We left town and headed toward Lawrence, Kansas' tiny little venue, The Bottleneck, knowing that we were going to be about ten minutes late for the scheduled interview before the show. We hit the college town just in time... for the 5 o'clock traffic, hence making us even later for the interview. Terrific. We finally arrived, met up with Maylene's tour manager, and he led us inside, where we met up with Roman Haviland, the bass player for Maylene and the Sons of Disaster.
Right as we were concluding said interview, the night's opening act, Attack Attack!, started off with a loud and raucous scream with the rest of the band slamming on their instruments for the first song. We went into the concert area and watched what would be a surprisingly good set. It was during the first song, however, that I realized that our late arrival wasn't the only problem for us that night. The next problem was that I had left my batteries for my camera back home, and the ones we had with us were completely dead. That was followed by the fact that I wasn't familiar enough with Attack Attack!, Confide, OR A Static Lullaby's songs to give the rundown on what songs they played (I admit, I went for Showbread and Maylene). My only hope was that they would do the signature "This song is called..." bit. I hoped they would - a lot.
Attack Attack! opened very powerfully, with about five tons of intensity. Quite a shock, as the first song I had heard of theirs on their MySpace was an awful emotronic/emocore rendition of the already awful Katy Perry song "I Kissed A Girl." Thankfully, Attack Attack! did NOT perform this song. Thankfully not just because of how terrible it is, but also that it wouldn't have fit the rest of the set at all, as it was full of some of the most tightly-played hardcore I can ever remember seeing. Speaking of songs that wouldn't fit, when they announced that their third song was entitled "Party Foul," I was kinda curious if it would be Family Force 5's jam from Dance or Die. I knew it wouldn't be, but I can dream right? Even though it wasn't, the show was unexpectedly good, with beautifully executed breakdowns (including two in "Party Foul"). And while we're on the subject of what I liked about the show, the lead singer looked like Anberlin's Stephen Christian, and the last song they played was called "The People's Elbow." The only downside that I noticed was one of the guitarists who was wearing a tight, low-cut, purple shirt, moved around in weird ways, and had a very inappropriate sticker on his guitar. I was not a fan of him in the least. But, even so, it was a good start for the night.
The stage crew took all of Attack Attack!'s equipment down and brought up a few stacks of lights and a couple big banners sporting the name "Confide" on them, signaling who the next band would be. The first Christian act of the night, Confide got started the same way as their predecessor, with lots of power and energy. The lead singer moved around the stage in similar fashion to Oh, Sleeper's Micah Kinard, and the rest of the band followed suit. The flashing lights made a nice effect during the first couple songs, but as the set went on, so did the flashing lights, which were very overwhelming, especially since I was at the very front. It made the show hard to concentrate on, as I had to keep my eyes shut a good portion of the time in order to avoid further ocular pain. The band then brought out a newer song called "In Reply," which continued with the same sound as the other songs, until near the end, when they pulled out a more death metal sound with the instruments as well as the vocals (until the abrupt "woo hoo!" at the end). They ended the set very nicely, with a few lines being sung in gang vocals and no music, which then slammed back into a full-on assault of hardcore, and finally ended with everybody doing their own thing on their respective instrument until the music faded out.
I was surprised to learn that Showbread was next up, as I had expected them to be second billing, playing right before Maylene. But as Confide's set was taken down, the Showbread guys started bringing up their equipment, including their signature "Raw Rock Kills" bass drum. Showbread has gone through a lot of changes over the past year and a half, and so I wasn't sure what line-up to expect this time. This particular show's line-up did end up being different than when I last saw their show, four months prior. There were four of the regulars - Josh (who actually played guitar for the whole set), Mike, Patrick and Ricky - as well as the newest addition to the live show, the Cancer Bots. The Cancer Bots, comprised of Abi Porter and another girl whose name I did not catch (nor could I find any information about it online), took over on the synthesizers, in place of JG who left last year. Before the music started, the Cancer Bots started up some strange audio samples through the speakers, while they put doctor coats on the guys, who then proceeded to put medical masks over their mouths. Showbread started off with the fast-paced "Centipede Sisters" from 2006's Age of Reptiles, then went back a couple years and performed No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical's "So Selfish It's Funny." "The Pig" was next (the Nervosa version), and during the middle of the song, Josh broke a couple strings, and as soon as he finished the song, he excused himself to go solve the problem, while the Cancer Bots played the synth part of "Mouth Like A Magazine" for a minute or so. As Josh was offstage grabbing a different guitar, Mike started talking about Compassion International, and let the crowd know that at their merch table they could make a pledge to financially support the organization or adopt a child. Mike also started talking about cartoons and TV shows he likes, which led to a not-so-happy guy in the crowd yelling obscenities and telling them to stop talking and play music, which then led into the guys telling jokes in order to kill more time until Josh's guitar problem was fixed. Unfortunately, all the time fixing the problem led to their set having to be cut short, and they announced it would be their last song so that A Static Lullaby could get theirs started. Nervosa's "The Journey" ended the set, which culminated in Mike throwing his guitar up into the not-so-high-up ceiling and letting it crash to the ground. It was sad that the set was so short, especially for a band like Showbread, whose live show is usually so wild, energetic and captivating.
Another set change led into mainstream hardcore/emocore act A Static Lullaby, who continued the trend of starting off on fire. Again, it's another band whose songs titles I'm not familiar with (and I sincerely apologize for this), but their first song actually lifted up my hopes, which were not very high. I had heard their music before and didn't like it, but it seems as if something's changed, and they were a lot better (maybe it was their guitarist, who was a SPITTING IMAGE of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite, just with long hair). I enjoyed the set, until the end of the first song, when the lead singer felt he needed to signal for the audience to cheer for them. He did this a couple more times throughout the show too, and combined with the way he carried himself (as if he owned the place or something), he came across as extremely arrogant, which is a good way to get me to have a little bit less respect for the person. What was really enjoyable, though, was the talent and musicianship of the rest of the guys. I had a very hard time taking my eyes off of the bass player's fingers (except when he started smoking a cigarette during the last song and I had to turn my head and plug my nose to avoid the smoke). He seemed to know the neck of the guitar like they had been friends his entire life. A negative aspect of the show was the lyrics. Though not all of the songs they played had bad lyrics, there are a lot of them that contained hateful lyrics, while others were full of lots of depression and even some profanity, which was unnecessary. Yes, music is art, and it's meant to be able to express yourself, but that doesn't mean I have to condone it. And I don't. The terrible lyrical topics lead to the cover song of the night. Now, I enjoy cover songs. A lot. I once owned a copy of Punk Goes Pop, and I have a whole playlist devoted to cover songs on my iPod. So, ashamedly, I must admit I enjoyed their cover song, just for the fact that it was a cover song. Not because of the fact that it was Britney Spears' "Toxic." Terrible song, but an interesting song choice, especially when converted to loud, screamy and hardcore. After what seemed to be a very long set, A Static Lullaby finally finished up, and tore down the equipment as the soundman oddly selected some Creedence Clearwater Revival to play through the speakers.
Though the CCR did end up being a nice segueway into the more southern style of the night's headliners, Georgia's own Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. The guys took the stage, and as soon as they tore into the first song, "Gusty Like The Wind," the crowd became an instant mosh pit. The opening track from their album II was next, "Memories of the Grove," which led to the guys introducing themselves, along with making note that their regular guitarist, Kelly, had to leave the day before due to a serious family issue. It wasn't announced what the issue was (understandably so), but they introduced us to the night's fill-in, Jake Duncan, who frontman Dallas Taylor said was trying out to be Maylene's third guitarist (followed by Dallas playfully saying that Jake was "sucking it up tonight"). They got back into the songs, tearing through two more songs from II - "Plenty Strong and Plenty Wrong" and "Darkest of Kin," the latter of which having a beautiful breakdown). By this point, it was clear that the guys were at the top of their game, which is a good sign as they head into the rest of the tour and then into the studio. Fan favorite "Tough As John Jacobs" was next (the second of only three songs they would play from their debut). During the chorus before the bridge, bassist Roman took over the vocals while Dallas ran off the stage and up to the sound guy, for whatever reason, but came back just in time for the bridge. Before the next song, Dallas said "How about a new song?!" Excitement filled the room, as they went into..."Don't Ever Cross A Trowel"...from II. No new song, but it didn't appear that anyone in the crowd was too let down, especially when Roman made full use of his wireless bass and came offstage, playing part of the song behind a couple kids in the crowd (who were fully unaware of it), and then made his way up the bleachers where some girls were sitting and sat down next to them to talk while playing the song. It was pretty awesome to see that he could not only play the song spot-on, but talk to some of the fans at the same time. While the guys didn't end up playing a new song, they did announce the new album, simply entitled III, which they said should be released sometime in May of 2009. They finished up the set with "Death Is An Alcoholic," "Dry The River," "Wylie" and "Raised By The Tide." Dallas offered up some thank-you's and made it known that Jesus loves the audience, and the band left the stage. The crowd then started the obligatory "One more song!" chant, to which the band obliged. They came back out and hit us with "Caution: Dangerous Curves Ahead," during which Dallas jumped into the crowd and finished while being held up from some of the audience members.
As a personal conviction, I don't go to bars or clubs unless there's a show playing. I had never been to The Bottleneck before, but I have to say I enjoyed the setup. A small venue with a two and a half foot tall stage made for a great in-your-face and up close and personal feel for the people in the front of the crowd. What made it even better was that all of the bands, despite any negative aspects, were very engaging, especially the headliners, who took full advantage of the audience being right there in front of them. It's still pretty early on the tour, so if they happen to roll through your part of the country, and you enjoy some fine hardcore and/or emocore, make sure to swing by the venue and have a good time.-- Scott Fryberger, 10/21/08
A Static Lullaby
Maylene & The Sons Of Disaster
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