Review: Coheed and Cambria bring their concept album to life

Review: Coheed and Cambria bring their concept album to life

Like many, I assume, my first introduction to Coheed and Cambria was playing the song "Welcome Home" almost 10 years ago on the video game Rock Band with my best friend Meaghan. The plucky opening melody and singer Claudio Sanchez's high-pitched vocals had me hooked instantly.

Now, more than 11 years since the release of "Welcome Home" on the 2005 album Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness, the band has embarked on a "Neverender" tour for the album, playing it in its entirety to fans.

Concept albums are a rare art form, and it is even rarer to see a band that can keep an entire storyline running for more than 15 years. Sanchez has used the group's music as a companion piece to his Amory Wars comic series, and GAIBSIV is the third album to tell the sci-fi story.

Fans packed the Fillmore wall-to-wall, the sold-out venue filled to the point that I could barely make it to the photo pit.

An orchestral piece introduced the band, and Sanchez came out alone, acoustic guitar in hand. Starting off with a lullaby, the quiet solo performance was a delightful digression, but it was time to get heavy.

After finishing his song, Sanchez replaced his acoustic guitar with a double-necked Gibson SG, and the rest of the band joined him on stage. The sweeping intro of "Welcome Home" tore through the venue before powerful chords combined with crashing drums filled the air with a sense of heaviness.

This heaviness is not overpowering, and it always takes a back seat to artistry. Coheed and Cambria's sound is not buried under a wall of distortion. It is designed so you can hear and feel every rumble in bassist Zach Cooper's low end and every note in guitarist Travis Stever's sharp solos.

In fact, the only member who stays in an overdriven state of mind throughout the show is drummer Josh Eppard, who is already sweating and smashing his kit by the second song. Donning bright red glasses, Eppard shines bright as a musician who truly gives his all with every hit. Adorned with the "IV" from the album cover, his kit had taken an impressive beating by the end of the night.

Strobe lights and trippy visuals — including a screen full of maggots — set the stage, as the band ran around with an energy and precision not seen in a lot of other acts. The set has a great level of cohesion, with each song leaning into one another as they do on the album, and the live sound being almost a spot-on recreation of the studio version. The performance strays from the recording as Sanchez and crew improvise and take the already human-feeling songs and make them truly individualized instances of rock.

Head banging, singing and crowdsurfing galore, Coheed and Cambria shows always have a strong element of crowd participation. The fans are, in fact, one of the most important pieces of the show. Most of the audience wore shirts from old tours, and a large minority had the band's Keywork logo tattooed onto their bodies. Many in the sea of people even risked it all, carrying limited edition vinyl copies of GAIBSIV into the crowd. Holding on tight, these super fans defended their treasure with their lives.

In the intermission before the encore, Sanchez told the crowd that the Neverender shows make them feel like a "special rock band" because they are never sure how the fans will react when they are announced. The packed room seemed to be an indication that the fans are always willing to come out and experience the old albums in this way.

 

Originally Published in The Diamondback

Review: Highly Suspect prove rock isn’t dead at the 9:30 Club

Review: Highly Suspect prove rock isn’t dead at the 9:30 Club

When Fall Out Boy returned in 2013 with the intent to "save rock and roll," they could not have strayed further from the light — and as Highly Suspect is called to the stage by someone who could best be described as a SoundCloud DJ, I grow worried that rock 'n' roll might as well be dead-on-sight.

Someone in the pit is handing out cupcakes to audience members when the first feedback-driven chords of singer Johnny Stevens' guitar ring out over the sold-out crowd in the 9:30 Club, and I am proven very wrong.

Liquor bottles are strewn across the stage, and the DJ seems to be a permanent fixture of the setup. Strobe lights flicker as the group tears into their opener "Send Me An Angel."

Highly Suspect's sound borrows heavily from their forebears. Blues progressions, crunchy guitars and aggressive drums are all packed into a neat modern form of rock.

This band is what groups like Fall Out Boy should have progressed to when looking to save the genre. The anxiety and angst of the early emo-scene bands is still present in their sound, but with a much more mature delivery.

"I wish everyone I knew was dead," Stevens sings during "Serotonia." "So I'd never have to pick up the phone/ I just wanna be naked/ and masturbate all day at home."

Songs that reference masturbation usually get relegated to the likes of bro-rockers Blink-182, but Highly Suspect handles the highs and lows of life in a different way.

"That is the spirit of rock and roll," Stevens yells to a fan who has climbed up to crowd surf during the band's hit song "Lydia."

Broken men making broken music seems to be the root of the band's aesthetic, and every song oozes with Stevens' personal baggage.

The stage is backed with the letters "MCID," which stands for "My Crew Is Dope." The crew refers to both the audience and the revolving cast of friends that storm onto the stage to dance with Rich Meyer or throw water on the crowd.

Steven's vocals are only given a break when Rich sings during "Winston" or when the band breaks for guitar solos. The vamp and solo after "Claudeland" brings the pace down a bit, but allows Stevens to showcase his abilities as he tears through a blistering solo.

Each member is given their chance to shine during the set, and drummer — and twin brother to Rich — Ryan Meyer has a huge chunk of time blocked out for him to rock out, alone on stage. Ryan, clad in a Nirvana shirt, takes two solos before remarking to the crowd, "Wow, you guys are loud."

Ryan then introduces his drum tech, who does a solo of his own before Meyer takes his kit back for solo number three.

At this point the crowd is enthused but itching for the rest of the band to make their way to the stage. Returning with a solo of his own, Stevens is followed back on by Rich. The song, "ATL," continues into what the band has called, "a weird morphy jammy thing" building into a wall of noise before leaving the stage bowing, and tossing their hats into the crowd.

"Thank you," Stevens adds, "We love you."

Returning to a raucous and inebriated crowd, the trio and their carnival end on their highest note, but not before a hip hop and booze break.

After the festivities are over, they jump back into the thick of it, playing their newest single "Little One."

Donning a wig, and preaching about "peace, love and equality," Stevens and his squealing guitar lead the band into the Grammy-nominated "My Name Is Human."

Strobes stutter throughout the song as the band and crew mosey their way across the stage. The crowd waves their arms like "seaweed in a fish tank," as Stevens described it.

 

Originally published in The Diamondback

After an electrifying concert, Porter Robinson and Madeon return for second Echostage show

After an electrifying concert, Porter Robinson and Madeon return for second Echostage show

When Porter Robinson and Madeon announced "Shelter," their collaborative single, my heart skipped a beat or two. After they revealed there would be a joint North American Shelter Live Tour, it stopped altogether. The Shelter Tour took to Washington at Echostage on Thursday, and got my heart going again.

Some backstory for those of you who don't know — Porter Robinson is one of my favorite producers, and since I saw him for the first time five years ago I have seen him five more times. His transformation from the 19-year old boy prince of complextro to the powerful and emotive musician that he is today has shaped the music I listen to now. Madeon also has a special place in my heart. Back when I first started DJing, his track "Icarus" was in every set I ever did, and the raw energy in it always charged up whatever else I was playing.

The Shelter Live Tour is a victory lap for the two, who met in online forums when they started producing music under very early 2000s DJ names like Ekowraith (Porter Robinson) and DJ Deamon (Madeon is actually an anagram of this). Robinson has been touring his phenomenal Worlds show for the past two years now, and Madeon has been performing his Adventure setup since spring 2015. As the two live shows began to come to a close, it seems only appropriate for the pair to get together to play live and have some fun between close friends.

Worlds was a highly emotional show (I've cried at three out of the four times I've seen it, don't judge me) that took viewers to another dimension. With the mixing of Worlds and Adventure, it seems that Robinson needed a break from the heavy feelings his tour brought about, because Shelter is 100 percent pure fun.

Watching Robinson and Madeon up on stage, you can tell the two are having the time of their lives. They're smiling the whole show, and often you can catch them stealing glances at each other, grinning ear to ear that, yes, this is real.

Set apart on stage, the duo have their own setups, with equipment mostly borrowed from their respective tours. Madeon still has his iconic launchpads on stage, and Robinson is still rocking his Gaia synthesizer. Added for this tour are cymbals to provide real analog crash sounds, and because who doesn't like hitting things on stage?

"Shelter" is the only official song the pair have released together, so most of the performance is made up of mashups (Madeon's specialty) and live remixes of their songs. Have you ever heard Madeon's "Beings" and thought, "this would sounds really cool if Porter Robinson sung on it?" Because you're in luck. Robinson and Madeon switch off vocal duties throughout the set, allowing each artist to showcase a part of their talent that has not been heard as much in their respective careers.

Near the end of the show, Robinson left his table, joining Madeon's station as they played the song "Fellow Feeling" off of Worlds. It seemed to be a fluke in Robinson's equipment that caused him to leave his own keyboard, but the image of the two of them, closer than ever, playing side by side was a very cool thing to see.

The duo return to Echostage on Wednesday, Nov. 16 for their second Washington stop.

 

Originally published in The Diamondback