Live: Coheed and Cambria/Circa Survive/Torche
WAREHOUSE LIVE — 4/27/2010: I’ve been a Coheed fan for a long time…pretty much since they played that club tour opening up for Thursday several years ago. I scooped up a copy of Second Stage Turbine Blade after their set, and was immediately hooked by the weird gamer-metal/post-hardcore and the high-register vocals. Plus, it had Dr. Know playing on it, so mega cool points for that.
As a result, I’ve seen Coheed and Cambria just about every time they’ve come through (and at a few shows elsewhere at festivals and such), but for whatever reason (read: movie stuff), I’ve missed the last couple of tours. So, I was pretty excited for this show, especially since I was digging their new album, Year Of The Black Rainbow.
The first sign that this was to be quite the rock concert had to be the crowd. I swear that I have never seen that many people outside the Warehouse before a show…and I’ve been to some sold-out shows there. While waiting in the gargantuan line to get in, I could tell that the air was charged; people were fucking stoked. It seems like that should go without saying, but I’ve been to way too many shows lately where the crowd (who obviously paid money and made the drive out to see whatever band) feigned total, motionless, hipster apathy the whole time. It was nice to see kids genuinely wound up with excitement to see someone and not feel like they were “too cool” to talk about it.
Since the line was so crazy long, and security was being extra-thorough, Torche had actually begun to play before I got inside the venue. When a band manages to sound interesting (and fucking loud) when you’re standing outside the venue…well, color me intrigued. My friend Dwayne had described Torche to me as “Queens of the Stone Age crossed with Isis,” and I really can’t put it any better than that — to my ears, that’s pretty much exactly what they sounded like.
As I walked into the main room, their brand of really interesting sludgey, stoner-y, metallic rock was bathing the audience in wave upon wave of aural fury. I found myself watching the rhythm section most of all — the bassist was energetically laying down some serious low-end groove, and the drummer was a freaking monster, and together they reminded me of the Sergio Vega/Alan Cage combo from Quicksand. If you know me, you know that’s a pretty golden seal of approval. The crowd really responded to Torche’s set; I hadn’t seen that warm of a reaction to an opening band in forever. Kids screaming, dancing, clapping along…I’m sure there were quite a few Torche fans in the audience when the show started, but by the end of their set, I’m thinking they won over the entire damn crowd (including yours truly). I saw droves of folks swarm to the Torche merch table afterward, so good for them. I’m sure this tour is going to really help get them the exposure they deserve.
Next up was Circa Survive. The Philly group and I share a little bit of history: if my memory serves me correctly, it was their gear that we borrowed as Jonah Matranga’s backing band at the SXSW 2007 Equal Vison showcase. That was the first time I had seen Circa live, and I remember being into what they were doing back then. Fast-forward a few years, and the band has refined and perfected their own special blend of indie-experimental-progressive rock — which to my ears sounds like equal parts Sunny Day, Jane’s Addiction, and Jupiter-era Cave In — and have also garnered a huge following along the way. I swear, the crowd lit up when Circa Survive hit the stage, and a great many of them were singing along, pointing, clapping, etc.
Being only casually familiar with the group, I found myself drawn in pretty quickly, as their live presence was pretty energetic, and dare I say, off the hook. It was one of those shows where I took turns watching each of the band members to see what they were doing in each song and to get a sense of how it all wove together to create this…this literal wall of beautiful noise I was hearing. I spent most of my time watching Colin Frangicetto’s fretboard acrobatics (and stage demeanor; something about him waltzing around the stage during the mellower passages was just plain awesome), and frontman Anthony Green’s manic presence and command of his reedy vocal register (hence the Jane’s comparison) to weave his vocals within the complex interplay of the rest of the instruments.
From what I can gather — having picked up their discography after the fact — the band played a few tracks each from their first two albums, but mainly focused on their newest release (and major-label debut) Blue Sky Noise. Suffice it to say I dug the set, a lot, and Circa Survive has found themselves another devotee to their cause.
After those first two bands went off like they did, I realized that I already hadn’t had this much fun at a rock show in ages. And Coheed hadn’t even hit the stage yet. “Where could we possibly go from here?”, I wondered internally. “Into the fucking stratosphere,” came the answer from the headlining band. If the crowd lit up when Circa Survive hit the stage, they practically exploded when Coheed came out, all guns blazing, opening with “The Broken”, the first single off of Year of the Black Rainbow. From there it was about two solid hours of probably the best Coheed performance I’ve ever seen — and as I mentioned earlier, I’d seen them a bunch.
The band is currently tighter, more confident, and sounds fuller than I’ve ever heard them, the latter probably due in no small part to the addition of touring keyboardist/background vocalist Wes Styles. This was also my first time seeing Coheed live with former Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie behind the kit, and pretty much all I can say is “holy crap.” You can really hear Pennie’s technical influence on the newer material, but I also loved how he brought a new propulsive energy to the older material as well — songs like “Everything Evil” or “A Favor House Atlantic” seethed with new rhythmic energy.
That’s no diss on former drummer Josh Eppard, by any means — Pennie just had some big shoes to fill, and he fills them nicely, and with his own touch. Kind of like when Matt Cameron joined Pearl Jam, if you get my drift. At any rate, Coheed played tracks from pretty much every album they’ve released thus far, even including the hidden/buried track “21:13” from In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3 (which was freaking awesome to see/hear live).
I’d pick out my favorites, but the whole damn show was solid; even tracks I’d normally like less than the others shined beautifully in a live setting. I wasn’t terribly fond of the mellow track “Far”, from Year of the Black Rainbow, but the live arrangement of it that Coheed played during the encore actually put it up there among my favorites. And the audience was totally into the show 200%, the whole way through — I don’t think the crowd ever stopped moving or screaming at the top of their lungs.
The lighting/stage show must be mentioned, as well; there was a projection screen behind the band that alternated between mosaics, the strange symbols Coheed is known for, and highly processed live feed of the band playing. All pulled off expertly, and it added to, rather than detracted from, the experience. Upon reflection, I’d have to say that this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, both as a whole and as just the Coheed set alone. The energy in the place was palpable, and Coheed and Cambria have obviously evolved into something special without losing that eccentricity and weirdness that made them so unique in the first place. If nothing else, that aspect of the music has been amplified on the later releases, and people are obviously digging it. In droves. Here we are, Juggernaut, indeed.