LIVE REVIEW: O’Brother, Native, and Daylight (9/13/13)

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Under The Gun Review sent staff writer, Drew Caruso, to the Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA on Sept. 13 to experience O’Brother with support from Native and Daylight.

I find myself having quite the hard time attempting to put what I had seen, heard, felt, and lost at the Boston stop of the O’Brother, Native, and Daylight tour into words. And by lost I refer to the act of losing any kind of musical limits or parameters I thought I once had, because O’Brother instantly knocked them down with their first unified rhythmic resonance–but more on them later.

The evening began with a cool breeze, one that was most certainly welcomed after a random two-day 90 plus average temperature in Boston. Away with the sand, heat, humidity, and stickiness, I am ready for the cold, the isolation–but most importantly, the reward of a well-earned winter. I find that it’s not always the open sky, or sun, that can inspire us the most, but the solitude of the cold, blueness of a recently snowed landscape, northern trees beginning their foliage, and a fire yielding the only warmth and light in the room. Traversing down Brighton Ave, in Allston, I feel ready. Ready for the beautiful, precursor fall season that New England loves to claim as fame, ready for the show…just, ready. Entering the Brighton Music Hall, once known as Harper’s Ferry, I can see Daylight setting up for their set.

Anxiously awaiting for their time on stage to begin, I remember just missing them a few months back at the sold out Tigers Jaw headliner at The Sinclair in Cambridge. I was due for a set. Daylight’s debut LP, Jar, still sits in regular rotation on my iPod. A musical experience that came at a quintessential time in my listening career, curiously after I had first delved into the trenches and abyss of what is Nirvana related videos on YouTube. Full, fuzzy, loud, yet clean, Jar was able to bring back what was so beloved about the rise of hard rock bands in the 90s. Flowing song structure, pulsating choruses and big muffed guitars; Jar is a monument. Beginning with The Smashing Pumpkins-like “Shelter,” Daylight was loud, thankfully. Minimal lighting, minimal between-track banter, Daylight’s instruments left a much larger trace than anything they could have said would have. Grandiose drums, distorted bass and a wall of power chords, Daylight swiftly ran through their set, seemingly sewing a book-ended wave of distortion. Highlights of their set including the thundering “Life in a Jar,” only playing one old track (Jar deserves it) and singer/guitarist Taylor Madison mocking typical vocalist banter. Daylight held up my already high expectations, yielding an experience sounding just as full and heavy as the album experience. When will they be back?

Next up, Native. The band that I have had the least experience with, I had only streamed their new LP, Orthodox, once. I was excited; the crowd was beginning to fill in (though Daylight deserved more exposure) and it could be seen that Native brought a light show with them. Opening with Orthodox opener “Word City,” when the entire band came in, it was a huge. A surge of light bursting through the quartet, bleeding out into the crowd, it was a duality of light and dark. Bright guitar tones, flooded through a crippling rhythm section, Native owned their time in the light. One of the few issues with the show, that started to come to full head now, was the mixing. The show was loud, very loud, and that was a good thing. But, the vocals, and guitars, were most certainly drowned by the drums and bass in such a way that it became nearly impossible to make out the other instruments. I was really only able to make out guitar parts when they were the only thing being played. Maybe this is what Native wanted, and if so, it didn’t click with me, and that’s fine — who am I to say that Native didn’t emit the exact sound that they wanted? If I somehow dismantle their artistic integrity, then we would live in a pretty bleak world. Regardless of my personal impression of the set’s sound, they certainly stood tall amongst the crowd, leaving a yearning for more by the time they were done. I was happy to walk out of their with an Orthodox LP in hand.

Finally, it was time for O’Brother. Disillusion has left me in a state of wonder since its release, constantly finding myself lost in their massive soundscapes, covered in gigantic dissonance. Garden Window is one of my most cherished recent releases, but Disillusion destroys Garden Window, leaving nothing in the path of the tornado for which it spins (I mean, just look at its artwork). Opening with “Context,” the tone is set immediately. With the first drooling, dark chords that each of the three guitarists emit, O’Brother essentially claim that this night is theirs, this show is theirs, and little, to nothing else matters. Vocalist/guitarist Tanner Merritt commands the crowd with his huge voice, backed by the most darkly beautiful sounding musicians I have ever had the pleasure to witness live. Bassist Anton Dang plays like the bassist I wish I were, if I were to ever play bass. Grounded, thick, gross, yet perfectly coinciding with drummer Michael Martens, it is as if they were painting “The Scream” for the first time. To be honest, I was scared; I was excited, I was a multitude of emotions, though O’Brother was there to guide me through it. The journey had started, though I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. It was a pleasure to see new guitarist Jordan McGhin wield his baritone guitar as if it were an extension of him, easily sweeping from bright to dark with the rest of the band, and most notably, fellow guitarist Johnny Dang. Adding to the ambiance from Native’s set, O’Brother brought the lights. Erupting in a more violent fashion, the fragile variability of the band was highlighted by huge blasts of light, seeping through each member of the band, through each member of the crowd, finally hitting the walls in the back of the room. Bathed in light, suffocated in sound, O’Brother will leave a lasting image in my mind.

Most literary discourse finds light and dark as a precursor for good and bad, but one should never trust a narrator implicitly. Good and bad, light and dark, cruel and moral, such words lead the master plots of most fiction, but where can that wall be broken down? Page after page, lust after lust, something so defined by a mid-line must have more complexity to it. Isolating in the dark does not always lead to evil, or malicious intent, and the light cannot always be the answer. The human condition is a steep, steep hill, but the motivation in life must be to find a balance between the shades. Whether it is an image, a thought, a desire, or a sound, do not leave yourself alone on one end of the spectrum, life is meant to be lived through it.

Review written by: Andrew Caruso — Follow him on Twitter

Drew Caruso

Drew Caruso is a Bostonian who, when not writing about music and film, spends his time getting lost in New England, reading books, talking about science whether people want to listen or not, and more. To see the thoughts of a scientist by day and a writer by night, follow him on Twitter.
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