Fair To Midland

Fair To Midland (10:00 PM)

Dead Letter Circus (9:15 PM)

Aficionado (8:30 PM)

Fri, December 2, 2011

8:00 pm

$0.00 - $14.00

This event is all ages

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Fair To Midland - (Set time: 10:00 PM)
Fair To Midland
Anyone who thinks the phrase “it’s all been done before” carries real weight clearly has yet to encounter Fair To Midland. Dark, heavy, moving, cryptic, progressive art-rock collides with flourishes of old-school country, Americana and Delta Blues in their sound. These Lonestar boys genre-defying and boundary obliterating ocean of sound righteously upends the old phrase “fair to middling” from which their Texas-ified moniker was drawn.

Arrows & Anchors, the five-piece band’s first album in partnership with eOne Music, is meaner, sadder and altogether more desperate of an affair than its predecessors. “It’s a very bitter album,” offers vocalist Darroh Sudderth. “The last album had some light at the end of the tunnel in some of the subject matter. This one doesn’t have that quite so much.”

This particularly invigorating yet undeniably gut-wrenching collection of songs is the product of a string of years of career strife since the group last poked their head into magazines and record shops. Arrows and Anchors follows a change in record label, a change in management and one (“maybe two,” Sudderth laughs) changes in booking agent. All of that change and upheaval definitely played a role in the creative process; artistic lemonade from business lemons.

There has never been a lack of faith from the diehard admirers who have steadily adopted the band as their own in growing numbers since Fair To Midland’s initial pair of self-released albums, The Carbon Copy Silver Lining (2001) and inter.funda.stifle (2004). Both were explorations into the furthest reaches of the musical psyche that earned them praise from critics, fans and fellow musicians. Fair To Midland are a true “band’s band.”

So much so, in fact, that eclectic musical connoisseur and multiplatinum recording artist Serj Tankian, best known as the frontman for System Of A Down, signed them to his Serjikal Strike imprint, which released The Drawn and Quartered EP (2006) and the band’s third full-length album, Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True (2007).

A killer live show and intensive roadwork as a headliner, at prestigious festivals such as Coachella, Download, Rock AM Ring and Rock IM Ring and together with bands like Alice In Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Flyleaf and Dir en Grey has brought the band’s skillful and adept approach to art rock infused prog-metal to international attention.

There are a few of their by now trademarked tongue-in-cheek dalliances to be sure but for the most part Arrows and Anchors is Fair To Midland’s most cynical offering. By the same turn, it’s a performance album with a laser-like focus on the raw passion and intensity. In an age of overly processed heavy music, the band partnered with producer Joe Barresi (Queens of the Stone Age, Coheed and Cambria, The Melvins) who sequestered them into his self-appointed House of Compression in Pasadena, California and wrenched out top-tier performances.

The recording captures an authenticity and a sincerity that’s lacking in most modern records. “We always want to work with someone who is interested and enthusiastic to work with us,” Sudderth explains. “Because at the end of the day they’re going to spend that much more time wanting to make the record their own, as well. We didn’t want to worry about everything being immaculate, pristine and polished. This is absolutely a performance-driven record.”

Arrows & Anchors is also a testament to Fair To Midland’s personal chemistry and unique collaborative perspective. Some songs were written together. Others were demoed out by a particular member – say keyboardist Matt Langley or his six string cohort, Cliff Campbell – right down to the programmed drums. “Or maybe I brought a completed song where I programmed whatever instruments I can’t play,” Sudderth elaborates. It was a very open process.

The bizarrely creative and inspired vocals and guitar work in Fair To Midland play against the counterintuitive and monstrously rhythmic backbeat of drummer Brett Stowers and bassist Jon Dicken. Matt Langley’s ethereal electronics enhance everything else. The group’s canvas is as expansive and breathtaking as the state of Texas itself.

Fair To Midland is one of the rare bands who expertly walk the fine line between accessibility and integrity, between open lines of communication and introverted psychic exploration. “We’re not gifted songwriters,” Sudderth says with genuine self-effacing humility. “So we have to be really resourceful and that’s a talent in and of itself. We do our best.”
Dead Letter Circus - (Set time: 9:15 PM)
Dead Letter Circus
When Dead Letter Circus blasted onto Australian airwaves in 2007, their bombastic yet nuanced take on alternative rock left most observers struggling to process what they were hearing. It was epic, it oozed confidence, it was intense and open all at once. It was the debut of a sound so fresh and unique that it was hard to classify.

Their self-titled EP launched a wild ride of sold out shows, massive radio airplay, festival sing-a-longs, and international airports via US major label interest. Barely a moment was spent at their Brisbane home as the band criss-crossed the country satiating hard-core fans and building an ever-growing army of DLC disciples.

Everywhere the band went, that army sang every word of the EP back, loud and clear – it was music that clearly resonated with many, capturing an angst of the everyday and an emotional link to the yearning for a freedom unknown. Completely independently, the band shifted well over 13,000 units of the debut EP and subsequent double A side single ‘Next in Line / Reaction’. Triple J radio placed everything that the band released on high rotation. Live, the band were festival favourites, with the choir of voices roaring both approval and vocalist Kim Benzie’s lyrics with the passion of a frantic soccer crowd. Word spread – the EP was released in Japan, and the band was flown to LA to sample the catering and perform a string of label showcases.

Yet the question on every fan and media onlooker’s lips was – when would the debut album be released? And how do you follow up something as mesmerising and universally acclaimed as their initial forays?

The band were well aware of the standards they had set for themselves, but had an unwavering confidence in the creative process that had given life to their EP and follow up single. They did what they had always done. The four members looked inwardly, critically, at every element of every song written in the run to the album, and took an uncompromising stance when it came to writing,re-imagining, refining and ultimately recording their debut, ‘This is the Warning’.

They also brought in the producer who had been onboard since the first EP – Forrester Savell, who is thought of as an honorary fifth member of the band for his significant contribution in weaving the elements together, providing song-writing input, and adding a touch of “special sauce”. Expectations were high – Savell’s last two projects had been certified Gold (The Butterfly Effect, Karnivool), and after a lengthy pre-production, writing and re-writing phase, he brought the band to Melbourne’s famous Sing Sing Studios to track ‘This is the Warning’.

Set up in four separate working environments within the Sing Sing complex, each member of the band worked tirelessly over their individual parts and contributions, conducted by maestro Savell, in a unique and ultimately successful experiment in sonic creation.
The process was intense to say the least. Over an incredible 18 month gestation period, with every deadline pushed, every note analysed, every resource pooled, and every avenue of exploration exhausted, ‘This Is The Warning’ was injected a transfusion of every ounce of available energy that the band possessed.

The sound of Dead Letter Circus on This is the Warning is more than just a singular representation – rather, it is the redefining of how adrenaline and emotion can be blended seamlessly into works of sonic art; of how soaring melodic adventures can be let fly above a mountain range of raw but somehow channeled rhythmic power. In short, it rocks. But it also catches the light of your reflection and beckons you to look inside yourself. It’s music that lures you towards your speakers, then seizes you by the throat. It’s love, loss, betrayal, humanity, societal norms, questioning, and the search for meaning. And it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

Guitarist Rob Maric explains: “Our aim for the album was to take the sound we established with the EP and explode in every possible direction from there… we wanted to make the big moments more powerful and the spacious moments more ambient. But, more importantly, we wanted those ambient moments to be just as engaging as the rest… to have the listener leaning in, hanging off every note even in the record’s most subdued moments.”

Album opener ‘Here We Divide’ is undulating, ignited by a shimmering riff from Maric and a wall of clinically precise work from the rhythm section, with Benzie’s lyrics screaming forth, at once rapid fire and soaring. ‘One Step’ is a monster of a song; “If ever a song wrote itself, ‘One Step‘ is that song for us” remarks Benzie. It’s a stadium filling track that has an undeniable, incendiary movement, that carries you to an outro waiting to deliver the first sensation of the hair standing on the back of your neck as Benzie cries “Just can’t find a way”, and we’re only 8 minutes in.

‘Big’ takes you on a journey through a typically unconventional DLC structure that rewards with a killer bridge. “Drums are so critically important to our sound, and in ‘Big’ there is a vulnerability here when we strip that all away,” says Benzie. ‘The Space on the Wall’ builds layer upon layer on a foundation of groove and then strips it all
away again, leaving the stark questions “Do you feel anything inside anymore? How far will you go?” hanging hauntingly.

‘This Long Hour‘ is a departure from most previous Dead Letter Circus releases, pulling down the tempo and allowing space to engulf the listener. It delves deep, and if you let the track immerse you, it’s a striking, powerful place with an electronic current that drags you over the falls as the chorus hits.

The slink of ‘Cage’ catches you unawares, with a dark ebb and flow and a melodic hook that seems to creep in and out of the shadows, building uniquely from an electronic pulse to a full-blown rock resolution, Mezzanine-era Massive Attack on steroids.

‘Reaction’ is already established as a live and radio favourite. Hook-laden and delivering all of the key DLC elements; cascading guitars from Maric, Stewart Hill’s distinctive and fat machine gun bass lines, drummer Luke William’s interplay of virtuosity and restraint, all combined with Benzie’s unique vocals and sensational ear for melody around the lyrical concept of “calling out to someone I’ve been missing most of my life to say – stop thinking it over, just do it.”

‘The Drum’ is an atmospheric and electronic bed for Benzie’s philosophical take on the everyday. “In day to day life I believe I can’t feel anything, like I’m numb. But ‘The Drum’ finds in the dissatisfaction there’s a glimmer or a spark that brings you back to the side of hope.” And as Benzie beckons to “help me change my ways” the band obliges with a frenetic, layered and progressive closing that takes the intensity to a dark new level.

‘The Design‘ has a different feel again, almost swinging into life, with a tenderness that is new and intoxicating. “Even just playing it live feels vulnerable and it really shows another side of the band” says Hill. ‘Next in Line’ is a thunderous tune that cranks up the tempo and delivers serious energy, with Williams’ furious drumming flowing into ‘Walk’, which is a beautifully balanced blend of power and subtlety. Benzie likens the song to “the feeling of the axe falling when you make a snap decision if something’s not working. You can’t take that back. So sometimes you have to make it work, not just walk away. It’s not perfect, but that’s OK.” ‘Walk’ scales toward a crescendo that seems to make you hold your breath until the final note rings out.

The title track, ‘This is the Warning’, aims to shake the sleeping masses awake with a resonant call “not to ignore the feeling in your chest that something’s not right, and there’s more to the truth than what we’re being told” explains Benzie. A massive percussion section generates a huge impact as the vocalist cries “we’re running out of time.” And after an intense hour of listening, it’s time to take that breath.

What are Dead Letter Circus fans going to think of This is the Warning? Maric pauses for a moment. “For some it will be a challenging first listen. For others it will click immediately. We’ve come a long way since our inception and we’re reaching a point of our growth as artists where we are not afraid to open doors that were once closed. True art comes from taking risks and that’s what we’ve done with this album. At the end of the day we write music that we love and that is the only formula we adhere to. If it doesn’t give us goose bumps, then it’s not worth our time and certainly not something we would want to release to our fans.”’ “A DLC fan that hears this album will find all the songs are from a first person basis” comments Benzie. “A person in a world, talking to a friend, struggling to describe something in a place were words don’t seem adequate, so sounds are the things that make sense. I hope they feel that where EP tracks like ‘Lines’ and ‘Alien’ finish, that’s where this album begins and expands.” “Yeah. The album is definitely a new beginning,” agrees Hill.

And after joining some elite company with ‘This is the Warning’ landing at Number 2 on the album charts, you get the impression that the band themselves are also at the beginning of a whole new chapter.
Aficionado - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
Aficionado
It's really easy to play it safe and jump on board the latest trend, imitating the exact style and sound of everyone's favorite band of the week. It's really easy to play into the hands of a specific demographic, knowing without a doubt in your mind that kids will eat up every hook and pile on for every sing-a-long. But how many times can we walk down the same old roads? At some point, we need to break from this monotony and make our own roads. We need to create something for ourselves that is more than just a quick, cheap, and easy sell. Something that has many layers to dissect, discover, and enjoy. This is what Aficionado has set out to do.

Drawing influence from an array of bands ranging from At the Drive-In, to Cursive, to the Hold Steady, Aficionado has a developed a unique style they are happy to call their own. With roots in punk music, the band mixes organ, flute, and occasional horn arrangements into it's unorthodox blend of post-punk.
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change