Review: Back to Indiana for The Ataris 

click to enlarge The Ataris, in a much bigger venue than the Mel.

Kris Roe is no stranger to humility. Having grown up in Anderson, Ind. as a punk rocker in the pre-Napster world, he has grown accustomed to paying dues.

Rowe entered the punk rock constellation at the ripe old age of 19, when a demo tape of his ended up in the hands of Joe Escalante of The Vandals.

“I went to see The Vandals and The Queers at Bogart’s in Cincinnati,” said Roe. “I brought my demo tape to the show and somehow got it to Joe. He liked my stuff and signed me to his label, Kung Fu Records. I moved out to Santa Barbara and I started recording with new band members.”

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Roe, along with his band The Ataris, would go on to release some of the most memorable pop-punk records of the era.

After a brief stint on Columbia Records in the early 2000’s (which yielded the love-it-or-hate-it cover of Don Henley's “Boys of Summer”), Roe found himself without a band and without a label, and had to start from scratch reforming the band and promoting future material.

Whereas he had once toured along side pop-punk giants like Blink-182, Roe now found himself back playing smaller venues.

“I actually prefer playing little dive bars,” said Roe, “they’re better for the kind of music I’m writing now. I just wanna write honest songs and record them as honestly as possible. I’m not interested in fancy production. We’re just four humble guys touring around in a van.”

Look further than The Melody Inn, where The Ataris played Sunday night. After a surprisingly short (yet no less sweet) set by The Queers, Roe and the band took the stage. Their set started off slow and choppy drawing a lukewarm response to the lukewarm lead single from 2003’s So Long, Astoria, “In This Diary”. The band seemed a bit reluctant to open up even during a somewhat forced cover of “Skulls” by The Misfits. After a few more newer songs, the band hit their stride with “Your Boyfriend Sucks”, from 1999’s Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits. While the song was clearly written by a much younger Roe, the band managed to tactfully reconfigure the song to their more mature sound without compromising its original heart-on-sleeve emotion.

Roe’s confidant command of the stage was a testament to his years of punk rock experience, both as part of a national act and as a hometown hero.

While Roe no longer lives in Indiana, Roe had some criticisms of the local scene that had bugged him since he was in high school. “For starters, we need to change the alcohol laws in Indiana that keep kids away from so many good shows.” He added, “Changing that would make a greater, stronger scene.”

But a “X-103 is the biggest piece of shit radio station ever” he said with conviction. “They do not support local music at all. It’s ridiculous. Even when we had a big single on national radio, our ‘new rock alternative’ still wouldn’t play us. My mind was blown.”

Despite his airing of grievances, Roe was clearly having a good time Sunday night. They ended their set with riotous a cover of The Descendents’ “Coolidge” and “Summer Wind Was Always Our Song”, a fantastic cut off of their 2001 album, End Is Forever.

As he left the stage to talk with fans, it was obvious that, despite the ups and downs of his career, Roe simply enjoys playing music. As the band is gearing up for their next record out on prominent pop-punk label Paper & Plastick, Roe has released an album of acoustic songs that he has posted for free (donations!) download online.

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