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Appleseed Cast and the Life and Times

Ever since I missed the majority of an epic Penguins–Flyers playoff OT tilt (the 5/4/2000 5OT classic) because of a National Skyline show and, more brutally, the Illinois comeback against Arizona in the 2005 Elite Eight because of a Slint reunion show, I’ve been wary of sporting events coinciding with major shows. Fortunately this show only caused me to miss out on a predicted Duke loss to VCU in the first round of the NCAA tournament, not the greatest game in the history of sports, so things worked out fairly well.

I managed to catch the last three songs of Caspian’s set, which piqued my interest in their upcoming full-length. They managed to shed most of the Explosions in the Sky comparisons when they stuck to more violent, riff-oriented post-rock on penultimate song of their set, but the set closer was more of a slow burn crescendo into a drum circle. Drum circles, eh? The only one of those I remember enjoying was XBXRX, since it comprised half of their eight-minute-long set and did not involve their guitarist climbing on my shoulders and riding me around the Fireside Bowl. Despite this tangent, I’ll gladly see Caspian headline in the future and hope that The Four Trees gets a vinyl pressing. (I e-mailed the band and learned that they also hope the album gets a vinyl pressing, but nothing is guaranteed at this point.)

Harris played next, enjoying a hometown show with their parents in the audience. Aww. Their MySpace lists Braid and the Dismemberment Plan as logical comparisons, but I thought more of their emo peers circa 1998 or so; a bit of the Get-Up Kids keyboard-laden enthusiasm on a few tracks goes a long way. They succeeded when their enthusiasm didn’t overwhelm, but the keyboard player ruined his otherwise excellent contribution to their set with some rap-shouting in the middle of the song about parking spaces and dumping urine on the roof of a car. Nothing against the lyrical concept, mind you, but “rap-shouting” is perhaps even sub–drum circle.

I went to the show to see the Life and Times and, much like the previous five times I’d seen them, they didn’t disappoint. No “The Sound of the Ground,” but “Mea Culpa” and “Muscle Cars” both have great new intros and blow away their solid recordings. The sound was considerably more balanced than the last show at T. T. the Bear’s, meaning that I could hear both guitar and bass at the same time. The only bummer of the night was when Allen played a few bars of the Jesus Lizard’s “Mouthbreather,” not the whole thing. I don’t know how well that song would have fit into the muscular shoegaze of the rest of the set, but risking potential audience alienation is a decent price to pay for goddamn “Mouthbreather.”

I saw the Appleseed Cast in Champaign at the Cowboy Monkey in 2003 and largely enjoyed their set and this performance didn’t stray too much from that memory. Unlike the Life and Times, who got to the shoegaze aesthetic through a math-rock emphasis on rhythm and riffs, the Appleseed Cast came from a more strict second-wave emo approach (defined by the first two Sunny Day Real Estate records in my view) and their set vacillated between instrumental jams with post-rock dynamics and relatively catchy emo songs with shoegaze overtones. Amazingly enough, the kids seemed to be more into the yearning songs with vocals.

I was pretty stunned to learn that the next show of the tour (Friday night) was in Poughkeepsie, New York—i.e. roughly where I grew up—since shows of this particular standing rarely came through town when I was in high school, but hopefully that one went well despite a poorly timed Nor’easter. If you can catch any of the remaining shows of the tour (and there are plenty), I recommend doing so.