Sparta/Glassjaw/Hot Water Music/Dredg - live in Los Angeles (Cover Artwork)

Sparta / Glassjaw / Hot Water Music / Dredg

live in Los Angeles (2003)

live show

Let me start off by saying that The Mayan is by far the coolest venue I've ever been to, and anyone in Southern California should see a show there at least once. I was told (by a not-so-trustworthy source) that it's ordinarily a nightclub, but they make exceptions for concerts every once in a while. They gave free parking, the security guards were laid back, and the inside was absolutely beautiful. The walls were covered in carved pillars of wood, kind of like totem poles, that looked like they had been pulled right out of "Raiders of the Lost Arc." The venue was quite large, but the floor was small enough that you didn't lose any intimacy with the bands. Anyway, enough about the venue.

First up was Dredg. They had an extremely unique sound, and their style is very hard to classify. My friend called them "jazz-core," which isn't a bad description. As far as opening bands went, I was quite impressed. The singer had a trumpet, but he rarely actually played it. Instead, he would distort his voice by singing through the trumpet. It gave his voice a creepy echo which really worked along with their medium-paced emo guitar work. I'd probably never pop in a Dredg record at home, but they were far better than the opening bands that you're used to seeing.

Next up was Hot Water Music. They are actually my favorite of the four bands playing, but I've already seen them several times. The best word that I can think up for their performance would be "uninspired." They seemed to just be going through the motions of playing a show. They just came out and, without a word, went into "A Flight and a Crash" immediately followed by "Remedy." Both were played sloppily and with little of the emotion that I've always loved about HWM. After those two, they settled down a little and started playing better. Though they didn't play very well, I was happy with their song choice. I don't pay attention to song titles, but they played at least two songs each off "No Division," "Fuel for the Hate Game," "Forever and Counting," and "A Flight and a Crash" in addition to the many that they played off "Caution." I should add that they made up for this bad night by playing an incredible set the following night in Anaheim.

Then came Glassjaw. This was who the crowd was here to see. I saw way more Glassjaw shirts and stickers on cars than I did for all the other bands combined. Personally, I've never been much of a fan. I've listened to "Worship and Tribute" a couple of times, but it has never really done anything for me. I wish that I could say that they got up there and disappointed their fans, but they didn't. They put on by far the best show of the night, and they got a huge rise out of the crowd. They made complete use of the incredible sound system of The Mayan; they sounded much better live than they do on cd. Seriously. They played with so much intensity and power (the singer almost never stopped dancing around) that you almost couldn't help but want to go out and dance. Their sound is kind of a clash between East Coast hardcore and melodic emo. It sounds much too dichotomous for me; instead of trying to blend the two sounds, they alternate between them.

Last up was the band that I was there to see: Sparta. If you're reading this review, you probably already know that they are made up of 3 of the 5 ex-members of At the Drive-In… aka the best band ever. They sound very similar to ATD-I, but they are a little more mellow and harmonious. I had never seen them live, so I didn't really know what to expect. Their stage presence is very similar to their music: slow, emotional, and intense. They were a distinct contrast to the energy of Glassjaw. Jim's vocals were excellent, and he seemed to really get into the songs. In the middle of the set, he said that he just had to take in the moment. "This is the biggest LA show that we've ever played," he said as he just gazed over the crowd for about 30 seconds. Most bands thank their fans for their support, but Sparta really seemed to mean it when they said it. Jim seemed more amazed that he was playing this show than we were amazed that we were seeing it.

Something strange that I've noticed is that Sparta seems to play a different version of "Cut Your Ribbon" than the version on "Wiretap Scars." I first noticed it on the music video, and I noticed it again at the concert. It's disappointing because I like the cd version so much more than the remix. It also surprised me that they didn't end with "Cut Your Ribbon." In fact, they didn't even do an encore at either show. It wasn't that they wanted to get the hell out of there. The whole game of pretending to be done just to return and play your hit song just doesn't seem like Sparta's style.

I managed to snag Sparta's set list:
Sans Cosm
Red Alibi
Vacant Skies
Rx Coup
Grasshouse Tarot
Assemble the Empire
Cut Your Ribbon

The coolest thing about this set list is that it is written on the back of a financing sheet for the concert in Las Vegas on 2-19. It basically says how much each band got paid, how many tickets were sold, venue profits, etc. It's pretty interesting to see how much major-label bands actually make while touring. Sparta got $3000, and the other three bands combined got $4000. I was impressed to see that the bands got 42.5% of profits.

Overall, this was an incredible concert, definitely the best since the Plea for Peace Tour. Though it pained me to pay $28 (die, Ticketmaster, die), it was worth it. Not only were all of the bands good, they also worked well together. Dredg mellowed everyone and got them in a good mood. Hot Water Music (more so the next night) got the aggression of the crowd up, which they then released during Glassjaw's set. Sparta was a soothing, comfortable end to a great night.