Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Show Review: Manchester Orchestra w/ The Front Bottoms and O'Brother

Manchester Orchestra
As I've grown older and older, I kind of come to dread sold out shows. There's bound to be a lot of densely packed people, probably acting like assholes, elbowing and excusing their way through the crowd to fit into a minuscule spot that's physically impossible for one person to fill. However, despite the shoulder to shoulder standing room and gawking pre-teens definitely breaking the rules of their after-9, Saturday's show at Cat's Cradle was a warmly welcomed trip down Nostalgia Blvd. This marked the sixth time I've seen Manchester Orchestra live, I've got lyrics from the band tattooed on my chest and they pretty much got me through my formative high school years. Plus, I've booked numerous shows for O'Brother back in my hometown and have shared late nights eating day old donuts and pizza that a friend acquired from a Dunkin Donuts and Little Caesers dumpster. Needless to say, these bands have a very special place in my heart.

As O'Brother took the stage and Cat's Cradle began to gradually fill in, I was filled with a sense of elation...followed by a bit of laughter. While I love O'Brother, the way they've grown as a band couldn't be further from what a Manchester Orchestra crowd would expect from an opening act. Those that were privy to these ambient metal upstarts were head banging and mouthing the words to O'Brothers standout track "Lo." However, lots of the fans seemed a bit perplexed by the swiftly gathering fog and moody lights that turned O'Bro into a group of hair swinging silhouettes. It seemed like right as the crowd was really warming up to O'Brother's industrial brand of post-rock, they were announcing their last song. It was a treat to hear some of the new songs from Disillusion, an album I've yet to dig into at this point. However, judging by the intensity of this live show the band has delved deeper into riff-driven amped up stoner metal while retaining all of their gripping melodic nuances that drove me to the band in the first place.

The Front Bottoms
As The Front Bottoms began to take the stage the crowd gradually tightened and the anticipation was palpable. I'd argue that people got giddier to see The Front Bottoms than they did Manchester, and after seeing their live set I kind of understood why. The band is led by Brian Sella's nasally vocals and acoustic driven anthems of heartbreak, self-loathing and substance abuse. And while these songs clearly speak to the aforementioned pre-teens in ways I couldn't imagine, they filled me with a strange sense of nostalgia for the days of my youth. The occasional trumpet line perked up fan's attention, but most of the set was filled with slews of fans shouting back Sella's brutally honest lyrics with the intensity one would expect at a hardcore show. Fans were hopping on each other's backs and crowd surfing to their favorite tracks, it gave off the kind of vibes that frankly made me wish I knew more songs from The Front Bottoms so I could join in on the fun. For a couple of songs the energy was driven to points of insanity as inflatable arm flailing tube men (for lack of a better term) punctuated the band's on-stage presence while somehow not detracting from their still lively set. Reeling through tracks like "Skeleton," "Father" and "Au Revoir," The Front Bottoms appeased their die-hard fans and won over quite a few new ones with their straight-forward, pop-punk leaning, lyrical-driven indie rock.

After what felt like ages of waiting, made longer by stage-hands poking the lights to get them just right (I know it's necessary, but it doesn't make the wait any easier!), Manchester Orchestra finally took the stage. They opened their first Cradle set in over two years with fan-favorite "Shake It Out" and wasted no time in pulling out all of the most vivacious sing-alongs in their repertoire. Whether they be from their 2006 debut I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child or their most recent 2011 release with Simple Math, fans were belting out lyrics with as much intensity as Andy Hull. One of the best parts of a Manchester Orchestra show is knowing that the hundreds of fans in attendance are just as passionate about this band as you are, it builds a special albeit temporary community where you all collectively freak out when your favorite song is played. And chances are if you've got a favorite from Manchester, they played it on Saturday. Even as they pulled out their two new songs, including the standout "Cope," fans have the chance to connect with the intimate lyricism and experience something new and invigorating amidst all of the fan-favorite sing-alongs.

Manchester Orchestra
As the band took the stage for their encore, one fan began his track-long crowd surf to "Simple Math" that took him throughout the entire crowd of Cat's Cradle. It was such a ridiculous feat that even Andy Hull remarked about the fact that he: a) was crowd surfing during a slow song, b) made it across the entire crowd and c) was still surfing after the song had ended. It serves as proof that whether they're entrenched in a song or simply listening to Hull and company speak, fans of Manchester Orchestra give these shows their all. So when the band played "I Can Feel A Hot One," after much insistence from the crowd, there was a calming vibe that swept over the room. The intermittent chatter fell to a hush as Hull serenaded the crowd with a gripping rendition of an already heavy song. As their staple closer "Where Have You Been" started I was immediately filled with a sense of elation. Even after six times, this band's live show never gets old and never feels recycled. Saturday night served as a trip back to my recent youth in which memories and people rushed to my mind, and I must say that it proved that regardless of how my musical tastes diverge I'll always be a Manchester Orchestra fan.

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