Expectations were high for O'Brother. The band's darkly brooding, rustically explosive EP from last year, The Death of Day, always seemed to promise a live show that was haunting and thoroughly captivating. The set didn't quite live up to that, but the band sure damn tried. A lumbering low end guided the band through their 42 minutes that was like if early Radiohead had time-traveled and discovered Isis. The rhythm section might have actually had the most energy, as their drummer was slamming his kit so hard he had to bob up and down standing and sitting at times (reminding me of mewithoutYou's Rickie Mazzotta), and their bassist, back to the crowd, was often found leaning over and thrashing his head to the heavier beats. They played three songs off Death of Day, their contribution to a split 7" single with Sainthood Reps, and opened with what had to be two new songs, as I didn't recognize them, but they could not have been from the band's first EP, 2006's In Comparison to Me. O'Brother seems to think that EP barely even exists, and the continually murky, snarling prowl of their newer material presents all the more a departure from that earlier, bizarrely nuevo-emo sound. It's definitely for the better.
Set list (8:00-8:42):
- new song?
- another new song?
- Lay Down
- Division of Man
- Oh Charitable Thief
I only watched bits and pieces of Midnight Masses, as I saw them open for Thursday and it left me somewhat unimpressed. Same deal here. Their frontman gyrated too much; the sound was a vaguely funky and psychedelic classic rock piss-take; it all felt a little self-important. Or maybe it just wasn't my thing at all. It was tough to see how the crowd felt, either.
The Dear Hunter ramped up the level of theatricality in a different--and more enjoyable--way: big, swirling, operatic and Muse-like songs with light dalliances of progressive and experimental tendencies but with a quirky, almost carnival-esque pop undercurrent running through it all. And just about everyone fucking loved it. Myself, I like the band alright (the extensive theatrics can actually get a little boring), but Jesus. When the Dear Hunter played, it felt like one huge, Dutch-rudding circle jerk. It can't be articulated any other way. Their--more specifically, everydude frontman Casey Crescenzo's--fans are devoted.
At one point, one frothing young man began to vehemently and repeatedly scream, "FUCK THE RECEIVING END OF SIRENS!", making reference to the progressive post-hardcore/rock outfit Crescenzo left in 2006 (only to rejoin in 2008 for scattered shows over time). Were TREOS not good enough for Crescenzo in this young fan's mind? Do they simply not compare to greatness of TDH? Only Crescenzo probably knows, as he responded to this pseudo-heckling by placing his instrument down, coming to the front of the stage, motioning the fan over and embracing him in a head-to-chest hug and private talk. It seemed to comfort the fan, and the band's guitarist cracked that the bizarre scene made him feel as though we were at an Oprah taping. That couldn't have summed it up better.
The audience further showed their love with big sing-alongs for apparent fan favorites like "Mustard Gas" and "In Cauda Venenum," and inciting the sort of jumpy, scrappy push-mosh you might see at jam-band fests. It pissed off some, but the participants seemed to have a blast.
Of course, the band concentrated heavily on their two most recent full-lengths, playing songs like "The Procession," "Dear Ms. Leading" and "The Church and the Dime" (all from 2007's Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading) and "The Tank," "Life and Death," "The Thief," "He Said He Had a Story" and the aforementioned "In Cauda Venenum" and "Mustard Gas" (from the followup, last year's Act III: Life and Death). But one of the top highlights was a song I wasn't too familiar with, and Googling a key lyric only turned up one result: something called "Untitled I." When the band played it live, a few members of O'Brother came out to provide extra percussion, and they lent it a rather wild, pent-up finish.
TDH also threw in "Owls," the closing track from a recently released, limited EP, and Crescenzo himself played some solo stuff for a bit. The latter included a new song from the band's hugely expansive project in the works--an EP devoted to every color of the visible spectrum, as well as black and white. Thrice had massive success--in my opinion--doing a similar thing with The Alchemy Index, so this is something I'm looking forward to. But it was harder to imagine this song in the context of "white" than it is, say, hearing the wind chimes and breathiness of "A Song for Milly Michaelson" and just thinking, "Sure. Air." I suppose the minimalist approach Crescenzo has with this particular song is what might make it white, but I guess I just picture Sigur Rós' ( ) as the best musical interpretation of "white" ever laid to tape (but the aesthetic probably helps, too). As a song itself, however, it certainly wasn't bad.
Regarding the fans' aforementioned adoration, you can imagine their jubilance when they were all invited to come up on stage to sing along with one of the epics from Act II, "Red Hands." It just about summed up the fandom on display, but it was practically suffocatingly romantic for the hour and change it lasted.