Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: live videos

LVL UP – Orchard (Stream, Live Videos)

A note here, before things get too much further. I try to make it a habit to not write or use a first person perspective on this site and when I do make an exception, it’s to convey the personal connection I have to the material. LVL UP‘s goodbye note and their swan song might go beyond being just personal. Theirs was a band I loved fiercely, from the very moment my friend Sasha introduce me to them at her Chicago apartment. All it took was one live video for me to feel like I was being leveled; they were operating in a genre I loved but subverting it in a way that legitimately obliterated (and subsequently redefined) how I approached writing my own music.

From that point forward, I would listen to the band obsessively. I got to know their side projects, the bands they were in that preceded LVL UP, the bands they were forming. The first time I saw them was with Sasha again at Beat Kitchen in Chicago, where we all shared a meal with Mitski, who was touring alongside the band and in the early stages of becoming a legitimate powerhouse. Over the course of that day and getting to know the people in the band, there was a palpable kindness that was extended to me, operating without the knowledge that I was the one who labored over multiple pieces dissecting what made their music so distinct and so important.

They’d find out by the end of the night and respond in kind but by then, they’d already established themselves as the type of people who create their own families, housing them with empathy and affection. A few years later, I would find myself quite literally sleeping under the roof of their de facto home base, DBTS, during my brief stint living in New York. By that point, I’d already crowned Hoodwink‘d 2014’s Album of the Year and would be a year removed from giving Return to Love the same accolade.

It’s incredibly important to note here that those records didn’t receive those positions because LVL UP was kind to me; I had no idea that the members would become integral — if somewhat distant — parts of my life when Sasha hit play on that video. They earned those spots because their music always gave me a sense of belonging, which is exceedingly rare. I was fascinated by the collaboration, which seemed to establish an equal footing, and I was blown away by their articulation of a very specific sect of early adulthood.

Whether Nick, Dave, or Mike were expressing heartache, betrayal, wonderment, isolation, or warmth, the way the narratives took shape always found a way to hit me especially hard. It wasn’t just that the lyrics or instrumentation were impressive, there was an abundance of heart and humility that resonated with me to the point where my countless personal retreats into the worlds they conjured felt like a part of my identity.

Moving into DBTS for a short stretch only served to strengthen and accentuate things that I’d already learned; LVL UP wasn’t just a four person band. LVL UP was a family that extended beyond the confines of music. “They don’t love you like we do” wasn’t just a lyric, it was a way of living that’s spawned unforgettable moments for not just their friends but listeners the world over that found that same connection to their music that I held tight.

Considering every inch of those aspects of the band, their announcement a few short weeks ago and the release of “Orchard” have made the goodbye especially painful. Coming on the back of their most celebrated record (along with signing to Sub Pop), the band’s future seemed wide open. Everything seemed to be clicking, even as the trio of core songwriters dipped into their respective solo projects (Trace Mountains, Spirit Was, and The Glow) with an increased dedication while drummer Greg Rutkin found success in Cende, a band that was gone too soon.

It’s in those solo projects (and the various others that all four members have played pivotal roles) that there resides hope for what LVL UP can offer in the future. Each of their albums, 7″s, and odds and ends compilations encapsulates the kind of legacy that people will point to as a source of inspiration for years to come. “Orchard” is a worthy addition to that legacy and the most bittersweet moment of a discography that never shied away from challenging dichotomies.

Everyone gets a turn in front of the microphone one final time, sharing harmonies together with the knowledge that this will be their last time, imbuing the song with a sense of longing and finality. In that context, “Orchard” becomes devastating; it’s the end of an era that heralded innumerable arrivals, songs, and moments. There’s a palpable weight in the delivery, as if the members of LVL UP themselves were still struggling to come to terms with the decision to have one final outing before hanging up their banner for good.

Over that final three minutes and 48 seconds, the band lean into their interplay to incredible effect, pushing it to the forefront for a deeply felt goodbye. Fittingly, considering the circumstances, “Orchard” is the most melancholic moment of the band’s career, replete with elegiac, swirling organ lines cascading down onto reverb-laden vocals. The song’s kept at mid-tempo but still feels urgent, as if holding back from collapse; mirroring those of us who have struggled with this being the last new song we’ll likely ever hear from the band.

From a narrative perspective, “Orchard” seems to touch on a metaphor that applies to the history these four people have built together, from the ground up. An orchard turns out to be an apt metaphor as LVL UP waxes poetic on the nature of change; life and death being inextricably intertwined, one providing the inevitability of the other. Even through that wistful lens, there’s a sliver of hope in the allowance of rebirth. If “Orchard” truly winds up being the band’s parting gift to those who were fortunate enough to cross the path of their music, it’s an exquisite one.

All we can do now is hope that Nick Corbo, Greg Rutkin, Dave Benson, and Mike Caridi keep finding ways to keep the flames they stoked alive in some way or another. LVL UP’s dissolution may offer difficult routes to reconciliation, but the space it affords is lit with a rare kind of promise that will be a comfort in the ongoing rolling blackout of treasured NYC DIY institutions. Fortunately, the band’s not ready for a final goodbye quite yet and will be taking an extended bow on a farewell tour.

Read the band’s goodbye note and buy tickets for one of the farewell tour dates listed as soon as they become available.

“We have decided to retire this project. It has been an extremely rewarding journey beyond anything we could have ever realistically imagined,” LVL UP said in a statement. “The band began in a college dorm room in 2011 as a lighthearted recording project. We have since been lucky enough to tour nationally and internationally over the last seven years with the support of many lovely people, and will never be able to thank our friends, families, and loved ones enough for providing such warmth throughout this experience. Our deepest gratitude goes out to every label, band, and person who’s played a role in this wild ride.”

08/27 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott
08/28 – Montréal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz
08/29 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
08/30 – Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
08/31 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
09/01 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry
09/04 – Missoula, MN @ Union Ballroom
09/05 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza
09/06 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
09/08 – San Francisco, CA @ Cafe Du Nord
09/09 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
09/10 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
09/13 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
09/14 – Austin, TX @ Barracuda
09/16 – Nashville, TN @ High Watt
09/17 – Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
09/18 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
09/19 – Richmond, VA @ The Camel
09/20 – Washington, DC @ DC9
09/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle
09/28 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

Watch a collection of personally shot live videos and listen to “Orchard” below.

Half Waif – Lavender (Album Review, Stream, Live Videos)

Last Friday offered an extraordinary outpouring of new records with several of those releases seeming poised to be legitimate Album of the Year contenders. While those records hit hard, Half Waif’s Lavender hit hardest. A handful of the record’s songs have been featured here already but it’s the cumulative effect of the record that elevates the songs from heartrending to heart-stopping.

Nandi Rose Plunkett, Half Waif’s fearless bandleader, wrote Lavender in the waning days of her grandmother’s life and found a way to preserve her memory in astonishing fashion with Lavender. Imbued with familial love and meditations on the joys and consequences of mortality, Lavender ceaselessly finds ways to grapple with heavy burdens through a series of open questions, some unanswerable. The examination process is one that becomes intimately familiar to anyone whose ever had to confront the death of a loved one and it’s not hard to read into Lavender as a personal reckoning from someone in the throes of that journey.

It doesn’t take long for the ghost of Plunkett’s grandmother to find a home in Lavender, appearing as early as the record’s breathtaking opener “Lavender Burning”.  That specific song is a perfect introduction to the record as it marks a slight — but distinct and extremely important — stylistic shift for Half Waif, who move into a more subdued realm that’s enhanced by a re-dedication to introspection, more naked here than at any point in their discography.

“Watching my grandmother walking her garden, she’s lost her hearing does not notice the cardinal”, Plunkett sings, cardinal breaking up into lilting syllables as the memory overwhelms. It’s one of many small vignettes that litter Lavender‘s landscape, flowers dead and blooming. It’s not long before the burden of knowing sinks in and cries of “Is this all there is?” ring out over lush beds of synth and intuitive instrumentation. Confined to a confrontational solitude, Plunkett starts wrestling with existential autonomy: a sense of place, the weight of decisions, and the fear that accompanies free will.

All of these questions, all of these backwards looks and sideways glances are more immediate than any single narrative Half Waif’s presented in the past. They’re also by far the most gripping, as the music Half Waif has afforded these moments is their most expansive, textured, and ambitious to date, leaning hard into the band’s more ambient sensibilities. Lavender‘s rhythm section pulsates with purpose, reverberating throughout the record with the clear knowledge that the stakes here are legitimately life and death. From start to finish, it’s a fight for the means to survival.

If Plunkett’s grandmother is the foremost figure of Lavender, New York City and Plunkett herself aren’t too far behind. The relationship between the two, specifically, anchors some of the record’s most breathtaking stretches, including both “Lavender Burning” and “Back In Brooklyn”, which the songwriter penned an incredibly moving essay for over at The Talkhouse. “Back In Brooklyn” is a song that lands with exceptional force for anyone who’s ever been wrapped up by the titular city’s formidable being and goes a long way in laying out Lavender‘s gently beating heart.

Not coincidentally, the song resides in the album’s central stretch, arriving just after “Silt”, the two constituting Lavender‘s most breathtaking moment. It’s here where Plunkett comes nearest to breaking down completely, stretching out a hand for guidance, assurance, or even just a small moment of clarity in the fog of uncertainty. The closing moments of “Silt” offer up one of the record’s most haunting moments, an outro that beautifully segues into the painfully gorgeous “Back In Brooklyn”.

Everything that leads up to those two songs makes their back-to-back even more potent, the themes splintering apart into what feels like a million pleas, some from the city, some for the city, some from Plunkett, some for Plunkett’s own well-being. It’s here where Lavender finds its path to becoming transcendental. Those two songs combine to retroactively strengthen the songs that have preceded them while setting up one of the most memorable closing runs of the present decade.

It’s here where the allusions stop becoming guarded and are faced with no hesitation, Plunkett seemingly locked into a white-knuckle grip on the legacy of family, self-understanding, and the trials of knowledge. The latter of the three has one of the more potent dichotomies and that scale is explored through the framing of the former two. It’s that dynamic which makes the final quarter of Lavender so harrowing and so beautiful, the acknowledgment of the necessity of the scars and bruises that allow us to move forward towards our own destiny and towards the same fate that will take everyone we’ve ever loved.

Rather than waist time on hypothetical situations, Plunkett discards them in the service of realism and a commitment to the bravery the bandleader strives for on “Parts”. There’s a dissection of shame and anxiety in that song, one that resonates through to Lavender‘s end, before the tacit acceptance of the fearlessness required to continue existing. By the record’s end the only home Plunkett seems to have is forward motion, abandoning cities, clinging to friends, family, and lovers, doing whatever it takes to find a measure of peace in life’s restlessness.

Lavender‘s final verse acts as a summation of the themes Plunkett can’t escape through the course of the eleven songs and diverts them in a fruitless bid to forget what most of the record has exhausted itself in staring down before its final, heartbroken declaration: I don’t wanna know this/I don’t wanna know how this ends/In the grand scope of things/I know. It’s right then, in that last word, Lavender becomes complete. Not just a record about confronting death, Lavender is a record about the allowances of life, the difficulties that make it harsh, the people that make it worthwhile. In the end, when all is said and done, what’s left is the weight of knowing, and allowing it to sink to oblivion or float just a little while longer.

Listen to Lavender below (and watch a packet of live videos beneath that) and pick it up from CASCINE here.

Watch This: The Best of 2017’s First Quarter, Pt. I

In a three month span, an innumerable number of tour and press cycles can run their course. Fortunately, there are a handful of outlets in the world dedicated to capturing the live performances that power most of the cycles in the most artistic way possible. This post (and the following three) focuses on the best of the best in terms of live videos. Whether it’s a powerful piece of filmmaking (as is the case with the clip that kicks this off, which also doubles an an official music video), a great performance, or a combination of both, there’s quite a bit to admire about the selected videos. So, as always, lean back, relax, clear your mind, and Watch This.



PART I

1. Ron Gallo – Please Yourself
2. Meat Wave – To Be Swayed (Live! From the Rock Room)
3. Slothrust – Horseshoe Crab (Dangerbird)
4. Peaer – Pink Spit (Live! From the Rock Room)
5. Yucky Duster – Friend Zone + Gofer (The Special Without Brett Davis)
6. Cloud Nothings – Modern Act (KCSN)
7. Charly Bliss – Glitter (WFUV)
8. LVL UP – Hidden Driver (Do512)
9. Wetter – Do You Still Dance? (Radio K)
10. Forth Wanderers – Caramel Emotion (Allston Pudding)
11. Happyness – Through Windows (Do512)
12. Parlor Walls – Play Opposites (BreakThruRadio)
13. Weaves – One More (Audiotree)
14. Frankie Cosmos – Highways and Trees + O Dread C Town (La Blogotheque)
15. Ornament – Adapt or Leave (Boxfish Sessions)
16. IAN SWEET – 2soft2chew (Allston Pudding)
17. Kal Marks – Today I Walked Down to the Tree… (Boxfish Sessions)
18. Darkwing – Necropants (BreakThruRadio)
19. Gurr – Moby Dick (3voor12)
20. The Chinchees – Everyone Knows (Radio K)
21. Sløtface – Empire Records (3voor12)
22. Very Fresh – Schedule IV (BreakThruRadio)
23. Middle Kids – Edge of Town (The Current)
24. Emilyn Brodsky – Hands Off the Stove (BreakThruRadio)
25. Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals (NPR)

Splitting at the Break: The Live Videos of 2016’s First Half

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2016 is just about at its midway mark and there hasn’t been any live coverage on this site since before the year turned over. There have been a number of extenuating circumstances preventing the live documentation that has been captured this year from being posted (travel, time, other commitments, etc.) but that changes today. Below are ten video packets from ten shows that I was fortunate enough to catch — and shoot — this year.

Normally, as a general rule of thumb, I avoid posting anything from shows I play but am making an exception for the Jungles package because the band’s woefully under-represented in America for their undeniable strength as a live act.  A few other packets may be missing an artist or two but what’s below is the vast majority of what I’ve seen over the past six months.

Whether it’s Meat Wave ripping through a crushing new song on a (freakishly sunny) winter day in Chicago, Beach Slang covering The Replacements two times over, or Torres making everyone’s hairs stand on end with an unforgettable one-song encore, these are worth a look and were a privilege to experience. A photo gallery will be coming within the next few days but for now, enjoy the footage.

American Wrestlers, Eternal Summers, Palehound, and Torres. 

Julien Baker and Charly Bliss. 

Muuy Biien, Meat Wave, The Spits, and Black Lips. 

Runners, Beech Creeps, and Heavy Times. 

Jungles. 

Mr. Martin & The Sensitive Guys, BAG-DAD, Haunter, Miserable Friend, and Heavycritters. 

Yoko and the Oh No’s and PWR BTTM. 

Micah Schnabel, Dyke Drama, Potty Mouth, and Beach Slang. 

Yowler, Eskimeaux, and Frankie Cosmos. 

Oops and Dilly Dally. 

Watch This: Vol. 108

Once again, there’s been a brief interim since the last Watch This was posted but, as ever, a lot of great material has surfaced in that time. In this volume, there will be an emphasis on full sessions and artists who have made numerous appearances on the site over its two years of existence. All five of these artists have earned glowing reviews for their live shows and are, in a lot of ways, inextricably connected to Heartbreaking Bravery’s development. Only one of these clips is a performance of a standalone song and it’s one of the most gripping live captures of the year. So, as always, sit up, wind down, focus, adjust the settings, and Watch This.

1. All Dogs (Audiotree)

Watching All Dogs‘ exposure explode in 2015 thanks to the release of their extraordinary full-length debut, Kicking Every Day, felt genuinely gratifying. The songs in that collection, like any Maryn Jones-led project, feel brave and personal. Every song is relatable to an extent that’s almost painful; our own damage is reflected in Jones’ interior grappling, which suffuses every ounce of Kicking Every Day. In a live setting, those songs gain even more impact and Audiotree expertly captures that with  this very worthy session.

2. Bully (KEXP)

One of the first shows I saw after moving into an apartment in Brooklyn was thanks to a tweet that sent me sprinting towards Rough Trade. What followed was a whirlwind set by site favorites Bully, that largely pulled from their outstanding Feels Like. KEXP recently hosted the band for an in-studio session that once again finds the band nailing the seemingly paradoxical marriage between sounding polished and downright ragged. Exhilarating and fairly composed, it’s a fascinating look at one of 2015’s most deserving success stories.

3. Waxahatchee (Ithaca Underground)

Katie Crutchfield has been one of the most consistently enthralling songwriters of the past 10 years, elevating a staggering number of projects that have managed to find a near-reverential status among their respective communities and beyond. Eventually, that devotion spread outward and expanded into national recognition only shortly after her first collection as WaxahatcheeAmerican  Weekend, was released. Crutchfield’s released two more records under that moniker (and a few as half of Great Thunder) in the time that’s followed, with both Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp finding spots in numerous best-of lists at high-profile publications. Here, Ithaca Underground presents Crutchfield performing an arresting (and beautifully shot) solo set that leaves the audience speechless. It’s a powerful document of an artist who continues to find new ways to impress.

4. Dilly Dally (KEXP)

Dilly Dally came into 2015 riding a wave of buzz surrounding the staggering brilliance of their first few singles and capitalized on those early flashes of potential with ferocious abandon. Nearly every item the band released this year wound up inspiring several paragraphs worth of attention from this site and a few extremely strong reviews for their inspired (and, frankly, inspiring) live shows. Sore, their full-length debut, just served as the cherry on top of an already-appealing sundae. KEXP recently brought the band in for a full session and they responded in kind, gifting the studio an appropriately searing performance.

5. Saintseneca – How Many Blankets Are In The Wolrd? (ANTI-) 

Throughout 2015, ANTI- has produced some of the most beautiful live clips in recent memory (a handful of which have been prominently featured in this series) and that streak continues with this beautiful presentation of Saintseneca‘s Zac Little performing “How Many Blankets Are In The World?” while walking through what appears to be a drainpipe. Easily one of the year’s most gorgeous live captures, this is both a spellbinding performance and a masterclass in composition. Even when Little’s plunged into near-complete darkness, the song itself serves as the clip’s functioning heart, generating a thoughtful overall effect. When Little finally emerges back into the light, it’s a sequence that feels oddly moving, finalizing this as one of the year’s most complete offerings in this category.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

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Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

Girlpool – Live at Baby’s All Right – 7/29/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Yesterday evening, one of Brooklyn’s finest venues- Baby’s All Right- opened its doors and ushered in an eclectic mix of people that tended to skew younger than older but still boasted a handful of patrons who could have grandchildren. It was a nice sight that was likely due to the wide-reaching appeal of both bands playing the early show: Florist and Girlpool.

Both acts have built up a quiet notoriety over the past few years, with the former being a staple of the revered arts collective The Epoch and the latter being one of 2014’s great word-of-mouth successes. The show had sold out before Baby’s opened its doors and the packed room left both bands unfazed. Florist started things off with a set of gentle songs that incorporated subtle, folk-inflected influences into devastating indie pop songs.

Each song kept the audience at a silenced hush as the room swelled to capacity. For the entirety of their set, Florist played in front of a static drumkit (one that would have otherwise been used by Felix Walworth, who’s currently on tour) in what seemed to be a gesture of heartfelt solidarity. By the time their set was drawing to a close, the audience was completely at their mercy, hanging onto every soft word and ambient flourish; it was almost as if Florist was the headlining act, a notion that was supported by the waves of applause following their final notes.

Ultimately, Florist’s set was a perfect lead-in to Girlpool, who wasted no time in launching into their set once they took the stage. Now, Girlpool’s been written about enough times here that it’d be easy to collect all of those pieces and fashion a small bible- but it still felt like they had something to prove an in-person live setting. The notion that they couldn’t was dismissed completely as soon as the duo (comprised of Cleo Tucker on guitar/vocals and Harmony Lebel-Tividad on bass/vocals) launched into their first harmony sequence.

Throughout  their set, both Tucker and Lebel-Tividad were in high spirits, casually joking with each other while dealing with a guitar that kept stubbornly falling out of tune. Families, couples, and musicians all watched intently as Girlpool played cuts from their outstanding self-titled EP (one of 2014’s best) and this year’s superb Before The World Was Big, while making room for at least two new tunes.

No matter what the band did, there was a pervading sense of easy camaraderie that bled into a seemingly telepathic connection between the duo. As many others have noted, at times their voices adopt each others affections and become virtually indistinguishable. While that aspect of their music can certainly be heard on record (and in several performance captures), hearing it in person is spine-tingling.

Before anyone knew what was happening, the band had seemingly everyone held at rapt attention, suspended in a moment where time was irrelevant. A brief “this is our last song” brought reality crashing back down on the proceedings and the band finished their main set exhibiting the same flair and charisma that earned them their headliner status in the first place. The encore call was immediate and overwhelming.

After a brief attempt to lead a venue wide singalong of “Happy Birthday” for the girl who cried out that it was hers, the band sheepishly launched into the first song of their encore: “Plants and Worms“. Even in a still-young discography packed with incredible material, “Plants and Worms” stands out in their catalog- and not just because it  was gifted one of the best music videos of 2014. It was one of the first glimpses at the band’s maturation level and the songwriting remains some of the most staggering they’ve committed to a recording.

Decidedly darker in tone than the rest of their material, “Plants and Worms” is immediately arresting and the audience was dead quiet throughout (with the exception of a delighted reaction to the Tucker aside about the attempted birthday song), completely engrossed in the performance at hand. The evening ended with a gripping rendition of “Dear Nora”, one of Before The World Was Big‘s most quiet, affecting, and personal songs. When it drew to its silent finish, the audience gave one last enthusiastic applause and got one last glimpse of the band, smiling and waving, in front of an iconic backdrop, left with one last reminder that even though they were making their stage exit, Girlpool aren’t anywhere close to calling it quits.

A photo gallery of the show can be seen below. Underneath the gallery, watch video captures of parts of both Florist’s and Girlpool’s set below. Each video set includes two new songs per artist. Florist’s also includes “1914” while Girlpool’s includes “Chinatown”, “Crowded Stranger”, “Pretty”, and “Plants and Worms”. Enjoy.

 

 

Florist

Girlpool

Tenement – Live at The Acheron – 6/25/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Toys That Kill played an invigorating set at The Acheron on June 23. Two days later, Tenement did the same on a bill where they weren’t even technically the headliner (that distinction went to Warthog, whose set I didn’t manage to catch). Nancy kicked the show off with a costumed, attitude-heavy set. Really, the night seemed to belong to the middle three bands: two of the best acts in hardcore and, of course, Tenement– a band that’s been written about on here with alarming- but entirely justified- regularity.

A night defined by aggression, tension, cathartic release, and genuine surprise (perhaps best summarized by a brief, impromptu cover of Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”) was highlighted by Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement. Ivy played as ferociously as possible and Big Zit took that manic energy and injected their own brand of frenetic weirdness. Tenement (with Tyler Ditter filling  in on bass for Jesse Ponkamo) delivered a bruising set- that can be seen in full below- that served as a powerful reminder of why Tenement’s one of the best bands currently operating.

A gallery of photos of Ivy, Big Zit, and Tenement can be seen below. A pair of performances from Ivy can be seen beneath the gallery as well as the full Tenement set. Enjoy.


Toys That Kill – Live at The Acheron – 6/23/15 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Toys That Kill I

Over the past week, I attended two shows and saw close to ten bands, everything happened in the same venue: The Acheron. June 23 was the first of the two nights/shows, so it’ll be receiving the early focus while a recap of the show on the 25th will be posted in the very near future. The show on the 23rd opened with Hatrabbits (a band featuring former members of The Measure [sa] dutifully filling in the local slot with a very straightforward, no-nonsense take on punk. Former WI resident and DIY mainstay Nato Coles (with his Blue Diamond Band in tow) pulled out all of the usual stops during a characteristically high-energy set. An unexpected highlight came in the middle of “An Honorable Man”- a classic tune by Used Kids (a Brooklyn-based band Coles used to co-front with Big Eyes’ Kaitlyn Eldridge, who was also in attendance)- with Used Kids bassist taking over on the instrument for the song’s remainder, ultimately receiving one of the nights loudest cheers.

Site favorites Benny The Jet Rodriguez played next, with an expanded lineup boasting two familiar faces: Todd Congeliere and A Year’s Worth of Memories contributor (not to mention Swearin’ and Radiator Hospital member/Stupid Bag Records founder) Jeff Bolt. Front to back, the set was nothing but electrifying highlights, including some new songs and a few particularly impassioned takes on some of Home. Run‘s best material. Shellshag followed up with a set full of the kind of off-kilter charisma that made them one of Don Giovanni Records’ most quietly revered bands (especially among the musicians who exist in the label’s circle, several of whom refer to the duo as “mom and dad”). By the time they’d pulled the plugs on their lighting rig and made a precariously balanced tower of drums, the venue had either neared or reached capacity.

Toys That Kill rewarded the crowd with an intense set that more than lived up to the hype surrounding the band’s live show (I’d only heard it discussed in awed whispers or deafening proclamations). The band’s achieved something of a legendary status after cultivating a rabid following via a string of genre classics, their live show, and the success of guitarist/vocalist Todd Congeliere’s vaunted label, Recess Records [EDITOR’S NOTE: this hyperlinked clip contains a scene of praise for Hot New Mexicans, which I can’t recommend strongly enough and still leads the pack for my personal “Album of the Decade” pick]. All of that success has been culminating in fiery, passionate performances in which the crowd reciprocates the band’s staggering amounts of energy and that was certainly the case at The Acheron. One of the only shows I’ve seen this  year that ended with a successful (and completely warranted) encore call, Toys That Kill gave the audience exactly what they wanted and more, providing a perfectly raucous endcap to the night.

A video embed of the touring bands on the bill can be seen below and a photo gallery of their sets can be seen here.

Splitting at the Break: A Visual Retrospective of 2015’s First Half (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Krill II

Over the first course of the year, I’ve made several major life decisions with the largest being a move to Brooklyn. Saving up for that paired with a work schedule that at one point had me logging roughly 75 hours a week meant sacrificing a lot of the things I love. None of those things hurt more than the severely limited number of shows I was able to attend. However, it was likely that same scarcity that made the shows included in this piece so memorable. From conducting an artist profile on Johanna Warren for Consequence of Sound (where a few of these photographs were first printed and where you can also find auxiliary video of Warren performing) to finally seeing a few site favorites- like Saintseneca, Krill, and Vacation- for the first time after years of waiting.

While it may not be much, this is still a collection that has deeply personal value. It’s a reflection of a region I called home for the entirety of my life and it’s a place I will miss when I leave it in just over a week. I’ll always be grateful that I was provided the opportunities to attend the shows contained in the multimedia portion of this post- and for the friends I made who were connected to those shows in literally any way. Writers, bands, editors, promoters, venue owners, label execs, or even just fans, they helped make some of these places feel like home. So, take a trip below with shots (and some videos) of: NE-HI, Oozing Wound, Protomartyr, Perfect Pussy, TRITA, Disasteratti, Buildings, Adron, Johanna Warren, Mutts, Two Inch Astronaut, Krill, Speedy Ortiz, Fox Face, The Midwest Beat, Mexican Knives, Vacation, FIDLAR, METZ, Saintseneca, and Murder By Death. The regional focal post of Heartbreaking Bravery may be shifting drastically in the months to come but a large part of its heart will always be lodged in the Upper Midwest.

Hope you enjoy.

NE-HI // OOZING WOUND // PROTOMARTYR // PERFECT PUSSY

 


TRITA // DISASTERATTI // BUILDINGS


ADRON // JOHANNA WARREN

MUTTS

TWO INCH ASTRONAUT // KRILL // SPEEDY ORTIZ



FOX FACE // THE MIDWEST BEAT // MEXICAN KNIVES // VACATION

 




FIDLAR // METZ

SAINTSENECA // MURDER BY DEATH