Live Music Review: The Appleseed Cast
Last Monday, I journeyed once again to the Observatory in Santa Ana, California. (It is quickly becoming one of my favorite venues, and I’m going back next week.) Though I’d attended a handful of concerts taking place on the main stage, I had never been in the Constellation Room, where the smaller indie acts play. This time, The Appleseed Cast was playing in the Constellation Room. The Lawrence, Kansas band is an emo/post-rock outfit who expertly uses atmosphere and found sounds in their work. (I’ve previously written about them here.) Although I’ve been a fan of the band since 1998, I had never seen them perform live. This was an oversight I intended to remedy, even if I had to go to the concert by myself, which I did.
On the main stage was a band called the Griswolds. I had never heard of them, and when I arrived at the venue I was the oldest person there. The Griswolds are a pop band for teens. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my scene. There was a separate line for The Appleseed Cast, and I had arrived first (by myself). Luckily, two couples shortly arrived and I was able to make fast friends. The first couple were much younger; they were still in high school. I’m happy to see the younger fans getting into the more indie/artsy rock. Jacob, the boyfriend, is a musician and by now is at the Boston Conservatory. I wish him luck, of course. The other couple was closer to my age, and I ended up hanging out with them for the entire evening. (I hope I didn’t impose, but it never felt that way.) They’re getting married this Fall. (If you’re reading this, congratulations once again! I hope you have many happy years together.)
The Constellation Room is a much smaller venue than the main room. There were probably less than 100 people at the show, but I like intimate affairs such as this. It’s really just a stage, a bar, and some benches in the back where the bands were selling merch.
Coaster was up first. They’re an indie rock band from Chicago, and they were a lot of fun. Their banter with the audience was always lighthearted yet engaging and they had a really good rapport. Musically, they reminded me of a punkier version of Modest Mouse. The lead singer often screeched the lyrics, sort of like the male vocalist from Grouplove. The music was fun, if not super memorable. Coaster is a band I’d like to see live again, though I’m not sure I’d listen to their stuff at home.
Music: ★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★ out of 5
Next up was North Carolina’s Adjy. Adjy reminded me of Arcade Fire due to the sheer number of people in the band, although the music is not comparable. They had a drummer, two percussionists, a bass player, a guitarist, and a lead vocalist who also played the keyboard, the cowbell, and at one point, a speak-and-spell.
I liked Adjy’s music a little bit more than Coaster’s, but it was a bit more hit or miss. The first song hooked me, but the remainder of the set fluctuated between greatness and mediocrity. The whole thing was super weird, though. The lead singer sounded out of breath every time he addressed the crowd, and he seemed like he had stage fright. At one point, he relayed a story about running away from kids his own age at the lake. It had something to do with the song, but I couldn’t make it out. The weirdest point was the last song. They asked the audience to read something out loud when the band members did the same. No one did, but the effect of six people reading varied documents was still unsettling and cacophonous. I’m not convinced that it worked, but I applaud Adjy for having the stones to try it.
Music: ★★★½ out of 5
Energy: ★★½ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★½ out of 5
The Appleseed Cast
The Appleseed Cast was the show’s headliner. It’s a special tour because it’s the fifteenth anniversary of their sophomore record Mare Vitalis. (Get it by clicking my Amazon link.) To celebrate, they are playing the album in its entirety on every stop of the tour. Mare Vitalis is the record that really hooked me on The Appleseed Cast. It’s a concept album about the sea (Mare vitalis is Latin for “Sea of Life.”) It was a departure from their first record, dropping the angsty distorted emo in favor of textured guitars, expressive drumming, and found sounds. I’d argue that Mare Vitalis is one of the best rock records you’ve never heard and one of the best of the 2000s.
So how was the band’s performance? I was warned by my new friend that every time he has seen the band, they have always been very loud. This performance was no exception, and it caught me a bit off guard as the records are typically pretty mellow. The loudness worked because The Appleseed Cast’s music is very atmospheric and the volume helped immerse you in the world they are creating. What didn’t help with the immersion was a drunk gay guy who kept rambling on about how he had a purse and people were judging him on it. Dude, no one cared that you had a purse. People were judging you because you were interrupting their enjoyment of the music. He was loud enough that the bass player mocked him at one point during the set, and then he chilled out a little bit.
The music and musicianship was phenomenal. However, the Appleseed Cast’s performance is a bit hard to quantify. I gave it three-and-a-half stars not because it was lackluster (it wasn’t) but because the performance is less about the visuals and more about the soundscapes they are creating. There wasn’t too much in the way of chatting with the audience, and the only thing that Chris Crisci (the singer and only founding member) said to the audience is, “Here’s for all the old people” before they played a Stone Roses cover song for the encore. The set closed with a song off their latest record, which was a fitting closer.
Setlist: The Immortal Soul of Mundo Cani | Fishing the Sky | Forever Longing the Golden Sunsets | Mare Mortis | Santa Maria | Secret | …And Nothing Less | Poseidon | Kilgore Trout | Storms
Encore: I Wanna Be Adored (The Stone Roses cover) | Cathedral Rings
Setlist: ★★★★★ out of 5 (I LOVE this album)
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★½ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★ out of 5
I thoroughly enjoyed this concert, and I made a couple of new friends in the process. I’ve always preferred the more intimate shows to the large stadium concerts, but the problem is that most bands cannot survive long if they’re only playing small venues. Somehow, The Appleseed Cast has managed to do so for eighteen years. They’re still on tour, so catch them while you can. The tour dates are here.
- Tomahawk (feat. Retox)
- Coheed and Cambria (feat. BTBAM & Russian Circles)
- Black Sabbath (feat. Andrew WK)
- Vampire Weekend (feat. Beirut)
- Fit for a King & For Today
- ††† (Crosses) (feat. Omniflux & Spirit in the Room)
- Soundgarden & NIN 2014
- Dr. Octagon (feat. Avalon, Gap Dream & No Parents)
- Faith No More (feat. The Urinals)
- Mastodon & Clutch (feat. Graveyard)
- Coheed and Cambria (feat. Seahaven)
- The Appleseed Cast (feat. Adjy & Coaster)
- The Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson
- Danzig (feat. Cancer Bats & Saviours)
- Imagine Dragons (feat. Halsey & Metric)
- Between the Buried and Me & Animals As Leaders (feat. The Contortionist)
- Deftones & Incubus (feat. Death from Above 1979)
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- Norma Jean (feat. He Is Legend, Capsize, Comrades)
- Red (feat. Wolves at the Gate, Message from Sylvia, Death Therapy) (coming soon)
- Mastodon (feat. Eagles of Death Metal, Russian Circles) (coming soon)
- Pixies (coming soon)
- Tool (feat. Clutch, Fantomas, Primus, Melvins, Crystal Method) (coming soon)
- Rise Against (feat. Deftones, Thrice) (coming soon)
- Dead Cross (feat. Neil Hamburger, Ho99o9) (coming soon)
- Banks (coming soon)
- Between the Buried and Me (feat. The Contortionist, Poluphia, Toothgrinder) (coming soon)
- The Offspring (feat. Well Hung Heart) (coming soon)
- Russian Circles (feat. MGR) (coming soon)
- Our Lady Peace (feat. Smashing Hearts) (coming soon)
- Animals As Leaders (feat. Periphery and Astronoid) (coming soon)
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