Thursday, November 7, 2013

Live Review: HRVRD, The Clubhouse (11/2/13)

Wow. What a tour package. I don’t really need to spend much time describing my excitement to attend A Lot Like Birds’ current run featuring HRVRD, My Iron Lung, and Night Verses, because I haven’t seen a bill this stacked all year and was more than willing to hand over ten dollars to secure my spot right in front of the stage on Saturday night. While each of these bands were great in their own respects (My Iron Lung’s wave-inspired brand of Touchè Amore flavored hardcore was certainly fun to see, and Night Verses delivered an insanely energetic performance, with the vocalist and drummer wildly flailing and jumping throughout the duration of their set), I was strictly attending as a HRVRD fanboy, and I definitely did not go home disappointed.

A Lot Like Birds, of course, lived up to their name as the headliners, with their live show quickly convincing me to pick up their fantastic 2013 release, No Place, which I’ve been spinning daily since then, but I was a bit confused at their choice of a local venue. The Clubhouse is a space that just can’t quite figure out what kind of room it actually wants to be. I often found myself asking, “Is it a bar, or a venue?” and then continuously affirming and retracting my varied answers throughout the evening. Upon walking in, my initial first impressions were definitely leaning towards the “bar” end of the spectrum, as the oddly placed laser lights mechanically revolved right into and out of my eyes and all across the L-shaped room, painting the glossy hardwood floors with reds, blues, and greens. Numerous television sets adorned the walls, some playing the Florida State vs. Miami game, others tuned into yet another repeat of MTV’s “Ridiculousness.” Awkwardly making our way to the stage area, my girlfriend and I were some of the only people standing near the stage as local folk openers, Bare the Traveler, set up. Once the band began, though, the space around me quickly flooded with people, and Bare the Traveler captured the attention of the crowd and played quite well, confirming my belief that they are one of the better local bands from the area and additionally proving that The Clubhouse might be more than just a bar.

After the energy of My Iron Lung and the immediacy of Night Verses, I was a bit worried that HRVRD’s less-energetic style would feel a bit thin and lacking, especially during quieter cuts like set opener, “Blake Crème,” but my unease quickly faded as the band took complete control of the stage and commanded the tightly packed crowd surrounding them. Vocalist Jesse Clasen was a definite highlight of the show, singing with near perfect pitch and pulling brass instruments seemingly out of thin air for “French Girls” and “Kids with Fake Guns,” both of which demonstrated his impressive musical virtuosity. Pitch precision wasn’t all Clasen had to offer, though, as he additionally embodied the grandiose performance aspect of being a lead vocalist. During the verses of “Flaming Creatures,” Clasen eyed the audience eerily while thrusting his outlandish hand gestures right into the faces of the nearby spectators, transforming into the song’s namesake.

The recent departure of longtime drummer, Tim Cossor, certainly could have been damning to HRVRD’s live show, but his replacement filled those big shoes with ease, donning a Halloween Scream mask for the entire show and never once missing a beat. As if Cossor’s absence wasn’t enough, permanent bass player Garrett Leister was also not present and had to be replaced by the bassist of Night Verses, who did an excellent job transitioning from the aggressive style of his main band to HRVRD’s more subtle delivery. Despite the lack of permanent members, though, the eclectic band was extremely tight together, as if they had been playing with each other for years, and they transitioned in and out of each song with perfect precision. In between each track, Clasen would loop some of his vocals while the rest of the group would play similarly to the style of a noise band, layering the unique voice loops with random bursts of jazz and pedal effects.

By the time penultimate track “Cardboard Houses” began, it was clear that HRVRD has become something much greater than a Circa Survive copycat, as they were initially labeled and written off by many. There was not a single trace of Anthony Green in the From the Bird’s Cage-heavy setlist, and the selection of songs paired with their near-flawless execution worked wonders to physically transform HRVRD into an unstoppable force of indie, alternative, and progressive music—one that certainly deserves far more recognition than they have been granted thus far. There is talent within this band on the level of some of the biggest names in modern music, and while it certainly was fun to watch them in a small, ambiguous space like The Clubhouse, there are far bigger stages with HRVRD’s name written all over them. They’ve still got a whole month of touring before they stop, and after experiencing this incredible performance, I'm sure the next tour will be astoundingly larger. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself.

Set list (what I can remember, at least):
Black Crème
Flaming Creatures
Kids with Fake Guns
French Girls
Cardboard Homes
Old Nature


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