Let me preface this with a few caveats:
1) My age will show throughout this entire review.
2) I had not listened to Hail The Sun prior to this show, and that was intentional.
Before the show: A co-worker is a big Hail The Sun fan. I told her that I hadn’t listened to them yet, and had no intention to do so, as it’s been awhile since I’ve gone into a show cold, with little or no knowledge of one of the bands performing. And I asked her to explain them to me, why she liked them. Of note: they were post-hardcore, their drummer - who is also the lead vocalist - had the most beautiful voice she had ever heard, they were technical, with lots of polyrhythm and big builds mixed with quiet moments. Whatever it was they were doing, she was into it. She got it. My curiosity was piqued - I love when others are visibly moved by the things that they enjoy.
Arrival: The crowd is about what I expected it to be. Young, for sure. Thin (in numbers). And made up of an even mix of Hail The Sun fans and The Fall of Troy uber fans. Chon fans are there, but are seemingly outnumbered. Again, my curiosity was piqued.
As a fan of The Fall of Troy, they were a big reason I asked to cover this show. It had been a decade or more since I had seen them play in a small space in Poughkeepsie, NY with my cousin (who, coincidentally, was there with me again). After a couple of middling releases and their hiatus, I was incredibly curious to see how things might have changed with the release of their newest album and their intense desire to please even their most fervent fans and critics. The theme for the whole night would be legitimate curiosity.
The First: Immediately, I’m a bit thrown off. There’s a drummer, but there’s also a vocalist. It’s a 5 piece. What little I knew of the band was already off the rails, so what would the rest of the night look like? Basicaly the same.
Hail The Sun was better than anticipated, by a wide margin. And this has nothing to do with lack of trust in the musical preferences of my co-worker. As a, um, 30-something, my taste in music has changed significantly. Back in my Hot Topic days, I might have been a lot more likely to have a) heard of them, and b) have had a sick tee shirt with lots of neon colors with their band name on it. That is to say, it might have been an easier sell. Now, that’s not really the case. But immediately I was struck by a few things. Their drummer was phenomenal. Whether or not the vocalist was meant to be the one behind the kit, this was the version of Hail The Sun I preferred. It was apparent as soon as their vocalist moved to the drummer’s throne that there would be a tonal shift, and that’s exactly what happened. Instead of propulsive rhythm, the guitars moved forward. The pace slowed. The vocals were still strong, but some of his control was lost. And for a band that owes a huge debt of sonic gratitude to bands like Anthony Green-era Saosin, Circa Survive, Tillian Pearson-era Tides of Man, In:Aviate, and even tourmates The Fall of Troy and Chon, control was important. As just a vocalist, control was first and foremost and worked incredible well. Though they’ve been around since 2009, it still felt like a band that was finding its footing - and moving their vocalist up front and allowing the mustachioed gentlemen to do his thing at the start and finish of their set is a huge step in the right direction.
Here’s the thing: I’m writing this review while listening to the newest Hail The Sun album. And I’m feelin’ it. It’s ambitious, and honestly, there’s a lot going on that I really like. And that’s what I got from their live show. Ambition, and a genuine desire to move this particular corner of the progressive post-hardcore genre forward. I’ll be paying them more attention from here on out, and look forward to their progress between now and the next time they come to town.
The Second and The Final: Sets from Fall of Troy and Chon were both surprising and as expected, in more or less equal measure. The Fall of Troy’s set was heavy on Doppelganger, and light on… light, and pretty much every other album. It was dim on stage, by design, and let it feel like the smaller, more intimate shows they (and their fans) were used to. Of course, the Doppelganger album logo/artwork on the stage banner should have been a really strong context clue as to what their set held in store. There was a large contingent of The Fall of Troy fans there - honestly, I didn’t know they/we were still around in such large numbers. The crowd had filled out, there were sing/scream alongs. And oh, so much shredding. When members of Hail The Sun and Chon took over on vocals, drums, and bass on the last song of the set, I had a very PCU moment - you know, the one where the Gene Hackman/Gene Wilder thesis is proved right as the Everyone Gets Laid party to end all parties is getting underway? My thought that Hail The Sun was this ultimate mixture of their tourmates with bits and pieces of the bands mentioned above. And, really, it made a lot of sense for the set to end that way. It was purposefully humble. I get it.
What I found so curious about Chon is how divisive they seem to be. You’re either into it, or you’re really, strongly, not. Their set was a choppy, jazzy, polyrhythmic journey through some of their strongest tracks, and had to have been incredibly satisfying for fans, new and old. None of their tracks overstay their welcome, so a headlining live set really allows their noodly, more ambitious moments a little time to breathe.
The end: As a whole, it was an interesting and entertaining night. It felt a bit like a social experiment to me, and a weird clash of some of my personal musical preferences finally seeping into a more mainstream take on the whole thing. And honestly, I was alright with that. I hope Hail The Sun keeps pushing the genre forward. I hope The Fall of Troy is around for awhile and just keeps getting weirder. Chon, keep doing what you’re doing - it’s some trippy shit and I can dig it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. It’s time for my afternoon constitutional and daily sojourn to the market. Good day!