I had the opportunity to catch Every Time I Die at the Pearl Street Ballroom in Northampton, Massachusetts on Friday night, so I took it. The venue was about an hour from me, so I packed up with a couple of friends, stood in line in the biting cold for about twenty minutes, and filed in. The windows on the outside of the venue are cracked and graffitied over, but looks deceive: Pearl Street is a pretty nice venue, spacious and warm. We stepped into a lobby area and were directed through a set a doors to main room, which is divided into a pit area around a low stage and a slightly elevated platform toward the back. There’s a bar there, and the staff was very friendly and accommodating all around. Merch tables were set up close to the doors.
After some milling around a bit, we settled on a place to the right of the stage and buckled in for Eternal Sleep’s set. I hadn’t heard too much about this band, but what I had heard was divided. I fall on the positive side of the discussion: based out of Philadelphia, they’re an all-business hardcore band with some sludgy overtones that play compact riffs at steady, headbangable tempos. The vocals rarely deviate except for a few spots of gruff singing, and they prefer a good, wall-shaking breakdown to any gaudy soloing. Overall, I was impressed with their set and hope they can hop on a few more tours. Excellent opener.
I’ve heard a little more about Harm’s Way since they’re a bit of an up-and-coming act on the Deathwish Inc. roster, and I spun their most recent album, Rust, shortly after the announcement of the Low Teens tour. Although I didn’t feel anything in particular afterwards, a I’ve been known to change my mind about a band after a live set. Not so here. While I don’t find anything about Harm’s Way explicitly bad, my friend’s comment sums up my feelings toward the band: “They’re mad decent,” and not much more. The riffs run thick and heavy and the drums are rock-solid. The breakdowns land like crates of bricks and the vocals are abrasive and well-suited to the music. It’s all satisfying in the moment (the pits certainly got moving for their set), but I was struggling to pick out a highlight a few minutes after they finished up. They may just not be my kind of hardcore, but I wonder what a little more experimentation might do for them. Whether they go heavier or softer, mix up some tempos, thrown in some more complex passages, etc., a couple detours from the old hardcore cut-and-paste isn’t going to hurt.
Between Harm’s Way and Every Time I Die’s set, that legendary Old-English script “I” lit up behind the stage, and a cheer went up. The band took the stage and kicked off with “Glitches” off of Low Teens, blazing through an unusually great setlist that, case in point, put “We’rewolf” and “Wanderlust” side-by-side.
I don’t think you get to have a career as long and varied as Every Time I Die has had without having fun, and if you can say anything about that band, it’s that they know have to throw a party. They slowed the closing breakdown of “Floater” to about a fourth of its speed, Keith shrieked “Nobody stand still," and for the first time at a show I’ve been to, nobody actually did: we pushed and shoved and stumbled around, having a blast without resorting to the stupidity of crowdkilling. “Petal,” which appeared about halfway into the set, brought out the best. I was able to fight my way to the very front, where the press of the crowd nearly broke my legs against the just-under-knee-height stage, but it was all worth it to shout indirectly into Keith’s mic.
About four or five songs in, someone leaped onstage, shouted “Fuck yeah, motherfucker!” and fell backwards expecting to “get sucked back into crowd,” according to Keith, who took a minute to address the crowd’s failure to catch him. “The next time he’s up here, I want to see him get all the way to the back of the room!” he went on, and then asked that no one make fun of the Hawaiian shirt he’s chosen as that night’s outfit. A song or two later, the same unidentified person lost a shoe, and a couple songs after that, lost them both. Someone close to the pit also waved an abandoned credit card.
“It’s like a raffle,” Keith remarked. “I love this.”
Other highlights included the always-infectious “The New Black,” singing along to “Apocalypse Now and Then,” the clusterfuck of “Ebolarama,” and the massive surprise of “Fear and Trembling”(!!!) and “Moor” as back-to-back encores. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience come together like it did two seconds into “Fear and Trembling,” or heard so many voices in such perfect harmony chanting “Sacrifice! Kill to survive!” - except, maybe, for the glorious “Hell is not a myth” breakdown of “Map Change,” which guitarist Jordan Buckley performed while leaning heavily against the arms of the crowd.
All in all, the show at Pearl Street Ballroom was another reminder of why Every Time I Die are kings of the metalcore heap. The energy they projected bodes well for the rest of the tour, which saw them joined by rising hardcore stars Knocked Loose in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday night. If you get the chance to catch this tour, by all means, do it. You couldn’t possibly regret it.
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