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April 22 by the Numbers

Sunday, April 22, 2007
The Appleseed Cast/The Life and Times/Skies Fallen/Chaos to Cosmos
The Conservatory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

This show by the numbers:

4 bands: Chaos to Cosmos, Skies Fallen, The Life and Times, The Appleseed Cast

1 band I came to see: The Appleseed Cast

3 bands I ended up seeing: missed Chaos to Cosmos – sorry guys.

0 bands photographed: dead batteries, marking the second time I’ve brought an unusable camera to an Appleseed Cast show

2 bands I enjoyed: Skies Fallen, The Appleseed Cast.

I wasn’t a part of the emo scene in early nineties, but if I were, I probably would have hoisted Skies Fallen on my shoulders as the next big thing. As far as I could hear, Skies Fallen had many sound characteristics of an early 90s emo band: loud, abrasive, sometimes dissonant roars of near-hardcore rock abruptly followed by beautifully melodic yet intense chorales; rhythmic and patterned guitar melodies; split-second transitions; ragged yelling in addition to sung vocals.  Towards the end of their set, I truly felt like I was witnessing a band chronologically lost from its actual scene: as if they were taking a tour and one stop was “the future.”

But don’t freak out at the word emo – even if you detest Taking Back Sunday with all the hate your soul can muster, don’t fear. This is passionate, soul-baring, meaningful art. This isn’t four-chords and a singalong melody. Skies Fallen creates pieces of rock music that caused me to stand with my jaw open at the sheer goodness of the music. Every member of the band contributes in a very important way – something that is lost on many bands. This cohesiveness coupled with their dramatic songwriting and their honest passion made for a set that I won’t forget in a long while. Their final tune “Dreamer’s Sandbox” was especially incredible – the type of song that leads to want a certain conclusion, teases you with it, delivers it, then leaves you wanting more. Perfection.

I just finished reading a collection of Lester Bangs’ works entitled Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. For those who haven’t been properly introduced, he was probably the most interesting and definitely one of the most noticed rock critics of the 70’s and early 80’s. He filtered everything through his perceptions of what rock should be: brash, raucous, inspired, connected with the audience, simple, primal, real. He had no stomach for pretension. And if you didn’t fit into his mold, you just didn’t get a good review.

Now I don’t hold to that style all the time – when it’s clear that a band does not land anywhere near my standards of rock’n’roll, I don’t judge them on my standards. They don’t measure up because they’re not even in the same ballpark. But if you do land somewhere in the ballpark of my rock standards but go awry, woe be to you.

Or woe be to the Life and Times, that is. My standards for rock: rhythmic and complex drum work; bass melodies, not bass lines; guitar work, not power-chords; passionate vocals, if not exactly the most perfect tone; dynamics; a break from verse/chorus/verse; showmanship.

The Life and Times flirted with many of those things in their set of rock. Their dark, pulverizing, straight-ahead rock had shining moments where the bassist’s fingers moved along with the maniacal thrashing of the drummer and the guitarist strummed less than his usual breakneck pace. Unfortunately, most of the time they were content to pulverize, cranking the amps and letting loose with a thundering wall of distortion and simplistic clatter. The kids around me loved it, proving that The Life and Times put on a good set, but except for the ferocious chops of the drummer (holy goodness was he talented), I just couldn’t get into it. I was pulverized by the loudest guitar noise I’ve ever heard and disillusioned by the almost total lack of dynamics and showmanship.

I really only came to see The Appleseed Cast perform one song, because I saw them last semester and got my AC fix then. I came to see “Fishing the Sky,” a song I love so entirely that I devoted an entire column to it one month. The first time they came their new guitarist hadn’t learned “Fishing,” and thus I saw them sans my favorite song. But I talked to the guitarist after the first show about it and he said he would be learning that song next. Buoyed by this hope, during the first few songs of this set I impatiently tried to read the set list. I was thrown into a giddy frenzy upon seeing the word “fishing” near the bottom of the paper.

I’ve waited a good many years to hear this song – I told the bassist in my giddy preparedness before the song that I’d been waiting five years to hear it. I honestly don’t know how long it’s been out and I may have made a fool of myself. But I don’t care, because I got to hear that winding opening riff that I have played on so many bad days, so many good days, and so many other days.

I apologize to anyone at the concert who was privy to the weird kid at the front of the stage flailing violently, as if his life depended on it, during “Fishing the Sky.” That was me. I heard my favorite song of all time, and it was incredible. I really can’t describe to you what being there was like – hearing that song live is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

A final by the numbers:

20: teeth showing in a huge grin, post-show

2: seriously ringing ears.

3: days of serious ringing.

1: tremendous memory.

–         Stephen Carradini