Fire Starters

Now that Oakland's Matches are finding success, will they leave behind the homegrown scene they helped found?

The shows that Commotion Promotion hyped in particular were the band's "L3" series at the iMusicast Webcasting warehouse in Oakland. Initially a showcase for the Matches and other East Bay underage bands that were having trouble getting in to play some of the regular local venues, "L3" grew into a huge all-ages promotion ring that booked acts from around the Bay Area and even bigger touring bands. The series, almost entirely controlled by the Matches, also served the band's larger interests: "It was a good way for us to meet lots of touring bands -- you get to know booking agents for those kinds of bands, you know -- and [do] them favors," says Whalen. "Those contacts came in handy 'cause we were able to use them to get shows around the country, which otherwise we would not have been able to do."

Last year, Epitaph got wind of just what the Matches are able to do -- namely, bring in the kids in hordes -- and signed the band, rereleasing E. Von Dahl, which was originally self-released. In the short course of a year, the Matches went from being the messiahs of the East Bay's underground underage scene to rapidly climbing the Warped ladder toward pop-punk stardom.

But what exactly does a band that builds its success on an underage revolution of sorts owe the kids who, according to Harris, "enabled us to start touring, get on our label"? It's not an easy question for the Matches. "L3," for example, has suffered a bit in light of its founders' newfound national success, with the band booking shows and then finding itself unavailable to play them. At the same time, Whalen says, "We're not really sure what to do 'cause we're so protective of it and it's hard to let it go to somebody else, you know. ... But we definitely want to keep it going somehow and keep that community feeling going there."

Bigger opportunities, however, may once again deter the band from that goal: "We just got the Yellowcard tour in the fall," says Whalen. "It's gonna be one of the biggest tours in the fall, so actually, there's gonna be a show at the Warfield in San Francisco." However, according to a recent post from the Matches' manager on the band's message board, the Yellowcard show at the Warfield has actually led to the cancellation of a September "L3" date due to "contractual conflicts." While some posters responded to this announcement with an attitude of both disappointment and support for the band, others saw through the industry jive talk. "Promoters don't like bands to play other shows in the area because then the fans are less likely to go to the other, more expensive show," wrote one poster.

For the most part, though, the fans seem supportive and delighted that the rest of the world is finally starting to figure out just how "fucking brilliant" this act is, posting congratulations for the band's success with the album and advising the group (on Epitaph's message board) to keep letting "everyone else see how we cali rockers do it!" The Matches' message board is actually a good indication of what direction their commitment to the local scene might take, with their online community frequently posting local show notices and "musicians wanted" ads. Whalen also notes the networks, friendships, and bands that were formed by "L3" attendees. So perhaps the Matches' role will be that of the founding father -- oft-referenced and revered not only for laying the groundwork but also for their willingness to let the younger generation take over as its gurus approach their ancient mid-20s.

At the very least, as the kids singing along to the fidgety, pent-up "Jack Slap Cheer" ("This town gets so boring/ Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na/ When you are not scoring") in Washington state can attest, the Matches have managed to get to the heart of suburban ennui with a bit of artistry and wit. And maybe, for a band perched exhilaratingly between local upstart and national darling, that's enough for now. The details can be ironed out as both the Matches and their fans grow up.

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