Emo’s was the site of a perfect allegory for the evolution of my musical tastes and, on a larger scale, the last few years of my life. The 16-to-19-year-old Brett was screaming his lungs out and slamming his skinny, sweaty frame into skinnier sweatier frames at the inside stage, while 20-to-22-year-old Brett stood with his arms crossed listening to indie darling du jour, Caribou.
I have a feeling that if there had been a Hannah Montana marathon on Disney the attendance inside would have been about half what it was (which was sold out). But being young is not a crime and I hate when the Pitchforks of the world frame it as a hanging offense (I have yet to forgive their review of Thursday’s Full Collapse). So the kids piled into Emo’s and the night began with A Bullet for Pretty Boy. The most remarkable thing about this band was the singer’s facial hair. Pretty much your typical “parents-bought-me-a-used-car-for-my-16th-birthday-how-could-they-do-this-to-me?” music. They were a preview of every other band that played.
Our Last Night was up next and played what sounded like the exact same songs as the first band. A lot of screaming and a lot of tough-guy fronting by guys with immaculately disheveled haircuts. It was during the first song of the band’s set that I found myself on the circumference of that most unique tradition of heavy music shows (I don’t want to call this hardcore because I have friends that would kill me if I made the mistake of soiling their beloved genre with that misnomer): the pit.
It actually became more interesting watching the kids in the pit flail and try to work out their moves in front of their peers than paying attention to what was happening on stage. Things got pretty intense when one kid straight-up tackled another kid and Kid 1 was kicked out of the venue by an Emo’s staffer who looked like he relished every moment of it.
I counted a total of six kids who were forced out of the venue for crowd-killing and stage-diving (and one double whammy who tried to come back inside and was pushed out to the curb of Red River by the door guy).
Next up was From First To Last (left). Oh, how the mighty have fallen. These former screamo-heavyweights are now opening for kids who were just getting off their training wheels when Dear Diary, My Teen Angst Has a Body Count was released. Once they started playing material from their newest album Throne to the Wolves, it wasn’t difficult to see why the band has had trouble retaining a fan base.
They get points for switching up the formula of chugged breakdowns and scream/sing/scream/sing structures, but their formula is still not an award-winner. The band finished its set with “Ride the Wings of Pestilence,” a song off their debut full-length Dear Diary. That song amounted to a good-time oldie for me, the guy who had never heard of 4/5ths of the bands on the bill.
Up next was We Came As Romans (left) whose MySpace boasted a brand of screamo-meets-the-symphony slightly more interesting and epic than their peers. Unfortunately, the orchestral elements of their jams were either turned down too far in the mix or were missing completely. Either way, the live songs lost whatever unique characteristics their recorded counterparts have.
Asking Alexandria was up next and played a forgettable set of screamo-core jams. I could try to forgive their cookie-cutter breakdowns and the fact that the singer sounded out of breath for most of the set, but it will be much harder to forgive asking a room largely populated with 14-to-17-year-old girls to “throw your bras on stage” as a condition of the band finishing its encore. The stage was littered with bras (and with it, each under-age girls’ sense of self-respect) by the end of the bands’ set. I could only take solace in knowing that five years from now they will not be able to sell out even the smallest venue. Enjoy it while you can, bro.
I kept thinking back to 16-year-old Brett and wondering if this was the kind of music he was listening to. I am convinced that I have probably repressed some of those mosh-pit memories, but I’m also pretty sure that this music just isn’t as good as Fear Before the March of Flames or The Fall of Troy or even to a lesser-extent, Underoath. On so many levels.
So don’t let anyone accuse me of hating on the mall-core scene because it’s populated by a bunch of prepubescents who maybe take themselves a tad too seriously. This music just isn’t good. On a structural level: Each song is made up of the same three or four parts that get repeated over and over. On a technical level: There’s a lot of noise being made, but not a lot being played. The guitar and bass riffs largely consist of octave chords, open strings or chugs while the double bass pedal gets pummeled surprisingly well and hits are landed on the china cymbal in double or, if it’s a special occasion (every other song) half-time.
After I walked out of the ungodly humidity of the inside room and into the slightly less torturous atmosphere of the outside stage, where Toro y Moi was playing their set of moderately enjoyable dance music to a room of statues. The only thing more ridiculous than a bunch of kids going nuts for the same song played over and over again for four hours is a bunch of 20-somethings with bad haircuts standing completely still while listening to dance music. Standing still listening to dance music.
I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe those hip kids could benefit from watching the 16 year olds bouncing off the walls inside.