I experienced so much live music this past weekend, and I experienced a wide variety of that music. I saw folk music, punk music, pop music, and even some screamo. It was a weekend of variety, spread across two nights in northeast Ohio.
Let me break it down for you.
Saturday night, I went home to Canton to experience the Canton Repository’s Battle of the Bands at the Palace Theatre. However, this particular battle was especially, well, special, because I got to see my younger brother and his band, LessThanThree!, play on the Palace stage.
It’s a pretty strange experience, watching the kid you grew up smacking around (well, sometimes the other way around), get on a giant stage in front of a crowd of 1,400 people – a solid portion of them his fans, people who came and made signs and sported LessThanThree! shirts.
What’s even stranger is realizing how dedicated this group of high school kids is. Michael, my brother, and his band mates played an original and a cover song – and while I’m obviously biased, they really did a good job. They got a crowd of rival high school students to stand up for them, and they even sang along to their chosen cover song – “Free Fallin.” It was also impressive that every band, not just Michael’s, had to perform one original song, meaning the lyrics and music were completely, 100% theirs.
I can’t begin to imagine busting out a song when I’m 16 or 17 years old. I wouldn’t know what to write about, much less how to begin to construct a song.
So while I’m giving a shout out to Michael here in this blog, I’m also giving a shout out to the Canton Repository for putting on this battle and also for picking some really, really good judges.
Typically, your judges are arrogant and obnoxious in a battle of the bands (and we all know this). However, this time around, these judges were professional but encouraging, and they are all actively involved in music in some way. For example, one judge is also the lead singer of Via Lotus, and another is the co-owner of the Auricle music venue in Canton. The panel came from a wide range of backgrounds and musical experiences, and so it was refreshing to see that qualified people were taking care of business.
This was solidified by their choice of winner. While I was obviously hoping for a LessThanThree! domination, the judges chose the brothers in Oh Tear the Veil – a metalcore band from Louisville who was most definitely written off by everyone in that crowd.
The minute a singer starts screaming, a crowd generally seems to give up right there. This was no different Saturday night at the Palace; the minute the tiny, 13-year-old screamer in OTHV started his vocals, everyone either left or sat down. What they didn’t seem to consider was that, while it was screaming, this kid was a very, very good screamer who had taken the time and effort to hone his skill – just not the typical vocal skill we all expect.
Not only that, his brothers – the two on bass and guitar – harmonized together and throughout the screaming perfectly. It should have been obvious that this band would be winning, but no one thought that was the case.
It was a refreshing change of pace, especially in a place like Canton, where different isn’t always recognized and if it is, it isn’t always respected accordingly.
So then we go to Sunday night, when I saw Atlas Sound (aka Bradford Cox, also the lead singer of
Deerhunter). The more I think about it, this was probably one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long, long time.
First of all, Bradford Cox is gay, and he’s very open about it. In the tiny space of the Grog Shop, Cox engaged his audience and was so open about himself that he made it an intimate show that everyone absolutely loved. He made everyone feel comfortable and involved.
This was only after he played nearly 40 solid minutes of his sprawling, almost rambling set, songs off releases including Parallax and Logos. If you haven’t heard anything off of either of these, I highly recommend you do. Cox is an interesting guy who doesn’t write his lyrics before he records them: he free associates more or less, singing whatever comes to mind as he’s in the studio.
He translated this into a live show in a most unusual way, too. Cox would play his guitar for a few chords, record them into a loop, play the loop, pick up another instrument, record a few chords into a loop, and cycle through it. He played every instrument and sang – he never had anyone else on stage with him except people from the audience, including one guy whose camera he wanted to “inspect” and another guy he tricked into talking into the looped microphone.
Not only that, Cox proclaimed his love of the state of Ohio, which is always nice to hear. You might believe that musicians say stuff like that everywhere, but he came across with so much earnest integrity that it was hard not to believe him – especially with 400 others in the Grog who were also jumping on every word.
Finally, after almost an hour and a half of music and banter, Cox ended his set – and then he ended up coming back out after most people had left to sit and talk with those of us who had hung around. He was incredibly nice, shook hands, and was more than willing to take pictures with all of us who wanted them.
Ever since, I haven’t been able to stop listening to Atlas Sound or Deerhunter. I’ll tell you now that it’s hard to wrap your mind around, but the more you listen to it, the more it grows on you. Cox has an infectious, poppy voice that you don’t expect to come from him or to be embedded in this swirling music.
Give it a chance, though. You’ll appreciate that you did.