Though Andrew McMahon joked that he's nearly too old to play "21 and Invincible" these days, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at The Viper Room clearly disagreed, cheering their beloved vocalist through a set of early favorites, unreleased essentials, and bona fide hits spanning his entire career. No record went untouched as Andrew smiled, sang, and showed why 2013 may be his best year yet.
Despite retiring the Jack's Mannequin moniker last November, half of McMahon's set came from the recently-closed era, starting with the unreleased "Wrecking Ball Heart." Spending most the night staggered between Something Corporate classics and Jack's Mannequin staples, the audience was treated to tastes of every album, from 2001's Audioboxer to 2011's People And Things (and even 2000's Ready...Break, if you count that nine-minute live track tacked on the end...you know the one). Perhaps the best testament to McMahon's catalog came from the song distribution, with no album offering the set more than three songs (The Glass Passenger and Leaving Through The Window tied for the largest contributions).
While 15/16ths of the show came from yesteryear, Andrew debuted a bit of the future with a new song, entitled "Learn To Dance." The clapped intro, synth-heavy chorus and surprisingly electronic bridge all worked well, not varying too far from familiar ground while still introducing new elements. McMahon noted that the band only had eight days and a rough demo to rehearse with, but the song sounded tight and well-practiced, certainly ready for his upcoming solo EP.
Most importantly to some, "Konstantine" made another appearance for the second time in three shows, last heard at the 11/12 Jack's Mannequin farewell. As the audience gave their expected whimpers and gasps, McMahon momentarily paused the song to find out if anyone wagered on the set list, turning a tearjerker into another fun moment. The track's rarity at live shows makes it notable, but "La La Lie" was certainly the night's highlight - no song garners as passionate of sing-alongs as the Everything In Transit tune.
It may have been billed as his first solo performance, but Andrew's clearly the same guy we've loved for years. Watch for his remaining dates as a headliner or opener for fun., and expect a new EP in the coming months.
K Sera has held that pesky "up-and-coming" title for a few years now - a good headline to have, but not a banner to cling to forever. On Collisions and Near Misses, we hear a band perfecting their craft and maturing into a professional and worthy act.
The swanky vibe and theatrics we've come to expect are as present as ever, though the band has picked up some new tricks as well. There's been a notable increase in aggression, which works wonders on tracks like "Near Misses" and "Ambien." No matter the speed, everything sounds big and epic - foot-tappers like "True Enough To Be Interesting" hold the same weight as ballads like "St. Peter (Better Than Yours)," making for a cohesive and huge record. The combination of K Sera's progression and Producer Casey Crescenzo's involvement appear to have worked wonders, as many expected.
In the past, the sound was describable as Forgive Durden meets Pretty Odd.-era P!ATD; those sounds are still around, though I hear some Fun. (both past and present) and The Dear Hunter (unsurprisingly) as well.
My personal favorite track is "Dream, Like I Do," which adds great prog-elements to the mix. The track's massive intro leads intro a piercing verse, followed by a slower, mesmerizing chorus - it easily ranks among my top songs of the year. Hell, the track even cuts to 8-bit for a fun few moments. Very excited to premiere the song here on November 12.
I don't want to give away too much before any music is released, but watch for K Sera to go from "that one band" to "THAT band" with Collisions and Near Misses. Come back November 5 for a behind-the-scenes look at their time with Crescenzo, and don't miss the November 12 premiere of "Dream, Like I Do" - it's a doozy.
mewithoutYou, Kevin Devine, Buried Beds
July 18 @ The Glasshouse (Pomona, CA)
These acts need no introduction. Both Kevin Devine and mewithoutYou have cemented legacies that draw crowds from all around Southern California, and for good reason – they’re simply fantastic at what they do. From the packed parking lot to the crowded merch line before the show, it was clear we were in for a fun night.
Though Buried Beds fit the show’s vibe, they weren’t terribly impressive. A great deal of their set felt misguided and forced, as if the band was shoving every musical influence into each song. It takes careful construction to make three-part harmonies, two guitars, keys, multiple percussionists and a violin work together, and Buried Beds lacked the cohesion to pull it off. That said, all the band needs is help tightening their sound; a little guidance and more concise song structuring would go a long way. I suspect the band will figure themselves out sooner than later.
Armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, Kevin Devine impressed with his unbelievable vocal range. It didn’t matter that he was nowhere near a microphone – the immense power and emotion in his voice traveled effortlessly throughout the venue. I was stunned by the highs he was able to reach, and judging by the audience’s quiet, I wasn’t the only one. My one qualm was that the acoustic set lacked dynamics, staying a little too even for a show with member-heavy bands. Bringing along the Goddamn band would have likely solved the issue, but Devine delivered an enjoyable set on his own.
Then came mewithoutYou in all their glory. Drawing from their entire ten year career, the band played an exciting and balanced set to an awed crowd. Most audiences sing along to their favorite acts, but these fans were more interested in watching Aaron Weiss deliver a flawless performance. With every song, the band displayed their veteran status despite dealing with some technical issues. Halfway through the night, Weiss challenged the crowd to pick up the pace, a request that immediately was met following “January 1979” and “Fox’s Dream Of The Log Flume.” Though all the classic mwY songs were present, the Ten Stories tracks generated the most energy, getting the Glasshouse dancing and screaming along. All in all, it was exactly what I expected – an impressive set from an impressive band.
PS. Love when bands sell vinyl at their merch table - most of the mwY discography was available, including a tour-exclusive 7".
The Story So Far, Seahaven, Stickup Kid, Troubled Coast, Stateside
July 14 @ Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA)
I can admit that I haven’t given the new era of pop/punk a fair shake. There are certainly some bands I enjoy, but with the genre severely oversaturated, I tend to write off these bands before one listen. In an effort to expand my horizons, I joined a sold-out Chain Reaction crowd in welcoming The Story So Far to town. I get the appeal now.
I wasn’t immediately won over, though. Opening the package was Stateside, who displayed every complaint I have about the genre. Assuming the tech issues were the venue’s fault, the set was still as sloppy as could be, sounding more like a local opener than someone from the tour package. I was already shaking my head before their inexcusably awful cover of Taking Back Sunday’s “MakeDamnSure,” which inspired not one person to dance. Some of the guitarwork and structuring on “Smokestacks” was intriguing, though until their live show and lead vocals improve, this band will reside in pop/punk purgatory.
The bad taste in my mouth was quickly erased via Troubled Coast. Though their music wasn’t the crowd’s flavor, I rocked out to the night’s heaviest set. The dose of hardcore was the pick-me-up I needed, and each track from their latest EP delivered as expected. The band even gave the crowd a pleasant surprise in two new songs from their upcoming full-length, both of which displayed the rapid evolution Troubled Coast has always shown. Remember their name, because these boys will be headlining their own tours by the end of the year.
The audience showed life for the first time as Stickup Kid took the stage, finally starting my pop/punk lesson. While the breakneck verses customary of the genre just aren’t for me, the tempo shifts in songs like “Dreaming of Kenny Rogers” gave a nice dynamic to their music. What won me over though was the atmosphere they created, engaging with fans as frequently as humanly possible. The fans didn’t disappoint either - though I may (unfairly) question their tastes, pop/punk kids have an undeniable blast and only care to have fun.. And overall, I respected Stickup Kid’s set, even if they’re not my cup of tea.
Small talk and more technical difficulties limited my time watching Seahaven, though I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw. As if his voice and lyrics weren’t commanding enough, frontman Kyle Soto’s look and demeanor sealed the deal. When they did get to play, the set was very solid, complete with great harmonies that really brought the songs to life. “Plague” and “Goodnight” were two of the night’s highlights, and the band certainly earned my respect (as noted through my purchase of Winter Forever on vinyl after the set).
Then came The Story So Far. I wasn’t remotely ready for what I was witnessing. I’ve been to countless sold out shows at Chain Reaction, but I’ve never seen a crowd react with such passion to a band. For the first three songs, I legitimately couldn’t hear one note from Parker Cannon as he lead a pop/punk choir through his songs. Watching hundreds of fans recite back every word while crawling on top of each other was quite the sight. What’s more is the idolization was well-deserved, as TSSF put on one hell of a show. I intentionally avoided listening to the band before the date, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed their brand of reigned-in pop/punk. The guys were completely in sync and reeked of professionalism while maintaining that lively demeanor that inspires so many music fans. After leaving and throwing Under Soil and Dirt on for the first time, I was immediately nostalgic of an immensely fun night.
So yeah - I get it now. Pop/punk is a good place to be, and I’ll come ‘round more often.
Show Review: Tyler Carter
May 1 @ Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA)
You can say what you want about Tyler Carter’s past, but the kid has a bright future ahead of him. With a set of four solo tracks and a re-interpreted Woe, Is Me song, it was clear that Carter understands what music moves units and how to deliver said music.
There’s no screaming here – just a smooth dude with a bunch of club-friendly songs (I think? We all know I don’t go to clubs). Whether you have an aversion to his post-hardcore roots or his new radio-friendly sound, it’s hard to deny his talent as a vocalist and entertainer. It didn’t matter that half of his set was new to the crowd – they threw their hands in the air, bounced along and had a blast. It was far from my usual genre choice, but even I couldn’t help but bob my head.
It’s just so catchy. “Bad Girl” and “Love, Sex, Riot” scream Top 40 and make you wonder why Tyler isn’t singing hooks for rappers. The audience was able to connect with his first solo song “Side To Side,” as well as a new piano version of his last song with Woe, is Me, “Fame over Demise.” Girls are going to be such a sucker for “Find Me,” a new slow jam about his relationship with his younger brother. All of it is aimed at what’s popular today, and it succeeds.
It may not be for you, but I bet your little sister and that sorority chick will be singing along to this stuff in no time.
Playing their Karma Never Sleeps EP from front to back, the band reaffirmed why so many feel so strongly about their music. Every note, riff, lick, and hit was precise and powerful, displaying all the technical qualities of their tunes while delivering a high energy live show. All of the dynamics from the record were there – the crescendo of soft verses developed into big choruses and room-shaking instrumental sections. There's obviously great chemistry between the boys, who gave one of the tightest sets I've seen at Chain Reaction. It was everything I expected it to be, and then some.
It’s impossible to ignore each member’s individual musicianship when you watch them play. Most vocalists take liberties live, changing melodies for greater ease– Brent Walsh actually upped the ante, adding extra vocal runs all throughout the set. Guitarist Ian Pedigo and drummer Blake Dahlinger were spot on, supplying all their signature leads and beats like true veterans. If I had to name an x-factor, it would be Chris Hinkley, who knocked great bass lines out of the park while delivering harmonies worthy of a lead vocalist. They’re all talented musicians on their own, and their combined forces have created a commanding sound I expect to become a scene staple (and hopefully help extinguish the phase of Anthony Green wannabes).
So to answer your question, no – I haven’t run out of good things to say about this band. My childlike excitement for their music is only growing, because I know anyone who gives these guys 10 seconds of their time will be hooked. Long live I The Mighty.
Whether He Is We, Her, Him, or Someone Else, This Has To Stop.
Impossible situations are very real, and never fair. Sometimes the best or most logical solution to a problem is still lose-lose, and sometimes just making it out alive is a win. Nothing about He Is We’s current trials and tribulations are remotely fair, to any party involved. With finger-pointing, judging, and miscommunication running rampant, it’s time we let emotion go and realize everyone is doing the best they can.
Most know by now that Rachel Taylor has endured a very serious disease for some time now. Ankylosing spondylitis has caused all kinds of issues for the singer, including “pain, nausea, panic attacks, migraines, and a lot of other really cool stuff that isn't fun to talk about like vomiting.” Prescribed two chemotherapy drugs and the medical advice that touring was a death sentence, the tough conclusion was that Rachel could not go on the road. That’s where the agreements end and the disparities begin.
Famous author John Maxwell said “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” Truer words have never been spoken, and few are as relevant to this band’s current state. Faced with the impossible, each party involved has publicly reacted, and for the most part has made the best of the situation. For Rachel, the tragic but required response was to ground herself, focusing on her health first. Fans everywhere reached out and expressed their love through heartfelt tweets and comments, and though all were upset, most agreed to support the band’s yet-to-be-announced new live vocalist. Touring without Rachel was, at the time, not considered a travesty, but rather an unfortunate truth. A difference of internal opinions made for chaos in the coming days.
Asking an artist to step away from her music is akin to separating mother and child. The attachment fans have to a musician or song are miniscule to the author’s relationship with said music. That said, some sort of adoption was needed to save the baby. In her blog, Rachel intimates that despite her disease “the touring plans were made.” Though she has not explicitly said so, we can infer she believed that the band should pause during her recovery, a valid opinion and reasonable request of a lead vocalist. Plenty of bands have paused while a member recuperated, or dropped current plans as a result (He Is We dropped off an All Time Low tour due to Rachel’s declining health). Whether it was her partner Trevor or their management, clearly others disagreed and believed the band should continue on in some capacity, Rachel or not.
It seems like an odd comparison, but Of Mice & Men notably underwent a similar story. Frontman and founder Austin Carlile suffered a heart condition that would require months of rehab, eliminating any chance of touring. His response: bring in a sub. The band enlisted Jerry Roush (Glass Cloud, formerly of Sky Eats Airplane) to fill-in, as not touring during their album’s debut was deemed catastrophic for the growing band. It’s not an uncommon solution: Thrice brought Nate Patterson of The Receiving End Of Sirens on tour to replace guitarist Teppei Teranishi twice in response to family emergencies, and countless other bands have made similar decisions. Sometimes the show must go on, an ideal some in the He Is We camp clearly prescribed to. With that in mind, Stevie Scott was introduced as the band’s new touring vocalist, with the note that Rachel was very much still in the band.
The focus has shifted to a social media he-said, she said; a bloodbath of opinions on who wronged who. Through several tweets and her blog, Rachel has expressed feelings of neglect and possibly betrayal, stating “I had no idea what was going on” and “they can have the He Is We name if they want it, I refuse to let that stop me from being honest and true to you guys.” A highly confusing back-and-forth from Trevor and Rachel via public statements made the situation impossible to judge; both sides made comments that seemed unfeasible, and both made what appear to be valid points. If Rachel was truly unaware of the plans, there’s an issue. If Trevor wanted to continue the band’s tour schedule despite his partner’s possibly permanent inability to tour, there’s an issue. No solution would completely appease every party, an understandable conundrum. Rather than empathizing with the difficulties, a war of #teamrachel vs. #teamtrevor has erupted, shaming a band built on positive messages and good will.
At this point, all involved have been wronged. Trevor and/or management not allowing Rachel’s participation in determining the future was a disservice. Rachel publicly criticizing a band she’s still a part of is a disservice, creating questions regarding He Is We and making her future involvement awkward at best. Whether everything or nothing is true, it’s time all be forgotten. Each party acted in what they felt were their best interests, and complaining about the past, no matter how recent, solves nothing. If Rachel’s accusations are accurate, it’s time that all made amends (preferably internally – the apology is owed to Rachel, not the public). If Rachel’s feelings are that she can no longer be a part of He Is We, it’s time that decision be made. It’s woeful that these life-altering conclusions must be made suddenly and in poor health, but all involved have acted in a way that requires immediate attention so Rachel can heal, the band can continue, and the fans are eased. For everyone’s sake, start the ceasefire.
Get it out of your system now. Yes, I watch The Voice, and yes, I follow it closely enough to hypothesize, research, and back my opinions with data. Maybe not me at my most masculine, but if the show has proven one thing, it's that being a man matters. Over and over again, the millions voting have chosen the male vocalists over the females, which will likely lead to another champion from Team Testosterone. While the co-ed competition favored no sex in the early rounds, as soon as the public was allowed to vote in week 10, the females dropped like flies.
24 singers competed in the first wave of live rounds - 9 male, 15 female. Here's where the glass ceiling first became evident, with America giving 7 of their 12 quarterfinal slots to males. 78% of the eligible boys were voted through, while only 34% of the girls made it. Four coach saves rounded the field to a sweet 16 going into the quarterfinals, but the massacre was only beginning.
When the public was asked to vote in the quarterfinals last night, there were 4 males and 8 females for chose from. When the votes were tallied, Jamar Rogers, Jermaine Paul, Tony Lucca, and Chris Mann all were voted through.
That's right: not one female was voted in by the public. The eight shunned ladies had to claw it out for the coaches, who saved four to compete in the semifinals. Joining the aforementioned boys are Lindsey Pavao, Katrina Parker, Erin Willett, and Absolutepunk-favorite Juliet Simms, with the semis set for next Monday.
If the show format mimics last year, a ridiculous coach-to-public ratio system will determine the Final Four, which could throttle the male obsession. Look for Pavao and Simms to be the only girls with a shot - Lindsey topped the iTunes charts twice during the competition, and Juliet has been a contender since performing "Roxanne." Parker has come on strong as of late, though Adam Levine has had to save her twice, implying she's received the least votes of all semifinalists. One could call Willett the darkhorse, but her teammate Jermaine seems to hold a commanding lead.
That's all without acknowledging the immensely talented men, which include an opera singer, an Alicia Keys backing vocalist, a Mickey Mouse Clubber and the longtime favorite. Most say the competition is Jamar Rogers' to lose, and I tend to agree - the guy has been stellar, from auditioning to "Seven Nation Army" to covering "Are You Gonna Go My Way." Opinion aside, all the guys have been publicly voted through twice, a feat no girl has accomplished.
I'll leave you with one more tidbit - on season 1, three females went against one male for the championship. Guess who won.
PS: There's been a ton of great discussion on this topic in a news post. Comments here or there would be awesome.
Spotify’s Android app sucked. For a company releasing new innovations to their product regularly, the app was an embarrassing blemish on an otherwise impressive résumé. Much to the relief of Android users, Spotify has completely overhauled the app and released a preview of what’s to come.
Absolutely everything is better. The artist profile pages have been drastically improved, including all the features of the full program. Just like the main platform, users are now presented with the Top Hits and a full discography in an aesthetically pleasing way. The Related Artists section has finally made its way to mobile after being the original app’s most glaring omission, and it looks great. Slide-out navigation is smooth and pretty, finally making this app functional.
It’s clear there is a heavy emphasis on downloading playlists now. With unlimited data via a grandfathered Verizon contract, it’s a feature I never dabbled in, but a big banner across the top of the app makes it blatantly obvious they want you using it. Fortunately, it’s rather painless to use, and works well – my downloaded playlists queued instantly without having to worry about bad reception.
My favorite improvement is easily the song selector. On the old version, clicking on a song meant the app directed to an ugly player focusing on album art; the new version opens a player as a bottom banner, similar to Google Play Music. The song instantly plays without directing me to a new screen, which is much appreciated.
One more big addition: an “Extreme” sound quality setting for 320 kbps listening. Thank God.
Basically, they've finally found a good way to cram the full version of Spotify into your smart phone. As a subscriber, I highly appreciate the changes and feel justified paying for the service. For a full list of changes, head here.
No official release date has surfaced yet, but anyone can grab the preview version via Spotify’s website.
Show Review: Sucré
April 12 @ Bootleg Bar (Los Angeles, CA)
Celebrating the release of their debut album, the magnificent trio known as Sucré took the quaint stage at The Bootleg Bar to play A Minor Bird in its entirety. Watching the songs come to life for the shoulder-to-shoulder audience was downright majestic, and impressive on a level rarely seen at shows these days.
The hour-long performance was absolutely captivating. Most of these songs were only a few days old to the audience, but the connection was palpable; seldom have I seen a crowd so fiercely attentive. It was a brilliant display from the immensely-talented musicians, taking viewers through powerful tracks like “Chemical Reaction” and stripped-down cuts like “Light Up” with unbelievable ease. Every part of the set was as professional as it was heartfelt, hitting that desired balance every band hopes for.
The individual talents of each member were captivating in their own right. I could watch Stacy King sing for hours – her tone and range are tremendous and beautiful. Darren King’s complex showings in Mutemath were dialed down here, but just as striking and crisp as you would expect. Unsurprising, Jeremy Larson made gorgeous music from every instrument he touched, splitting time between piano and guitars while simultaneously offering backing percussion. Combined, it was almost too brilliant to comprehend, especially with a string quartet assisting. Watching all 7 musicians seamlessly weave together on “When We Were Young” and the outro of “Troubled Waters” was awe-inspiring and smile-inducing.
I’m nearly out of adjectives that adequately show my feelings towards the show, but calling Sucré “perfect” doesn’t seem like a stretch.
Show Review: La Dispute, Balance & Composure, All Get Out, Sainthood Reps, Silver Snakes
April 5 @ Chain Reaction (Anaheim, CA)
As writers, we’re told to avoid first person and contractions – it comes off as amateur and unprofessional. I subscribe to the rule pretty heavily, but I could care less at the moment. I had an absolute blast at the Wildlife tour, and I’d like to excitedly rant about how much fun it was.
There’s no need for in-depth explanations for what was so enjoyable; these are all buzzing bands, who all have great releases, and are all known for their live shows. The package delivered in exactly the way I expected, in exactly the way I wanted it to. 5 fantastic rock bands went on stage, did their thing, and showed why they deserve the commendations they regularly receive.
As the only local opener, Silver Snakes kicked things off and definitely left their mark. A perfect lead-off for the four-band tour package, the band’s brand of hardcore fit well within The Wave (or whatever you want to call this movement). Audiences are barely required to acknowledge openers these days, but the entire crowd was attentive and pleased with what they heard. I would be surprised if the band didn’t walk away with quite a few new fans.
I'll be the first to admit that I've slept on Sainthood Reps, much to the chagrin of the AP.net community. After their set, I found their merch guy (sportin’ an awesome Davey Crockett ‘coon hat) and bought Monoculture on vinyl, along with my billionth band, despite pleas from my fiancée to cool it on the tees. There’s no better testament to how I feel about a band than me opening my wallet after your set. So yeah, I liked them.
Going in, I would have never predicted All Get Out to be my favorite band of the night, but I just couldn’t get enough of what they were selling. The passionate, grassroots vibe worked wonders, resulting in a high-energy show from the obvious veterans. They were my least known band going in, and the band I was most psyched on by the end. Those synchronized woos in “Lucky Bastard” would have made it the most memorable song of the evening had vocalist/guitarist Nathan Hussey not belted out the finale sans microphone to a perfectly silent audience.
I’ve had Separation on repeat for months, and was excited to see what Balance & Composure could do live. I wasn’t disappointed. I heard every one of my favorite tracks from their No Sleep Records LP, and witnessed an absurd amount of stage diving and pandemonium. The crowd was in full-force as “Quake” and “I Tore You Apart In My Head” slammed through the amps, making for a fun (if not violent) vibe. Again I found myself scurrying over to merch, grabbing the LP for a great $10.
Oh yeah, and La Dispute headlined, and were as earth-shatteringly good as always. They’re the best young band out there, and they haven’t even hit their stride yet.
Again, what a great night. I couldn’t have had more fun. View the remaining dates here, and don't miss out.
Show Review: Happy Body Slow Brain
March 4 @ Ugly Duck Pizza(San Bernardino, CA)
It's always good fun to chat with musicians about to see their first Happy Body Slow Brain live set. Everyone's heard of the band's brilliance through friends of friends, but rarely are new audiences prepared for the energetic and tight show HBSB displays on a consistent basis. Last night was no exception - a local drummer passed by and mentioned "it makes you wonder why to even try making music - you aren't going to be as good as them."
It didn't matter that we were crowded into some pizza joint in San Bernardino, CA; what mattered was Matt Fazzi, Isaac Bolivar, Jason Holthouser, and Javier "Biebs" Torres were jamming through their groove-filled rockers and ambient space-fillers for a transfixed audience. Whether they were showing off a new tune or moving through their debut album Dreams Of Water, every note played resonated and reminded us all how good bands can be.
Opening with an unnamed new track was a treat for those who saw the band on their last pass with #MEBTour, and made for a perfect opener. The always-popular "Kill Love" and single-ready "We're Strangers Now" cranked the energy up a notch and showed off the combination of their synth-prowess and solid riffage. The single-worthy "Never Loved" has become a staple of their shows, and rightfully so: fans of every type of rock can find something they love in the track. I was pleased to see all my favorite heavy-hitters present as well, with an extended version of "Emperor" and "Time" closing out the set. It was a short, sweet set that perfectly embodied what the band.
There's few bands I can honestly say I will see every single chance I have - Happy Body Slow Brain is definitely one of them. Catch the band on their remaining California dates before they spend time working on their b-sides SLEEPY EP and write their next album.
Show Review: Dance Gavin Dance w/ Matt Geise & Kurt Travis
February 19 @ Soma (San Diego, CA)
The sixth incarnation* of the Dance Gavin Dance traveling band has managed to keep the dream alive, but doesn’t clue in on the future one bit. Rather than cancelling a second tour due to the latest Jonny Craig shenanigans, the band got creative: old friend and Lower Definition vocalist Matt Geise came out to sing Craig’s catalog, while ex-DGD vocalist Kurt Travis returned to play his era’s tunes. The result was a high-energy set of greatest hits that hit the mark as often as it missed.
The unique line-up allowed for all kinds of interesting possibilities, allowing the band to draw from all four of their full-lengths and play the fan favorites. The crowd couldn’t get enough of Kurt’s return, carrying over the energy from A Lot Like Birds’ vicious set earlier in the night; his five songs were met with massive cheers, with “Uneasy Hearts Weigh The Most” and “Alex English” inspiring the strongest reactions (barring the encore). Travis handled his songs like a champ, nailing every take despite playing a combined 1.5 sets that night.
It was with Geise where the question marks arose, as covering Jonny Craig proved to be no easy task. At the lower end of Craig’s range, Matt easily delivered, with “Spooks” and “Pounce Bounce” coming through strong. Results varied on tracks that required those signature Jonny highs. The classic “Lemon Meringue Tie” wasn’t close, and “The Robot With Human Hair Pt. 2 ½” was passable, though forgettable. On the 11th hour, Geise came through on “It’s Safe To Say You Dig The Backseat,” hitting each high despite slightly less power than the original. Assuming his old guest vocal role on the “Rock Solid” encore ended the night on a high, sending the crowd into a frenzy before curtains.
Clean vocalists aside, the remaining full-time Dancers played well. The music hit hard, with tons of power behind every track reminding fans that when the ridiculousness is contained, the band does have something left in the tank. Only complaint here was that the guys seemed almost bored at times, with virtually no movement from anyone without a microphone; no matter how heavy the riff, we were lucky to see head-bumping on stage from the musicians. This was not the case for Jon Mess, who continues to be an absolute monster – every strained line had immense power, energizing every kid in the building, one scream at a time.
Thanks to the setlist, the Kurt comeback, and Geise’ showmanship, the show had notable highs, and was worth attending. Should the band’s always shaky future extend past this tour, Geise proved himself to be a suitable addition despite some struggles with the back catalog. The large showing tonight (and sold-out show the previous night) proved that no matter how aggravating their personnel changes are, a faithful audience remains happy and hopeful for a DGD 7.0.
Catch Dance Gavin Dance on tour with A Lot Like Birds through March 3 (remaining dates can be seen here).
I Want To Know Your Plans: The Max Bemis of Past, Present, and Future
Words: Jack Appleby
Photos provided by Say Anything
Most will take the new Say Anything record and immediately start dropping …Is A Real Boy references like it’s nobody’s business. It’s a comparison both expected and intentional, and Max Bemis knew it would be this way. While the back-to-basics approach certainly favors long-term fans, Anarchy, My Dear is as much a return-to-form as a new birth for both the band and Bemis himself.
“We were on a major label for six years, and now we’re on an indie, we’re working with Tim [O’Heir], and we have full creative control; it’s the most exciting time to be in this band. When we first had this level of freedom, we were little kids who didn’t know anything about life; now we don’t take things for granted, and we have an awesome situation,” Max excitedly said. “It was kind of the perfect time to go back and work with Tim.”
O’Heir famously produced ...IARB in 2004, back when Bemis was breakdown-prone. Despite the singer’s then-questionable health, Tim got the most out of Max, helping create a record that is continually celebrated even as it approaches its ten-year anniversary. Reuniting with O’Heir inevitably romanticized the new recordings while bringing that raw sound the band was looking for. That familiar rough touch brought out deliberately imperfect sounds in an experienced band, making Anarchy an organic, yet veteran album that will appeal to each generation of the band’s fans.
When the tracklisting was revealed, more than a few eyebrows raised at some of the song titles. Amidst the usual and obscure came “Say Anything” and “Admit It Again,” two names that only bolstered the …IARB associations. Explaining the former was simple (‘It was Coby [Linder, drummer]’s idea to have a song named after the band just for fun – we always wanted a flagship song, and it represents our sound in a primal way’), but there’s an obvious appreciation in Max’s tone when speaking about the sequel to a Say Anything classic:
“We know how much that song means to fans; a lot of what we put into making this record was just trying to make it for people who love our band – for the people who really love our band, true devotees who are just big huge fans of that first record. We wanted to give them something that would really excite them, which excited me and made it really fun to write the song. I had so much fun writing and redefining now that things are so different in counter-culture, and now that it’s really taken over the mainstream, it’s even more fun to try to tear it down for different reasons, now that I’m a grown-up.”
It’s those adult traits that not only influence Bemis’ Say Anything songs, but the songwriter’s personal future as well. It’s no secret that Max is married to Eisley’s Sherri Dupree-Bemis, and his talented wife is going to be around a lot more if all goes according to plan. Sherri snuck into Anarchy thrice and will be her husband’s partner-in-crime with their personal new band, Perma, a project started long ago that is beginning to take shape.
“Our goal is to have Perma either be the next thing I do or sometime in the next one or two records. We’re gonna do a full-length and make a full-time thing out of it. I don’t mean taking over Say Anything at all, but I don’t see it as a side-project. We get to be with each other and the type of songs we’re writing really come straight from the heart, because we’re writing about each other, and there’s nothing more pleasant than having a band where I get to tour with my wife. I think it will be really nice for Say Anything fans to hear me attack music from a completely different angle, without angst; it will be something else.”
The plans don’t stop there. Along with Perma, expect Max to build on all his other projects: he revealed there will be another Two Tongues record, Song Shop, and maybe some Painful Splits in the future. “There’s other things I’m interested in too, from screenwriting to graphic novels and other parts of the music business I can’t talk about just yet,“ hinted Max. (Ed's Note: Max has since announced Rory Records, his imprint on Equal Vision). No matter how much is on his plate, though, he promised that Say Anything will always be around.
“We want to be one of those bands that keep putting out music long until we’re old. There are always other things we can do, but we don’t really see the need to take Say Anything from the kids it means so much to. I had a talk with Coby and we said ‘why ever stop?’ Even if we had day jobs, even if we have to take five years off because someone has a kid – we’d come back.”
The future can wait for now; no matter what you’ve heard so far, the era of Anarchy, My Dear is only just beginning. The album’s official release is less than a month away, and a full U.S, tour with Kevin Devine and Fake Problems will follow shortly after. No matter when you subscribed to the band, enjoy the latest from Bemis and know that Say Anything will continue long past 2012.
Weekly Releases: How Josh Kirby Keeps Your Interest Year-Round
Words By: Jack Appleby
Photos and Music courtesy Josh Kirby
Hear the AbsolutExclusive stream of "The Plan" beneath the article.
“Release a record, hope it sells, go on tour forever, and record a new record (and hope your fans don’t hate it).”
It’s a tired model. Despite revolutionary advancements in the way we distribute and consume music, the product remains the same: a collection of songs labels push to fans bi-annually. Josh Kirby has challenged the norm with Mount Carmel and The End Of The World, a solo-project-turned-music-experiment that could change conventional thinking.
Through both personal necessity and a keen eye to an industry’s stubbornness, Kirby has taken a new route to releasing his solo music. Rather than the current standard, the Mount Carmel tracks are seeing daylight one at a time, with a new song released every week. Once every seven days, his Tumblr-based website has a new blog post, containing the song stream, new album art, lyrics, and a list of influences (see his post for "Heavy Hands" here). It’s a strategy that’s simple and elegant, even though Kirby says the process is ever-changing.
“My thought was to just change the delivery method; get rid of the album altogether and release songs episodically, like a TV show does, for a specific period of time. [i] noticed a need for experimentation within the industry; everyone is talking about how it’s broken and needs to change, but at the end of the day everyone is still doing the same thing things.”
It makes sense. Currently we market one product to consumers for a year or two (or longer, in cases like Saosin); why not spread out the coverage across a longer period of time? The rise of social media ensures that thousands of bands are thrown in every Facebooker’s face daily, making other bands irrelevant by the minute. Kirby is aiming at 20 weeks for the first “season” of Mount Carmel, meaning he will have new, noteworthy content for five months; how many bands can say they released new material weekly for nearly half a year?
The few who have tried a similar model have seen positive results. The most notable participant was Kanye West, whose G.O.O.D. Fridays bore a striking resemblance to Kirby’s vision: a weekly song, individual album art, and guest collaborations (something Josh hopes to include a few times later this year). Craig Owens didn’t go for the weekly model, but saw the value in every track his band D.R.U.G.S. had created. Usually only one or two tracks are released before an album comes out, but Owens premiered each of the band’s 11 songs on different outlets throughout February 2011, creating a massive swell of love for their debut record.
The key differences between Craig, Kanye, and Kirby are that the former two used the releases as a marketing tool for a full-length, and that Mount Carmel songs are crafted within two weeks of release. Over the remaining months, Josh’s songs could change direction to places he could have never foreseen, all while linking together in a new way.
“All of the lyrics, for new and old songs are usually written a week before the song is released, this way even if they songs are completely different in style the whole project is tied together by lyrical content, almost like a song journal. Not having huge breaks in between writing is nice too, repeatedly going through the entire songwriting process is really helping me hone in on what I like and what I don't like in terms of my songs.
I try not to let the success of previous songs affect the way I write new songs, when I start doing that then I stop writing for myself and start writing for other. However, if I notice a pattern like ‘Hey, everyone hates all of my songs that have kazoo solos in them,’ I'll probably stop shredding so hard on the kazoo. I really don't see that happening, mostly because I'm awesome at the kazoo.”
Watching the songs change and evolve has become a real treat. Over the last six weeks, Kirby has incorporated numerous different influences without affecting perceptions of the last track, listing everything from Sigur Ros to Hey Mercedes as his inspiration. The model works for Mount Carmel and is plausible for other side-projects and new bands, though it could be difficult implementing the style on the world scale that major labels work on. Kirby thinks it’s possible, though the forward thinking could prove too much for the big wigs:
“[It would only work] if a label was willing to really work with an artist to make it happen. Again, this entire industry is built around albums, when you take that away the whole thing falls apart (which, depending on how you look at it could be a good thing).”
While Josh has no concrete plans (“this is an experiment, I won't really know what happens at the end until I reach the end.”), his goal is to release a limited edition vinyl package containing each song. On the surface, this seems to head back to the old ways, but is actually again inspired by television’s latest moneymaker, box sets.
“The limited edition vinyl box set is for people who really want it. That way the supply is always even with the demand and we're not selling people crap they don't want.
Whether the strategy works or not is of no relevance; it is the thought process behind it that is most important. This type of experimentation is desperately needed, and it’s the creativity of Josh Kirby and his musical peers that could make waves in the nearly flattened music industry.