Last Saturday, veterans of Boise's music scene, Midline, took to the Knitting Factory stage for the last time. Not the band's last time at Knitting Factory, but their last time on stage as Midline ever.
The packed house included a mixed bag of longhairs, shorthairs, hipsters, oldsters and youngsters, and as the band reached back into their library and pulled out songs from their earliest days, it was surprising and sweet to see the number of people who knew all the words and were able to sing along. The four musicians found a sea of friendly faces, waving, mouthing "thank you," soaking up not just the humidity in the room but also the adoration of people sad to see them go.
Hundreds of us stood shoulder to shoulder as Scott Elliott, Anthony Fagiano, Fred Fischer and Stymie Nolastname perform what was easily one of the best—and, for me, most conflicted—gigs they've ever played. Whether they actually played better than ever or the audience just wanted it to be that way so badly, every beat, every strum, every vocalized note seemed spot on.
Fagiano's not-so-inner rock god found an outlet that night as he jokingly thanked his boys for being "the best back up band a guy could have ever asked for" and, with his signature snake charmer moves, acted as though he was he pulling the music from Elliott's fingers. But Elliott didn't need the assistance. The songs shot out of Elliott's guitar like striking cobras and I had tennis neck at the end of the night, what with volleying my eye balls from Elliott to Fischer on drums as he tossed his sticks into the air and caught (most of) them.
Midline started off the set with songs from their 2006 release, Wreckage, including "When The Wind Dies", "The Edge," "Chainsaw," "Control," "Wreckage," "Everyday Is Rain" and "Watson." They then pulled stools onstage and moved into an unplugged, Nirvana-like acoustic set with "Stay Awake," "Too Long," "More Than This" and more. When Fagiano dedicated a song to his father, the vibe shifted slightly left; this was no longer simply a headbanging rock show, this was the end of an era.
The energy surged again when Fagiano then invited former Midline members, drummer John Conley and bassist Alf De Varona, to join them on stage. The six played "Here & Now," "Mirror of Me," "Summer Sky" and "Promise Me."
More than two hours after they started, the four members of Midline hit the first bars of "Carney Girl" and it was almost too much. Twenty years of hard work and dedication vibrated through Fagiano's vocal chords, Stymie's stoic shoulders, Fischer's deft hands and Elliott's lightning-fast fingers and all I could think was, "They should have been bigger." As Elliott, Fagiano, Fischer and Stymie put their arms around each other and took their final bows, I reached for a beer splattered cocktail napkin to wipe away the tears. It was strange. I'd watched a group of men who had been a part of my musical life for the better part of two decades put on their best and yet last show. Bittwersweet indeed.