Note: Again sorry for the pictures. I had to flash lots as the club lighting was turned down to "play in the dark". Bands if you want your pictures to turn out, stop asking all the lights to be turned out!
This was The Anniversary CD release party and I just realized that I left without getting a copy of the CD. Anyway, The Bottleneck was packed on a Wednesday night packed with indie rock kids, clean cut college kids, and the members of every band in town. I arrived early (because either I'm early or late and one means I miss bands) and got in three games of pool with Mark from The Zone. I lost all three, but they were close... honest.
Everest began making noises on stage and I walked up to check them out. The crowd wasn't sure if the band was starting or still sound checking as there wasn't much structure in the first song. If you remember the band from their straight-forward emo days, then you don't know Everest today.
Their music was very loose and their were much in the way of songs. Doug McKinney played with a fair amount of pedals (still sub the high-water mark set by Aerieluxe) and provided only sparse vocals. Big Steve Squire (whom you probably saw playing with Proudentall for sometime) provided a second guitar of noise and texture and pedals with knobs to turn. So with melody now out of the picture we can turn to the rhythm section. Brian Barton was a giant bass player and did provide a bit of stability to the band, but since his leads were seldom followed by the other instruments, it seemed as though he might as well have been playing his own songs. Dan Benson's drumming again provided some foundation though he spent much of the time playing with the samplers to sync up an electronic drum track for the band.
Although many folks raved at the band's performance, I merely thought about what this band could be if tightened up some, and focused a lot more.
The Appleseed Cast are one of a handful of local bands with a strong identity outside of Kansas City. Their work on seminal emo label Deep Elm has brought them to the attention of indie music fans around the globe and at the present, the band are a larger draw than the evening's headliners The Anniversary.
The band haven't gotten their reputation by marketing and product placement alone. Their dense, emotional and flowing music is innovative and well performed. The guitars have great interplay as they choose alternately to follow one another, play the standard lead/rhythm roles or each break free creating textures or droning noise. Although the band doesn't seem to put much into their stage presence, guitarist/vocalist Aaron Pillar's impassioned vocals are captivating.
When it was time for The Anniversary to take the stage, the five members sheepishly pulled their gear forward and placed their microphones. All accounts point to this band become a big player on the national front, though on this night the band seemed more like the five scared kids from the midwest than the world conquerors that they're expected to become.
Only one song, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, seems to have survived their many month hiatus since their last show and the band opened with that song. From there on out it was all new material from the new CD. Most of the songs were less pop than The Anniversary have fed us in recent years. The songs were still inventive yet straight forward but the obvious hooks were good. Has their song writing matured or have the band just run out of the sugar-coated, easy to love and catchy bits their earlier material was defined by? I suppose it'll take a few more live shows and a good many listens to the CD before we find that out for sure.
Guitarist/vocalist Josh Berwanger didn't seem exactly sure how to deal with the large crowd and aside from his vocal duties he played largely to himself behind the other members of the band. I watched Josh jump, fall, and pogo and he didn't seem to care that no one could see him Keyboardist/vocalist Adrianne however was hyper aware of the audience. Previously her live performance has been stiff at best, on this night however she was fluid and engaged. Several times she took the microphone from its stand and sang into or spread her arms wide inviting the audience into her space. Has she been taking poise lessons?
Aside from Adrienne's advances, the band's disappearance from the scene for nearly a year was evident. Besides being unaware of themselves on stage, the band was sloppy. Many times during their set, songs seemed to just fake their way through a verse or bridge rather really nailing it. However by the time the band played notable new tune The D in Detroit, the band's energy level had risen so high that no one was paying attention to the band's execution.
Over all though the evening turned out as expected: the tried and true Appleseed Cast turned out a solid set with few surprises, the new (at least in this incarnation) Everest were full of ideas and innovation but were not always able to realize them fully on stage, and The Anniversary sits in the precarious spot where they must prove the have the delivery of the first, and the invention of the second.