The Appleseed Cast Fitzgerald's July 12, 2013
Friday night in Houston was a lover of the blues' wet dream, with several roadshow options from that genre to choose from. John Mayer was doing his thing at the Woodlands Pavilion, while Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks were tearing down the joint at House of Blues. The absolute loudest show of the night, however, was a showcase upstairs at Fitzgerald's featuring The Appleseed Cast.
The Lawrence, Kansas post-rockers took their name from the emo-ish group Sunny Day Real Estate, and you could pick out certain distinct influences from that band. While most of their newer tunes relied heavily on a wall of sound, you could still, at times, hear their pop-punk/emo influences shine through. I've never been the biggest fan of that genre, but The Appleseed Cast did a good job not making it sound too juvenile like many other bands seem to do.
After a 45-minute delay, after making sure everything sounded just right, the Cast jumped into their set. False start No. 1: something was wrong with the monitors. False start No. 2: microphone problems. False start No. 3: the jokes started to roll from the band. Finally, with start No. 4, we were off into post-rock instrumental heaven.
Their music is loud and in-your-face, but easily accessible. At times I thought I was watching a Warped Tour band; at others it was more like watching a Bonnaroo band. The moments that shone through most were when the band stretched their songs into almost jam-band territory: hitting very high peaks of energy, and bringing it back down, improvising their way through the entire song. They were loud as fuck too, especially when the drummer was pounding away with as much vim and vigor as possible.
Still, the guitars were the main focus of the band throughout the night. Both sides of the stage featured screaming guitars tacked onto a heaping helping of effects pedals and the like. When the two guitarists weren't shredding, they were knelt down tinkering with the cacophony of effects their pedal boards afforded them.
While some of the sounds they were throwing out there were lost on me, just due to the magnitude of sound that was emitting from the speakers, it was still fun to watch them toying away.
I'm not sure if the band was really enjoying the show or not. At times I couldn't tell if the banter between them and the small crowd was friendly or a bit on the hostile side, but I guess I wouldn't be entirely happy with the size of the crowd they pulled in on a Friday night. I'm pretty sure their crowd at Rudyard's a few years back was around the same size, yet Rudz was a more suitable venue for them.
According to the staff, this show was supposed to be in Fitz's smaller downstairs room, but due to a problem with the AC, they had to move it to the much larger upstairs stage. It made the crowd look a lot smaller due to such a bigger room, but it also gave the band the ability to spread out while giving their fans a chance to really check out what they do onstage.
The show was really enjoyable, and had no problems waking me up with their huge amount of sound. I really dug when they performed their faster-paced instrumentals because it gave each of the members a chance to shine. Their drummer was on beast-mode the entire night, playing louder and faster than Animal ever could. Even the bass lines shone throughout, hitting at just the right moments.
However, the only thing I didn't love about The Appleseed Cast were their vocals. At times they were thrown in at the right moment, but now and again, whenever they were the main focus, they lost me and a majority of the people around me. However, when they were in a loud jam, and they would pepper in Built to Spill-style vocals over their instrumental goodness, it really worked for me.
Overall, it was a solid show experience. Towards the end, I found a seat in the desolate balcony, and just enjoyed the performance while trying to squeak out my last bits of energy. The Cast played late into the night, well after all the blues aficionados from all of the other shows in town were tucked into their sheets.
My only real gripe, though, was how small the crowd was on a Friday night in the fourth-largest city in America. Even if the band is not as well-known, I figured there to be a crowd just because it was Friday night.
Oh well, can't win them all. Houston just missed out on some delicious, instrumental, in-your-face post-rock played by four extremely talented musicians to a small, yet lucky, crowd of adoring fans. Can't go wrong with that combination.
Personal Bias: I can't say I sit around and listen to The Appleseed Cast, but after seeing them live a few times now, I like them more and more.
The Crowd: Younger fanboys, and no one else.
Overheard In the Crowd: After the band asked if there were any places to swim around town, like "a natural spring or something like that," someone in the audience shouted, "There's a bayou down the street!" The band didn't find that too funny.
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Random Notebook Dump: After shooting four bands at three venues in a 24-hour period, and reviewing three of them, I'm tired. Goodnight.