Sunday, June 08, 2008

Autumn Above (opening for some other bands) [Midway Cafe, Boston, 6/6/2008]

This was a congested night for shows, at least originally, but then Welfare Records closed, knocking the MPD gig off the calendar. The record store is still there, but Massachusetts lost another really good venue to the bullshit intersection of antediluvian alcohol laws and immature gimboids all too willing to flaunt them. This was a well-placed venue for access with a good management team that brought in uniformly good bills and put together a positive environment for them, but now, alas, it is no more. This leaves a critical lack of venues between Boston and Manchester, and though Bernie (of Mark's Showplace infamy) has been connected with a revival of Club 125 in Haverhill (the converted Pizza Hut that I nearly saw Kreator at in 2002), I wouldn't expect a whole shitton. Bad stuff all around.

Anyway, the lack of MPD made this a choice between Composted and Autumn Above, which was originally pretty clear; Autumn Above, while awesome, has a marked tendency to play shows with annoying or boring bands, and there was a lot of awesome death metal on the O'Brien's bill. It was still a tough choice, but made easier when I found out that Autumn Above was opening up their gig: instead of having to pick a show, I could attempt the nearly impossible and try to go to both, using the MBTA to make the transition.

This plan worked perfectly to start: parked at Green Street on time, down the Red Line to the Orange Line to JP and over to the Midway to see my boys. The gig was good (see below), but I got out a little late, which turned out to be a problem. I barely missed the train out of Green Street and ended up sitting for longer than I figured on. The delays piled up, and by the time I got to my last decision point, at Kenmore, it was already nudging past midnight. I got off the train and gave up. Maybe I could have kept on and seen some of their set, though I'd already missed Moral Decay, who I really should have bitten the bullet to see in Worcester on Thursday, as well as Psytoxia and Unholy Goatfucker. Maybe I made the wrong decision and should have just gone to Allston, period, but Autumn Above are still my guys, and they put up a good enough set that it was time well spent, even if it wasn't perfectly optimal.

Back to the gig: I got down, as described, in a timely manner, and got a beer or two while waiting for the bands to start. DIY, as it turns out, is more or less the same wherever you go: late starts, lineups in flux, and the non-affiliated fans a bare handful in number. Midway, though, is still a nice DIY venue whether it's metal or alt-rock, as here: good atmosphere, decent food next door, and fairly cheap PBR. Among the fellow denizens were an old scene vet recently back in the area, chummy with the barkeep and setting up a regular gig, calling down one of his old bandmates to hang. This was a guy to mark for me, at least, because his reaction would be a good benchmark for how people will react to Autumn Above coming from really flat zero. Their fans love them, but a lot of their fans at this point are old friends, old schoolmates, and old vets of the North Shore metal scene, with a lot of overlap between those three groups. Their current mini-tour may lead to bigger tours, and out on the road they've got to be able to convert people, and opinion leaders as well as the easily impressionable.

Autumn Above were supposed to go on second, but got 'promoted' to the opening slot (not noticeably earlier) when the opening band failed to show (DIY, how we love ye). They took a while setting up due to the sound guy bringing all their mics in correctly, but start they did, and it didn't take them long to get things cranked up.

This band, especially with a set like this where they run the CD basically straight down, is a band that kind of sneaks up on you, much like tequila or a shark pretending to deliver candygrams. At first, with the mics still not completely balanced and with a lot of straight pop riffs and construction in the early songs, they're easy to miscategorize as a Plain Old Indie Band. I think after "Skydiver", that old hipster mentioned earlier said something dismissive about power chords and turned back to the bar. This was the last I saw directly of him, because the bar was filling up, and I was getting pushed ahead -- actually, make that "pushed" ahead; sure, I could have left my back on the brass rail, but the good part was just getting started.

So you think you have them figured as a pop band, and maybe you think that they have three guitars because they're all friends all in, mostly doubling and occasionally tripling parts. Maybe you think Jim's Misfits shirt is ironic, if a little odd. Then the lyrics start to get a little more twisted, and maybe you notice a little more palm-muting slicing out of the rhythm guitars -- Tone's bass definitely seems to have a little more bite to it, but this it a pop band, right, and it's not too far out of character. Things push forward, and you don't think about frogs in boiling water -- if you did, there wouldn't be cause to -- and you continue to think you have the measure of the band, which is about the same as where they were at the beginning. And then at some point -- maybe when Chris is screaming for divine retribution, maybe when the vocal styles swap rapidly in and back from five-part crooning to HXC barks, maybe when a facemelting solo leads into a Maiden/In Flames bridge (all of this on acoustics still, mind), maybe when the phrase "double homicide to suicide" comes up, maybe when the kid in the Mortician shirt mimes cutting a throat, or maybe when "Trail of Roses" winds up on a hate-filled burst of a lyric that might, depending on everyone's vocal cords, well come out as half black metal -- you get snapped back to reality and find out that the band that concludes the set is not the band that started it, and they are a lot more talented, deep, and complex than you figured, and, oh yeah, they half ripped your face off while you weren't looking. As soon as I determined that they weren't going to go on and close with "Eulogy", I looked back to the bar for that jaded scenester mentioned earlier, finding him as he leaned back and mouthed "wow" to his old guitarist; if he wasn't impressed, which he may still have been, he was definitely taken aback, and by my assessment the band will take that reaction if they can't get instant devotion. ;)

Autumn Above is still not a metal band, but from this performance, they've decidedly come to terms with their metal roots -- and metal side, in the case of those members still gigging with metal bands -- and are using that heritage to sharpen and intensify their sound. Perhaps the pop and prog elements are equally strong, but it does seem like they've reached a point where they've balanced their influences to satisfaction, and it's going to be really cool to see where they go with these strands on their future material.

Final score? 6/7; this wasn't the best gig I've seen from them, and it ended up a little short, but they fought through a number of technical difficulties -- the power cord on Ryan's amp died, and Anthony busted his A-string midway through "Burn With Me" (if I recall the song correctly) and had to do a field repair onstage -- and definitely impressed a bunch of people. If their tour shows go this well, they won't have any problem getting invited back. It would have been a better night if I'd been able to get up to O'B's, and the other bands on this bill might have been entertaining had I stuck, but even just with this much, it was a hell of a night.

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