This show was full of pleasant surprises. The Lily's Pad of Toad's Place was apparently its second floor, and was essentially a furnished DIY space with a bar. No stage. I'd be seeing Envy play on a floor. Envy. On a fucking floor.
Just before my friends and I officially stepped through to the other side, I was informed Trash Talk had dropped. Could this night get any better?
Apparently, it could. The opening act was an Irish post-rock quartet called And So I Watch You from Afar, touring the States for the first time, and they just blew me the fuck away. They were wildly energetic, playing absolutely frenetic instrumentals with loving salutes to metallic hardcore, post-metal and a pinch of math rock influence (occasional finger-tapping got me stoked). They could be lumbering and otherwise jagged, sometimes simultaneously. Their frontman of sorts would shake around his shock of red hair while their other guitarist would perch himself on his pedalboard and just tear off chords. During "I Capture Castles," that other guitarist broke his strap--and then one of his pedals shit the bed. The song's epic buildup and climax was still pretty cool, though, so it's hard to imagine the greater effect it'd have had had things gone right at that moment. In any event, it was one of the best opening sets I've seen of any band all year. And judging by the band's logo proudly tattooed on their drummer's chest, you know these kids are committed.
I was so amped to see Touché Amoré I forgot to take proper notes on my cell phone. The entire crowd was going bonkers, bum-rushing frontman Jeremy Bolm with nearly every lyric, but I almost became the example, nearly getting kicked out for my pretentiously literal interpretation of the "NO CROWD SURFING" signs posted every five inches on the walls--since when is climbing onto two people and staying upright crowd-surfing? I just wanted to show that I emphatically agreed with Bolm's assertion that Ian Curtis had left him hanging. A few of the show's promoters and Envy's merch guy rallied around my defense with the lone security overseer ready to boot me, and I made my way back hastily to see the band play some other excellent songs like "Hideaways" (from their new split with Make Do and Mend), "Nine," "Suckerfish" and a veritable slew of others. They played something off every release and the vast majority of last year's still-awesome ...To the Beat of a Dead Horse (newly available on a proper, digipak-packaged compact disc release). I don't think this band ever has an off-night.
Set list (in rough order, and possibly incomplete):
- Honest Sleep [definitely opened]
- Throwing Copper
- I'll Get My Deserve
- I'll Deserve Just That
- And Now It's Happening in Mine
- Swimming with Sharks
- History Reshits Itself
- Broken Records [?]
Two righteous sets later I was ready for my first experience with a touchstone of experimental hardcore. The five members of Envy set up their respective kits and two humbly began ringing guitars without a word of introduction before launching into what I believe was "Chain Wandering Deeply," the opener off 2003's possible career-high, A Dead Sinking Story. No matter what sonically crushing song the band chose to blast the crowd with, though, it was just an onslaught of textural tidal waves. Hell, the crowd didn't even know how to react, for the most part; obviously, no one was really singing along, but very little in the way of head-banging or even bobbing was occurring. They just stood and witnessed it all, either mesmerized or maybe not learning much.
The language barrier was very minimal, even as frontman Tetsuya Fukagawa could only offer smiling, sincere and polite "Thank you"s between songs. You could sense his emotion pretty clearly when he would step away from his sequencer and lyric book (laid out flat on a stand facing the crowd sideways), up to the mic stand, knees bent and his frame slightly hunched over as he clenched his eyes and swayed vulnerably while screaming whatever sort of poetic anguish was at the heart of that particular song. It juxtaposed with his breathy spoken word perfectly. The guitarist to his left may have one-upped him, though, practically immersed in sweat before the band was halfway finished. Really, they all had some incredible stamina for the hour they played, facilitating between spastic moments of hardcore kineticism and lending the requisite parts to their beautifully gloomy post-rock soundscapes.
As much as I love Envy, I honestly find it pretty hard to distinguish and identify their songs; I'd show you a poorly lit photo of the laminated set list taken on my cell phone, but it's all in Japanese. I can say they definitely played a few off their expansively epic new offering, Recitation. I guess that's sort of a given.
It was a hell of an experience either way, and a fantastic show (save my rebellious hiccup). Don't fuck up and miss this.
VIDEO [shot by user estlincs]