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LIVE Review: Justin Courtney Pierre

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You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hates the term ‘frontman’ any more than Justin Courtney Pierre does. That being said, you’d also be hard pressed to find a more genuine front man than the perfectly disheveled Pierre. Regardless if fans had attended the show to catch another glimpse of Pierre singing familiar Motion City Soundtrack tunes, or were there to hear his debut solo record live, they left the Detroit show at The Shelter Nov. 2 entertained.

Frontmen can be cocky — it’s almost expected. They can be jerks when you finally get to meet them after awkwardly waiting after post-show. They can be great characters on stage, and terrible human beings once they step down into the real world. Justin Courtney Pierre is none of those. He’s a genuine goofball who knows how to wail on the guitar, but he’ll never admit it. He’s the most humble, best hairstyle-d musician out there.

The show was an early one, with opening sets from Lipstick Jodi and Pronoun before JCP took the stage a little after 8:30 p.m. He and his four-member band (including some members of Farewell Continental, and two female guitar players) performed his entire new 10-track record, “In The Drink,” released via Epitaph Records last month. Pierre joked that he’d also throw in some songs you’ve never heard and never will again because he has no money to record them. The night was a perfect blend of old, new, and yep, some feedbacky jam sessions we’ll likely never hear again (unless someone recorded them and put them on Youtube, but who would do that?)

Fan favorites appeared to be one of the squealing guitar singles, “I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away,” and “Ready Player One” which references similar lyrics to those of sobriety, self-discovery and being scared.  Before playing “Moonbeam,” he mentioned how now that he has a child, his wife no longer takes priority — a sentiment he admitted sounded terrible, but felt true. No one can blame a dad for being crazy about his daughter — can they? “I’m a Liar” also got the crowd moving with its easily singable chorus — strung throughout contemplative lyrics that go hand-in-hand with Pierre’s trademark contrast of upbeat tempos with serious, brooding subject matters.

Since the new record clocks in at just under 30 minutes, there was plenty of time for some singalong favorites from his former Minneapolis pop rock band, Motion City Soundtrack. The crowd certainly came alive with echoes of “When You’re Around” and “L.G.F.U.A.D.” as Pierre played them solo on the electric guitar.

“It felt weird playing these songs with other people, because that band was a thing and we wanted to not play for a ‘question-mark’ of time, and so this is a way to be able to do that, and not do that,” Pierre said of playing his old Motion City Soundtrack tunes in a different way on this current tour.

Pierre took time to introduce all his band mates, their projects they were involved in, and even advertised fundraising efforts for his bassist’s new material. The group also played Farewell Continental tunes, including never-recorded “Total Devastation,” although they skipped over a familiar “Do You Wanna Tangle” in lieu of another track.

As someone who’s seen Motion City Soundtrack live over 10 times, you could definitely tell JCP was a little more nervous than usual — it seemed like he was more in the moment, rather than a well-rehearsed, could-turn passive, massive tour he’s played with thousands of times. There were silly faces made when guitar parts were missed, as well as the usual banter about being a strange, forgetful human. All the genuine, endearing qualities anyone had come to expect from Justin Courtney Pierre. And certainly, if this was the first time you’d seen him perform live, now you know — just how genuine he is, and how you too now need to visit the thesaurus to find another lesser-used word to describe him.

He’s the guy who still probably hates being referred to as a frontman, a lead singer, or a musician. He’s the guy who will wait after his shows, pass out free stickers and autograph posters, smile, take photos with you and mime with you. That’s right — mime. He doesn’t talk, since he needs to preserve his voice for the following shows, but still, even if he isn’t physically speaking, he’s listening, he’s actively engaged in conversations and meetings with the audiences — long after the set is over. I can think of plenty other band members who would gladly hop into a van, onto the next gig or bar rather than stay in the basement and nod and bow to fans who waited to meet them. I can think of many, but they are not Justin Courtney Pierre.

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah's a little bit of a rock 'n' roll rebel, almost always at a concert. She loves to soak up the scene, immersed in the music journalism world, still buys CDs and rents music documentaries from the library. Just don't call her a hipster. She's never been that stylish.

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