Between the Buried and Me with Coheed and Cambria, Russian Circles

Posted February 18, 2013 in

Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez swung his glorious hair around amid the jovial fan chaos. Photo: Megan Kennedy

Friday night, I joined a couple hundred of my closest friends and made the trek out to the fragrant Saltair to witness the coming of the Coheed and Cambria tour with supporting acts Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles. The night was nippy and made the moderate wait in line less than ideal, and I was stopped by security no less than three times about my camera bag (selective press pass vision?), so I’ve come to the realization that I look really, really dangerous. I suppose we all have our burdens.  

Despite the hold-ups, I made it to the photo pit in the nick of time as Russian Circles, a band I was only passingly familiar with, took the stage. This three-piece instrumental had some of the strangest lighting I’ve seen for a band on a big tour: a kind of minimalist, dramatic under-lighting that made the drummer’s cymbals and translucent red kit glow like a giant, particularly loud firefly. The guitarist and bassist/keyboardist each had a few lights to themselves, but overall, the stage was hauntingly dark, and really set a unique and brooding mood that went along vibrantly with their emotional music. I’m definitely a fan of their narrative-like song building; they’re one of those bands whose music you can easily imagine as a soundtrack that accompanies the more important moments of your life. They didn’t move much, but had terrific stage energy nonetheless, and I was super impressed by the bassist playing keyboard with his fret-hand knuckles, while still playing the bass. That is fucking talent. Compared to the following acts, these dudes were a nice, low-key introduction, and the crowd really enjoyed what they brought to the table.
Next up was the act I, personally, was waiting for: the almighty Between The Buried And Me. They haven’t been to SLC for quite some time, and this was my first time seeing them live after having been a fan since my teen years. And talking to their incredible bassist, Dan Briggs, about their newest record and how pumped they were to play it live only heightened my anticipation. BTBAM’s stage setup compared to Russian Circles was like comparing Vegas to Logan, Utah. They had giant cloth backdrops dotted with LCD lights, which showcased a fantastic array of colors and patterns to go along with the group’s psychedelic- and sci-fi-influenced new tracks, and a backdrop of a giant, creepy rainbow owl, for some reason. They came out and played newest single Astral Body, and damn! Even as a fan who knew what she was getting in to, they blew me away. Tommy Giles Rogers is one of my favorite vocalists in the biz, and he sounded so spot-on, transitioning between his gorgeous, clean singing and thick, emotive screams as he ran around between his keyboards and being face-front with the crowd. The aforementioned bass prodigy Mr. Briggs owned that stage, grooving around and looking like he was having as much—if not more—fun than the crowd whom he was entertaining, while his two guitarists mostly held anchor on either side of the stage and shredded our faces off. As promised, they played several songs off the new record, including my personal favorite, “Lay Your Ghosts To Rest,” and went back in their catalogue to tracks from Alaska and Colors. They played over an hour (awesome!), but still, hilariously, only got through about six songs. I love these dudes. 
Finally, it was time for Coheed and Cambria, which seemed to be, by far, the crowd favorite. I’m familiar with these guys but not quite “fan” material, mostly because I just haven’t checked out their catalogue very deeply. I will say this show made me want to change that. And if BTBAM’s set was Vegas, Coheed’s was straight-up Wonderland. With all the other band gear cleared off, they had an enormous amount of room to play. On either side of the drum riser were plastic display cases filled with various, posed mannequins that filled with smoke. Above the drummer, the band’s logo was displayed, enormous and color-changing—a fantastic backdrop for taking photos. The place went batshit insane when the lights finally went down. Coheed’s main man came out to some dramatic, yellow lighting and a smoky stage with a teeny tiny ukulele, playing an opener that was quiet and only served to build up the tension when they finally exploded into a more upbeat track. I think I was literally the only person in the building who wasn’t singing along and losing my shit to every word of every song. Even up in the bar areas, fans were practically dangling over the sides as they pumped their fists and sang along. It was really awesome to see such a cohesive crowd, and it speaks to Coheed’s talent to bring so many people along for the ride. They were nuts onstage, both guitarist and bassist running around as the played, and lead man Claudio Sanchez (what a cool name) getting so crazy with his magnificent head of curly locks that he, at least once, got them caught up in his tuning pegs—OUCH—but never let the flow stop. They continued on the night’s tradition of more music, less talk, which I very much appreciated. Indeed, aside from Tommy of BTBAM introducing one song and then saying goodnight, none of the bands wasted the crowd’s time with in-between blathering. I feel like I missed out on a lot of the Coheed experience since I wasn’t a fan familiar with the band’s songs or awesomely complex album concepts, but it was still an incredibly enjoyable night, and I always delight in seeing so many hundreds of people brought together by music. Next time they come, I’ll be more in tune with their universe.
Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez swung his glorious hair around amid the jovial fan chaos. Photo: Megan Kennedy Tommy Giles Rogers oscillated between screams and singing. Photo: Megan Kennedy Russian Circles created a dark yet smoothing ambience with their choice of lighting. Photo: Megan Kennedy