Words by Maddy Howell
A narrow, low-lit staircase greets entrants to Canterbury’s Ballroom, a deceiving passageway into a room adorned with chandeliers and illuminated signs. A wall of mirrors and skull patterned wallpaper completes the grand affair, with two small steps at the back of the room leading to a stage, soon to be host to some of emo’s finest offerings.
Local support Epona provide a fitting opening to the show, with their shoegaze-y dream pop style succeeding in bringing the scattered attendants into a more organised formation in front of the stage. They’re followed by Glasgow’s Atlas:Empire, resembling the result of a bizarre idea to form a Pixies and Arcane Roots emo-influenced supergroup. Rattling through a short set packed with seamless harmonies from all three vocalists, their guitarist ends their time on stage perfectly, opting to play the final bars of the last track from atop the bar.
Former Dance Gavin Dance frontman Kurt Travis is next to take the stage, armed with a laptop packed to the brim with tacky backing tracks. It’s no mystery that Travis is a phenomenal vocalist, just listen to Dance Gavin Dance’s self-titled, but his talent seems dramatically overshadowed by the torturous noises echoing from his computer. Talented musicians have little need to conceal anything under excessive backing tracks, sadly placing a slight downer on an otherwise impressive set.
Main support comes from Kansas City’s Listener, finishing their soundcheck in a circle holding hands. Following an unexpected chant leaving the audience bewildered, they rocket into 2013 track ‘Good News First’, with barefoot frontman Dan Smith’s spoken word vocals comfortably tripling the energy levels in the room. It’s an entrancing spectacle, with Smith performing in such a manner that he could be reciting Mein Kampf and it would still be oddly poetic.
Following such an impressive selection of bands takes a great deal of talent and respectability, something which after 19 years in the industry Kansas’ The Appleseed Cast are more than equipped for. The emo/post-rock outfit step onto the stage, an entrance so unassuming and quiet it becomes easy to forget the influence and importance of the four men standing there.
Renowned for their monumental instrumental sections, the band play for a solid five minutes before vocalist Chris Crisci even sings a syllable. As a fairly mellow band on record, the intensity and sheer power of The Appleseed Cast’s performance is both startling and astonishing, taking the raw emotion of tracks such as ‘Forever Longing the Golden Sun’ to a whole new level.
Vocalist Crisci manages to switch from distant and faint to punchy and impactful at precisely the right points in the set, accomplishing a perfectly atmospheric meandering post-rock setting and fully immersing listeners in the world they are creating. Very few bands can create such alluring patterns of sound in quite the way The Appleseed Cast can, even with their awkward small talk between songs and minor technical difficulties.
Visually the band is nothing special, with no great energy radiating from them, but the performance is all about the sound and the remarkable world they establish throughout their set. Take any band that originally came through with The Appleseed Cast – American Football, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate – they’re a unique case. Rather than opting to embark on reunion tours whenever they feel low on cash, they’ve kept at it, constantly reinventing themselves and reinventing their live performance accordingly. Forget about emo revival, The Appleseed Cast are here to stay.