After a refreshingly short wait between the time of doors and showtime at New York City's Irving Plaza, Vagrant young'uns Emanuel opened things up. With the type of "rock'n'roll attitude" attempted in their songs, I expected some pretty grungy-looking, Southern dudes to walk out on stage. Instead, I got a very young-looking band with a singer who looked like a 5'5" Richie Cunningham, decked out in an `80s sweatband. I've more or less described their sound as Senses Fail-meets-rock'n'roll and their live performance didn't sway that. In their defense, they played with precision and probably converted a few fans in a rather dead crowd despite a set that, despite everyone in the band moving around and a drummer just about losing it, likely would've benefitted from some more visible energy. In the very least the set included "Hey Man" (complete with the super awesome spoken-word intro), "Buy American Machines" (thankfully, as it's one of their better songs and was played finely here), "The Willing," "The Hotline," and "Soundtrack to a Headrush."
The Early November was next, and have seemingly strengthened their stage presence in the last few years, aside from an underwhelmingly present third guitarist on several songs. It was discomforting to see a rather stagnant front-man in Ace Enders during the band's opener and most energetic song they've recorded to date though, in "Every Night's Another Story." Actually, the band's seeming spokesman for the evening was bassist Sergio Anello, who'd introduced the band, done rather amusing head grooving during the set, and by set's end had dove off a good 10/15-foot speaker into the crowd with bass guitar in hand. Two new songs were played; the first Enders preceded by announcing the band's triple-disc album as having a March 2006 release date and said that the next song would be quite different from what fans would normally expect. A funky use of keyboard was the only difference I noticed, and pretty much carried the modern emo rock sound they've been branded with since gaining any speck of notoriety. The second involved some extravagant hand motions from Enders while he sung his verses, of which seemed to have more of a personality than most of the band's other songs. "Something That Produces Results," "The Mountain Range in My Living Room," and "Baby Blue" were a few others I remember as being played, and with a steady performance in tow kids ate it up.
Somehow, some way, I used to be a fairly mild Senses Fail fan. Despite their absolutely wretched songwriting abilities and sound that was riding the all-too-familiar coattails of a stale and yet never dying sound, I guess their sheer catchy power was what pulled me in, if only faintly. Over time my enjoyment turned to annoyance and disgustion as their musical and lyrical developments went nowhere. It's safe to say it hit its all-time low here. The band came out on stage to some `80s hair metal riffs, and I couldn't tell how tongue-in-cheek it actually was. From there on I was treated to some sweet push moshing a short distance within my short left, fans convulsing while being "[loved] gently with a chainsaw," and a ridiculously loud mess onstage. I'm fairly sure the band was playing together and on time just fine, but the guitars were turned up so overbearingly loud it just came out like one big ball of bad nü-emo noise. At one completely random point between songs, singer Buddy Nielsen spouted "it's all about killing cops...killing cops and reading Kerouac;" I want to say something pretentious about no one in the audience catching the off-base reference, but you know, it's probably true (though made even more strange by the certain band shirt I happened to be wearing at the time). "Lady in a Blue Dress," "Buried a Lie," "Rum is for Drinking, Not for Burning," and closer "187" was included in a painfully hour-long set (the band is co-headlining with STD). Of particular note was their inclusion of "American Death," a new track that'll appear on the forthcoming reissue of 2004's Let It Enfold You, set to cause internal bleeding November 1st. It was ironic, since I firmly believe the song strives for a hardcore-via-Southern-rock-sound á la latter-era Every Time I Die, but more just ends up sounding like the band's label and current tourmates, Emanuel.
My anticipation finally hit home as Saves the Day took to the stage, including a baby fat version of Lost Boy Chris Conley, and temp fill-in Glassjaw bassist Manuel Carrero, on tour in spot of the recently departed Eben D'Amico. While the band's last headlining tour was practically a huge celebration for fans thanks to fulfilled promises of older material being played, including cuts from the notoriously great Lifetime tribute in Can't Slow Down, I embraced the idea of this being renewed for the current tour rather ambitiously. We were treated to a healthy number of tracks off my personal favorite of the band's discography, Through Being Cool, with Stay What You Are acting as main ambassador for the set list. While the transition to "Holly Hox Forget Me Nots" was a bit sloppy, once things got going it was a highlight; the song's mid-tempo frame is perfect for the band's material as of late -- or so you'd think until you heard the new song. While it may be hard to believe, the one new song the band played off their forthcoming, recently recorded full-length, was fast. Like, Can't Slow Down fast, just about. Parts of it were angry. Needless to say, I was floored. Your preferences of the band's career aside, this may be their most energetic, up-tempo album in at least six years, and I for one have my faith in the band completely restored after 2003's abysmal In Reverie (of whom a few songs have grown on me, but still comes off as a mostly emotionless, uninspired record). What made the set even better was the pacing of older material; as bands tend to do, STD has, for the past few touring years, played their faster songs rather mid-paced, which really hurts the flow and general feel. Here they actually kept it up; for example, the driven, pop-punk masterpiece "You Vandal" was played just as it should: Not exactly breakneck speed, but at the quick beat the studio version is known for. While only one song off CSD was included, it was quite the rarity; Conley stood on stage alone with guitar in hand to play "Three Miles Down;" it's likely the only time I'll ever hear it live, and I was thankful.
While the crowd was undeniably shitty -- 60% of the front row area looked completely sedated for half of the set and usually unaware of the song's lyrics -- and the openers probably don't fall under your tastes, I have to recommend attending this, if just for the new song alone. They even play the best tracks off In Reverie (see: single/opener, title track)! There's about a month of dates left, and if you're a fan in some scope or another, it's definitely mandatory attendance.
Set List (in chronological order by way of discography):
- Three Miles Down (electric, Chris alone)
- All-Star Me
- You Vandal
- Shoulder to the Wheel
- Rocks Tonic Juice Magic
- Holly Hox, Forget Me Nots
- Ups and Downs
- At Your Funeral
- Cars & Calories
- Certain Tragedy
- As Your Ghost Takes Flight
- Anywhere With You
- Where Are You?
- In Reverie
- new song