modern democracy2 Honks and a Negro – a skit track
12Something More – a song about teenage depressionLean on Me – a cover of the old song
13Different Things – a song about ChristanityTestimony – again, it’s right there in the title
14Misunderstanding – in a way a bit subversive in that the core of this song is that the main character had Christianity pushed on them and so they rejected it.I Don’t Want It – about saving sex for marriage
15Study Humans – a song about being a teenage boy and how you can feel like an alienWill Power – a skit track
16Inquiring Minds want to Know – a very poetic songWord 2 the Father – a very corny (in that 90s rap way) song about Christianity
17I’m the Bad Guy – another Christian songJesus is Just Alright (reprise)
18Americanism – another very punk song about how patriotism and nationalism are used to try and control us.
19Extra Track – not really a song

Needless to say, my parents weren’t fans. So I was able to listen on my Discman, but not in the car. While we lived on the west coast, I never had the opportunity to see MxPx live. I kept up with their new albums – mostly through some Christian version of the Columbia House music subscription thing that some people did in the 1990s, but with the Internet being a much different place than it is today, it wasn’t always easy to find out when your favorite bands were touring. Also, since I wasn’t really in the punk scene (MxPx being the only punk band I was into throughout my youth), I didn’t really hear about the Vans Warped Tour or any other opportunities to see them live. As I mentioned in the past when I was getting caught up with the MxPx discography, I fell off from the band around the album The Ever Passing Moment and so I didn’t seek them out as an adult. By the time I was back into MxPx, COVID-19 was here and no bands were touring.

The Ataris on stage with the audience in the foreground
The Ataris on stage

Finally, in conjunction with their latest release, Find A Way Home, I was able to see them live in NYC in early February of this year. It was an amazing show and I really wish I’d seen them live before. Unlike most other tours I’ve seen, there wasn’t so much an opening band as The Ataris co-headlining. The Ataris are one of those bands that I missed because I wasn’t as much in the punk or alternative scene. I’d heard their cover of The Boys of Summer here and there because it was inescapable when it came out, but I didn’t know much else. Since I bought my tickets months in advance, I listened to their music on Spotify. This turned out to be perfect because in their 45 minute set they basically just played their big hits. So, while I hadn’t memorized the songs, they weren’t completely foreign to me either. I wasn’t sure if they’d end with The Boys of Summer since it was their biggest hit, but they played that third to last. Their final song was So Long Astoria, a fitting song to end the set.

Mike Herrera from MxPx on stage with arms in the foreground framing him
Mike on stage

Then MxPx came on stage. What kind of show do you do when you just came out with a new album, but also have around 30 years of hits? (with almost 1 album/year during that time) Well, you play at least one song from each album! Essentially, their set was “MxPx’s Greatest Hits + plus a few songs you probably don’t know yet”. Unlike a lot of the concert’s I’ve been to, most of the audience was the same age as me. I saw lots of old punks singing along to the old, classic songs. Some folks even brought their kids who looked like they were maybe 12 or so years old. 

look in the bottom left side for the kid on someone’s shoulders

I think the best part of the concert experience was seeing Mike Herrerra up on stage. He seemed like he was having the time of his life – grinning like he was still the teenager amazed he was getting to have a career making cool music with his friends. A member of the CCM band Ghoti Hook was brought on stage to sing part of one song. The coolest part of the night was when a young guy who was turning 28 that night was invited on stage to play the bass guitar for Chick Magnet and he was perfect – even able to rift a bit. 

Birthday boy gets to play along to Chick Magnet

I own both of MxPx’s live albums so I was expecting Punk Rawk Show to be the final song. Indeed, after the encore, the song came on and nearly the entire floor became the mosh pit. Everyone let everything out and we were in pure joyful communion for approximately 3 minutes. It made the entire night worth it. 

the story being the song New York to Nowhere, one of my favorite MxPx songs

As a cherry on top, the band said they’d be available after the show to take photos with everyone and so I was finally able to meet them and get a photo. 

MxPx put on an incredible show and if you like their music and they’re ever performing near you, definitely make it a priority to attend – you won’t regret it.