[3 November 2011]
PopMatters Events Editor
Circa Survive has never been a band to follow the crowd, both in musical style and presentation, and their current U.S. tour is no different. Having spent time on the road earlier this year with alternative rock acts Anberlin and My Chemical Romance, the experimental Philly natives took their current headlining trek as an opportunity to showcase some rather unexpected support. Bowling Green, Kentucky, indie pop up-and-comers Sleeper Agent along with Chicago folk rockers Maps & Atlases appear at surface level to be head scratching choices as the opening acts on Circa Survive’s bill, but upon further inspection, both band’s knack for the unusual and gift of sound help them fit right in. Good music is good music.
While the opening acts may fall outside of the listening parameters of most Circa fans, it’s clear that the band is excited to have them setting the table each night. In fact, it’s safe to say that although much of the tour’s turnout is in support of Circa Survive, more than a few spectators are walking away with a couple of new favorite bands. According to Circa vocalist Anthony Green, who spoke with PopMatters before the show, the band themselves have been having one hell of a time as well. “All the bands we’re on tour with are fucking awesome and fun and we have a good time with them”, said Green. “It’s seriously probably one of the best tours we’ve ever done”.
The tour’s recent stop in Louisville, KY, was the first date for openers Sleeper Agent, who wasted no time cranking up the energy. A recent write-up in Rolling Stone on the band stirred up a bit of a buzz and the home state crowd was more than happy to bounce along to the band’s fun and furious set. Front woman Alex Kandel is a fireball on the stage, commanding attention at all times with her snotty vocal delivery and surprisingly strong stage presence. Buzzing through tracks from their recent debut Celebrasion, the band looked and sounded confident enough to be the next big thing in the indie rock scene.
Maps & Atlases’ vocalist/guitarist Dave Davison is quite a sight as he steps up to the mike. Long hair, scraggly beard, big rimmed glasses, and a skinny frame, Davison has the perfect look (and voice) to fit the band’s folk rock sound. After releasing a handful of self-released EPs over the past five years, the band finally released their debut full length Perch Patchwork last year. The band’s slower, more tamed set serves as the perfect transition between bands and a few of Davison’s guitar solos were mesmerizing.
Before the night’s show, Anthony Green can’t help gushing about his excitement towards the current tour as well as the state of his band. According to Green, this trek has served the perfect final step for the band before transitioning back home to record their fourth full-length later this fall. “It’s been so much fun”, says Green. “The shows themselves have been incredible; people are coming and singing along to old songs and new songs. Everything’s getting great responses and the crowd is coming with so much energy. I feel like the band is tighter than we’ve ever been on stage”.
It’s easy to chalk comments such as those up to excitement due to pre-show jitters, but when Green takes the stage along with band mates Colin Frangicetto, Brendan Ekstrom, Nick Beard and Steve Clifford, the crowd erupts as Green belts out the opening lines to “Get Out”, being nearly drowned out by the choir of spectators. This is a trend that will persist throughout the band’s set. When you come to a Circa Survive show, participation isn’t just welcomed, it’s expected. Green routinely calls out to the crowd for response, encouraging his “children” to come as close as possible and sing as loudly as they can. Given the nature of their fans’ devotion, he doesn’t have to beg.
The band’s set weaves its way through Circa’s catalogue, touching on old tracks from Juturna and On Letting Go, while peppering in newer cuts from this year’s Appendage EP and of course, the band’s 2010 breakout album Blue Sky Noise. As usual, the band’s visual presentation is a spectacle in and of itself with an abundance of confetti, giant balloons bouncing over the audience, and Green’s always memorable stage presence. His wild dances across the stage seem to have little effect on his vocal performance, as his legendary upper register sounds as pitch perfect as ever, even on some of the band’s more aggressive songs like “In Fear and Faith” and “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose”.
A highlight of the night comes in the form of two brand new songs which are set to be recorded next month for band’s upcoming album. The first of the two, tentatively titled “Epic” is a perfect collision of Juturna’s experimental sound and Blue Sky Noise’s accessibility. The six minute track never ceases to be engaging and is anchored by Green’s wailings of “Nothing is sacred” during the chorus. Another new track, “Face Melter”, easily goes down as one of the band’s heaviest songs to date. Sounding like a track from Juturna on steroids, the track’s crunching guitars, courtesy of Francietto and Ekstrom, drive the song into new and welcome territory for Circa Survive.
It’s difficult to pull particular moments from a Circa Survive set as stand-outs due to the band’s tight on-stage performances and non-stop energy. Some of the band’s more recent material makes for a poppier, more sing-along ready experience such as tracks like “I Felt Free” and “Frozen Creek”. Also, the ambient sounds of songs like On Letting Go opener “Living Together” and the eerie “Sleep Underground” are just as moving in a different way. Circa Survive is a band that has evolved and improved with each release without losing its identity, a task which is no small feat. Their current tour proves that the band is as energized as ever and poised to blaze the experimental side of the rock trail once again, and the results are looking promising.
Maps & Atlases