Seeing Underoath and Thrice perform back-to-back was like watching two different boxers with sharply contrasting styles. In one corner, looking fit and trim, was Underoath, and on the opposing side, looking slightly heavier, stood Thrice. One’s punches weren’t significantly harder than the other: they were just different.
Following the female-led Veda and the ultra-angry The Bled, Underoath hit the stage running. The members of the band were in a constant state of movement, especially keyboardist Christopher Dudley. Dudley’s “dancing” sometimes comes off like he’s a holy roller slain in the spirit. In other words, it can be distracting. He spent almost as much time doing The Flopsy Bunny Dance as he did hitting his keys.
Putting it into boxing terminology, instead of standing up straight and slugging it out, this act bobs and weave—it’s harder to hit a moving target, you know. Still, when it finally delivers, the group punches as well as it dodges.
Underoath vocalist Spencer Chamberlain and drummer/secondary singer Aaron Gillespie each know when to step back. Whenever growling anger is called for, Chamberlain is the best man for the job. But, if something a little sweeter is required, the youthful Gillespie pours on the sugary goodness.
The group performed a bevy of songs from its newly re-released and bonus-ized They’re Only Chasing Safety. Before completing their performance, Chamberlain announced that this band plays its music for the glory and the honor of Jesus Christ. It still feels a little odd to call such aggressive music “Christian”, but this is not the only band of its kind. Its success muddies the lines between Christian and secular music, which is probably a good thing. Segregation, even in music, is almost always bad.
Thrice vocalist Dustin Kensrue said he was slowed down be a sinus condition but even in perfect health he and his bandmates probably wouldn’t have moved much. Thrice is a stand-up-straight, pound-it-out kind of band. The four-piece performed in front of a banner that reproduced the complicated and busy artwork of its current release, Vheissu. The band played most of the record’s songs, from the punkish and fast “Hold Fast Hope” to the anthem-like “Image of the Invisible”.
Thrice may not be an overtly religious act, but it is highly moral and sincere. It’s one of the few bands, in fact, that can brag appearances at both the Warped Tour and Coachella. They may attract a young audience, but their music has intelligence and depth. This act may have punk roots, but it never lets the songs fall too far into chaos. Kensrue gets gruff now and again, but he doesn’t ever reach for Chamberlain’s screamo vocal tactic. The group exudes an underlying angst, which is something all Warped-heads are looking for nowadays, but this attitude is wrapped with structured songcraft that appeals to collegiate festival-goers, classic rockers, and beyond.
Watching the six-member Underoath was a little dizzying at times, because it was hard to figure out just where to focus one’s attention. Thrice, on the other hand, offers a compact and tightly formatted front.
In the end, though, style is much less important than content. Both Underoath and Thrice know how to deliver knockout punches, and after tonight’s rounds this match ended in a draw.