Published Feb 17, 2015At the Hard Luck on Monday night (February 16), local act First Ghost started the night off strong and set the theme, channelling the grungy, emo sound of the late '90s and early '00s. They played a brief, tight set and showed a great deal of potential.
Following this, four-piece Rozwell Kid stormed the stage and played an explosive set that sent the energy level of the crowd skyrocketing. The band's eight-song set consisted mostly of material from their most recent LP, Too Shabby, coming out of the gates with the punchy, upbeat garage rock jam "Weirdo." Although the crowd was relatively unfamiliar with the band, their infectious energy and entertaining live performance had them moving in unison. The band's material comes off more aggressively live than on record: the stop-start rhythms hit harder; the vocals, shared by guitarist Jordan Hudkins and bassist Devin Donnelly, were perfectly synchronized; and the technical skill of the blistering solos provided by guitarist Adam Meisterhans could be truly appreciated as his fingers flew across the fretboard. Rozwell Kid's set was probably the most lighthearted and fun of the night, the band's tour mates often running on stage during their set to wave a giant American flag behind them as they burst into shredding guitar solos and feeding them Timbits as they played — a humorous display of cross-national solidarity.
Rozwell Kid would be a hard act to follow for anyone other than the Minnesota three-piece emo/math-rock unit Tiny Moving Parts. It might be hard to believe that such busy music can be effectively managed by only three band members, but their live performance is a testament to the fact that they do much more than simply get by. Bursting into the frantic tapping riff of "Always Focused," guitarist and vocalist Dylan Mattheisen belted the opening lines of the song, only to be joined by the eager crowd. This occurred throughout the rest of their set, as they moved on to the equally frenetic "Clouds Above My Head," seamlessly transitioning from floating, twinkling guitar melodies to breakneck rhythms and unexpected time changes, all with astounding technical precision, whilst flinging themselves around the stage. If the audience weren't standing awestruck, they were jumping off of the stage into their fellow concertgoers. The energy level of the performance was so high that it almost resembled a hardcore show, from the start to the end of Tiny Moving Parts' set.
'90s emo revivalists You Blew It! were last to take the stage. Opening with "Pinball House" and following it up with "The One With David" had die-hard fans immediately singing along and rushing to dive off the stage. On their 2012 recordings the songs sounded sparse and stripped down, but You Blew It!'s live performance breathed new life into the songs, making them significantly more powerful and fleshed out (and thereby more congruent with the recording style of their 2014 album, Keep Doing What You're Doing). They kept the high energy going for two more hard-hitting tracks from that album, playing "Match and Tinder" and "Award Of The Year Award" successively.
This band have the ability to effectively blend subtlety into the driving choruses and punchy hooks employed in these songs, as carefully arranged leads added ambience and colouring to the chords, creating a beautiful effect. They slowed their pace with "Lanai" from their recent EP Pioneer of Nothing. Singer Tanner Jones' voice was much more distinct over some of the softer instrumentation, and very effectively harmonized with the backing vocals provided by his fellow band members. The parts where this song hit the hardest were even more powerful live, assisted by the grimy bass tone and unrelenting ferocity of the drumming.
Over the next few songs ("Strong Island," "Gray Matter," "Medal of Honor" and "Terri v. Tori") You Blew It! demonstrated their ability to perfectly pair emotive lyrics and beautiful twinkling leads with contrasting crashing choruses that had the whole crowd singing along.
They ended the set with "Better to Best," which started off serene and transitioned into its powerful chorus, emulating the bands emo forefathers, and then coming to a grand conclusion in which they layered vocal harmonies and delayed guitar effects.