There's a certain gutted depravity to aging. Seeing a show on your birthday, the songs echo in your skull to the tune of some drunken wonderment, as if these same sounds repeated for 10 years have become the total accumulation of your hollow shell, now showing the cracks and breaks defied by the youth that populate the area surrounding the stage.
I fucking hate birthdays.
December 12th marred the proverbial wall with another scratch, and thus I set out to spend it watching one of the bands that, in every clichéd way possible, helped me survive the past decade. Through the years I've seen Thursday on many stages, but not for some time now, as I'd missed every tour after A City by the Light Divided was released. I don't really know what I was looking for in this show; I certainly figured I'd be disappointed when I found it.
Saying you're in a bad part of Connecticut is sort of like complaining about the color of a BMW. I'd driven through two states of emergency and left a house without power after Mother Nature had echoed my sentiments for New Hampshire in the form of an ice storm, and I'd been warned about New Haven. What I found was a chic and cozy array of shops and eateries, and I'd never heard of two of the bands I was about to see and the population at the bar inside Toad's Place consisted of me and some parents; my nightmare had begun.
Toad's Place is a cavernous grave of a stage that swallowed openers Moving Mountains whole. Though their full-length Pneuma is a great listen, they chose three of their four songs to be newer material, which I thought dragged and emphasized too much on vocals. The one song from Pneuma played was "Cover the Roots / Lower the Stems," which seemed an easy choice; I would have preferred "8105" or "Grow On, Grow Up, Grow Out," but the band seemed to be mainly promoting their new EP Foreword. While I haven't totally invested time listening to the EP yet, if the live show proves accurate, fans of the band who've yet to hear it might be in for a disappointment. I do hold out hope for these upstarts, but I'd be wary if they grew too invested in the vocal side of the band.
The closer of "With One's Heart in One's Mouth" was anthemic and darkly magical; the band had quite a few fans in the crowd, including the traditional render of 'that guy' who continued to fail at crowdsurfing, although I suppose the incessant need to carry an Israeli flag while failing was at least humorous, if not time-passing.
The Dear Hunter is a band that sounds like the hangover of a one-night stand between Muse and Coldplay. I don't mind these bands so long as other people are listening to them without me around. The Dear Hunter wasn't my thing and it certainly didn't help that they took quite a bit of time getting their setup together.
Before the Sleeping started in on their set, some guy proposed to his girlfriend, who looked terrified. She nodded 'yes' before he even got the ring out, which made me think she either was terrified, the stunt was planned by both parties, or both. Either way, if anyone ever sees me proposing to a girl on stage before a hard-metal-bro-pop-core act performs in the second slot ...well, whatever. If this is their true love I don't want to douse on their moment; I just left it feeling bad for the girl, as I generally think marriage proposals should not take place in front of large crowds.
So the Sleeping came on and they reminded me of From Autumn to Ashes. I took some time to think about how before I'd be legally allowed to hold the drink I was downing during their set, I might have listened to such music. I enjoyed FATA's Too Bad You're Beautiful at times. So the music didn't really bother me, even though I wasn't into it.
What bothered me was the incessant rendering of "Everybody mosh!" (or some synonymous call-to-white-teenage-arms) by the lead singer. This is a creed I've never been a fan of and to me it's something that makes me want to pay attention to your music less. The demands of movement to the audience should take place within the music; it's your message that the audience should desire to hear; it's the rendition that should make the kids want to jump and scream and pile up on one another and get as close as humanly possible to the stage. Don't fucking sit up there and fake it, asking for a handout circle pit. Write a better song and earn it, or simply play your music and be confident.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I can't remember ever going to see shows where this sort of thing took place. A call to arms for the bystander generation, I suppose. What the fuck ever.
At this point things were fairly dismal as I'd accrued a tab on weak drinks and even Moving Mountains, a band I'd never seen but have been quite the fan of, seemed disappointing. But Thursday somehow managed to change that.
Most surprising was frontman Geoff Rickly. Through a staggeringly lengthy set, Rickly showed no signs of letting up. His trademark awkward swagger has evolved to some angular, possessed movement of despair. He maintained his voice, as well as staying on key, for the entire set. Hollering from the seeming gates of hell at times, he seemed to let the songs get the best of him; as if riddled with pain during "Into the Blinding Light" or hopeful and pleading during "Recescuitation of a Dead Man." He joked with the audience while also walking the line between inclusive and political, saying, "We put out a record a couple years ago that a lot of people hated, but since then a lot less douche bags come to our shows, and we really like that."
The most notable part of the set for long-time fans was the newest song, "Friends in the Armed Forces." A shard of music jammed between "Paris in Flames" and the aforementioned "Blinding Light," the force behind the drums felt like a wartime cityscape. The recorded version will feature Walter Schriefels of Quicksand / Rival Schools / Gorilla Biscuits fame, which will only improve upon this deadly tune.
While I left noticing the absence of Thursday staples such as "Cross Out the Eyes" or any halt for melody in "Sugar in the Sacrament" or "Autumn Leaves Revisited," what struck me is the dynamic this band has been able to strike at; foregoing the measures which made them 'famous' and morphing into an incredibly aggressive sociopolitical act to take notice of. While there is still plenty of room for introspection and lament within the liner notes, Thursday has not only aged, but grown up.
I suppose there are better ways to spend a birthday; fighting through the crowd to get pictures (link at the right) is a bit harder, and feeling like there should be some motivation by now to grow up is all but derailed when you go to a show populated by people who were born around the time I started listening to Green Day. But within Thursday's set I found some vestige of hope -- that while we do age, we hold these common bonds and can grow together within them, knowing the walks of life prescribed by an automated world aren't necessarily the best of passages, and we can succeed in our own small ways, even if they are in basements and parking lots as opposed to boardrooms and jetliners.
- At This Velocity
- Division Street
- Into the Blinding Light
- The Other Side of the Crash
- Understanding in a Car Crash
- Between Rupture and Rapture
- Friends in the Armed Forces
- Dead Songs
- Resuscitation of a Dead Man
- Signals Over the Air
- For the Workforce, Drowning
- Standing on the Edge of Summer
- As He Climbed the Dark Mountain
- Jet Black New Year
- Tomorrow I'll Be You
- Autobiography of a Nation