I went to two shows this past month. The first being Minus The Bear with Annuals at the Varsity Theater. I mainly went to this show to see Annuals who I’ve been a pretty big fan of since their debut a couple years ago. Their set started out a little rough. I think they might of been having some sound issues, but by the third song they pulled it together. From then on they sounded great, particularly the new songs. This is the second time I’ve see Annuals live and the one thing I enjoy most is watching their lead guitarist Kenny Florance play. This guy is the most phenomenal guitarist I’ve ever seen, and he makes it look so easy. If your a fan of Anathallo, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens or just a fan of music in general you should really check these guys out.
Next up was Minus The Bear. I’ve know about these guys for a while and I’d heard a few of their songs but I hadn’t really gotten into them too much. But I must say they sold me on their live show. The whole band was very tight and clean sounding. The singer was spot on with his vocals and the keyboard player provided some great harmonies. The between song banter was quite entertaining as well. Needless to say I’ll probably be picking up one of their albums very soon.
The second show I went to in October was the almighty Norma Jean at Station 4, with a half dozen opening bands, none of which are worth mentioning. Norma Jean is one of about two hardcore bands I still listen to on a regular basis. The reason is… they’re amazing and their live show clearly demonstrates that. I’ve noticed a lot of hardcore bands sound pretty crappy live and think it’s because they’re trying to rock out so hard that they end up playing sloppy. Also a lot of singers have a hard time screaming through a whole set and holding their voice together. Norma Jean on the other hand are one of the tightest of any kind of band I’ve seen live. Each member of the band is an expert at their respective instrument, especially the guitarists. These guys are playing some of the craziest and complicated guitar parts I’ve ever heard, and they sound just as good if not better than their recorded material. Then there is singer Cory Brandon who is shredding his vocal chords but sounds totally clean all the way through the set. It’s a little of an oxymoron to say a screamer sounds clean but trust me on this one. There are few guys out there that I know of that can do what he can do. Another cool thing about Norma Jean’s set is their use of lighting and sound effects. They had about six, ten foot tall florescent lights standing vertical behind the band. The lights would flash a flicker along with the music which added a nice touch. Between songs they would play some recording of a guy speaking, I’m not sure what it was from, and then they would do this deep rumbling sound that was so intense I could feel my guts shaking. All of the awesome things Norma Jean does once again made for a very enjoyable experience. Oh and watching the kids doing their hardcore dancing is always pretty entertaining as well.