In the Venue
with Animals as Leaders, Codeseven, Circa Survive
Dredg has been one of my favorite bands since a suitemate introduced me to them in college back in ’04. Their Live at the Filmore album proves they’re the kind of band that can reproduce intricate prog rock as fluently live as in the studio, which is more than can be said for the general gamut of post-TOOL prog rock groups. Plus I love Gavin Hayes’ voice—it’s epic and sweeping and prettier than Dredg’s contemporaries, which, I think, is a good thing.
My buddy and I arrived at In the Venue around eight o’clock. We pow-wow-ed in the back parking lot for just long enough to watch three (fucking three!) bike cops cruise by. Thank god for our good hiding spot: when we rounded the corner the cops were slinking up on a hot-boxed sedan like lions on the Serengeti. A word of advice: don’t smoke pot right out front of the damn venue, where do you think you live? Downtown police basically have bums and concertgoers to attend to, and it’s not too difficult to guess where you might find either one breaking the law on a given evening. Though I must say I kind of enjoyed walking past the cop-lions as they consumed their kill, knowing I was the one who got away. “Evening, officers!” I said cheerfully (they didn’t answer).
Naturally, since this was In The Venue, the line went around the corner and up the street. I walked to the front and tried pulling the press card: “Hey man, I work for SLUG, they sent me to review this show, I should have a +1 on a list somewhere…”
“Ya?” The guy said, only half listening. “There’s only one line, man.”
Damn. That worked once before. Oh well, I guess it was worth a shot. Back to the ass of the line. We waited, watching the tweenies mill around nervously. Once inside we made a B-line to the grown-up half of In The Venue. I gotta say, it’s a good thing I got into this show for free, ‘cus 7.50 for a beer is economic sodomy. Such are the times, I suppose. Can’t be helped.
We elbowed our way upstairs and lurked about awkwardly for a railing spot to open up while the opening band Animals as Leaders finished their last song. It had some technically impressive guitar, no vocals, and a heavy, prog rock feel. I wish I had caught more of them, because the next openers, Codeseven, brought all new meaning to the phrase ‘awkward silence’. Codeseven’s lead singer enjoyed the shit out of his music. He was flailing around so emphatically it was clear that he was having the goddamn time of his life playing rockstar. Problem was, he didn’t once bother to look up and see if the crowd was feeling remotely the same way. They weren’t. His theatrics only increased as the set went on. I’ve never seen 1,000+ people agree so unanimously that they were not enjoying what they were seeing. Tone it down, pal. Let your music speak for itself.
During the set my buddy and I went for another round then scored some nice seats on the south side of the balcony with a big useful rip in the plastic that separated us from the smoking deck. While bumming drags from hipsters through the hole in the plastic we learned that this was, in fact, a Circa Survive show. “Who the fuck is Circa Survive?” I asked, “I’m here to see Dredg play.” The friendly hipster informed me that I was silly for thinking Dredg was good enough to headline their own show, and that he was really quite surprised that Circa Survive isn’t “just the biggest thing out there right now – they’re amazing” . . . those were his exact words. Okay, I thought, as long as I get to see Dredg, I guess I’m down to be introduced to something new. If Dredg is opening for them, they must be pretty dope. I was kind of excited, but when Dredg started playing I forgot all about it.
They were as professional-sounding as I had hoped. If you closed your eyes and blocked out the crowd noise, you could’ve been listening to a studio recording, and that’s something I really love to experience with live music. Watching Hayes work the slide guitar to make those eerie wail-melodies I know so well was a happy moment. I tend to forget to notice the percussion in music – especially when it’s done so well that it blends right in – but drummer Dino Campanella was fuckin’ workin’ for it, and it showed. His energy really drove the performance forward. All in all it was everything I expected from Dredg live, except that it was a truncated set so we only heard their most recognizable songs, which was a shame.
I was ready to leave while Circa Survive spent their half hour setting up. I probably should have left, but I was curious to hear what kind of band Dredg would open up for. Circa Survive fans are invited to leave right now because it’s going to get ugly. Maybe I’m just angry that Dredg came up second to these guys, maybe I’m just a crotchety old dink with no taste for what ‘the kids’ like these days. Or maybe Circa Survive’s pervasive brand of screamo is about as original as screaming “play freebird!” at a concert. Maybe their songs are like love letters to Jared Leto, after all, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…
I will begrudgingly admit that Circa Survive fits better with Dredg than most screamo bands might. Their musicianship was tolerable and the songs leaned toward progressive rock even while being yanked far, far away from it by the laughably-screamy vocal chords of lead singer Anthony Green.
It shows you how far out of touch I must be with youth culture that I thought screamo had already had its hey day. I guess it’s alive and well. I just wish it would leave my favorite bands alone. Is that too much to ask?