mewithoutYou / Appleseed Cast - live in Boston (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

mewithoutYou / Appleseed Cast

live in Boston (2014)

live show

I'd never seen Hop Along, choosing to sit out the Owls show here in Boston this past July in favor of traveling to Rhode Island to catch Circa Survive at the intimate Pawtucket venue The Met (which was excellent, so I think I made the right choice). So when mewithoutYou announced the fellow Philadelphians as additional support for their 10th anniversary Catch for Us the Foxes tour (which already included emo/post—rock vets the Appleseed Cast), it was a delight. Singer/guitarist Frances Quinlan came out on stage by herself right around 9:00 to open with "Trouble Found Me", off 2012's almost cultishly adored Get Disowned. The rest of the band naturally came on after and together they played through a sprightly half—hour set of their stomping indie rock, including the vulnerable, anthemic "Tibetan Pop Stars" and set closer "Sister Cities" (and maybe "Young and Happy!"?). Quinlan, the seeming lovechild of Janis Joplin and Kevin Devine placed in a modern, '90s indie/punk—influenced rock context, led with her unique voice, her face and head barely even moving during certain moments of rasp or howl; it looked impressively effortless. The band sounded tight and just generally huge. It was hard to tell how many people were familiar with the band, but by the end of the set, the reception was rather warm and enthusiastic for a first opening act. It's hard not to imagine them being part of some gigantic, well—respected indie label by this time next year.

I hadn't seen the Appleseed Cast since April 2009 at New York City's Mercury Lounge, so this was definitely an added treat. The band were quite good then, even if they leaned on their meandering post—rock tendencies that dominated much of their recorded output around that time. But since then they've released the excellent, slightly tighter Illumination Ritual, which this set leaned heavily on (as it did 2006's Peregrine). I was definitely cool with that, as I'm really only familiar with half their catalog and those two albums are inclusive of that. When singer/guitarist Christopher Crisci's vocals sounded distant and faint in opener "Barrier Islands (Do We Remain)", I was nervous this would be another classic live issue that would drag down the set some, but Crisci hit the other side of the spectrum when "Cathedral Rings" followed; instead of blending into the atmosphere, as they tend to do on their studio recordings, his vocals were much louder and punchier, and they largely remained that way for the rest of the nearly 45—minute—long set. I don't remember the band offering too much banter in between, instead focusing on piecing together and adeptly playing a flowing set that inspired reservedly excited singing along from some in the crowd. Drummer Nathan Wilder was particularly fun to watch, with some intricate fills that led me to think he probably had a heavy influence on recently departed Good Old War (and ex—Days Away) drummer Tim Arnold.

Set list (9:43—10:26):

Barrier Islands (Do We Remain)
Cathedral Rings
Song 3
Woodland Hunter (Part 2)
Great Lake Derelict
Here We Are (Family in the Hallways)
Fishing the Sky
Steps and Numbers [?]

There was a bit of a fan transfusion from there, a large swath of obvious mewithoutYou fans replacing the Appleseed Cast followers in the middle of the floor. It was mildly surprising, as I'd have thought there was a little more crossover there.

mewithoutYou thankfully didn't wait the full half—hour to go on at their scheduled time of 11:00, as the lights dimmed just 21 minutes after the Appleseed Cast had finished (thank Allah for backlines). They walked on to raucous applause, spent a brief few seconds tuning and kicked right into the taut "Torches Together". Doing this tour has clearly been a blast for them, as frontman Aaron Weiss jumped around the stage wildly with a grin on his face during the energetic opening salvo to their classic record, even diving onto the crowd at the frenetic start of "January 1979" (he's become visibly less shy and anxious on stage over the last decade or so of performing). (As an added note, I don't think I've seen them play that particular song since their June 2007 headliner with Piebald and Manchester Orchestra.) They didn't even pause until the end of "Seven Sisters", with Weiss adding a cool new vocal refrain to the bridge of "Leaf" along the way.

In between songs, the newlywed Weiss talked about where some of the band's members are at with marriages and families (as well as giving love to crew members). Later, he even revisited that quiet excitement he'd expressed earlier about his new marriage, more candidly admitting he doesn't want to make light of such partnerships in knowing the difficulties and strains so many have in taking comfort in the constant company of another person, and how he's looking forward to embracing the potential challenges (to which one affected audience member felt prompted to loudly respond, "YOU ARE THE NICEST MAN EVER").

Although a couple obnoxious bros put a slight dour on the mood in the crowd with errant elbows and fists, contrasting a bit much with the heady, literate confessions so abundant on Foxes, the band could otherwise set an esoteric atmosphere thanks to beautifully tense moments like the opening of "Seven Sisters" or the almost mournful introspection that ushers in "Carousels". Sure, there's that weird punk energy underpinning the band's first couple albums (something illuminated brightly when they offered the almost comparatively sledgehammer—pounding "Silencer" during the encore, a song they've seemingly brought back in recent years for good); but it's the sadness, heartbreak, and philosophical waxing on faith and mental/physical observation (as well as the Fugazi—inspired riffs, uncharacteristic song structures and Weiss's anxious talk—shout—singing) that really makes these songs uniquely cathartic, personal experiences to be had.

Weiss brought out the accordion for "Son of a Widow", which the band left the stage after for a quick minute. The bonus five—song encore was a nice run—through of the peaks from a few other albums (majestic Brother, Sister closer "In a Sweater Poorly Knit" and jaunty Ten Stories standout "Fox's Dream of the Log Flume"), as well as a rare appearance from something off the folky it's all crazy! it's all false! it's all a dream! it's alright!. The resurrection of "Silencer" has been quite enjoyable these last few years, though I'd still like to hear "Bullet to Binary" brought back at some point. Although some people actually seemed to check out of the venue or at least retreat to another part of the room once Foxes was over, it was a pretty excellent feather in an already comfortable cap (and plenty of people remaining closer to the stage seemed to agree). Here's to hoping for a 10th anniversary Brother, Sister tour with Jeremy Engik opening.

Set list (10:47—11:37):

Catch for us the Foxes:
Torches Together
January 1979
Tie Me Up! Untie Me!
Disaster Tourism
Seven Sisters
The Soviet
Paper Hanger
My Exit, Unfair
Four Word Letter (Pt. Two)
Son of a Widow
Encore (11:38—12:01):
In a Market Dimly Lit
Fox's Dream of the Log Flume
Goodbye, I!
In a Sweater Poorly Knit