On the heels of their fastest-selling release to date, Project 86 takes a rock entourage on tour this Fall for the ...And The Rest Will Follow Album Release Tour. While whether or not the bands on stage all really mesh well as a whole is a separate issue, one thing is promised -- a busy evening of rock n roll.
Now, it needs to be noted that Project 86 fans are a different and unique breed. They're not your ordinary casual fans for the most part. They connect with the band in ways few fans do with artists. This automatically sets the four opening acts at a disadvantage.
We arrived at Lancaster, PA's Chameleon Club shortly before the doors opened, leaving us to have to stand out in a light rain till the small venue was ready. Although the show was an all-ages one, those old enough were actually allowed to grab a drink at the bar if they wished. This aspect, and the fact that it seemed to be a prerequisite to smoke incessantly if you are a member of the crew of the Chameleon Club, put a somewhat dank feel on the atmosphere. Moshing, minus stage-diving and crowd-surfing, was allowed as well, and although I successfully steered clear, sweat and blood did indeed fly among the predominently male audience.
Newcomers The Fold, who signed to Tooth & Nail Records earlier this year, were the lead-off act. While their brief pop/alt-rock set was met with applause, their unfamiliarity to the crowd brought a lot of indifference from the audience. And as the night progressed, it would be proven when Project 86 would start their set that most in attendance were there for them alone.
Mourning September brought forward their brand of emo-flavored indie rock, performing "Closer to Closure" and their hit "The Damage," among others. Comparing the three lead-off bands's styles with that of Spoken and Project just didn't seem to fit. Most of the crowd weren't exactly the indie rock types. After Number One Gun played a favorable set of mostly cuts from their new album Promises For The Imperfect, Spoken's in-your-face screamo/hardcore presence seemed to fit in better with the audience. Number One Gun's set was strong and lively, much like those who preceded them, but it also seemed just as out-of-place. However, this didn't mean their set wasn't a highlight among the openers. With songs like the new hit "We Are" and a song or two from their debut Celebrate Mistakes, NOG gave it their all, and it showed.
Spoken turned in a worthy performance. While frontman Matt Baird's vocals are an acquired taste to say the least, he has a stage presence that shouldn't be too quickly dismissed. Mixing up selections from many of their releases, including their brand new one Last Chance To Breathe, they ended their set to make room for a set change before the final show.
Now, you may wonder why this review breezes through the opening acts and lingers on the headliner. Truth of the matter is, we drove two hours, braved crummy rainy weather and suffered through patience-testing highway construction just to see the main event. The audience's anticipation was building like I rarely see at shows. And when the band finished sound checking, the lights went out, the crowd cheered and Project 86 lead vocalist and chief personality Andrew Schwab emerged from backstage. The electronic drum-loop and synth track from the title song off their most recent album ...And The Rest Will Follow was an excellent choice to set the mood of the show before their first song kicked in. And when it was revealed to be "Sincerely, Ichabod," the perfect lead-off for their show, the crowd went crazy. Screaming the words back at Schwab and company, the audience was ever as much a part of the show as the band was. Andrew later informed the crowd that he was feeling "a little under the weather," and seemed slightly fuzzy through much of the band's set. Many times, when the crowd shouted the lyrics along with the band, Andrew would just step back and let them take over. His sickliness didn't hinder his performance, however, and with the audience's enthusiasm, Schwab clearly was still able to reel in the crowd and put on an incredible show. But what makes Schwab's role so successful is being surrounded by incredible musicians, and it just plain wouldn't be right not to at least mention Alex Albert's drums, Randy Torres' guitar and harmonies, and Steve Dail's bass. Their roles are just as pivotal as Schwab's.
Mixing up cuts from all of the band's five albums, the set list continued on with "Safe Haven," "One Armed Man," "The Spy Hunter," "Subject To Change" (complete with encouraging the crowd to snap their fingers along with the song), "Me Against Me," "Last Meal," and the sobering anti-porn anthem "P.S." As the ferocious set wound to a close, the band offered up two more new cuts, "Something We Can't Be" and their current single "All Of Me," throwing the equally quasi-worshipful "Shadow On Me" in between. It was after "All Of Me" that Andrew paused to inform the audience that there was some good news and some bad news. Upon the majority choosing the bad news first, he announced that they only had "time for one more and one more only," with the good news being that we had a choice between two songs -- something they apparently have never done before. What followed was a whichever-song- title-got-the-loudest-response-from-the-crowd-will-be-played shouting match that, much to the band's surprise, had "Pipe Dream" win over the usually more popular "Stein's Theme." As the song began, and Andrew asked for the crowd to give it their all, he jokingly asked them to refrain from throwing mud at the stage, referencing their infamous (and would later prove unfortunate) event at last year's Purple Door Festival. When the song was over, the guys exited, leaving the crowd to chant "one more song" and the band's name repeatedly, growing louder and louder, until the band came back out. It's something I'm not sure I've ever seen quite like this before. Alex poked his head out from backstage to ask a security guard if they could do it, but after minutes of the crowd's screams, the Chameleon Club's crew turned on the house lights and walked on stage to insist the crowd go home and that the Club was closed. A core of the audience continued to scream until security insisted further that the band would not come out and the show was over. Unfortunately, this also meant that fans were completely rushed from the venue afterwards. Anyone who'd waited till Project was over to browse merch or mingle with the opening acts was at a loss at that point. While an opportunity to quickly (more like franticly) grab a shirt or button or CD was given, it was a mess, to put it mildly.
The ...And The Rest Will Follow Tour is a mixed bag of rock acts, bringing indie rock acts and hardcore acts together on one stage. If you're a fan of any of the bands on the tour, it's definitely the Fall event to see, and if you're especially a fan of either Spoken or the headliners Project 86, you're definitely in for one great evening of rock music.-- John DiBiase, 10/15/05
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