The Shirts for a Cure tour promised a solid lineup with the likes of mewithoutYou, Minus the Bear, and Thursday. Getting to see these bands and fighting cancer? I’m down.
However, We.re.All.Broken first. I had them pegged as some poor nü-screamo collective, and I was only somewhat off. You could tell Thursday, specifically that band’s later era, had a large influence in their sound, which consisted of liberal keyboards, somewhat unnecessary amounts of screaming, and bits and pieces of Mike Patton-isms going on with the vocalist. Their energy was impressive, as no one ever stopped moving and thrashing around, and their guitar work was creative, so my interest was retained throughout, which tends to be a feat for opening acts at Irving Plaza by coincidence. I definitely think there’s some potential going on.
I wasn’t entirely sure who was on next, but when the riff of “Disaster Tourism” rang out during the sound check, I knew what was coming. The screen rose to reveal the quintet known as mewithoutYou. Ever since their music started to make sense to me, I’ve always sort of applied to them the equation: the Nation of Ulysses - jazz + atmosphere - terrorist shtick + Christianity. As I’m a kid raised Jewish and basically have grown nearly fully out of it, it’s hard for me to get behind the faith-based nature of the music, but the songs themselves are quite experimental and well-written; and here, they translated well. Too bad the crowd didn’t feel the same. Most everyone, save for several audible fans far behind me, were awfully stagnant despite their polite applause following each song. Even “January 1979,” which was expectedly second in the set list and easily the band’s most accessible song due to its more standard, singable chorus, seemed to command little response. The band had excellent energy; the drummer was often rising off his seat looking possessed, the singer flailed around like a hippy, often looking like he was loosely two-stepping, while the right-stage guitarist (or bassist, memory’s foggy) provided closed-eyed, soothing backups. I’m not completely familiar with A-->B Life, but I believe the last song was a new one, taken from their recently completed, forthcoming full-length. It was a lush, expansive number that began with the singer playing an acoustic by his lonesome and his accompanying, frail voice, slowly giving away to a build with call-and-response lines. It was too bad the accordion the singer picked up and started playing towards the end was barely audible, as the quiet hum of it seemed to promise the song receiving an excellent touch. The singer’s voice was often cracking, which added a bit of a sincere element to the set. Also played was “Torches Together,” “Tie Me Up! Untie Me!,” “Disaster Tourism,” “Four Word Letter (Part 2),” all of which ended in a bundle of roses thrown out into the audience. A pretty mesmerizing set overall.
Minus the Bear was another opener awfully underappreciated. They played a solid, solid set that definitely placed the same mood as a number of songs on their latest, Menos el Oso, notably the fantastic, desert island soundscape of “Memphis & 53rd,” which really put me in a trance. They were solemn and modest throughout, and that really wasn’t doing much for the crowd. Front-man Jake Snider even asked later on in the set, “You guys feeling okay? Need anything? Water? Vitamin B?” I was tempted to yell “Better music taste!” but the anti-elitism got the better of me…or maybe just the anti-confrontational person in me. They played a number of solid tunes, including “The Game Needed Me,” “Drilling,” “The Fix,” “Hooray,” “Fulfill the Dream,” “This Ain‘t a Surfin‘ Movie“ (the opener, interestingly enough), “Spritz! Spritz!” (I think) and “Fine + 2 Pts.” They even snuck in a new song, which had stuttering keyboards, a pulsating bass-line, and a generally stronger rock undertow to it. I suppose as long as you’re familiar with the songs, Minus the Bear put on a good show and a resoundingly long set considering; if you’re not a fan though, there’s a chance they’ll fail to capture your interest.
Thursday, as expected, was very good. Geoff Rickly’s dramatic stage presence makes a lot of sense considering the emotion and depth of the band’s songs, and there were plenty of flashing lights to manipulate our pupils. Besides Waiting, which was rather absent from the set list, the set list drew well and even from the band’s 3 other full-lengths. They spread much of the Full Collapse material throughout the early portions, as they opened back-to-back with “Understanding in a Car Crash” and “Paris in Flames.” They constantly played everything as on record, and Rickly seemed to strive for pitches he’s never attempted, notably in the second to last song, what I believe was “Into the Blinding Light,” a song heavily anchored by haunting piano and practically soprano singing. The crowd certainly ate it all up, responding well to all the material, while Rob Dobi’s picket fence-guarded silhouette characters adorning the backdrop provided a good aesthetic.
I was really hoping for the band to play some of the underrated gems on War All the Time (“Between Rupture and Rapture,” “Asleep in the Chapel,” “M. Shepherd,” “Tomorrow I’ll Be You”), and thoroughly surprised they left out the title track, but I think the choices made otherwise were solid.
Set list by album:
Five Stories Falling EP
- Understanding in a Car Crash
- Cross Out the Eyes
- Autobiography of a Nation [3rd song of the encore]
- Paris in Flames
- How Long Is the Night?
War All the Time
- Jet Black New Year [1st of encore]
A City by the Light Divided
- For the Workforce, Drowning
- Division St.
- This Song Was Brought to You by a Falling Bomb
- The Other Side of the Crash / Over and Out (Of Control)
- Counting 5-4-3-2-1
- At This Velocity
- The Lovesong Writer
- a certain piano-heavy track [2nd of encore]