One of my biggest regrets this year is that I wasn’t able to attend the first ever dunk!USA festival in Burlington, VT this past month. For a number of reasons there simply was no way I would have been able to make it work, but for someone who dearly loves his post-rock/metal and has been jealous of Brussels getting their own amazing festival of the best post-y acts from around the world for a few years now, knowing that I was missing a lineup of so many bands and artists I had come to love within a (long) day’s drive killed me a bit. It was to my great surprise and elation then when I saw an announcement for a show in Brooklyn taking place right before the festival featuring several of those very same acts I wanted to see from all over the country! Montana’s Ranges, Oregon’s This Patch of Sky, and Florida’s Tides of Man decided to travel together for a couple of stops on their way to Vermont, and blessedly Brooklyn was one of those stops. On top of that the crew invited Brooklyn’s own and good buddies So Hideous for this one show, thus making it an absolute must-see event for someone like myself.
I’ve been laying off of the live video game for a while now due largely to the sheer logistical and physical pain-in-the-assery of organizing, setting up, and filming multi-camera sets all by myself, but in its place I’ve started taking more photos when I can. And while I certainly wouldn’t judge my skills on the concert photo end to be nearly at the same level as pretty much all of the other incredibly talented photographers we carry on staff here, I like to think that I manage to bring some of my own flair into the mix!
Though it’s flown a bit under the radar, this group’s second full-length album – The Ascensionist – is an amazing example of cinematic post-rock aided with some really terrific production and equally big ideas. We also have a rather large soft spot for the group as their lead guitarist, CJ Blessum, also runs one of our favorite merch outfits and labels A Thousand Arms (seriously, their products are so, so good and well-designed). The band’s live set lived up to the grand and expansive sound of their studio material though, and in a night that was occasionally marred by sub-standard technical and visual accommodation on the part of the venue itself, Ranges absolutely killed it with their own lighting setup. Just a thoroughly enjoyable set of music from a band who will hopefully be receiving a lot more attention soon.
Since these guys wrapped up their major cross-country tours in support of the still excellent Laurestine around a year ago, things have been fairly quiet from the So Hideous camp. This was their first show in many months, and to make something extra special out of it, they dipped well back into their older and early material. They also featured violinist Earl Maneein of the incredible metal and experimental-inclined string quartet Seven Suns, who has become a more regular fixture of their live sets of late. Given the extent to which strings play a crucial role in building up the emotion and drama of So Hideous’ music, these new arrangements featuring Maneein absolutely add an entire new layer to the band’s live sound underneath the crushing screams and walls of sound from the rest of the group.
The only frustrating thing about seeing these guys play from my end is that pretty much every time they insist on playing largely in the dark, with only a few points of light pointing up and some fog to diffuse it, which presents a challenge for someone like myself who doesn’t actually own a flash because he’s a videographer first and photographer second. This forced me to resort to using the only fast prime lens I have, a Lensbaby Velvet, which produces very diffuse, impressionistic images at its most open. The results were interesting, if a bit more abstract than usual. Regardless, it was a great set, and I hear new music is on the horizon.
This Patch of Sky
Of the bands featured this night, This Patch of Sky perhaps was in the best position to take advantage of the intimate setting of the room we were in. Their music is the most clearly delineated from the tradition of cinematic post-rock, using space and the passage of time to slowly build up small ideas and little melodies into grandiose and emotionally-drenched climaxes. And their prominent use of cello offers a more immediate and delicate sound that benefits from “these small spaces,” if you will. The band certainly lived up to the emotional depth of their recorded material, and the audience was largely rapt and spellbound by the more meditative quality of the band’s music.
It’s unfortunate that the band didn’t have any kind of lighting setup like the previous bands had though and that the venue seemed to have no interest in providing any additional visual elements or drama in their house lighting. For some reason both TPoS and Tides of Man were washed in flat, neutral light that offered little in the way of contrast or really anything. Nevertheless, the band performed admirably and put on a good show.
Tides of Man
I’ve been wanting to see Tides of Man live ever since they made the radical turn from vocal-led progressive rock to adventurous post-rock with their previous album Young and Courageous in 2014, so I was exceedingly excited to finally see them play. Due to a combination of late start times and technical issues with setup from the venue between sets though, the band didn’t start playing until close to midnight, and I am just not about that life anymore. So my excitement going into their set was tempered somewhat by sheer fatigue, but I was determined to stick it through. And in spite of the previously-mentioned flat lighting, those of us still there were well-rewarded for sticking around by being treated to a selection of new material off of the band’s upcoming album (which was originally teased for release this year but appears will likely come out in 2018 instead). There were a couple of tracks in there in particular that really hit hard and did some really cool things. And of course, anytime they played a song off of Young and Courageous the crowd was more than into it. It’s a shame that the band appeared to play a somewhat shorter set than the others due to the time issues, but they made great use of the time they had.
So, ultimately it was no dunk!fest, but you’d be hard-pressed to find another show in the area anytime soon with this many high-level bands pushing their own brand of post-rock and metal in such a small and welcoming setting with bands and fans rubbing elbows with each other. Thankful I was able to be a part of it.
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