Aftermath: Appleseed Cast's Low Level Owls Fly High At Rudyard's
Photos by Marc Brubaker
Some of our peers keep around a box of mixtapes from long-ago friends and lovers, while others still cling to their cassettes from high school and college. Acting like archaeologists, this hoarding reminds them of who they were then and allows them to tap into a deep well of memories. With Aftermath, we associate certain records with certain key times in our life. Any time that we hear Winners Never Quit by Pedro The Lion, Understand This Is A Dream by The Juliana Theory, Leave Here A Stranger by Starflyer 59 or Orange Rhyming Dictionary by Jets To Brazil, we're immediately brought back to the time right after we graduated from college, those heady days of post-adolescence when we're supposed to be "growing up," but we have no clue what the hell that really is supposed to mean.
Included on that list is Low Level Owl, Volumes 1 and 2 by The Appleseed Cast, originally released in Fall 2001. To the uninitiated, this Lawrence, Kan.-based outfit serves as an unheralded link between the second-wave emo of Sunny Day Real Estate and the crashing post-rock anthems of Explosions In The Sky. Amidst a prodigious career that includes well-received records such as Mare Vitalis, Peregrine and Sagarmartha, most of the band's fans consistently point to the two Low Level Owl records as the band's absolute zenith.
Thus, we were beyond excited to learn that The Appleseed Cast would be commemorating its recent signing to DIY record label Graveface Records by touring the two albums as a cohesive whole.
Rudyard's, that venerable Montrose live-music staple, played host to the shindig, and by the 10 p.m. start time, the room was about two-thirds filled with late twenty- and early thirtysomethings, all looking to step a few years back in time. There was a palpable energy in the room, as the band made itself more than available for conversation and interaction by manning its own merchandise table.
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Dreamend started the night off with a nine-song set that brought together two key trends from '90s rock - shoegaze and Smashing Pumpkins. The music itself was overly earnest and poppy emo - with a big chunk of the wall-of-sound aesthetic propagated by The Appleseed Cast themselves - while the slightly off-key, flat vocals quickly brought to mind the whine of Billy Corgan.
Though the inclusion of the band was a somewhat obvious choice for a tour opener, we weren't quite digging most of what the band had to offer. Not only was the middle third of the set rather milquetoast and boring, but the keys washed out the guitars and the guy's nasally vocals proved to be occasionally distracting.
Then again, maybe we were just eager to get onto the night's main attraction, which was to hear a formative musical project from our post-college years played to completion. The show did not disappoint; in fact, we spent most of the night in a head-bobbing rapture, oblivious to the fact that it was actually 2010.
Hearing these songs performed live reminded us why we find most versions of post-rock boring to this day, as they all seem to be a pale shadow of the soaring sounds and textures of Low Level Owl. Like any classic emo record, the music alternated between brooding and hopeful, tense and optimistic, as songs like "On Reflection," "Steps And Numbers," and "A Place In Line" still resonated strong and true.
Admittedly, we did find it mildly amusing that Christopher Crisci would frequently look back at his set list just to confirm what song was next. Then again, we can forgive that mild indiscretion when anyone decides to tour a nearly ten-year-old record in totality, especially when it wasn't even toured that way upon its initial release.
By the end of the evening, you could veritably accuse of us of basking too heavily in nostalgia, being too sentimental, or simply engaging our inner fan boy sensibilities too copiously. But we don't really care, because we had a great time enjoying a batch of songs that were instrumental in our personal history. Any of you would have done the exact same thing.
Kudos to The Appleseed Cast for bringing out this amazing record once more and allowing a bunch of aging emo kids to relive a more confusing, yet probably halcyon time in their lives.
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