Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taking Back Sunday and Envy On The Coast [Part Two]

In my previous TBS/EOTC blog, I described the trials endured before the show, and now I’ll get to the real meat (soy, of course) of the concert experience, the performances themselves. So, let me set the scene for you again: it is December 12th and the show is the Louisville, Kentucky stop on Taking Back Sunday’s winter tour with Envy on the Coast.


First on the bill was a local band, Frontier(s), which also happens to be the title of disastrous French horror film I was recently hoodwinked into viewing- that the names are connected, I am unsure. The set-up time prior to their performance seemed to drag on forever, probably because it did. For whatever reason- it may have been that the crowd was let in too early or that the venue was having technical difficulties, or a member of Frontier(s) was late- there was an unusually long wait before the first band began playing. And the crowd felt it. Impatience was the vibe among fans as the locals performed; the mood wasn’t set well from the beginning. Polite clapping and minimal movement was the only response the band rose from the still semi-frozen human conglomeration. That is, until the front man finally started talking to us and showing his hometown pride, which all the locals appreciated greatly. The musical performance didn’t warrant as much excitement. The vocals were hardly audible, and I found myself squinting and trying to read the singer’s lips as a way to amuse myself during their playing. The band may have been good in another setting; one where the sound quality was better, and where I couldn’t uncomfortably sense the lack of reaction from the crowd behind me.

The feeling of the crowd’s lacking vanished almost immediately after Frontier(s) left the stage. The pushing started and the excitement level grew perceptibly for Envy on the Coast, one band closer to the headliner and –for some- the very band they came to see. The two boys behind my friend and me were especially excited- this would be fun.

Envy On The Coast

I think it was last year that I placed an Envy on the Coast CD on my Christmas list after having seen a single video by them- I was impressed then and was prepared to be impressed again even without ever having gotten that CD. And the band certainly exceeded my expectations. Unlike the band before them, their vocals were clear and crisp as they began their set with breath-taking vocal harmonies of the keyboardist/ guitarist and the lead-singer. It sounded like the smooth blended voice of two R&B singers until the music started and things got rough, but in a good way, of course. With harshly defined rhythms, it was easy for this band to get the crowd moving within the first song and keep the crowd moving until the end. They were impressive as ever, more impressive than they were when I saw that music video. It was fascinating to watch the dread-locked singer’s strange facial expressions and peculiar swaying movements that all seemed to match the music perfectly—all these peculiarities occurred while, as is signature for the singer, his shoes were M.I.A. Have a foot-fetish? Envy on the Coast is the band to see. I give them an A+ on their performance, for sure. I forgot for brief flashes during their set that I was even anticipating one of my favorite bands to play after them- the perfect opening band can make one anticipate their next song rather than the next band, and they were able to do this for me.

I was still excited when their set ended and Taking Back Sunday would soon be taking the stage.

But my mind was filled with something other than “OMGOMGOMGOMG!” before their set this time. This time around, things were different. Fred Mascherino, former guitarist and co-vocalist of the band had quit late last year to pursue his solo project, The Color Fred. The last time I saw TBS live, I stood directly in front of Fred, and got to experience his excellence in crowd-interaction. How would it be different this time? What would new guitarist Matt Fazzi bring to the band? What would those new songs the band was rumored to be playing on this tour sound like with the changes in the band? I was about to find out.

Taking Back Sunday

Photo by Ryan Russell

The room went black and the crowd cheered, but the band didn’t immediately walk out. I hate being teased so, but that's what happened before TBS came out with the room prematurely darkened and Muse playing as loudly as systems would allow. The crowd compressed and released over and over in anticipation. I love that feeling- it’s like we’re all a part of one organism that happens to have a breathing problem and must struggle. Okay, that doesn’t sound that pleasant—it probably wouldn’t seem pleasant if I told you that I like the way my ribcage gets squished against barricades under the weight of hundreds of people’s pushing, either, but I’m avoiding the point and babbling now.

Anyway, Taking Back Sunday’s performance was, indeed, different this time around. Fred was missing, but there was no noticeable gap where he used to be. Fazzi filled in well, though – I sensed- timidly, but what was not filled was what I like to call the “frontlines” of the stage. Generally, there is a line of three band members at the front of the stage- a guitarist, a singer, and another guitarist, sometimes four if there is a brave bassist. The drummer, of course, is stationary and tends to be set back on the stage, but the “frontline” for this performance was quite different. Fazzi stood at the front with his mic and singer Adam Lazzara wandered everywhere. Bassist Matt Rubano stayed back near the drum kit with guitarist Eddie Reyes. They paid only the occasional visit to the “frontline.” Adam, however, stayed at the front and in a squatting position there for a vast majority of the performance.

Adam’s low-to-the ground (or stage, rather) positioning was amazing for those of us in the front who were at near face-to-face level with him the entire time as he sang and could look each of us in the eye as he did so, but I cannot imagine the view was quite as good from farther back in the crowd. The flailing hands of those in the front of the crowd, I’m sure, would be enough to completely block the view of those in the back of the crowd. But Adam’s being at our level brought an amazing level of intimacy to the show that was the most striking and memorable thing about it for me. Frequently, he would take out his in-ear monitors to hear what was being said to him by audience members. At one point, he asked a girl in the front to extend her arm so he could see her tattoo in the middle of a song, and answered the many of the heckles of playfully teasing fans.
He spoke playfully of his gaining weight, saying he needed to get his “hips right,” saying the boys were probably disappointed, “I bet you’re the guys who flat-iron your hair, though. Ooohhhh.”
”You do too!,” a random voice accused from somewhere in the crowd.
Hearing this, Adam responded with a story about his wife’s telling him he could no longer straighten his hair: “And I was like, ‘Okay, baby, that’s cool; whatever you say.’ She won that argument, like most arguments…”
The crowd was treated to more of Adam’s humorous and sometimes long-winded stories throughout the show as well as other fun quirks, such as; going into a Beyonce song at a breakdown in a TBS song as well as breaking out the old, “You down with O.P.P?” Apparently, we were the first crowd of the tour to respond with a resounding, “Yea, you know me!”

Taking Back Sunday’s set was fierce, fast, and unrelenting. If they did a slow song, I do not remember it, because the performance was so energetic. The only downtimes in the set were the points when the audience paid close attention to cover of a Tom Petty song, and to the brand new songs to which the band treated us. Two of the songs were upbeat: the title track of their upcoming CD, “New Again” and another called “Catholic Knees,” and one was a slow, moving song entitled “Everything Must Go.” One of the most memorable moments of the set came at the conclusion of “Everything Must Go”. As the song ended, most of the band members had fallen to a kneeling position on the stage. Adam, who was hovering at the very edge of the stage, dropped his head and covered it with his hands as if seeking shelter from a tornado, gripped his hair and weakly let his microphone drop with a soft thud against the front of the stage. Something about that moment nearly brought me to tears.

The new songs did have a different sound, a more refined sound than “old TBS,” but were good nonetheless, and I cannot wait until “New Again” comes out, and I can hear them recorded.

If you haven’t seen TBS live, I highly recommend you do so. You may have missed the eras of both John Nolan and Fred Mascherino, but –from this show- I could sense a new, great era in the life of Taking Back Sunday that will be just as exciting. I’m ready for them to be new again! Eh em… Sorry for the cheesiness. You can catch TBS at Bamboozle this year, or if you’re fortunate enough to be European, the band will be on your side of the pond in early spring.

“New Again” is set for release later this year.


Click here to advance to Part Three

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Part One

Friday, December 26, 2008

Taking Back Sunday and Envy On The Coast [Part One]

On December 12th, 2008 at 7:30 in the morning, two souls found themselves alone and freezing on the carpeted front steps of The Oasis bar and concert venue in Louisville, Kentucky. The only company they shared was that of cigarette butts, foreign newspapers, and forgotten and molding cheese and crackers. Having suspected similar souls would be partaking in the same activity, the two had set their hotel alarm for the “wee hours” and rushed to the bar, which faintly resembled a run-down mosque. Those foolish two were my friend and I, and the more intelligent concert-goers did not start showing up until we had been there two hours, much to the relief of their toes and other freezable appendages connected to them.

It was 30 degrees, but concert-goers are strange specimens who are willing to cope with the elements, and even build up an adrenaline-fueled tolerance of them. It’s a sacrifice that is nothing when compared to the reward of clutching the barricade and being nearly close enough to one’s favorite band to touch them. Queuing totaling well over 20 hours, sleep totaling less than 3 hours within 36 hours, snowstorms in the dead of Canadian winter, temperatures high enough for sunscreen to melt in Florida, and running on little to no food for days are all on my “I Survived” list and are only a few of the items listed.

The concert-goers in Kentucky had other devices to cope with the elements, however. Well before noon a few were indulging in warming gin while they waited for the Japanese sushi bar next door to open where alcohol is served in your choice of a novelty ninja or geisha cup. I don’t know from experience how much alcohol can warm one’s body, but it was a popular theme in the day’s line wait. At noon, with the arrival of a denim-clad lad and his lovely girlfriend, the drinking level was raised: “I say we all throw in and get a box of wine!” proclaimed the denim-clad one, and so it happened. Needless to say, the day became more interesting the more alcohol was consumed: voices grew louder, and personalities soared. It was the alcohol that passed the time for some and the watching of the alcohol being consumed that passed the time for some others like my friend and me, who were too young to join. All were happy and –by the end of the day- I could remember all of my fellow fans’ names and stories. It was nice meeting you all!

As for my side of surviving, fleece blankets are overrated, far from warm, and my poor toes paid the consequence by becoming so very cold that I limped when I walked away from the line and to my hotel for bathroom breaks throughout the day. Toward the end of the wait, I became so very cold that my shivers were no longer surface-shivers. They had grown deeper and deeper until those final ones before the doors opened seemed to rattle and cave my chest, causing an avalanche inside each time they came. At least we had the friends we had made throughout the course of the day to distract us with the singing of everything ranging from doo-wop songs to Alexisonfire. Really, the people were great at this show—an older crowd, which was a relief for me, as; I have become used to be “the old one” at shows. They all had impeccable taste in music and were friendly, and those line-waiters in the service were willing to share their army sub-zero sleeping bags, which is always a plus.

At about 7:00 we were put out of our freezing misery when the security guards eased open the doors my friend and I had protectively been leaning against. They made us back up to the steps upon which my friend and I had sat early that morning, then proclaimed something horrifying. “Everyone needs to circle around and line up at the end of this ramp.” They pointed to a ramp and an all-around bad scenario where my friend and I will have suffered for nothing and gotten into the venue last. After yelling in protest and nearly crying, we at the front were reassured that we would be let in first and a system was made to makedamnsure (sorry, I had to) of that. The crowd parted to let the front-of-the-liners, all of whom were protectively pointing out and clinging to each other to make sure we all kept our places, through so that we were again at the front and all drama was aside. My hands “X’ed,” I walked into the venue with my friend, through a maze of a bar then straight to the barricade. Thank goodness.

The Oasis is small. In my research prior to this show, I found that the concert capacity is 300. This fact was contradicted by others while we waited in line, but I will stick to it, since it is what the venue’s website says. The floor before the stage is narrow and long, and –here’s the crazy part- there are windows lining the entire right side of the crowd. WINDOWS! At some of the shows I’ve been to, people have been thrown in the air full-force; in my experience, windows + crowds = bad idea. But they looked cool, so whatever. The barricade was also strange. At the left side of the floor, there was not a barricade. It was a spot where people would have to hold back the crowd with their own force, well- until they set up a makeshift barricade there after the first band played. There is also no escape for those who end up in front of the barricade. Most venues have a long walkway from the space in front of the barricade that brings the person back to the rear of the crowd. This place had only a set of steps, blocked by wires, that lead backstage. For this reason, crowd surfers were not ordered to the back of the crowd, but thrown back into it by security. That’s fine, no footprints on my face from this show. Ha!

Well, now that I have told you as much as I can tell you about my experience without bringing up the actual show, I’m going to take a break. Keep your eyes open for Part two, where I will actually review the show. Ha-ha!



Click here to advance to Part Two

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry [Creepy] Christmas!

Hey, guys. 'Tis the day all this mistletoe and wrapping paper has been leading to, 'tis the day of giving and gorging, of family and friends, and of creepy Christmas videos, of course.
"Wait, what?"
Yes, that's right, creepiness. For your viewing pleasure, I give you a "X-Mess Detritus", a short film directed by Voltaire and narrated by Gerard Way, the singer of my favorite band:

"X-Mess Detritus" is the 18th short film of an online film festival put on by Glass Eye Pix. The "film festival" features a daily short film for each of the 25 days leading to Christmas. All of the films have a horror-holiday theme. You can view more by visiting CreepyChristmas.net.

Cheers, my dears...


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reality Killed the Music

Today, December 24th, 2008 is a miserable day for music. Today an era ends. Today music loses just a bit more heart as "Steven's Untitled Rock Show" airs its last episode at 2:00 PM on Fuse.

"SURS," as it came to be called over the years, began in late 2004 when FUSE saw a growing demand for "the kind of bands that would play Warped Tour." Remember that heartfelt blog I posted about the first time I saw the My Chemical Romance video for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"? Well, I saw that video on the show from which SURS stemmed, "Warped Wednesday."

I still remember my excitement for the then doubly-untitled show to air for the first time; Steven Smith was my favorite VJ from IMX, so I knew the show would be great. After its premier, I watched every single episode- I watched the show double in length from a half hour to the hour of air time it deserved, I watched the show before it had a title- I even submitted a title when a contest was put forth to name the show. The fans decided on the name, and we felt like we were a part of this show. This was our music. Music that no one else would play; music that I -personally- would never have known had SURS not been brought into my life.

To "Steven's Untitled Rock Show" and everyone behind it: thank you for being the only show that "got it." For knowing that being a part of music is being a part of something much more. Thank you for touching hearts and [pleasantly] rattling eardrums. Thanks for being the place where the punks, freaks, geeks, and indie kids alike could flock. Thanks for showing that it doesn't matter under which of those labels you find yourself-- we're all in this together. Thank you for defining a key time in my musical taste development. Thanks for believing in something.

This is a tough time, but I still believe in the good of the music world, and am going to try to help the legacy of the 'Rock Show live on through my writing. I know that being a part of the music world is being a part of a love- one huge beating heart that needs to live on. As a journalist, I promise to never write about music without throwing all of my heart into it.

Read Steven's blog about the ending of the show here

Read the show's producer's blog here

Both brought a tear to my eye. If you guys can, please tune in tomorrow at 2PM on Fuse.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Becoming Little Miss Slack-y Pants.

So, about that promise I made to blog more frequently, and moreover - to even match the massive amount of blogging My Chemical Romance now do on their website... Yea, I lied. You can go ahead and call me a liar.

Excuses are lame, but I have them. The week I made that promise, my father suffered a heart-attack, then I got super-busy. Currently, I have writer's block, and have been focusing on my art and "creative writing" as a means to focus my emotions. I am also busy helping pick the new round of MCRmy Medics- an anonymous group who work through e-mail and the My Chemical Romance street-team to help those who are in emotional need. This time around I'm even more involved with the medics than I have been in the past. I couldn't be happier about my position, because I love helping, but it does take a lot of my time and attention as it should.

Despite my other obligations, I will pick things back up on here. I have a list of topics I have been planning, and -not to mention- that extensive Taking Back Sunday and Envy on the Coast show review!

Some other topics include:

-How to prepare for a concert! My expert Tips
-Why the "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge" vinyl is cooler than anything on Earth
-A guide so that no one ever has to ask Gerard Way about his hair ever again!
-My favorite concert venues
-Guidelines for writing the perfect punk song
-My favorite obscure band
-Lyrics of the week, perhaps?
- and more...

No more Little Miss Slack-y Pants!


Sunday, December 7, 2008

I Have a WONDERFUL Week Ahead of Me.

So, about that challenge I made to myself about doing a blog-for-blog with the MCR site... I'm a bit behind, but I will catch up. I just needed to do a little living to gather blog-worthy materials. Now that I have them, you can expect those promised extra blogs, but maybe not this week, for; I have busy and exciting times ahead of me, friends.

Here's the schedule:

Tomorrow (Monday, December 8th):
Shopping for my mother's Christmas presents and drinking the hell out of a lot of coffee. You can probably expect a few late-night/ early tomorrow morning blogs for this reason.

Tuesday (at midnight):
The Dark Knight, obviously.

Leaving for Louisville, Kentucky



Blogs of elaboration will follow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Becoming Little Miss Bloggy-Pants

I realized something as I went to bed last night at 6:30 pm- I'm not very productive as of late. It was like a slap in the face this morning when I looked at the clock and it said 11:30 am. That sealed it, I need to get on this blogging thing.

Yesterday, the rubbing-in started as I watched a great VH1 feature from a couple years ago about media and the young, out-of-control Hollywood scene. My first response to it was, "Wow. I want to be a member of the paparazzi," then -more logical- "I want to work for TMZ," then I lost the stars in my eyes and realized who I was, thinking, "That's just creepy," and went on with my half-attentive watching of the show until The Queen of All Media cropped up his pretty, little head.

Ah, Perez Hilton, I'd be lying if I said you didn't inspire me. Sometimes you thoroughly gross me out-- well, that was just one time when you said that the singer of my favorite band "[makes your] manties moist." But anything I hold against you is simple jealousy and you made that jealousy grow yesterday when you said something along the lines of this on that VH1 show (not a direct quote),
"My gossip blog is the only blog that actually breaks news."
Bitch. We can't all be so "on the inside" as you, though; I hope I someday will.

Anyway, the rubbing in continues--

Somewhere in the middle of my slumber I receive this text:

From: Twitter
gerardway: thinking about posting a blog


I wake this morning to not one, but FOUR new blogs on the My Chemical Romance site. One of the blogs, written by rhythm guitarist Frank Iero, even gawked at the quantity of blogs being posted. (Read it here).

So, here's the deal-- everyone is blogging me under the table (most notably my oh-so-notable follower, Alec), so I'm making a competition with my own will. Every time one of the My Chem guys blogs, I shall blog. Not at that precise moment, because I like to give my old blogs a little settling time to attract some sort of attention, but at some point I will.

So, I woke up to four blogs today, wrote this one, and that means I owe you three, Oh my Reader. All of my important obligations are online-based, I have seemingly nothing better to do. Let's do this!!