LIVE REVIEW: The Blood Brothers @ FYF Fest in Los Angeles, California (8/24/2014)

The Blood Brothers

There’s a certain sense of euphoria that rushes into you when you’re waiting for your favorite band to take the stage. The steam from the fog lights, the pure energy from the crowd waiting to explode upon hearing that first note. You wait desperately for the house music to fade and the lights to fall. You roll around on the balls of your feet, checking your phone every two seconds, counting down the minutes.

That anxiety, that natural high of anticipation creeps in through your toes and makes its way to the bottom of your stomach, where it settles — waiting to burst out of every pore as soon as that beloved group of musicians take the stage. You’re sweaty, your back aches, you’re even shaking a little bit because the moment you’ve been waiting for — the set you’ve been dreaming about that has gotten you through all of those tough days — is about to come to life right before your eyes. It’s a feeling unlike anything else in this world and every music fan who has had a record or band shape and change his or her life knows this buzz. It’s a natural high more powerful than anything else on this world, and chasing that feeling is the reason I am here today.

For what seemed like years, I had lost that feeling. I had lost the reason I went to shows. That tingle that crept into me as I waited for my favorite band to take the stage had left. It was as though the fire had been extinguished. I had become so immune to the replenishing wave of emotion created by connecting with music that I had forgotten the entire reason I do what I do in the first place.

But The Blood Brothers fixed all of that on Sunday night.

I felt more alive than I had felt in years. I embraced the pre-show euphoria, I let it overwhelm my emotions and spill into the near-perfect 16-song set from the band. I embraced everything The Blood Brothers’ music had meant to me for a decade and I let those emotions take hold. I didn’t look back. I experienced the best I have experienced in recent memory.

And this isn’t just about The Blood Brothers or how special Sunday night was for me — it’s a reminder to all music fans that there’s a reason we attach ourselves to music and there’s a reason we go to shows. Never forget that reason and never lose those feelings.

The Blood Brothers took the stage to what turned into the most energetic set of the entire weekend at FYF Fest in Los Angeles [the acronym contradiction still drives me crazy]. The band quintessentially opened with “Guitarmy,” and all of our little corner of Los Angeles exploded. The crowd was like nothing the festival had seen all weekend — with kids crawling, pushing, climbing, jumping, clapping, and doing anything they could to engage in music that hadn’t seen the light of day in years.

The band then fired through hit after hit. “Guitarmy” turned into “Trash Flavored Trash” which led to “Fucking’s Greatest Hits” and then into “Laser Life.” And this is the first 15 minutes of the set. There wasn’t a dead second for all 55 minutes. The near-manic juxtaposition between dual vocalists Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney wasn’t rusty the way most bands are rusty after nearly 7 years of inactivity — it was just as alive as if the songs were released yesterday. If this is a band seven years removed from activity then I can’t imagine what the experience was like when a record like Crimes first hit shelves. Songs like “Ambulance vs. Ambulance” showed no sign of age or lost touch. All the songs were full of vigor and pent-up energy from the crowd and band alike. Age treated The Blood Brothers well.

The songs hit fast and slow, heavy and soft. It was a perfect balance, like the way we remember the band. Songs like “Crimes” gave the crowd time to catch its breath, while songs like “Beautiful Horses” sent the crowd into overdrive. There was a beauty to it, the way the band created an ebb and flow through years of amazing music. There was little interaction between songs. The band let the nearly-decade marinated set do the talking for it.

“This is a song we wrote in high school,” Billie told the crowd in one of the few pauses in the set before tearing into “Burn, Piano Island, Burn.”

Thousands gathered for the undeniably most impressive performance at the festival. I guarantee I’m not the only one who had my life changed after the set. A decade ago, The Blood Brothers were considered one of the most eclectic bands in music — maybe revolutionary to the point that even the alternative scene wasn’t ready for it. The music isn’t describable the way most music is — it transcended and melded jazz, hardcore, pop, and even funk the way no band had ever, or will ever do again. And maybe that was something fans weren’t ready to appreciate in 2007. But when the band took the stage for the second time this decade Sunday night, there was no question of the band’s mutual acceptance.

And maybe it took seven years for the band’s fan base to mature and understand what a fantastic catalog they were hearing. I didn’t understand or appreciate the band when I was 17 the way I do now, and that’s a good thing. It made the night that much more special. It was as though the world was ready for this band to reunite, to show the world that these songs are songs ready to stand the test of time unlike any of its peers.

All philosophical reasoning to why the stars aligned the way they did last weekend aside — it was a fantastic set. The band closed the night with back-to-back songs “Love Rhymes With A Hideous Car Wreck” and “Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon” and then the singers embraced in an emotional hug. Not the way you hug a relative you don’t especially like but feel obliged to show compassion toward; but the kind of hug you give someone when you go through something indescribable together.

Thousands chanted for an encore that never came. We can only hope we will see the band again soon enough. The world needs a band like The Blood Brothers to keep it on its toes — to continue to push the boundaries of music and influence future generations to do the same.

Although we all scream in our own pitch for the band to continue, it appears this will not be the case.

“This is very, very temporary. We live in three different cities, and we all have careers and families and other bands. This was our one chance to do this and we don’t want to wear out our welcome,” Billie told the Los Angeles Times in an exclusive interview.

A band that will truly be forever imitated but never duplicated, The Blood Brothers showed Los Angeles and the greater musical world that after seven silent years people still give a damn about chaotic and passionate music.

Thank you, The Blood Brothers, for making me care again.

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Written by Matthew Leimkuehler (@callinghomematt)
*feature photo credit to Oliver Walker.

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