Midnight Masses were practically the footnote of this rather monumental Sunday night show at lower Manhattan's Bowery Ballroom. '90s emocore-cum-shoegaze vets Far reuniting for their first show in nearly a decade here and Thursday playing fan favorite, 2001's Full Collapse, front to back? How do you compete with that?
Well, you try to ignore it and make your own stamp on things, I guess. Buds with ...Trail of Dead, MM had a psychedelic-indie sound that bonded elements of both classic rock and the stars of Pitchfork's more recent, positive reviews. I had read a lot of Doors comparisons doing pre-show research; it kinda made sense. Some of the more repetitive refrains were accessible for immediate singing along ("Heaven," another song whose key lyric was "are you whisperin' to me?"); other moments bore decently interesting textures and layers. The dual-gendered harmonies were spot-on, too. But honestly, these were the brighter spots of a somewhat boring set that was a little too sedating otherwise. And they had a generous 40 minutes, too.
I knew a fair amount about Far before their set here, but musically, only that they seemed to pay a big influence on some of my favorite bands (Cave In, Thursday). I listened to some of the stuff from the heralded Water & Solutions beforehand and since it reminded me of a more Deftones-indebted Sunny Day Real Estate, I was looking forward to seeing if they could pull it off just as well 11 years after the fact. Their set here ended up being a greater, more expansive look at their catalog and the resulting mix was pretty cool regardless. Frontman Jonah Matranga (who would play as/in New End Original, onelinedrawing and Gratitude post-Far) was unhinged by his guitar for half the set, and would take advantage through theatrical spasms, characteristic of the band's elder scene. He would kneel towards the stage's front side pretty often and it helped connect him with what few Far fans speckled the front floor. The other guys in the band were energetic too, though, especially guitarist Shaun Lopez, whose fuming strums and lowered-head intensity provided Far's most compelling element.
Raucous old-guy mosh erupted for some of the band's older, more vaguely metallic hardcore-informed stuff, but their fans mostly reacted with politely passionate singing along. The latter was most evident when Thursday frontman Geoff Rickly came out to join the band for "Mother Mary"; apparently, it was a kind of reversal of history, as Thursday would cover the song nightly on a tour with onelinedrawing years back, having Matranga come out with them. It was definitely the most melodic and memorable moment of the set, but given the song's accessibility it was given, I suppose.
There seemed to be some technical difficulties and an occasional sour note or missed (or delayed) cue here and there, but the band weathered those bumps finely and seemed otherwise tight. From a pretty unbiased perspective, I was solidly impressed.
Set list (8:47-9:35):
- You Wear It So Well
- I Like It
- Water & Solutions
- Man Overboard
- Bury White
- Waiting for Sunday
- Love, American Style
- Really Here
- Heather's Homework (?)
- Mother Mary [f/ Geoff Rickly]
- The System
They never really seemed to miss a beat, save the quick breaks in among songs, and I think that could probably be attributed to the fact that a lot of these songs have been set staples for years, anyway. They were just stringing them all together here (Rickly's wide-radius mic swinging for the "rain rain down" part in "Paris in Flames" came right on time).
Despite no barrier, Bowery was awesomely lax about crossing the stage threshold; some crowd-surfed, others stage-dove. In the pit, you could witness everything from goofy push-mosh and hardcore two-stepping to that silly watered-down version thereof I remember being amused by at "post-hardcore" shows like these around 2001-2003. Both cases made for a pretty good indicator of the crowd's diverse makeup.
But all loved it, and when the band came back out on stage for a bonus six-song encore it was even better. The audience was notably less responsive for the trio of tracks off Common Existence songs, but the band probably expected this; almost a dozen gigantic black balloon-type spheres were launched onto the crowd as Thursday kicked into the mournful, new wave-y, morose textures of "Circuits of Fever." But when it ended, everyone ceased slapping the buoyant balls into the air and bugged out when the band kicked into their best complex anthem in "Jet Black New Year." And speaking of anthems, "War All the Time" could not have demonstrated that stripped-down quality of Thursday's songwriting better as a closer.
Set list (10:06-10:53):
- A0001 [over the PA] / Understanding in a Car Crash
- Autobiography of a Nation
- A Hole in the World
- Cross Out the Eyes
- Paris in Flames
- I Am the Killer
- Standing on the Edge of Summer
- How Long Is the Night? / I1100 [over the PA]
- The Other Side of the Crash / Over and Out (Of Control)
- Beyond the Visible Spectrum
- Friends in the Armed Forces
- Circuits of Fever
- Jet Black New Year
- War All the Time