Braid / Owen / TS & the Past Haunts - Live in Pomona (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Braid / Owen / TS & the Past Haunts

Live in Pomona (2012)

live show

I first checked out Silver Snakes around the time they joined Animal Style Records. Their name had put me off for quite some time, as I was thinking that a band who seemingly named themselves after a reference to a halfway obscure Nickoledon game show from the '90s probably just played goofy pop-punk. Wrong, hard. "Lungs and Lanterns" was the first song I checked out and it hooked me quickly, since it reminded me of another semi-obscure reference point I hold dear to my heart. It was also a little jarring how focused and realized such a seemingly new band sounded on a song like this one. I haven't given their recently reissued debut, Pictures of a Floating World, a thorough listen yet, but it seems like I'll probably dig it.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out earlier in the day that they had the first slot on this stop of Braid's current Frame & Canvas tour. Not surprisingly, Silver Snakes were pretty great live. They were also way heavier and more "rock" than on record–like Thrice somewhere along the 2003-Fire timeline. Makes sense, as I later found out these dudes have done time in hardcore bands (randomly, Bleeding Kansas being one). The atmosphere felt pretty intimate despite the Glasshouse bearing a capacity of 800; I looked around to see maybe 20 people watching Silver Snakes when they first started, and I felt like a few of those people were band members' parents. Still, for a local opener, they killed it.

I wish I could say the same for TS & the Past Haunts, given my long-standing affection for Piebald, but they're just not for me. Travis Shettel's newest endeavor played as a trio here, hammering their way through '70s-inspired classic rock. I mean, they looked like they were having a good enough time, but it was sort of a boring half-hour that elicited little more than soft head nods and polite applause from the sparse and scattered crowd. Except, however, when Shettel fielded questions between songs, like, "Have you ever seen a ghost?" That little bit of amicable crowd interaction was a somewhat saving grace.

Most of us naturally huddled up towards the front more for Mike Kinsella's understated half-hour under his Owen moniker. He hunched over a chair in fraying jorts and a loose plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled-up (a seeming favorite among the Kinsella fanbase, coincidentally), his eyes looking awfully tired and the setlist written on the palm of his left hand. No shit. For the most part, that nonchalantness didn't affect the set, though there was a whole hell of a lot of tuning (does he really use so many he can't string a few songs together more often?), and he noticeably flubbed parts on the last two songs. Still, with such a small crowd and most apparently fans, there was no annoying background chatter and Kinsella could do his thing without distraction. There was plenty of interaction, though: After "A Trenchant Critique," he simply accused the crowd of not being funny (perhaps concerning what was being shouted out). Though I was hoping to hear "Who Found Whose Hair in Who's Bed?", he did contribute another track from my favorite album of his, (i do perceive), recreating the sparkling fingerpicking on "Playing Possum for a Peed" nicely.

Set list (9:11-9:41):

Too Many Moons
O, Evelyn
Broken Bones
A Trenchant Critique
Good Friends, Bad Habits
Playing Possum for a Peed
Love Is Not Enough [title? new?]
One of These Days
The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crispi

The room was still only around half-full (if that!) when Braid went on. Figure 200 or 250 people. Maybe. That was a pity, because they were tight as hell. Actually, the one other adjective I've used consistently to people who asked after the show how Braid was is "crisp." That's simply the best way to state how they sounded, playing as a tight and formidable unit with a ton of care in delivering these songs the right way but also a clear, undying fondness for jams they wrote probably about 15 years ago. Bandleader Bob Nanna sort of had an upwardly gazing expression on his face during "Urbana's Too Dark" like he was trying to recall lyrics, but maybe it was just the wonderment of nostalgia?

Watching Damon Atkinson smirk and do his thing on the drum kit was enjoyable, obviously. Nanna offered a convincing stage presence, naturally friendly a lot of the time and nailing some jumping-with-guitar poses other times. It was interesting how guitarist Chris Broach's unique voice hadn't really changed at all (save the way he sings on his one Closer to Closed contribution, of course).

As they played through the entire Frame & Canvas record, it was a great reminder of how many compelling hooks and enjoyably knotty guitar parts dig themselves in there, keeping the crowd's attention closely enough for those 51 particular minutes. They may have risked losing some when Broach had some guitar troubles at one point, but fixed it while the band proverbially flipped the record to Side B and initiated a brief, semi-serious dialogue with the crowd on which side was better (one person claimed the latter, to which Nanna more or less replied, "Really?").

If that wasn't enough, there was a pretty sizable encore the audience behind the barricade dug equally hard. Not that he was sedated during the proper set or anything, but Broach had a special sense of energy on "Please Drive Faster," in particular. When Nanna announced they would have one more song for the night, he then quickly conferred with the band and amended his statement, saying they'd play one extra on top of that. Good thing, because "What a Wonderful Puddle" had one of the biggest reactions of anything they played that night. Frame & Canvas will likely always be my favorite Braid release thanks to its pleasing mix of accessibility and technicality, so this tour was perfect for me, but it was great to hear a few other gems from the catalogue.

Set list (10:10-11:01):

Frame & Canvas:
The New Nathan Detroits
Killing a Camera
Never Will Come for Us
First Day Back
Collect from Clark Kent
Milwaukee Sky Rocket
A Dozen Roses
Urbana's Too Dark
Consolation Prize Fighter
Breathe In
I Keep a Diary
Encore (11:01-11:26):
My Baby Smokes
Please Drive Faster
The Right Time
I'm Afraid of Everything
What a Wonderful Puddle
Forever Got Shorter