Not a whole lot seems to surprise me anymore in the realm of punk/hardcore/indie/whatever. I go to shows and buy records having a fairly good idea of what to expect and, nine times out of ten, it is exactly that. That's not to say that it's a bad thing, just something I've noticed recently. This recent show at the Odeon in Cleveland, however, surprised me a couple of times.
When the tour was first announced, I figured Hot Water Music would be headlining either because they've been around the longest or because I'm completely biased (probably the latter). The local newspaper had an article on the show the day before with a picture of Glassjaw stating that they were the headliners. Most people that I had seen the tour in other towns said Sparta were headlining. And while it's a mostly trivial title that I wouldn't normally care about, I figured it would effect each band's stage time. As it turned out, each band played good size and almost equal sets. I didn't want to miss anyone, so I got there early.
After some annoying music over snowboarding footage, Dredg took the stage. Going in, all I knew was what I had read here on punknews.org (I.E. They were Tool meets Radiohead and had a love 'em or hate 'em type of style). Although their mellow music didn't hit me right away, when it did I was very impressed. A very interesting, ethereal guitar sound combined with some excellent drum work. The singer's voice has a definite Thom Yorke quality and got a little trying by the end, but worked for the most part. As mellow openers, they didn't have the crowd exactly "moving", but received a good response nonetheless. I'd check 'em out again if they come back.
I eagerly awaited Hot Water Music who were up next. They opened with "A Flight and a Crash", just like the last time they played here. This time, though, fans were treated to a much tighter (and maybe slightly more sober) overall set. They ripped through a lot of material off of Caution and A Flight..., adding favorites like "Turnstile" and "Manual" played with the classic HWM energy. Although the band was excellent, my one quarrel comes with their sped up version of "Free Radio Gainesville" that sounded too sloppy at that speed. Overall, though, it was an excellent set.
I had also been awaiting Glassjaw. A love-hate relationship, I had seen them a year or two ago with the Movielife and hated them. Since then, after much convincing from friends, I picked up Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence. I really enjoy it and was looking forward to calling myself stupid when I saw them again and loved them. That time never came, however. Glassjaw came on stage without a word and went right into a song from the new album, Worship and Tribute. Although I haven't heard the new album, I had heard good things about it, and was excited to hear music from it. However, the new songs, much like their set, was immensely disappointing. The guitars were sloppy at best and Daryl, the singer, was off-key a lot. The two songs played from Everything You Ever... (Pretty Lush and Siberian Kiss) were slowed down and devoid of any screaming (which was unfortunately similar to the new songs). In fact, I don't think Daryl showed off his trademark scream once the entire set. The only positive I can pick out from the new songs is that they had the good sense to retain their excellent drummer. A let-down of a set to say the least.
Last up was Sparta who, apparently, have amassed quite a following. Once they started I could see why. Having only heard part of the old EP, I was let down by their studio performance. Their live act, however, really made an impact. The songs were intense and well thought-out. I liked Jim's voice a lot better live then on the stuff that I had heard. Unfortunately, I got sick and had to leave halfway through their set. I picked up Wiretap Scars on the way out and kicked myself for not doing so before. A band that is definitely worthy of their success.