It was a dark and stormy night.
Now, I admit I use that opening purely for it's ironic value; it is, after all, considered one of the worst openings to a novel in modern memory. There is even an award for it's use. But that is besides the point, because it was an unmistakably dark, and unmistakably (snow-) stormy night in Toronto, on January 22nd, as I awaited Adam's arrival from, well, some other part of Ontario that is probably not as important as the city that I claim as residence. Definitely.
In any case, the purpose of his visit was for us to check out the New Mexican Disaster Squad/None More Black/Against Me!/ Rise Against/Anti-Flag bill, and more specifically, for us to converse with the vocalist of Against Me!, one Tom Gabel. Of course, I've spoken to Tom at length in the past, both in a formal interview, and a far more fruitful conversation over drinks that would have made an incredible interview, had I only the foresight of running the fucking tape.
So, after many attempts to repeat that conversation, but to actually record it, we had planned to meet him. Of course, the "stormy" part of the night that I mentioned made it impossible. Adam spent considerably longer on the road then he had estimated, and arrived just in time for us to completely miss our interview window. So, resilient music fans that we are, we stuck around for the show.
We entered the main area in the Phoenix just as A-F Records' NMDS was taking the stage, standing at the back, we ran into Warren, drummer-extrordinaire of Against Me, whose quiet demeanor is completely betrayed by his incredibly energetic onstage performance with the band. But I digress, we were talking about New Mexican Disaster Squad. I wasn't too familiar with the band, but they played a fairly high energy set, sounding not entirely unlike a band we'd see later that night, Rise Against.
After their short, but not uninteresting set, None More Black took the stage. As they began to play, I remarked to Adam that in my review of their last record that I had claimed that the band seemed positively neutered on CD, and that I had much more to expect of their live performance. Suffice to say, I was proven quite right by the high energy performance Jason and Co. delivered that night. About twice as fast as on the CD, and without the many lulls, I am now convinced that the blame for the record rests either on the old drummer, or the producer, one of which must be responsible for putting the band to sleep on CD. Either way, it was a very gratifying experience to see that, no, the band didn't suck, just the recording.
Following None More Black's blistering performance was the band I had most wanted to see. Against Me! lit up the stage with their ricochet of three vocalists, intense drumming and just plain catchy and fun songs. I couldn't claim to have memorized the set list, but other than one song: "We Laugh At Danger" from Reinventing Axl Rose, they played a little bit of everything. Because a chunk of their material is only available on CD in acoustic format, it was like hearing new, but completely familiar songs when they played with the distortion turned way up. A thoroughly enjoyable set, and I would heartily recommend that you catch them next time they're in your town, or within an eight hour drive.
Next came the band I had assumed would be the headliner, Chicago's punk/hardcore powerhouse, Rise Against, who began the set with a slew of sound problems. Though opening explosively, Tim's mic seemed D.O.A. and I started to imagine we were in some sort of punk rock karaoke bar, seeing as the instruments were perfectly audible, but while I could see Tim screaming his head off, I certainly couldn't hear anything.
Old guy that I am, Rise Against's performance reminded me more of the hardcore shows I used to go to in my early teens then a performance at a large club. It almost seemed like the Phoenix wasn't big enough for them; the explosive energy was omnipresent, irrespective of the 50/50 chance you'd actually be able to hear Tim singing. I just hope their experience on Dreamworks doesn't kill them, because it would certainly be a loss.
To be honest, complete proof that I am out of touch with the "kids" became apparent as Tim announced that Anti-Flag would be up next; I don't mind Anti-Flag for the most part, and their last record was a welcome maturing of their sound, but I wouldn't claim myself as a fan, but reading the comments on this site would lead you to believe that everyone hates the band. Nothing could be further from the truth, as evidenced by the roar of the audience when their name was mentioned. Apparently, Anti-Flag fans occupy some sort of silent majority around here.
However, at this point, Adam and I decided to take our leave; personally, I've seen the band about eight times though I've never explicitly gone out to see them. Adam had to work in the morning, and I was tired so we left. Even though we only caught four of the five bands, and intentionally missed the headliners, I can say quite easily that this was one of the best bills I have been able to enjoy, and much credit goes to Fat for assembling such an incredible and diverse roster for the show.
It was a dark and stormy night.