UNDEROATH + These Arms Are Snakes + The Chariot @ Club Soda

By Omar Goodness - Hooked On Sonics - 04/23/2005

Let’s get this out of the way early. It’s common knowledge around these parts that I listen to all sorts of music. Heck, I even have an unhealthy addiction to easy listening, adult-contemporary (Lionel Richie, you genius, you). My CD collection includes both Dillinger Escape Plan and Norah Jones. And yes, I do like emo, screamo, post-hardcore, emo-core and whatever else you want to call it. Now, this doesn’t mean I go around writing poetry in a diary, constantly muse on how the world has continuously let me down, or spend copious amounts of time adjusting my bangs or dying my hair black. Uh, no. Every genre has its fair amount of bad bands, but lately it’s been understandable why people have this negative stigma attached to the weepy punk genre. There’s just so many horrible bands now, and the Thursday clones out there rival the Helmet clones of the nu-metal era. Translation: let’s see how far we can water this music down and still sucker the kids into loving it. Yeah, it’s gone pretty far. That being said, I can honestly say when we received the latest Underoath CD They’re Only Chasing Safety at château CJLO, I had understandably low expectations.

Already touted by The Kids© as being “amazing” and the latest “band to watch”, I had some reservations about Underoath. These were the same Kids putting lame-o bands like Story Of The Year and The Used on pedastals. These were the same Kids buying Senses Fail and Early November CDs. Good God, people, these were the same Kids who made Chris Carraba a platinum-selling artist. I lost my faith in The Kids© a long time ago, but Underoath pleasantly surprised me, so much to the point that I ranked their sophomore album They’re Only Chasing Safety as the 9th Best Punk-Hardcore CD of 2004 in my Year End Column. They’re not ground-breaking or genre-defining. They’re not doing anything original or anything that hasn’t been done before. The thing is, Underoath do what they do well, and have the hooks and panache to satisfy. Looks like The Kids© were right. All hope is not lost.

Getting a little late to the venue, I was expecting to have missed Fear Before the March of Flames, which sucks because I’ve heard they are amazing, but I couldn’t do anything about it. What I was really making an effort for, was to get there in time to catch some of These Arms Are Snakes who were the added bonus to the bill, and the sweetener that enticed me to go out to this show. Alas, the only These Arms Are Snakes songs I heard that night were the ones coming out of my car’s speakers. It took me 45 minutes to find parking . Obviously, it was a Saturday night in Montreal, yet somehow I did not factor this into my time calculations. Good job, brah. Strike one. Sooooo, I ended up missing These Arms Are Snakes, chalk it down as the umpteenth time I’ve somehow managed to miss them at shows. Strike two.

I arrive and make my way to the men’s room to see a slew of guys at the sinks in front of the mirror applying “product” and/or slathering water into their hair, making certain their shaggy do’s were messed up just right. Seriously, there were at least eight guys there “coiffing”; truly a sight to be seen. The fact that my hair is somewhat long and has the tendancy to hang in my face sometimes led to one conclusion: I need a haircut. And fast. Strike three (note: hair has since been cut). Grooming aside, how was the show?

The Chariot, featuring ex-Norma Jean vocalist Joshua Scagin, took the stage to the crowd’s delight, and I gotta say I was pretty shocked that so many people were into them for such a relatively new band. I’m not really a fan of their brand of metalcore, but they were quite the energetic bunch of performers. Bouncing all over the stage, the quartet was never at a loss for energy, Scagin almost performed one song entirely on his head. Guitarist Keller Harbin was spazzing out so much that his guitar was flying all over the place, I was waiting for the strap to give way and for it to go hurling into the crowd or at one of his band members. No dice, looks like dude uses some heavy duty duct tape.

Alas, it was The Kids© who stole the show here. Parting like the red sea and allowing ample room on the floor for various crowd members to take turns and go in the center and, uh, punch and kick the air. CJLO Station Manager Metal Dave has assured me that he’s been at hardcore shows where some dudes manage to do the solo-punching thing and somehow manage to look “cool.” Hard to believe, considering that looking like an “idiot” and looking “cool” are usually mutually exclusive. Needless to say, they were quite the source of enjoyment for me, and some old dude who kept on taking pictures of the fracas from the balcony. Well played, fashioncore kids, well played.

Ending their set off with a shout-out to their man Jesus Christ and the Big Man Upstairs, the resulting deafening silence was quickly broken with another frenetic hardcore tune before they packed it in. The odd thing, during their entire set there was a group of five guys standing behind them. Just standing there…hangin’. Anyhow, The Chariot? A-OK, but not really my cup o’ tea..

Letting the stage fill with smoke, and with a backdrop of the cover art of their They’re Only Chasing Safety adorning the stage, Underoath finally took the stage. Lights started flashing around, mini spotlights swooped around the room, the smoke continued to rise, the band kicked in, and the place exploded. The kids were going ballistic for the band’s melodic emo-ish metalcore, so much so that I saw at least three kids leap off the balcony into the pit…yowza.

The band was giving The Chariot a run for their money in the energy department. Singer Spencer Chamberlain was bouncing all over the place, vocalist/drummer Aaron Gillespie kept perfect time while singing and thrashing his head and arms all around, but the MVP here was keyboardist Chris Dudley, quite possibly the most energetic keyboardist ever. He almost becomes the focal point during Underoath’s performance. At one point, someone from backstage ran on and hopped on his back and Dudley kept on hopping about and working the keys at the same time.

The segue from the short “Blue Note” into “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door” was seamless and was the mid-set highlight, with Dudley managing sequencers and keys to create the electronic atmospherics of the songs. Geez, they didn’t even need a recording of the choir part in the bridge of “It’s Dangerous Business…”, the crowd was singing it. The new song played seemed to fit well also, gearing more towards an atmospheric, yet more technical Refused-like hardcore.

If things were already going well by that point, they really took off when the band launched into the popcore of their single “Reinventing Your Exit”. I’ve only seen a handful of shows where a band has connected so much with an audience, to such an extent where everyone in the club feels including in the performance, no matter how far away from the stage they are. Underoath reached that level that night, but here’s the kicker: if “Reinventing the Exit” got the kids up, the last song of the set -- coincidentally the best song off of They’re Only Chasing Safety -- “A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White” brought the house down. I’m dead serious when I say I had a huge grin on my face watching the entire Club Soda erupt. This was mindblowingly good, and the whole time afterwards I just kept on thinking, man, of all bands to accomplish that, Underoath. They’re continuously surprising me.

That brings me back to The Kids©. Say what you will, and I can criticize them all I want regarding their fashion sense or musical taste like I did above, it’s shows like these that are the most enjoyable to me. Forget the dusty hipsters who’ll love you today, but ditch you when Spin, Rolling Stone, or some MP3 blog christens someone else as the “new saviour of music”, it’s the kids who’ll be faithful. It’s the kids who’ll count the days until your show. It’s the kids who are totally passionate about your band. They’re not at the show because of some hype or buzz, they’re there because they are willing to put their entire being into the notes and music coming from their favourite band. They hang on every word. And I can honestly say, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a large group of people complelety go berserk over three minutes or so of music and singing.

And the show? The whole shebang was done at 11pm. God bless these punk shows.

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