Back in March, indie-pop band Charly Bliss scored a semi-viral tweet about fellow indie group Alvvays:

if a venue doesn’t play “archie, marry me” before a three band indie rock bill you can report them to the city’s department of buildings as it is against most zoning laws

It’s funny, they say, because it’s true. Since releasing its eponymous debut on Polyvinyl in 2014, Alvvays has become a low-key icon of the indie world—an impeccable group with impeccable taste responsible for three impeccable albums full of impeccable songs. What’s more, a handful of those songs have achieved “instant classic” status. “Archie, Marry Me” may be a full 10 years old, but it’s “Hey, heeeeey” chorus feels like it’s been floating in the ether—and in venues hosting three-band indie bills—for much longer. Call it instant nostalgia.

“Archie, Marry Me” appeared late in Alvvays’ set at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater Monday night, but it was hardly the sole shining moment of the hefty 80-minute show. There was the crashing “Easy On Your Own?” (from 2022’s Blue Rev), which opened the night. There was the woozy “Dreams Tonite” (from 2017’s Antisocialites), which elicited literal shrieks of joy from the crowd. There was the new wave-y “Hey,” which found the dream-pop band showing off its rock-star chops. There was the gorgeous “Ones Who Love You,” which served as the evening’s penultimate offering. Song after song, heartbreaking melody after heartbreaking melody, wash of guitar and synth after wash of guitar and synth, Alvvays delighted the adoring Milwaukee crowd and lived up to—and oftentimes exceeded—its impeccable reputation.

Speaking of Milwaukee, the city apparently looms large in the Canadian band’s mind. “The last time we were here I remember saying, ‘What a dump,'” joked singer/songwriter/guitarist Molly Rankin as she gestured to the historic and near-capacity Pabst Theater. “It didn’t really land.” That show was back in 2018; later, Rankin remembered an earlier Milwaukee gig, opening for The Decemberists at The Riverside Theater in 2015, where her nerves caused her to skip a section of one of her songs. “After this song we can talk Bucks,” she said mid-set. And while that Bucks talk didn’t happen until much later, it did happen. (Rankin expressed her concern for the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo and sang the fantasy-league praises of Damian Lillard.)

Live, Alvvays proved to be shockingly flawless. Anyone hoping for bold reworkings of the band’s three-record catalog likely left disappointed Monday night; a few tweaks notwithstanding, Rankin and company (keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, guitarist Alec O’Hanley, bassist Abbey Blackwell, drummer Sheridan Riley) delivered note-for-note performances identical to their recorded counterparts. Rankin was a magnetic and sometimes surprising lead—playing the entirety of “Very Online Guy” on her knees while fiddling with a pedal board was certainly an unexpected moment—though the other members of the group stayed laser-focused on their instruments. (O’Hanley did crack a smile during the deafening crowd sing-along to the “Archie” chorus, however.) Not that this was a bad thing; the lack of left-field reinterpretations and on-stage antics better allowed the band’s songs to simply wash over the crowd, mimicking the images of waves that repeatedly appeared on the video backdrop. It was hypnotic.

And yes, it was iconic. Halfway through the set, somewhere around the devastating “Belinda Says,” Alvvays seemed to take a cue from its “instant classic” songs and transform itself into a band that has been around a lot longer than it actually has. Surely “Archie, Marry Me” and encore-closer “Atop A Cake” have been with us for multiple decades, right? Surely Alvvays has always been there, too, and will continue to always be there, right? Ten years is 10 years, but the instant nostalgia evoked by the band and its music suggests something even more enduring. It’s thrilling to know that, in reality, it’s only the beginning.


Easy On Your Own?
After The Earthquake
In Undertow
Many Mirrors
Very Online Guy
Adult Diversion
Not My Baby
Bored In Bristol
Tom Verlaine
Belinda Says
Tile By Tile
Dreams Tonite
Fourth Figure
Archie, Marry Me
Pomeranian Spinster
Lottery Noises

Ones Who Love You
Atop A Cake

Oh, and the opening set from New Orleans group SPLLIT was a real hoot. The wonky art/math-rock band channeled the sound of The B-52’s crossed with the Dirty Projectors if they were smacked over the head with a busted pedal board and forced to change time signatures 17 times in each song. Keep an eye out for them!

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