Tricot w/ The Joint Chiefs of Math and Marietta – Johnny Brenda’s, October 12th, 2015

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This week I got the opportunity to see a band I thought I’d never get the chance to. Hailing from Japan, Tricot is an equally mathy, punky, and poppy band with no pretensions or gimmicks. I’ve been a fan since shortly after the release of their debut album “T H E” in 2013, and only became more of one after their latest album, “AND” was released this March. But to think that they’d come to America, with the obvious language barrier and the country’s clear aversion to rock, well that was nothing but a pipe dream. So I was shocked when a little over a month ago when they announced that, yes, they actually WERE coming to America (even naming the tour after the Japanese word for “Finally” or “At last”), and proceeded to snatch a ticket. I’d never heard of the venue and it was over two hours away, but I didn’t give a shit – I was going.

And went I did. I got to the venue and immediately realized that it was perfect – the room was small, there was a bar not ten feet away, and I could literally lean on the stage if I wanted to. And I did, because it was going to be a long two bands and three hours before Tricot took the stage. I say “long” because I was skeptical as hell about the openers, at least to begin with. A local emo band and a noise rock duo seemed like a mismatch for a band like Tricot, but hell, I’ve sat through far worse in service of seeing far better before. I was wrong again, though. The Joint Chiefs of Math were first on stage, and they brought a chaotic blend of noise and instrumental rock, sounding like a much harsher version of Hella and pulling off a plethora of live effects and loops in order to deliver it. As a fan of stuff like Death Grips, Oneohtrix Point Never, and various post rock bands, this was totally hitting the mark for me, and they definitely gained me as a fan by the end of their set. Following them was a local favorite in the shape of Marietta, a band clearly influenced by the likes of early Modest Mouse and American Football. And while they weren’t really up my alley stylistically, they put on a hell of a show by mixing elements of alternative, emo, and even shades of pop punk with a ton of energy and humor, and I could truly tell that they had a fair few fans crammed into this little room.

After seeing the crowd’s reaction to Marietta, I started to have my doubts about just how many people had shown up specifically for Tricot. But my doubts were misplaced, because as soon as they launched into their first song the crowd went off. Almost every head and body was nodding and jumping around, and the band was clearly feeding off of that energy. While the girls might seem diminutive in stature, they certainly make up for it in terms of power – lead guitarist Motifour Kida skipped and danced around, bassist Hiromi Hirohiro hopped like a live wire, and touring (or permanent?) drummer Miyoko Yamaguchi absolutely pounded the shit out of her kit. And while vocalist Ikkyu Nakajima was more cemented to her microphone and guitar out of obvious necessity, she still took a few opportunities to ditch the guitar and break into a dance or even jump into the crowd. This sort of thing can be hard for mathy, intricate bands like Tricot to manage, with some choosing to sacrifice musical perfection for pure energy. But Tricot made it look easy, striking the balance between tight playing and pure fun, and at times even sounding better than the record due to Hiromi’s boosted bass volume. They also had a knack for picking a setlist, too. Among obvious choices like “Pool”, “Oyasumi”, “E”, and “Ochansensu-Su”, they also played less familiar cuts like “Bakuretsu Panie-san”, “Niwa”, and their newest song “Pork Ginger”. As someone who’s been a fan for a while now, it was great to see the songs that first hooked me alongside the ones that I came to love later on, and even being introduced to a handful of songs I wasn’t familiar with already.

All in all, Tricot’s first American show ever was a hell of a ride. Even though it was just shy of the hour mark, the band played with true passion and energy, cramming in as much music and power as possible in the short time they had. No matter what nationality or gender, it’s rare to come across a band that ticks all the boxes in the way this one does, blending technicality, power, and sticky melodies with the conviction and performance to back it up. If you get the chance to see them on this tour, I absolutely suggest that you do, because there’s no guarantee they’ll be back to the States any time soon. They’re well worth the time and money.

The Joint Chiefs of Math: https://thejointchiefsofmath.bandcamp.com/

Marietta: https://whereismarietta.bandcamp.com/

Tricot’s remaining dates (courtesy of Reddit user androph):

10/16/2015〜 Bar Le Ritz PDB/Montreal, QC

10/17/2015〜 Lee’s Palace/Toronto, ON

10/18/2015 〜 Majestic Café/Detroit, MI

10/20/2015 〜 Empty Bottle/Chicago, IL $

10/21/2015 〜 The End/Nashville, TN

10/23/2015〜 Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios/Denton, TX

10/24/2015 〜 Black Barbie/Houston, TX

10/25/2015 〜 Hi-Tones/San Antonio, TX

10/27/2015 〜 Soda Bar/San Diego, CA

10/28/2015 〜 DNA Lounge/San Francisco, CA

10/28/2015 〜 Bootleg Theater/ Los Angeles, CA

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SikTh and Refused are back!

It’s been a good week for new music from old bands. Yesterday, hardcore punk legends Refused announced that they were not, in fact, fucking dead, and were actually releasing a new album titled Freedom, in June. They were also kind enough to drop the first track from it, titled “Elektra”, which was co-produced with famous Swedish producer Shellback (which to me is a little odd, considering the fact that the rest of his resume is studded with huge popstars…but the song is just fucking good), as well as a video for the track. Besides the new music, they will be touring with (coincidentally or not), another reformed heavy cult band, who you may know by the name of Faith No More, and those dates can be found here.

Refused weren’t the only big comeback this week, though. British math-metallers SikTh, hailed as one of the original forerunners of ‘djent’, way before that was even a thing, have announced that they will be recording a new EP (their first new material since 2006’s Death of a Dead Day), as well as running through a short five-date trek through the UK. On the down-side, there’s no convenient link to a new song from these guys like Refused, so I’ll have to deny you the instant gratification this time. But it will be here soon enough, and you can finally be assured that there will be new music from this classic heavy, schizophrenic metal band.

So, are you glad to have both of these bands back? Or should they have stayed dead and buried? What’s your take?

Thrice Post Cryptic ‘Thrice 2015’ Image

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Remember Thrice? That post-hardcore band that put out the landmark albums The Illusion of Safety and The Artist in the Ambulance before morphing into the genre’s answer to Radiohead, releasing the genre-bending Vheissu and The Alchemy Index? Well, in 2012, they announced their intentions to do a farewell tour, and after completing it, they disappeared into that infamous purgatory known as the ‘hiatus’.

Well, it looks like they’re gearing up to put an end to that hiatus and reform in 2015, with the above image being posted on their website this morning. The background appears to be a stage of some sort, or possibly a studio, but either way it’s great news. The hopes of Thrice ever reuniting seemed to grow slimmer with each passing month, with it’s members splitting off into new groups (Riley to baseball-inspired grindcore band Puig Destroyer, Eddie to Tom DeLonge’s alt rock outfit Angels and Airwaves), and in Dustin’s case, into a almost-but-not-quite religious cult in the form of embattled Mars Hill Church. With Eddie abandoning Angels and Airwaves, and Dustin coming to his senses and leaving the sinking ship of Mars Hill, it seems enough of the pieces have come back together to lead to this moment.

Dustin said in his AMA on Reddit back in March, that a tour was “very very likely” and that he “hoped for and suspected” a recording of some kind as well. Whatever their intentions, the fact that they’re restarting the Thrice machine is great news, and I can’t wait for what they do next.

Kvelertak, Gojira, and Mastodon – November 2nd, 2014

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 I live in what amounts to the absolute middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania. We manage a few tourist seasons, but besides that, nothing happens here. So, for two metal giants like Gojira and Mastodon (with Kvelertak in tow) to even come within an hour of this place, it takes a small miracle. Having been a Mastodon fan since 2009, and a recent Gojira convert, it’s fair to say that the stars had aligned in my favor.

Finally making it inside the theater after battling the biting cold outside, we were greeted by a man wearing a taxidermied owl on his head. This was to be Kvelertak – a band hailing from Norway, bringing along with them a mix of classic rock, stoner and black metal, and a ton of energy. They didn’t get much time to play – only 4 songs – but in the time they did, I was pretty impressed by them. I’m not usually into the stoner side of metal, barring a handful of bands, but the rock and roll vibe they brought to their music made it much more fun to listen to, and it’s obvious they don’t take themselves too seriously. From what I could tell, their live sound was pretty on point – at times the backup vocals (a surprisingly large part of their sound, since they traded off vocalists fairly often) were drowned out by the instruments, but otherwise they did the best they could in the time they were given.

Now, having come to the show mainly for Mastodon, I’m a bit loathe to admit that Gojira was the highlight of the night. Gojira also played a fairly abbreviated set, clocking in at 8 songs, but they used the time they had spectacularly. Their live sound is absolutely massive, with their punishing guitar riffs sounding just as clear and heavy as they do on record, and Joe’s howls and screams are just as guttural. I may not be familiar with a chunk of the songs they played, but I did recognize highlights from From Mars to Sirius, including ‘Ocean Planet’ and ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’, as well as cuts from L’Enfant Sauvage (‘The Axe’ and the title track). Technical, heavy metal has always been more my speed, and with Gojira, they manage to do that perfectly, while still retaining a healthy serving of great songwriting and unique playing. I could also immediately tell that this band has a strong connection with their audience, because the crowd absolutely fed off of their energy in a beautifully chaotic give and take of pummeling riffs and intense moshing. It seems like the crowd they draw is also a more respectful one as well, because it was perhaps the first pit I’ve ever been in in which I didn’t feel like I had to fight for my life and dodge stray elbows, but rather could dance and have fun in. The result was a performance I could absolutely lose myself in, moshing, headbanging, and watching in awe of the tight musicianship and great songs they delivered.

Mastodon is an entirely different beast altogether. After the intensely technical and death-metal tinged Gojira set, on came Mastodon to deliver their signature blend of loose, groovy, psychedelic metal. This was truly a Mastodon headliner, as the band mined material from Remission right up to their newest album, Once More ‘Round the Sun (which was heavily featured – out of the eleven songs on that album, they played eight). Their stage set up wasn’t really anything special, featuring a huge banner with the intricate artwork from Once More ‘Round the Sun and a few lasers, but it was enough to enhance the experience (especially during the slower and more psychedelic sections). Musically, the band was on point, rarely flubbing a note or a fill. There was a funny moment when, after playing a build up of creepy spoken word and sound effects, the band couldn’t start the song due to an issue with a string on Brent’s guitar. He played it off perfectly, fixing the issue himself while goofing off on his mic. Vocally, however, Mastodon has always been spotty, and that didn’t change last night. Troy and Brann have improved by leaps and bounds since Crack the Skye, and are able to perform much of the material without problem, but Brent struggles a little on his higher parts (though his vicious scream is still perfectly intact). What they can’t replicate in the vocal department, however, is made up with in terms of sheer energy, because their songs deliver hard-hitting riffs and sing-along sections that engage the crowd, at times turning the entire front section into one huge pit (being in the pit during ‘Blood and Thunder’ is enough to shock even the most hardened pit king or queen). Because, in the end, that’s what this kind of show is about: it isn’t American Idol where hitting every note perfectly makes or breaks you, but rather the energy you bring and how much fun you can get the audience to have, and Mastodon is the perfect embodiment of that.

While I would’ve preferred if Gojira and Mastodon had a more evenly matched set time, that’s about the only complaint I have for this show. Rarely do bands of this stature come around my area, and even more rarely do they deliver such a killer show that I can barely walk the next day. If you’re a fan of any of the three bands playing, are curious about any of them, or even if you’re a metal fan in general – don’t miss this tour. Kvelertak is a fun mix of rock and various metal genres, Gojira brings intense technical metal, and Mastodon is the quintessential modern metal band, journeying through their 15 year career with a wealth of different cuts. You won’t be disappointed.