Say Anything recorded one of my favorite albums of 2004 in ...Is a Real Boy, and that's something I really can't deny. Despite the nagging realization that maybe their hooks are less smart than I'd initially perceived, and a swelling fanbase prodding hot pokers at the repressed elitist inside me, the songs hold up fairly well after two years. With the announcement that three bands I'd consider myself at least a casual fan of would support big headlining tour for the now budding major label stars, it was clear my calendar would be marked.
Days Away plays a weird type of dreamy, lazy, atmospheric emo pop that's light on the ears but heavy on the senses. I noticed frontman Keith Goodwin was not holding a guitar, a rather recent development; this also meant they were a six-piece and boasting a three-guitar "attack." In any event, they were like their 2005 album, Mapping an Invisible World: solid. Things began with the upstroke-tinged "It's Not Over," and it was clear Goodwin's stage moves were plain odd; he bobbed around rather loosely in a fairly trippy manner. I guess it was just a reflection of the band's musical traits. Also included in the set was "Gravity" and the great "God and Mars," the latter of which closed the set, and a new song or two that seemed to depend a little less on melody and even more on atmosphere.
Piebald was a whole lot of fucking fun, straight up. For a band around as long as them and being put third on the bill, you'd expect a few completely bitter douches, but few acts just seem as plain happy as them to play, even here. I only really know their last two albums, 2002's We Are the Only Friends We Have and 2004's All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time, so I recognized "American Hearts," "The Benefits of Ice Cream," "The Monkey versus the Robot," and "The Stalker." As for the one or two new songs, there was a lot to like: creative riffs, decent hooks and a solid rock base. Travis Shettel also mentioned something like a Jan. 23 release for the album (he said the 22nd, but as that's a Monday I presume it's the day after).
Without a doubt I was most anticipating mewithoutYou. They were a wonderful sight when I saw them with Minus the Bear supporting Thursday, but I hadn't yet seen them beyond familiarizing myself with their new, mesmerizing effort, Brother, Sister. I was excited to see how their more reflective side would translate live, besides "In a Sweater Poorly Knit," which I already knew was incredible. What I got was exactly what I expected, entrancing, captivating, and otherworldly all at once. Things began with "Torches Together" and followed by "Nice and Blue, Pt. Two," and I could tell the new cuts were translating flawlessly. Frontman Aaron Weiss seems to be getting less and less anxious onstage as time goes by, but his voice is still pretty shaky when he addresses his crowd, and his nervous twitch isn't fully shaken until he himself is shaking -- flailing around his body in a loose, excited state. While there seemed to be quite a few confused looks in the audience, I and two friends were loving every note. We were definitely surprised at the lack of "January 1979," but the others made it worth the wait: "The Dryness and the Rain," "A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains," "O, Porcupine," the fantastic closer of "In a Sweater Poorly Knit" of course, and "Four Word Letter, Pt. 2" among a few others I'm sure. The backup vocalist/guitarist even replicated Jeremy Enigk's vocals perfectly on one of the two songs they played that showcases his guest work on the album -- his soothing "ah"s are indeed frequently pleasing on the ears. All in all, I can honestly say mewithoutYou creeps up my list of favorite bands a little more with each listen and/or sight.
Some heavy retreating to freer space towards the back of the crowd was in order for viewing Say Anything's set. I sang along quietly to the hour-plus set in which they played nearly everything from ...Is a Real Boy, plus a few B-sides, "A Walk Through Hell" and a couple from the reissue's bonus disc. Max seems to have come into his own as a frontman, commanding the crowd well but seeming a little apprehensive to absolve any of the rockstar clichés just yet (a good thing, mind you). The rest of the band really seemed like a *band* despite their limited time together -- a band which includes a former member of JamisonParker, now in a plenty more respectable place (no idea whether it's Jamison or Parker); they provided plenty of emphatic shout-alongs and competent playing on the guitars and, by Jamison or Parker, the keys. The crowd ate it all up, but I wonder if they thought the lights were as obnoxious as I did; the constant flashing for some songs (particularly "Little Girls," which had to be funny for anyone to witness a plethora of little girls singing "I want to kill kill kill little girls") was just annoying. The band capped off a three-song encore with "Admit It!!!," which received one of the biggest responses. In all, it was decently enjoyable, but I'd probably need to see another solid or better trio of openers to see them again in a place even bigger than Irving Plaza.