Circa Survive at The Opera House

"He's definitely missing his balls," my friend casually remarked of ex-Saosin/Circa Survive vocalist Anthony Green. "But he's so incredible... how he hits those highnotes and holds them out," he added with admiration (and a Coors Light). Intricate vocals are what often separates the genre-trash from the highly evolved leaders of the revolution. Talent rears its head when a band can adequately reproduce the seemingly impossible soundscape their album evokes. After seeing Circa Survive perform live Tuesday at The Opera House, colour me impressed.

The music is largely based around creating atmospheric texture. "It sounds like wet with little bits of sharp," they describe themselves. On a label with Alexisonfire, Chiodos, Coheed & Cambria and The Sound of Animals Fighting, versatility and loud-meets-soft seems to be a prerequisite more than a technicality. The guitarists danced bathed in lush, signature Opera House lighting and never missed a syncopated beat. Green made some seriously weird faces while singing, drifting off into his own emotions, lacking perceptive inhibition. Completely free, his melodies soared from pretty to exasperated and we stared on like overlooking an ocean sunset.


Earlier in the night I was thoroughly impressed with The Receiving End of Sirens, who were currently making their second ever appearance in Canada (the first was with Boys Night Out in Toronto at NXNE 2006)! Described as "experimental rock", I find they defied my stereotypes by holding down solid melodies and structure amid the creative exploration. Too many times "experimental" bands turn into jam bands, overindulging in weak, watered-down guitars and emotive freedom. The Receiving End of Sirens are one of those bands that starts on tour as a no-name supporter but leaves a wake of fans and cd sales in its path. "You know a band is dynamic when they audience starts clapping along at the same time to certain parts of the song and the band doesn't have to initiate it or coax us into anything silly," I remember commenting.( As a side note, I hate when bands do that.) The crowd was moshing and singing along to "Planning A Prison Break", while showing off genuine enthusiasm for these robust newcomers.


However, the proceding set by Days Away made us instinctively run for the door. This is what happens when a band goes for the experimental post-hardcore sound and fails miserably, I thought with a furrowed brow and sullen frown. "I am NOT liking this band AT ALL," my friend added, confirming my suspicions. It seemed to me kind of a bastardized Deathcab For Cutie-meets-psychedelic-70s. The frontman/guitarist describes, "We are five serious musicians harnessing years of disciplined musical training in order to throw a huge party every time we play live." You know, this story sounds too contrived for me to buy, too neatly packaged, too pretentious. Are they really having a huge party up there? Cuz they didn't seem like a party band to me. They seemed like they were concentrating and dressing to create an image... an image I simply wasn't digging. There seemed to be an overabundance of random sounds from keyboard riffs to guitar breakaways that lacked clarity. Sluggishly slow-moving and too ambient at times, I found the final payoffs really weren't that compelling at all. I believe that to be the heart of my dissatisfaction with this band. Despite my boredom, someone decided this band was worthy of going on the flavour-of-the-year label Fueled By Ramen, home to Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Paramore. Wait, was I trying to make a counterpoint there for a second? Nevermind.


YouInSeries fit well for an opening band. Their drummer shined, holding the complex pieces together nicely. I got a little freaked out when the singer busted out his tambourine... but he rocked it with such reckless introversion that I let it slide. Dork move? Yes, but in good taste, I conceded. This was the only band from outside of Pennsylvania (Las Vegas, actually) so they seemed a random addition to the Twilight Army Tour but their music must have superceded thematic reasoning. Sadly, despite their full-bodied sound that shadowed Circa Survive, Chiodos and The Academy Is, the crowd was sluggish and stared with zombie-like intensity. It's the story of Toronto though... I'm sure they'll be cheering the next time YouInSeries comes to Toronto.

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