Metal Alliance Tour at The Complex

It’s Monday night. My roommate is talking about some concert he wants to go to. I’m not one for turning down concerts so of course I’ll go. I’ll soon find myself in semi-unfamiliar territory. Tonight is the Metal Alliance Tour at the complex.

Metal shows are always an experience. There is an incredible amount of passion that the musicians and audience members share. People are quite literally screaming to vocalize their uncontrollable emotion.

The night starts out with a man handing my friends and me free tickets at the door. I didn’t even have to give him my email address. Amazed and bewildered at the ease of it all, I enter the complex eager to see what this show has in store for me. The lineup of the tour includes Invidia, Black Fast, Havok, Crowbar, and Overkill.

I’m a little bit late walking in. Havok is finishing their set. I didn’t come for any particular band, so it’s not a big deal. Being at a concert with relatively unknown bands can be liberating. I’m not expecting to hear any songs and won’t be disappointed when they don’t play them. I have no preconceived idea of their sound. Whatever the band chooses to play and however they sound will be the lasting memory of the night. I can fully soak up my environment. Everything else becomes irrelevant.

I buy some earplugs. Once Crowbar comes on you’ll be wishing you had too. The crowd is relatively scarce. Everyone sneaks outside or upstairs in-between sets for a smoke or a beer. The mostly male crowd is dressed in black, red, and white. My friend is wearing a blue jacket and sticks out like a sore-thumb. Only a handful of people have short hair. The rest have their hair down and are ready for some head-banging.

When Crowbar comes on stage, I’m shocked. The musicians look nothing like how I imagined. The overweight middle-aged men are wearing shorts and t-shirts. The bass player has shoulder-length hair.  The other two front men are bald with massive facial hair. I never get a good look at the drummer. I guess that’s why he’s the drummer.

The sludge metal band from New Orleans relies on slow groovy guitar riffs and aggressive male vocals to sustain their sound. Formed in 1990, Crowbar was a pioneering band of the heavy metal subgenre. The crowd nods and sways with the drum and bass. People throw up rock-on signs and chant “Crowbar”.

The room fills to capacity and overflows into the lobby. Thrash metal band Overkill increases the tempo and the volume. The crowd takes the hint. Some mosh-pits get started but nothing too crazy, it’s still a Monday night in Salt Lake City. The band is quite animated, letting their passion show. They put it all on the line and the audience loves it.

Leaving the show, I couldn’t tell you the name of one song. I might never listen to these bands again, but that is not the point of a concert. I saw musicians get up on stage and do what they love. I saw them create art and music. Personal expression is one of the most important things humans do. I was able to be a part of theirs. It’s moments like these that make life livable.

 

The Amulet: New Album from Circa Survive

The sixth studio album from Circa Survive is upon us, and since its recent release, my love for them has been revived! They’ve always strived to be viewed as more than an era-defined band that blows out the same catchy guitar riffs and for years. They want to embody more artistry in their music- To exist in their space as an evolving expression of art.

But, that’s not to say that they don’t have songs that have been replayed repeatedly, in fact, they have plenty of songs that live in their fans hearts. Songs in which the band is somewhat obligated to play on every tour in respect for their loyal following who hold these certain songs close to their heart as cherished symbols that affected their lives and personal growth at some point in their coming of age. However, these same fans have also completely embraced their art form as growing and changing expression.

Circa Survive fans are loyal and in-tune, which is good. Because they’re certainly a talented band that deserves such devotion to their art. But, there is something I love about Circa Survive, and to me, it’s not readily available in everything they’ve put out.

With that said, the new album has once again been nuanced with their signature ethereal sound, but this time it also incorporates different elements reminiscent of their first album Juterna, which has surprisingly piqued my interest.

The new album Amulet is a dream filled with prolific lines and a beautiful juxtaposition of hard and soft. The drums and guitars produce a more complex sound than prior work and Greene’s vocals ebb and flow from delicate to growling screams, these refreshing elements combine to tell an emotional story that’s easy to get lost in a surreal daydream up until the very last track.

Beyond my observations regarding the refreshing newness of the album, Anthony Green himself has spoken on how he feels about the band making new music. – “Some of these songs are so f–king fun to play live, and I really look forward to getting to play these songs. That’s what excites me. That’s not to say I don’t feel similarly about the older material, or that I am not grateful for how that material has helped us, but it’s just like – when we play that stuff it’s the same as it has always been. But this material is new, and the connection I feel to it is exciting and fresh”

Green’s own views on his music are infectious and perfectly relates to how I feel about the new album. I like the old stuff, but it’s exciting to experience them once again put effort into tweaking their sound for a different vibe. Their excitement is shining through on every track and reaching me with a renewed sense of meaning and it’s a sound I can’t get enough of.

Keep The Coffins Coming: New EP from Frank Iero and the Patience

Almost a year after the release of his sophomore album, Parachutes, Frank Iero has come out with his newly anticipated EP, Keep The Coffins Coming, on September 22nd of this year.

The four-track EP is short, sweet, and serves as a perfect transition piece between Iero’s first album, Stomachaches, and his second album, Parachutes. Because both albums had very different styles, it almost felt like something was missing in between the two. In an interview with Iero, he tells K-UTE:

“What’s really cool about it [Keep The Coffins Coming] is you really get to see the progression from this project–from Stomachaches to Parachutes– it’s very much a stopgap between those two…”

As a result, Keep The Coffins Coming gives listeners a more cohesive bridge between the two albums, while still being able to stand alone in its own musical capacity.

Fans and followers of Iero’s work might recognize a few tracks from the EP such as “I’m a Mess” and “BFF,” but it also has two new songs: “No Fun Club” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Even though “I’m A Mess” and “BFF” are from previous projects, there’s definitely a unique difference in the EP that makes it worth listening to. The most notable difference is that the EP was produced by the famed Steve Albini, who has worked with artists like Nirvana and Pixies.

Frank talks about the inception of Keep The Coffins Coming and working with Albini, saying:

“In between the end of touring on Stomachaches and the finishing writing on Parachutes, there was this time where we were discussing ‘What’s next? Where do we want to go from there?’, and I remember sitting down with my manager Paul and we just kind of made a list of all these things I wanted to do and people I wanted to work with, and one of the names that came up was Steve Albini.” 

Working with Albini had also been one of Frank’s dreams for a while.

Paul asked how long I’d wanted to work with Steve and I was like, ‘Since I was, like, 11!’ I wanted to make a Steve Albini record! Paul said he’d call him and I was like, ‘You can’t do that… that would be weird. Don’t do it.’ And he was like, ‘That’s my job!’”  Iero tells.

With only 3 days to record in Chicago, Keep The Coffins Coming was created.

Musically, the EP has a clearer and less distorted sound compared to Iero’s other albums. Also, the fact that it was recorded in such a short amount of time, gives it a more intimate and relaxed sound. Fans of Frank Iero and the Patience will love discovering the nuances of the older songs and hearing the new songs for the first time. And those who have never heard Iero’s music before will find Keep The Coffins Coming to be a perfect introduction to the band.

 

FRANK IERO and the PATIENCE Tour Dates:

11/17 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues *

11/18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ 20 Monroe Live *

12/01 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live! *

12/28 – Huntington, NY @ The Paramount **

12/29 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium **

12/30 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom **

 

* w/ Descendents

** w/ Thursday & PUP

 

“Keep The Coffins Coming” – Full Track Listing:

1. I’m A Mess

2. BFF

3. No Fun Club

4. You Are My Sunshine

An Epic Night of Rock and Roll

When I was 9 years old, my dad took me to my very first concert. We saw U2 at the then Delta Center. That show introduced me to a world of live music and changed my life forever. I have now been to hundreds of concerts and it is one of my favorite things to do.

I recently saw U2 in Phoenix, Arizona, making it the 5th time I have seen the rock’n’roll giants perform. U2 is currently touring their album The Joshua Tree for its 30-year anniversary. The Joshua Tree is U2’s most popular and critically acclaimed album, featuring iconic songs “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Where the Streets Have No Name”, and “With or Without You”.

This album has sentimental meaning for my dad. He first saw them perform on the original Joshua Tree tour. Going to U2 concerts has become a tradition for the two of us and is a special bond that we share.

Beck opened and put on an excellent show. His hour-long set had a solid mix of old and newer songs. The singer-songwriter was very animated and seemed thrilled to be touring with the likes of Bono and The Edge.

U2’s set list was incredible. They play their songs in chronological order, with a few exceptions. They start with 2 songs from War (1983) and 2 songs from The Unforgettable Fire (1984) before they dive into The Joshua Tree (1987). The Irishmen play the entire 11 song album start to finish before leaving the stage. Their 7-song encore is comprised of songs released after ’87, playing only 2 songs released after 2000, and ending with “One”.

U2 spares no expenses when it comes to their stages. The 50-yard-wide stage sits underneath a massive video screen and hundred-foot-tall Joshua tree. The walk-way and secondary stage is also shaped like a Joshua tree. While they play, images of Joshua Tree National Park and the American South West flash across the screen.

The entire show is very political, as the band comments on the current state of the U.S. Bono says that America has been a second home to him and the band. They condone President Trump showing a video clip mocking a character named Trump who wants to build a wall. Bono voices his disapproval of the end of DACA saying, “this country was built by dreamers, for dreamers”. The project images of Syrian refugee camps, women activists, and the words, “the power of the people is so much greater than the people in power”.

Somethings change and some never do. 30 years ago, the world was entirely different and would be almost unrecognizable now. However, people are still listening to the same music and seeing the same bands perform. U2 is no longer the young rebel rockers they were but still know how to put on a hell of a show. In the end it was, in Bono’s words, “a night we’ll never forget. An epic night of rock and roll.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface Tour 2017

Manchester Orchestra is one of those bands that construct each song in such a way that it hits you right in the feels. Much like the band Brand New, their entire aesthetic is one of a melancholy nature, and at times just plain emo. Considering they’ve toured with them several times – it makes sense.

They’ve understandably evolved from the throttling angst of their two earlier albums, I’m like a Virgin Losing Child (2007) and Mean Everything to Nothing (2009). These two albums rivaled every emo band at that time and rightfully staked out their position in the realm of emotionally driven music. Soaring tempos with heavy drums and guitars danced with the crashing emo lyrics that are still hymned along with heightened adoration to this day.

But, that’s not to take any attention away from their new album – A Black Mile To The Surface. This album is right on track in the band’s musical evolution. Most of the tracks aren’t throwing any punches, but instead creating a steady stream of controlled sound rippling around Andy Hull’s signature vocals and seemingly meaningful lyrics. Even though the album as whole lacks the angst of prior work, it fills in the gaps with a mature vibe and thoughtful lyrics that shine against exceptional instrumentals.

While I do enjoy the new album, it inevitably brought me back to those first albums that once provided such a superb emotional outlet in my life that I decided to buy a ticket to see their upcoming show at The Complex. And the performance was everything I could have wanted.

The earlier stuff was played with vigor, forging a brilliant energy amongst the crowd, which made me wish my favorite songs were more than a nostalgic obligation at this point. However, I am aware that it is not necessarily the best perspective to take when you love different eras of band’s work- It’s all good. And the art meant to evolve to better express different times and challenges of existence that people can relate to as their life progresses.

The concert started out in the dark venue with almost hymn-like chanting in a mellow hypnotic trance; The sound began to rise and everyone cheered just to have the tempo drop, which you knew the rocking-out commenced.  

The ambiance was the perfect contrast of dark shadows painted with burning orange and yellow floor spotlights and not one person in the finely tuned post alternative group missed a beat. The soaring guitars meshed together over escalating drums and keyboard, and the ebb and flow of the tempo had every note effortlessly blended together to create a climatic orchestra of sound.

Hull and the backup vocals managed to croon each lyric in a way that appeared profound and soft to the ears. Pair this with the frequent guitar breaks in the stream of instrumental chaos, and you’ve got an amplified rollercoaster effect eliciting a wide range of emotions being emitted from the lush soundscape. The live performance reinstated their reputation to me as an immensely talented group of musicians and as I’d hoped, even inspired me to grow along with the progression of their music.

Phish Dick’s 2017: Nights Two and Three

In what has become a solid yearly tradition, Phish brought three nights of high-energy improvisatory rock and roll to a sold-out Dick’s Sporting Goods Arena (soccer stadium) in Commerce City, Colorado this past Labor Day weekend. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Saturday (Night Two) and Sunday (Night Three) shows. Without any shows scheduled for the rest of the year, Phish closed off a historic summer, riding high on the wave of a solid thirteen-night residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City (Baker’s Dozen Run).

One of the most fun aspects of any Phish show is the fact that the musical performance is only one part (albeit a very large one) of the full “experience”.  Upon arriving at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (lovingly referred to as “Phish Dick’s”), phans are met with a very large and accessible Shakedown Street, the open air market that began at the time of the Grateful Dead. Colorful vendors sell food, drinks, artwork, glass, t-shirts, and other less-than-legal items to pre-show partiers in what may be one of the most fun examples of unregulated capitalism.  I was impressed by the size of Dick’s Shakedown, and a walk through is a key part of the Phish show ritual.

Upon entering Dick’s itself, I was surprised by the size of the venue.  Dick’s is certainly no Meadowlands Stadium, but it is definitely larger than a venue such as Madison Square Garden, for example.  With a sold-out crowd, the venue became a cozy sea of bodies very quickly but never felt too uncomfortably tight.  A quick overview of the stage showed that the amazing Madison Square Garden Baker’s Dozen lighting rig was once again being used, with lighting director Chris Kuroda at the helm. (An aside: It is quite unusual for fans of a group to know the name of the lighting director, however, Kuroda’s lighting rig is such an integral part of the live Phish experience that fans have taken to calling him CK5, with ‘5′ designating him as the group’s fifth member.)

On Saturday night, the band came on slightly after 8 pm, launching into the classic “Simple”.  As an opener, “Simple” received a solid jam treatment, stretching out to fourteen minutes before giving way to a dance-party “Martian Monster”. Other Set One highlights included a very tight “Reba”, a rousing “Sand”, and a jammed-out “Wolfman’s Brother” towards the end of the set.  With the amount of jamming and exploration that occurred in Set One, there was a palpable “How can they possibly follow that up?” feeling throughout the crowd.

Overall, Set Two was a pure Saturday-night rock and roll dance party.  While jaded Phish veterans may have been slightly underwhelmed by the lack of deep exploratory jamming, the solid third quarter Fuego, Steam, and Chalkdust Torture section provided the band with a chance to go into full singalong rock-star mode. A fourth quarter “Mike’s Groove” included a beautiful “Winterqueen>What’s the Use?” segue within, before giving way to a blissful “Slave to the Traffic Light” to end the set.  Encores included a fun “The Lizards” and a chaotic “Run Like an Antelope.”

As phans filled the stadium for Sunday night, many gave predictions for what the night would hold. Popular predictions were for a huge “Tweezer” or “Down With Disease” to open Set Two, but what Set One would hold was anyone’s guess.  Set One opened with a novelty “Buffalo Bill” before giving way to a funky-but-brief “Moma Dance”. For me, the real highlight was the second quarter, beginning with “The Wedge”.  “The Wedge” was jammed on nicely, but gave way to an extremely exploratory and somewhat dark “46 Days”.  After settling back down on Earth, guitarist Trey Anastasio led the way into a full-speed-ahead “Bathtub Gin”.  This jam reached an intense peak, where, in a very cliche moment, I completely forgot what song I was listening to before being reminded by the re-appearance of the recognizable “Gin” theme.

Photo by Taylor Hill

Those who put their money and reputation on a huge Set Two opening “Down With Disease” were certainly paid in full. The jam out of this DWD was full Type I guitar-hero, with Trey soloing straight to an early peak before giving way to a dark and ambient section.  Out of this ambiance arose a slow building and intensely evil group jam, which became so full of psychedelic energy that it could best be described as an alien spaceship launch meets a Chernobyl-level reactor failure.  Segueing out of “Disease”, the first notes of “Light” were accompanied by thousands of glow sticks being thrown from the upper seating levels, giving the sense of a glow stick rainstorm, quickly leading the way into a more blissful jam, followed by the inspirational stadium-rock of “Rise”. Other personal Set Two highlights were a fun and adventurous “Piper” and a very tense but exhilarating “Possum”.

I was very pleased with the first encore, “Waste”, as it is one of the few Phish songs whose lyrics are somewhat meaningful to me, and despite being very similar each time, is very uplifting.  The final song of Dick’s 2017 was “First Tube”, giving phans one last chance to dance all of their energy out, and leaving them with the image of guitarist Trey Anastasio, bathed in white light, with guitar held high overhead.

I cannot close out this review without including this personal story though, which I feel is truly representative of what Phish is about.  On Sunday night, I was only able to attend the show alone.  While sitting down to relax before the show, I started chatting with the guy next to me about the run of shows.  He soon introduced me to his crew, a diverse group of experienced phans, many who had met each other through Phish concerts alone, and soon I was part of a larger group, even if only for the show.  During set break though, I went to check my phone, only to be met with a black screen.  Dead phone.  This was definitely a problem for me, as the venue was about 11 miles away from where I was staying in Denver, I was alone, and had been planning to use Uber or Lyft to return after the show.

I mentioned this to Nate, one of the guys in the group that I had been happily pulled into.  He told me not to worry about it at all and to just enjoy the show because his crew would get me home. After the show ended, Nate and his crew told me to come with them, and they grabbed me an Uber back to their place in Denver, where I was able to charge my phone and meet a few more of their friends before making my way back to where I was staying.  I am so thankful to Nate, Matt, Trey, Casey, and all of the other guys and girls in their crew whose names escape me for helping me out despite just meeting me, and I will pass on that good energy for sure.  These are the kind of people that Phish attracts, and I am so glad to be a part of that scene. I encourage anyone who can to attend a Phish show and form their own opinion of “Phans” and the music that unites them.

 

Check out the full Sunday night performance here!

 

Featured image by John Leyba, The Denver Post

Darkness at the Liquor Store

On September 8th, 2017, The National released their 7th studio album Sleep Well Beast. It introduces a new sonic element different from previous albums. The album artwork is black, grey and blue, and the CD and vinyl are colored blue. These dark, cold colors reflect the mood of the album.

The National uses a variety of electronic drums and synthesizers. Even with more electronics, the passionate piano melodies, gritty guitar solos, and Matt Berninger’s baritone voice provide an unmistakable National sound.

In a recent interview with NME.com, band members Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, and Scott Devendorf discuss the album, drummer Bryan Devendorf couldn’t make it. Bryce Dessner says Sleep Well Beast is experimental and takes their sound in a positive new direction. Berninger explains that the songs on the albums are connected. He says, “the lyrics to a record are just the lyrics to a record. There’s not lyrics to this song or lyrics to that song…they are all in the same stew.”

Despite the interconnectedness of the lyrics, there is a tremendous amount of contrast from song to song. Songs 1,3,5, and 7 are relatively gloomy or sorrowful whereas songs 2,4,6, and 8 are more upbeat and bold. They do a tremendous job providing this contrast all the while keeping to similar themes of fear, anxiety, sorrow, and trying to find love. The last 4 songs add a somber note, rounding out the 12 track, hour long record.

Sleep Well Beast was produced primarily by Aaron Dessner, with help from Bryce Dessner and Matt Berninger. 4 years after releasing Trouble Will Find Me, they had plenty of time to perfect the music. The high production quality allows the complexity and intricacies of the music to flow effortlessly.

They start the album talking about going home to be alone. The opening song, “Nobody Else Will Be There”, is Berninger pleading with a loved one asking, “can’t we just go home?”. In “Day I Die” he says, “I’d rather walk all the way home right now than to spend another second in the place… just come outside and leave with me.”

Berninger’s depression and anxiety are seen through the lyrics. He sings about over-thinking things and how that ruins his head. He says, “I’m no holiday”, “I can’t stand me”, and “nothing I do makes me feel different.”

The lyrics tell the story of a someone fighting for love. In “Born to Beg”, Berninger sings that he’d do anything for his love. He feels sorry for something he has done and is willing to take the blame. This theme continues in “Dark Side of the Gym” as he sings, “I’m gonna keep you in love with me.”

It’s not a National album without the mention of alcohol. Throughout the album, Berninger sings, “meet me in the stairwell… for a glass of gin”, “I get a little punchy with the vodka”, “I mix weed with wine”, “I’ve been hoping to drink”, and “I have helpless friendships and bad taste in liquids”. The lead singer is drunk almost every time they perform and frequently drinks on stage.

The album ends with the lyrics “I’ll still destroy you someday, sleep well beast.” Berninger is caught up in his sorrow but has come to grips with his situation. He has been through it all emotionally and can endure anything life throws at him.

The National started in 1999, releasing their first album in 2001. 16 years later they still have so much to offer the indie-rock scene. Sleep Well Beast is personal and honest. They incorporate new musical ideas and keep aspects of their classic sound. They show that rock isn’t easy nor safe. You’ve got to take chances and be bold. Most importantly, you have to be true to yourself. Sleep Well Beast shows that The National still has a couple punches left before they go down.