October 04, 2008

Warren, You Missed One Helluva Show! (Rise Against @ The Sound Academy)

It's too bad Warren missed the Rise Against concert last night. It was loud, energetic and it made my ears bleed in that good way. It was also a great getaway from the election scene that has been keeping me from sleeping over the last few weeks - although it wasn't entirely without politics as Rise Against and Thrice are both politically-charged bands. Anyway, I thought I would throw out a few thoughts on the show.

The first band to come out was The Gaslight Anthem who were performing in Canada for their first time. I had no expectations for this band because I had only heard of them but had yet to listen to any of their tunes. They put on a surprisingly good show. Their music is identifiably straight out of the New Jersey hardcore/punk scene that also produced bands like Thursday and Saves the Day. However, they mesh this with the sensibility of blue-collar rock (ala Bruce Springsteen) and they pull it off really well and it was nice change from the generic stuff that has come from this scene of late. They interacted with the crowd and were able to make a connection. I expect we'll all hear more out of these guys in the near future. In the meantime they definitely have at least one more fan.

The next band to play was Thrice. I had HUGE expectations for their performance because I am a big fan. It may even be safe to say that next to The Tragically Hip, they are my favourite band. I've been following (not in the stalker sense) these guys since 2003 when I randomly came across their newly released album while working in the US. I heard one song and it blew me away. And before I get too fanboy-ish I'll get back to concert. Thrice's roots are in post-hardcore but as of late they have been experimenting with their sound by branching into and incorporating prog-rock, bluegrass, and electronic music. Somehow they've been able to avoid betraying those roots and have always come across genuine in their albums. But I was still unsure if they could pull it off live. Those concerns were quickly put to rest as they came out heavy, hard and with massive intensity! At the midway mark they flawlessly toned it down a bit playing songs off of their Air disc from their latest double-disc release. After a few of more-relaxed songs Thrice returned to their heavier fare beginning with a cover of The Beatles 'Helter Skelter'. When it was all said and done Thrice had just blown the crowd away and they fans wanted more with a chant for an encore. I've been to a lot of shows in my young life but never had I heard a crowd ask an opening band for an encore and neither of the other two opening bands got the same response. Thrice definitely didn't disappoint and I can't wait to see them again, hopefully with a longer set.

The third opening band was the alt-rock/punk band Alkaline Trio. To be honest, I had low expectations of this band. I saw them sometime around 2000/01 opening for another band and they weren't very good in any way. They had no presence, little interaction with the crowd, the music was fairly bland and they didn't sound very good. Though I was willing to listen with an open mind since it had been at least seven years since that time. While Alkaline Trio sounded really good, all the other problems still remained. AT have been around since 1996 and have likely been a huge influence on many of other alt-rock/punk bands that have since emerged. What's most disappointing, I would think, is that many of the bands they've likely influenced are doing the same thing but much better. It seems as though AT haven't evolved much and honed their craft better. They were also the unfortunate victims of being placed between the intensity of Thrice and the expectations of Rise Against. At would have been much better off is they had played in the second slot and have Thrice play immediately before Rise Against.

Last but not least the headliner, Rise Against came on to sing their brand of protest music. These guys know how to put on a show! While Thrice has gone on to reinvent themselves and experiment within the post-hardcore genre, Rise Against is finding new ways of expressing their pure post-hardcore roots. Sure there are other bands out there doing similar stuff and RA wear some of their influences on their sleeves but at this point none of them are doing it as well or with the passion that Rise Against is. All of their songs speak to a cause and you can feel the connection they've made with their fans by providing that voice. Having many songs that are anthemaic doesn't hurt either. Rise Against were intense and they left the crowd sweaty, ringing and hoarsed. You couldn't ask for anything more.

All-in-all one of my favourite concerts in recent memory. I was worried that my buddy and I would stick out as the 'old guys' (we're 27 and 28), which happened when we attended the Taste Of Chaos show in Mississauga. However, there were plenty of peers at the show, they just all happened to be in the beer tent while we were having our eardrums destroyed. The Sound Academy is a pretty decent venue - it was my first time there. It's definitely better than Arrowhall. Rise Against et al. are playing again tonight at the same place and I wish I had tickets to see this show as well.

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)