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Justin Courtney Pierre Comes Home

Motion City Soundtrack singer performs to a sold-out Turf Club with new solo album and support from Pronoun

Justin Courtney Pierre
Justin Courtney Pierre - Photo by Laura Buhman

It’s Friday night, and friends, family, and plaid-clad fans of Justin Courtney Pierre flocked to the Turf Club to celebrate the homecoming of the local musician during his nationwide tour.  The tour is in support of his first solo record In The Drink. If you don’t recognize his name that’s okay. You might remember his other work in local bands like The Rapture Twins and Farewell Continental. More than likely though, you’ll remember him best from his internationally successful band Motion City Soundtrack. Are you with me?

I’ll start with my history on this guy. I first saw MCS open for Simple Plan when I was merely 13 years old at the now-defunct Quest club in Minneapolis back in 2004. Throughout the last 14 years, I’ve been able to see them quite a few times. I even got to help set up their green room when they played at my college.

Sometimes I didn’t get so lucky – like when I got hit by a car while I was walking across the street to see them at the Myth, or when there was a snowstorm so harsh I couldn’t make it to First Ave for one of their spirited Christmas shows.

These incidents were always counteracted by things like getting to see Justin read his favorite books onstage at Five Watt Coffee or an intimate performance at Electric Fetus during MCS’s last stretch of touring as a band. If you’d like to know if that break-up is truly binding – read further…

What I’m trying to say is: we go way back. It’s fun to live in a community where you know these little magical things can happen. Plus, every performance here is a homecoming of sorts, so on the first of two nights playing in town – I knew there would be magic when I walked into the door.

Did you catch that? FIRST OF TWO NIGHTS. There’s ANOTHER SHOW. This is the part where I urge you to grab tickets – they’re almost gone. Run don’t walk!

Opening up the night was New York-based Pronoun. Pronoun is the work of Alyse Vellturo, who grabbed the attention of Billboard and Forbes magazines early on in her career as an artist. She’s also supported acts like Citizen and Alex Lahey over the last couple of years.

Pronoun – Photo by Laura Buhman

Alyse took the stage with her band and captivated the already packed Turf Club. It was clear that this was one of the bigger crowds that they had played for, and they were extremely humble. The band transformed the bedroom pop sound into a lush and danceable vibe that filled the room.

Pronoun at Turf Club
Pronoun at Turf Club – Photo by Laura Buhman

When engaging with the crowd she was very shy and timid, but when she got into the song there was no turning back. She’s got a dreamy yet commanding quality to her voice that lends itself to a more confident stage persona. It’s gorgeous indie pop that shouldn’t be missed.

Justin finally took the stage in his Triple Rock Social Club shirt (RIP) and started the night off with his hopeless-turned-hopeful album opener “Undone”. It was the perfect way to start off the night. A song that starts out slow and meek and builds into a strong and uplifting number that makes you feel like everything’s going to be just fine.

Justin Courtney Pierre
Justin Courtney Pierre and Lydia Liza – Photo by Laura Buhman

He was joined onstage with a great band consisting of Thomas Rehbein and Lydia Liza on guitars, Shannon Burns on bass, and David Jarnstrom on drums. Justin kept these guys in the forefront with him onstage which made them feel less like a backing band and more like his band.

Shannon Burns
Shannon Burns – Photo by Laura Buhman

On a recent episode of the “Washed Up Emo” podcast (episode 141 for those who care to tune in), Justin describes two modes onstage – going for perfection and staying in his head to keep it going, or letting go of meticulous accuracy and providing more of a fun and free experience for the fans.

This show walked the line between each mode flawlessly. Justin is a self-proclaimed awkward guy and it’s completely charming to hear him talk between songs (which he did nearly the entire night) about everything from his family in the audience to where his pedals were made with quirky jokes in between about his memories and lack thereof. He also shredded his guitar mercilessly and reminded us why he has made a 20+ year career in music a reality.

Justin Courtney Pierre
Justin Courtney Pierre – Photo by Laura Buhman

He tore through nearly his entire new album In The Drink with his band including new single “Anchor” and personal favorite “Moonbeam” before setting the clocks back with some Farewell Continental tracks like “Tossing and Turning” and crowd-pleaser “Do You Want To Tangle?” The crowd was with him on his song choices throughout the night, but everyone in the room was clearly hoping for a small appearance of some MCS material.

Justin Courtney Pierre and Lydia Liza
Justin Courtney Pierre and Lydia Liza – Photo by Laura Buhman

The stage cleared leaving Justin alone with his electric guitar and he joked with us about how MCS went on a “hiatus, break, or breakup or whatever” because they didn’t want to tour anymore. Going on a national tour basically blew that idea right up so he might as well get down to playing some of the old songs.

He began to play “When You’re Around” and everyone lost it. Hands in the air, screaming, the works. The crowd was taken back to the good old days and they had no idea what was to come next.

A special guest was brought up to perform more MCS material – founding member Joshua Cain. Cue more screaming as they proceeded to give more and more to the audience with performances of “Last Night”, “L.G. FUAD”, and “Everything’s Alright”. Everyone was all smiles as nostalgia brought them back to the emo days of the 2000’s.

Justin Courtney Pierre and Joshua Cain
Justin Courtney Pierre and Joshua Cain – Photo by Laura Buhman

The show ended on a high note with the title track “In The Drink” into a blistering long-form version of “Goodnight Hiroyuki”. The ending explored the space of the Turf Club altogether. Justin kneeled with his guitar onstage to make sonic magic with his pedals as the band banged on their instruments. Then they walked offstage and the fans departed. It was a warm homecoming.

I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away
Ready Player One
I’m A Liar
My Girl Margot
Everything That Hurts
Total Devastation
Tossing and Turning
Do You Wanna Tangle?
Stand Too Close
When You’re Around
Last Night (with Joshua Cain)
L.G. FUAD (with Joshua Cain)
Everything’s Alright (with Joshua Cain)
Shoulder the Weight
In The Drink
Goodnight Hiroyuki

Written by Laura Buhman


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