Yes, the Appleseed Cast finally made their way back to Reno last night and before I get into the specifics of the evening, I have to just say a GIGANTIC thank you to the band for even humoring the idea of playing in Reno after the debacle four years ago that ended with them playing a despite-the-cards-stacked-against-them-still-great barely fourty minute set (and this, of course, was no fault of theirs in the first place; but all of this is another story entirely — we'll get to it partially below).
There was a delayed start —10pm, as opposed to the posted time of 8pm— and with three openers, I knew we were in for a long night (indeed, I asked Dave what time it was when we walked out of the place at the end of the night and he said two-twenty-something — sheesh).
First up was local band Fa Fa Fa. Kind of fun and jangly, in a two clean-toned guitars (a la Television) sort of way. Tight, jerky rhythms and fun pseudo-harmony vocals. Competent, sure. My thing overall? No, not really. But they were good just as a listening in the background sort of thing.
Next was Seas and Centuries who I knew of because of Dave's championing of lead singer Alex's previous projects (none of which I was really that into, honestly). After hearing a song or two at Dave's insistence, I was actually excited to see them opening for Appleseed Cast. And they did not disappoint. Very tight, very enjoyably concise set. The highlight of their brief set was definitely 'Until December' — which is like War-era U2 meets 'Ceremony' by New Order. The band was giving away business cards at the show which had the URL for a free download of their initial three song EP. Upon getting home and properly digesting the material (all three songs they played last night), I have to say that it's definitely worth everyone's time. They were professional and respectful of the circumstances and, despite Alex's humility, I thought they sounded completely ace. I don't think I've ever been more excited about a homegrown act.
The national touring act that was along for the ride with Appleseed Cast was Muscle Worship. And I didn't get it, just flat out. I appreciated their obvious passion during the performance, but maybe it was the sound mix and the lead guitar being obtrusively loud. Things just didn't gel and all of their songs starting sounding the same after a while. Still, I definitely appreciate bands coming through town like that and I made sure I told all the guys in the band as much afterwords.
Appleseed Cast came on sometime after midnight and it seemed like they were obviously a little miffed at the late start time. In fact, (drummer) John (Momberg) set up his kit so that he was playing with his back to the (unfortunately dwindling) audience. (bassist) Nate (Whitman) joined him for the majority of the set and (second guitarist) Aaron (Pillar), because of the size of the stage, had to set up his gear so that it was impossible for him to play his parts and face the audience.
It was not a good sign. It was going to be the repeat of the barely fourty-minute set from four years ago, I feared.
But they launched into 'Ceremony' from Peregrine with a cool ease and I noticed right away that they were a lot more animated than the circumstances would have expected them to be — arguably, they were even fidgety.
I was excited to hear Sagarmatha material, plain and simple, because I missed that tour. They did not disappoint, as they played three songs from that album ('As the Little Things Go', 'South Col' and 'Raise the Sails'). 'As the Little Things Go' was especially great as the proper set ender and it was just amazing to hear the band translate that six minute buildup so well in a live context. Where it sounded laboured-over and nearly aloof (in a good way) on the record, it came across as a piece of urgent, pure wall of sound in concert. It was the one I hoped they would play from Sagarmatha and it did not disappoint.
Other selections included (not in order):
'Here We Are' from Peregrine (unsurprisingly rendered in a very noisy fashion)
'Hanging Marionette' from Two Conversations (actually, this was one of the highlights of the set)
'Fishing the Sky' from Mare Vitalis (a genuine shock to hear them play it and even more of a shocker how well it fit in with the newer material — I would love to hear them play more material off this album, especially if they're going to do it such justice)
'On Reflection' and 'Rooms and Gardens' from Low Level Owl (have heard them play 'On Reflection' every time I've seen them and it still remains my favorite song of theirs; they could play it at every single gig they ever do and it will never get old. 'Rooms and Gardens' was the only encore song and the show closer and it was all awesome, noisy chaos — just like how they played it on the LLO anniversary tour last year)
But, most importantly, I knew they were almost certainly going to air out some new material at this show. And they played the title track from their upcoming EP 'Middle States' and one other new one whose title I can't recall right now (help me out Dave, you setlist thief). 'Middle States' (the song) was everything I hoped for. I will spare you the obtuse pseudo-recollections of hearing a brand new song, once, as it was being played live, but I just remember thinking while they were playing it that it sounded like the perfect synthesis of the shoegazey-ness of Sagarmatha mixed with the riffy-ness of Peregrine. And noisy. God, I had goosebumps. I can't wait to hear it again.
The other song struck me as a bit more of a tough turkey. I don't remember much about it, except that its riffs were less showering and more angular (going back on old tricks minus the screaming, perhaps?). It was very mazelike, and puzzle-ish from what I recall. I liked it, it just wasn't as immediately grabbing as 'Middle States.'
And then, there they were, packing up their gear, just another stop on the road for them. There was nothing even close to a packed (or even semi-full) house. They did abridge the set, as Dave and I later found out ([lead singer and guitarist] Chris [Crisci] was kind enough to donate his only setlist to us dorks) — they omitted about four songs (one of which was another new one we consequently missed out on), probably because of time issues and (as we also found out) Aaron was up there the whole time under the weather, playing with very flu-like symptoms.
And yet, Chris bowed when I thanked him for coming back to Reno. Aaron was downright chatty (amongst a flurry of deep coughing) and he even remembered Dave and I from last year's show in San Francisco. I thanked Nate and John as well and they seemed grateful that there was at least a few people in the small crowd that were there to watch and listen and appreciate.
Which brings us to the next issue —and I must apologize in advance for being kind of a sourpuss— but Reno kind of sucks.
How is it even possible for a band like Appleseed Cast to come through town and have barely fifty kids even notice that one of the best bands in the world is playing for them, just feet away from where they're smoking their cigarettes, drinking their PBR and trying to talk to each other over the band?
Was I actually approached by someone representing the vile Holland Project? (google it for yourself; fuck links — this is the same "organization" that screwed Appleseed Cast into an abridged set four years ago)
Did this person actually hand out flyers, advertising for another show and tell me it was going to be 'the best show of the year' in which a band that sounds like 'Bright Eyes if he screamed meets Bruce Springsteen' would be playing said best show? (sidebar: you just ignored Reno's best show of the year when you disrespected Appleseed Cast last night, kiddo)
Why were there more girls taking pictures of each other on their phones down front than there were, you know, people who actually cared?
What exactly is going on?
Well, my friend, Reno kind of sucks sometimes.
I apologized to Aaron for the lack of respect in the audience —and the general lack of audience at all— and all he could do was thank me in return for my previous kind words.
At that point, I realized, as much as I love having one of the best bands in the world playing at my doorstep, we don't really deserve it. The guys in the band are too humble for their own good. They deserve stadiums full of attentive, respectful listeners.
Instead, they get their set start times pushed back to unrealistic hours and dwindling audiences who are more interested in the PBR drink specials and holding their cigarettes in a fashionable pose.
Judging from the band's only Tweet mentioning anything to do with the stop in Reno (and, alternately: their numerous Tweets from SF, capped by this one), they were grateful for the lucky odds at the slots and tables, not for the mostly unappreciated (yet still incredibly good) set they had just played.
Here's to hoping they come back.
Not that I blame them if they won't.
PS — Totally scored Peregrine on vinyl at the merch stand. Right on.