My company and I arrived at the spacious Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel venue in Providence, RI, just as opener Now, Now were finishing up what I believed to be their opening song, the breathy slow-burner "Prehistoric." I've been following them since their auspicious 2008 EP, Not One, But Two, and watching them grow, supporting notable tours (like this one) and releasing more widely acknowledged, favorably reviewed records has been nice to witness, to say the least. While much of their live set depends on pre-recorded blips and bleeps, taking the stage as a trio with two guitars, some keys, drums, and a MacBook, they sounded huge and looked more confident than usual. All but one song of the set came from last year's seriously excellent Threads, one of my favorites of the year, as the band enthralled with their heady, swelling indie pop crescendos, from the thoroughly pained "Wolf" to closer "Thread." The audience was politely receptive, though clearly all saving their energy for the co-headliners.
Set list (8:00?-8:32):
Minus the Bear and Circa Survive are two lightly proggy rock bands with pretty impressive followings that could fill sizable venues on their own, so it was cool to see them together on one bill. The crowd for the former got increasingly feisty and obnoxious as the band wove their way through a set that cherry-picked nicely from all five of their full-lengths (though sadly ignoring their righteous They Make Beer Commercials Like This EP completely). My friend and I simply had to separate ourselves halfway through to get away from the torrid rush of college freshmen push-moshing (not long after someone ricocheted a full can of Narragansett directly off the top of my head, actually), but from the side, it was a more relaxing vantage point that allowed us to see just how much of a groove Minus the Bear were settling into. They hardly missed a beat, playing the hits while showman guitarist Dave Knudson occasionally perched himself on a stage right ledge to show his finger work up close to the crowd. Closing with the one-two of Menos el Oso standouts "Pachuca Sunrise" and "Drilling" was a nice touch as well, especially since the former, almost always their finisher, was bumped back one track.
Set list (8:51-9:54):
Steel and Blood
Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
Into the Mirror
Double Vision Quest
While my friend and I agreed that it wouldn't be a surprise to see some of the audience check out and that Minus the Bear had just put on a delightful, sparkling performance, Circa Survive then came on and straight up slayed. Frontman Anthony Green had the entire audience in the palm of his hand for every second of the set; most of the venue's attendees were pretty into MtB, but EVERYONE in Lupo's was singing along with an arm raised for just about all of CS's set. It was sort of insane. But the band were great, with Green's high-pitched bark and cascading atmospheres behind him. Sure, it would have been nice to hear "Act Appalled" and "The Lottery" (possibly the highlights of their current catalog bookends), but they slipped in plenty of deeper cuts, some of their more chilling yearners ("Glass Arrows," "In Fear and Faith") and even a Blue Sky Noise B-side. The creative transition between the accessible "Sharp Practice" and the straining "In the Morning and Amazing..." was particularly cool.
Green often boosted himself to the edge of the spacious barricade to embrace the crowd and grab outstretched hands, while crowd-surfers were raised past and sometimes directly into him. Hell, Green even had some sparse mic-sharing in between his yelps and urges for everyone to scream their heads off and sing along.
Overall, it was a fantastic finish to the night, especially since we had gotten away from the energetic epicenter of a frenzied crowd.
Set list (10:16-11:17):
The Great Golden Baby
Birth of the Economic Hit Man
In the Morning and Amazing...
In Fear and Faith
Stop the Fuckin' Car
Your Friends Are Gone