Live Review: Junius & O'BrotherPosted 03/07/2012 07:57AM by Nick Senior as Show Review
Let me set the stage a little bit. The last show I witnessed live happened to feature deathcore fan favorites Carnifex, so I looked a bit out of place surrounded by teenagers clothed entirely by that infamous mall store which I shall not name (seriously, what is with everyone wearing the same shirts, skinny girls’ jeans and having the same haircut?). Thus, sharing my most recent live experience with a bunch of bearded college guys at a small bar in Columbus, Ohio made me feel a bit more at home. Also, I was highly anticipating this tour, as both headliners’ most recent albums found their way into my top 15 of 2011. The line-up pairing could not have been more perfect, as both bands embrace the more artsy side of alternative rock.
The opening band The End of the Ocean did a fine job starting the night off. Their sound is the style that fans of bands like If These Trees Could Talk or Explosions in the Sky will certainly enjoy. The band’s mixing was spot on, if a bit loud, which allowed each song’s ebb and flow to be punctuated. The loud parts were loud and the quieter parts were well placed. The group’s sound isn’t revolutionizing the genre, but the band’s live set was well done, especially for a local group that I had never heard of. Their set was not particularly engaging, but the band’s energy allowed them to escape from the dreaded “boring” label. Often this is an issue that instrumental bands struggle with.
Next up was Sainthood Reps. Their sound somehow bridges the gap between Nirvana and Brand New and ended up stealing the show. The set started with a rousing rendition of the title track from their debut release, Monoculture. The band’s live sound was borderline immaculate, channeling the fuzzy wall of sound that the best bands of the 90s mastered. One of the more unique aspects of the band’s live show was that vocalist/guitarist Francesco Montesanto would grab drumsticks and add to the percussive onslaught, often at the end of a track. While other bands have certainly utilized dual drumming, the moments when Sainthood Reps used this tactic just augmented the fantastic wall of sound they created.
Another element that helped them steal the show was their constant interaction with the crowd. While I can appreciate that some bands just want their music to speak for itself, I always feel somewhat slighted when a band simply stays quiet between songs. Here the band told jokes, thanked the crowd and seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves up on stage. Overall, this was certainly the surprise of the night. Both headliners are known of their live shows, but Sainthood Reps came to play. If this band comes near you, check them out. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you enjoy their music.
Next came the part of the show I was really looking forward to. I wanted to see how Garden Window translated in a live setting. Atlanta’s own O’Brother opened their set with both parts of their song “Machines” and that started things with a bang. Somehow vocalist Tanner Merritt’s voice is even more impressive live. When he speaks between songs, his voice is restrained and hard to hear, which is surprising considering how much of a monster he is while singing. The band ended the set with “Lay Down” which may have been the best ending I’ve seen in a live set in quite some time. The song starts strong but features a chilling ending. The song sounds even more captivating live. It did send up my spine some significant chills hearing the power and emotion behind the song. The only major flaw in the band’s set was that they seemed to simply coast through the songs at times. It’s not as if they were outright boring, but the effortlessness of their performance allowed the band to skate through the set easier than most. Overall, the band certainly did not disappoint. Their set sounded very clear, and the band performed with enough energy to keep the crowd interested. The fact that the middle of their set was a bit slow kept O’Brother from taking the spotlight fully back from Sainthood Reps.
Those who know me are aware of my enjoyment of Junius’ last release, Reports from the Threshold of Death, so I was eagerly awaiting this performance. Just for perspective, all three of the previous bands’ sound quality was done almost impeccably, with each band able to sound like an even better version of their recorded counterparts. With that said, Junius’ sound was a bit off. The drums and bass were significantly higher in the mix than the guitar, which was mostly fine, as that allowed the fantastic drum work of Dana Filloon to shine. Seriously, he was murdering his drum set throughout the band’s set and was a pleasure to watch. That’s one of the things I always appreciate about a good live show: facets of the band’s sound can unexpectedly shine through in a live setting. The drums were that unsung hero that loudly proclaimed dominance in Columbus, Ohio. Despite that positive, the mixing was not only off, but too loud to appreciate the sound. The loudness certainly added to the “wall of sound” effect the band utilizes, but too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.
The band did not talk between songs, which was a bit awkward to have outright silence between the bombast of the music. Somehow, Junius was able to make that a relative non-issue with the energetic set. The songs sounded absolutely massive. The band used bright back-lighting at different points to add to the ethereal element of their sound. Guitarist Michael Repasch-Nieves was head banging hard enough throughout the show that my neck hurt just watching him. Despite the little complaints, the band certainly puts on a fantastic show. If only the mixing weren’t off, I could place this band above Sainthood Reps as the winner of the night.
Overall, this tour is pretty much a must-attend for fans of progressive or alternative rock. It’s hard to say if the night met my lofty expectations, but needless to say, I did not leave disappointed.