Underoath: 20 January 2013 - Chicago

When your favorite band goes on their farewell tour, you go. It doesn’t matter how far you have to drive; you just go. The real question lies in where you should set your expectations.


Underoath Farewell Tour

City: Chicago
Venue: The Metro
Date: 2013-01-20

When your favorite band goes on their farewell tour, you go. It doesn’t matter how far you have to drive; you just go. The real question lies in where you should set your expectations. For over a decade, Tampa post-hardcore band Underoath provided the soundtrack to my life. In college, I would travel to shows to jump around and scream out overwrought lyrics about girl-troubles such as “This is my panic / This is my call to arms”. As time passed, attending an Underoath show became more about reflecting on the dialogue presented in the band’s music through their stellar live production, which grew to include short films projected on a giant screen during each song. My life experiences matured just as the sound and purpose of the band itself, creating a unique and valuable bond.

The hard part about investing heavily in another’s art is the inevitability of decline. While the argument can strongly be made that there was no such decline to be found in the band’s output (2010’s Ø (Disambiguation) features some of Underoath’s best work), their relevancy had slowly dwindled from the fever pitch that the band reached in the early to mid part of the last decade. The sing-scream trend the band ignited with 2004’s They’re Only Chasing Safety served not only to bring notoriety to the band itself, but simultaneously created an avalanche of bands following in their footsteps. It wasn’t long before the band that ruled the post-hardcore roost was playing second fiddle to bands several years their junior.

Therein lies the question of expectation. Would the same fans who flocked to sold-out shows in years past make the trek to see Underoath one last time? And would the experience hold the same meaning and energy as it once did? The concert scene is a young-man’s game -- I mean, Parenthood comes on at 10 and we still have to get up for work in the morning. Nevertheless, the tickets for every date on the tour sold out almost instantly. The lineup, featuring heralded veterans mewithoutYou and As Cities Burn (also playing their final shows) along with buzzworthy newcomers letlive., painted a narrative come full circle, told by the voices that lived it.

For their final tour, Underoath wisely chose mid-sized venues full of scene history, stirring memories of the band at their apex. As I watched the line wrap around the Metro in Chicago, in the midst of below-freezing temperatures, my mind raced with recollections of shows past -- the anticipation of the event. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to distinguish between the cold shivers and the excited jitters. It’s safe to say that it’s been awhile since that pre-show excitement washed over me, but for so many in their 20s and 30s who grew up with this band, what once was a right of passage now serves as the closing of a chapter. At least for one night, Underoath’s farewell show is a chance to remember, a chance to re-live, and a chance to be excited again.

That’s why it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) matter what the setlist is, or even that original drummer and clean vocalist Aaron Gillespie didn’t make the trek. In truth, the crowd belted out Gillespie’s parts with enough gusto to shake the walls. No, these nights are about the shared experience of over a decade’s worth of music. That even a fraction of that experience can be witnessed in one night is a wonder in and of itself. It’s fitting that the show kicks off with letlive., an innovative band custom made to fill the role of post-hardcore trendsetters; As Cities Burn, a band who has played alongside Underoath from early on, and gained a rather staunch following in their own right; and mewithoutYou, a band who, like Underoath, pushed the boundaries of the genre and asked more of their listeners than a passing ear. There’s no six-degrees of separation here -- the history of these bands is intertwined and tightly knit.

And as lovely a precursor as these bands serve, it is clear from the moment Underoath takes the stage to the sound of Spencer Chamberlain’s cry of “I’m the desperate / And you’re the savior” that this is, and always has been, the main event. Even aside from the insane lighting display and the mammoth production that is any given Underoath set, the energy level immediately reaches a boiling point. Those of us that have long since chosen to stand stoic-ly near the back of the room, push toward the stage once again and jump and scream like we did when the music was all that mattered. Side by side are those who know the words to every song and those who just came to hear the “old stuff”, but never mind -- there’s room enough for everyone.

The night brings about no major surprises, unless you count the band’s decision to end their stubborn hiatus of playing their hit “Reinventing Your Exit”. Perhaps the most jarring revelation is one that shouldn’t be astonishing at all -- Underoath is still on top of their game, arguably sounding better and tighter than ever. For a band built on a model of excellence and purpose, it makes sense that they would go out in as much style. When Chamberlain pays his respects to those in attendance, his speech is genuine, and the feeling is mutual. With one last rousing performance of “Writing on the Walls”, both band and audience throw caution to the wind and celebrate the end of something special, in the way only permissible at a hardcore show. Feel free to pick up an ice pack on your way out.

Most fans are not allowed such a night as this. These days a band breakup consists of a Tumblr post and the bitter realization that you never got to say a proper goodbye. We’re lucky if we get a tip of the cap, even more so if the band is capable of calling it quits on their own terms, while still offering their fans the chance to indulge in the experience one last time. Yet this is the story of Underoath, isn’t it? A band who unapologetically forged their own path, but refused to leave their listeners behind. Instead, they encouraged them to be challenged and to step outside of their comfort zone, and in the process, created something both unique and alluring. These last nights appropriately capture this premise and remind us how fortunate we are to have been along for the ride.



As Cities Burn

As Cities Burn







The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.