Doors scheduled to be opened at 6:00 P.M. and the show to start at 7? Funny that the first band was finishing up their set as we walked into the venue around 6:40. I could hear the vocals and it sounded very familiar as I thought, "Wow, this sounds exactly like Biology." We went further in and began to watch this unknown band who seemed to take an awful lot from them. The last song they played was impressive -- very emotive and powerful, musically drawing heavily from Elliott but vocally with that Francis Mark nasal tone. When the song completed, they thanked the crowd and mentioned "We're Biology." OH, that would explain it. It was just harder to tell now that front-man, the aforementioned Francis Mark (who also handles percussion and vocal duties in From Autumn to Ashes) no longer looks like a stand-in for Andy Dick without his glasses and choppy fluff of hair. You'd think a Vagrant Records band would be listed on the actual bill (which was Boy Sets Fire / the Fully Down / Versus the Mirror), but alas, it was no such case.
Versus the Mirror was next and the venue was still well away from filling up -- actually, I'd say I could count no more than 20 people standing anywhere in the illuminated area in front of the stage. I remember first listening to the band's self-titled EP and thinking it was pretty competent for a Bled ripoff. What's really impressive is that was only 7 months ago, and the band is well, well beyond that, forging their own territory with more experimental guitars than the ones the metalcore genre would confine them to, and vicious but introspective and reflective compositions. All the members moved about and looked to be enjoying themselves, even the singer whom I've seen criticized recently for having such a lack of energy -- at least in the first half. He did seem drained by the set's midpoint, but all the while him and his band-mates were musically on point, giving off a definite Breather Resist vibe in the live setting, one of which I didn't quite notice on record. The cuts they tore through included "Life as a Criminal," "Smoke It to the Rope," "Birthed by Architecture," and "Barracuda Capital of the World" among 1 or 2 others. Very solid.
I only remember cringing a lot when trying to listen to the Fully Down's Don't Get Lost in a Moment, but live, I almost wanted to like them. There's a blatantly obvious Wilhelm Scream influence providing the band's backbone, but they have these weird emo/pop-punk elements running through their songs that seem to drive this wall between me and enjoyment. It could be the vocals that are part of the problem; it could be that every time the singer opened his mouth, the guitars were automatically dumbed down seemingly. Either way, this band could write some terrific melodic and technical punk rock if they do away with the frills.
Earlier me and my fellow showgoer were scoping out merch when he looked at one band's table and asked "Envy?" Yeah, I pretty much emptied my bowels at the thought I'd missed a totally random appearance by the Japanese screamo pioneers, only to see it was really locals Envy on the Coast, who we figured had opened up the whole thing.
Exhausted from my day I was passing out on a comfortable leather couch next to the wall when it seemed Boy Sets Fire was finished setting up. I got up, stretched, and pointed my head towards the crowd, thinking "Wow, BSF's fanbase sure consists of a lot of younger girls and clean cut-looking young men who looked like they just came from their busboy jobs." I then turned to the stage only to see a collective of young men who couldn't have been much older than their late teens. This could not have been Boy Sets Fire. No, it was Envy on the Coast, playing second to last because they literally had the biggest draw of any band on the bill. I'd heard much about them considering they were unsigned, from a feature in AP to a performance at the recent Bamboozle festival. Too bad they sound like Glassjaw with very few of the elements that make Glassjaw interesting. A few of their songs seemed ambitious, but others watered down, radio-friendly and super repetitive versions of that band. The vocalist's warble was straight Palumbo, as well. Everyone was pretty big into it (some push mosh going on for their one "big" song, even), but it wasn't for me.
Straight up: Boy Sets Fire was fucking fantastic. There couldn't have been more than 30 people visibly in attendance, and much less familiar with the band, but BSF put more energy and passion into their songs than most bands I've seen combined. Their songs were diverse, drawing from all sorts of hardcore subgenres and giving the set a healthy variation. Funny enough, I'm really only familiar with the band's first and most recent full-lengths -- 1997's The Day the Sun Went Out and the recent, great effort ...Notes from the Plague Years. Thus, I can really only name songs they played from those albums, but if you asked the rest of the crowd, I'm sure they would tell you titles -- it was that material, from their middle efforts, that got the biggest reaction. The often self-deprecating act initiated things with "Walk Astray" and "Pure," which should've amped things up well. I was anticipating a big, unifying sing-along for "...INSPIRATION!," but got none, really. It was okay, because I definitely enjoyed much of the middle career material I heard and thus picked up the full-length considered the better of the 2 (After the Eulogy)...but the Plague material was played nearly bang on as well. They delivered basically every song I wanted to hear, from the ferocious "Final Communiqué" to the anthemic "Requiem." Also played was "Rookie," "Falling Out Theme," "So Long...and Thanks for the Crutches," and possibly "The Misery Index" and "A Far Cry." One of the best live bands I've seen; highly recommended.