Monday, December 26, 2011

The Seven Mile Journey's Notes for the Synthesis

The best album of 2011.

This is easily the best post-rock release since Sigur Rós' last album in 2008. It's as close to perfect post-rock as you'll get from any band not named Godspeed You! Black Emperor or A Silver Mt. Zion, and without a doubt, it's my favorite album of 2011. I can't say how many times I've listened to it. It's done more for me emotionally than any album in a long time. And part of that's due to the environments I listened to some of these songs in. Not only has this album been played more than tany other album in 2011, it's been played during some of my most special moments of 2011.

Notes for the Synthesis pretty much covers the entire emotional spectrum except for joy and happiness. "Departures" starts off as a painfully depressing intro which evolves directly into "Alter Ego Autopsies," which is, from a musical standpoint, the most accomplished track on the album. It represents, over the course of twenty minutes, neurosis, psychosis, mental instability, and a mind that's trying to come to terms with its insanity. It's twenty minutes of structural magnificence, starting out as sounding like something horrific and extremely unsettling, before finally building into something a little more stable. It's just a giant of a song - right up there with some of the more powerful works of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (which I really don't say lightly). "Simplicity Has A Paradox" represents a juxtaposition of desolation and self-preservation. "Transits" might be the most poignant track on the album, which is a piano-led passage of introspection, nostalgia, and something we all fear at some point in our lives... "moving on." "The Etiology Diaries" is kind of an extension to "Transits," signifying the passage of time, reliance of the self, and fortitude. It's super impressive how seamlessly the songs fade into each other.

It should be noted that The Seven Mile Journey limits themselves instrumentally to bass, drums, guitars, and an occasional keyboard. That's an automatic red flag to me. It tells me, like any other record featuring these instruments would tell me, it has the potential to be great, but also a handicap in that it lacks that extra element that could push it over the edge. No horns, no violins, no strings, etc., means almost invariably an inability to compete with bands who've mastered the usage of these instruments with their music. This isn't the case with The Seven Mile Journey, which is a further testament to their artisanship. They don't need that extra element to distinguish themselves from other post-rock bands.

"Transits" -> "The Etiology Diaries" is the most powerful sequence on the album. It's difficult to explain in terms of technicality, but the way the songs move forward is just exceptionally impressive. It's so subtle at times, yet noticeable. At one point in "The Etiology Diaries" I feel like I'm completely unstable emotionally. Like I'm going to lose it. I think music that has an effect of this magnitude on the listener is truly something special.

Overall, this album paints a hauntingly beautiful picture. It's full of climaxes, build-ups, twists, colossal arrangements, juxtapositions, and different sounds that are layered perfectly to mesh together. I don't know how to better explain it. It's just a colossal piece of work. It manages to build suspense and momentum over very long periods of time. This band's career spans over a decade, and this is only the third album they've released. This makes one thing clear... they like to breathe. They aren't in it for the quick kill. And this definitely comes across in their sound. It's the product of a lot of time and a lot of patience. Popular post-rock releases of the year like 'Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will' by Mogwai and 'Take Care, Take Care, Take Care' by Explosions in the Sky are pale in comparison to this masterpiece. Any fan of post-rock who hasn't heard this is missing out not only on the best of 2011, but one of the genre's best ever.

HIGHLIGHTS: "The Alter Ego Autopsies," "Simplicity Has a Paradox," "Transits," "The Etiology Diaries"

Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on

*shels' Plains of the Purple Buffalo

The second best album of 2011.  

It should be known that the last time my #1 and #2 albums of the year would've been post-rock records, had I been making these lists, was 2000. That would have been Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and A Silver Mt. Zion's He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… The first being a contender for the greatest album of all time and the second being a top 10 album of all time. My #1 and #2 this year aren't close to that caliber, but they're absolutely excellent albums.

Plains of the Purple Buffalo is a massive, mind-altering, journey that shows how far post-rock/metal can branch off if artists are willing to venture past the confines of the conventional second wave post-rock rut. This album isn't characterized or limited by a single formula. It's melodic, it's intense, it's beautiful, it's soft, it's heavy, it's aggressive, it's enthralling, and it succeeds brilliantly in painting a picture much like the album title and cover art suggest. I probably shouldn't juxtapose with Alcest, but the sound of this album gives the impression it was an "inspiration," much in the same sense Neige claimed Écailles De Lune was an inspiration he acquired after experiencing in a dream a vision of a world where music was ethereal and sounded nothing like the music of our world. But this album does give off some of that ethereal ambiance vibe we got with Écailles De Lune, but in a very different way. One way, of which I'm sure, is the brass. Beautiful brass segments are woven in amongst some of the tracks, as are choral arrangements, both of which result in brilliant atmospherics. One might call this record "easy listening." It's like the air conditioning inside your house that greets you after you've been out in the hundred degree heat all day. "Searching For Zihuatanejo," "Vision Quest," and "Butterflies on Lucy's Way," three of the best tracks on the album, are completely therapeutic. While that's true for a lot of this album, it's not true for all of it though. Some parts of this record are just downright difficult to listen to. One example being the opening track, "Journey to the Plains." Others being (parts of) "Crown of Eagle Feathers" and "Bastien's Angels." All are considerably heavy for post-rock songs. 

Plains of the Purple Buffalo on clear purple vinyl, spinning
on my turntable

Few records can remain captivating and stimulating for a complete 75 minutes. Every track here has something different to offer... something different than the track before it or after it. This album is a journey across a land very different than our own. 

HIGHLIGHTS: "Plains of the Purple Buffalo - Part 2," "Searching For Zihuatanejo," "Vision Quest," "Butterflies on Lucy's Way,"

Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on

Loss' Despond

Pain is something dreaded by nearly every human being. We do all we can to avoid it and forget it and remove it from our lives. We do everything possible to exist without it, yet, ultimately, it's something humanity will never rid itself of. Loss' debut embodies the notion that, as Carl Jung would say, pain is ever present, and as much a part of life as the dance of shadow and light, and that it's something we hate, deny, and fear in ourselves. Loss has just chosen to deal with it and express it. To quote the band, "Life isn't worth living 99% of the time," and that's what Loss tries to convey with their music. And they've succeeded to an impressive extent. The despair this band projects is so authentic it's scary. It's the work of musicians who've truly been there. And it's this that makes it so genuine.

Doom metal has grown on me a lot this past year. A large percentage of albums on this list have been doom albums of some sort or another. But this one is truly exceptional. Despond is one of the most emotionally stirring albums of the year, and the only album even close to expressing such deep depression and misanthropy that burns its way to the heart of the psyche. Novembers Doom, Tombs, The Atlas Moth, etc., have all released doom albums hailed by many metal critics as the best of the year. None of those compare to this. In 2004 Loss released a demo, Life Without Hope...Death Without Reason, which spread fast and caused quite a buzz in the underground. Seven years later, Loss debuts their first album, Despond. Two of the tracks on this album are actually re-recordings of two of the tracks on the demo. These include "Conceptual Funeralism Unto the Final Act (of Being)," and "Cut Up, Depressed And Alone."

This album features ultra heavy bass and guitars, and sparse but steady drums. It's slow, it's melodic, it's tormented. The vocals are anguishing. "Silent and Completely Overcome" features guest vocalist Brett Campbell, from Pallbearer (who's set to release a debut in January), who provides the only clean vocals on the album, and man, they're fantastic. This track is my favorite on the album. "I do not remember depression such as this" will echo in your mind long after it's over. This song also features a brief intermittent section of black metal at 6:10 (when the tempo actually peaks above a crawl) before converting back to megadoom at 6:38, when a crushingly heavy and painfully slow riff finishes out the song. Loss doesn't only include elements of death into their doom, but black as well. The atmosphere throughout the whole thing is super intense.

There are piano-led interludes ("Despond"), which add to the gothic sound of the album. "The Irreparable Act" closes the album with clean guitars, synthesizers, and a monologue in a manner that, despite the lack of heaviness, is just as haunting and depressing as the rest of the album. There's strange eerie guitar work (such as what we hear at 0:35 in "An Ill Body Seats my Sinking Sight" and what we hear at 0:03 in "Silent and Completely Overcome"). One of the most impressive aspects of this album is the way each song is distinguishable. Each song is recognizable. You can tell one song from another. There's very little "meandering," which just isn't the case with 95% of funeral doom. Creating a funeral doom album that's a truly memorable complete body of work isn't an easy task. Loss has done it. This is the metal album of the year. 

HIGHLIGHTS: "Open Veins to a Curtain Closed," "Cut up Depressed and Alone," "Conceptual Funeralism Unto The Final Act (Of Being)," "Silent and Completely Overcome,"
"The Irreparable Act"

The band stated in an interview that they won't stop writing music until they've created the perfect funeral doom atmosphere. And they made it sound like this album is basically just a preliminary glimpse of what's to come. That aside, I have a hard time believing they'll ever top this record. 

Originally written for my 2011 End-of-Year List on 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Enslaved and Alcest Concert Review

Enslaved and Alcest concert on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at Outland Live in Columbus, OH

If someone had told me at the start of the year that both Agalloch and Alcest would tour the United States in 2011, and that I'd miss both of them, I would've been in disbelief.  Right now, I'm in disbelief.

I missed Alcest Saturday night because I arrived at the venue too late.  I drove six and a half hours to find out, when I walked up to the girl taking tickets at the door, Alcest had just completed their set and left the stage.  I felt absolutely sick.

On top of that, I'd either purchased the wrong ticket, or Ticketmaster sent me the wrong ticket, because when I handed my ticket to the girl at the door she showed me the ticket was for the Enslaved and Alcest show in Springfield, VA.  So I had to cough up $17 to see Enslaved.

Enslaved was great, of course.  I expected nothing less.  Although I'm not gonna lie and pretend I enjoyed the show and had the time of my life.  In all honesty, it was impossible for me to really absorb it and get into it.  I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and for a large part of the set I sat on a couch in the back of the room and just listened.  I wish they'd played more off Vertebrae, which is Enslaved's best album and one of the best black metal albums ever released. They did cover "Immigrant Song" by Zeppelin as an encore, which was awesome.  The set was as follows, from what I can remember... I might've missed one or two in the middle of the set.


1. Axioma (intro)
2. Ethica Odini
3. Raidho
4. Fusion of Sense and Earth
5. Heimvegen
6. Ruun
7. Ground
8. Giants
9. As Fire Swept Clean the Earth
10. Allfaor Ooinn


11. Drum Solo
12. Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin cover)
13. Isa

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea Concert Review

Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea concert on Monday, June 20, 2011
at the Milestone Club in Charlotte, NC

This was a fantastic show. I didn't really know what to expect going in, since I'd never been to the Milestone Club before and I'd never seen Nicole Atkins before (so I didn't know what the draw would be). Stephen Warwick and the Secondhand Stories opened up, and man, what a fun band. If I hadn't been short on cash, I would've picked up their disk, Talking Machine. I don't know what all they played since I'm not familiar with their material, but I do know they played the song "Keep On," which is the last track on their album. They had a drummer, guitarist, stand up bass, and a trumpet player. Considering the only musical instrument I've ever played is a trumpet, I guess I have a special appreciation for it. I really enjoyed watching this band. I believe they're local out of Charlotte.  

Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea didn't come on until 11:00pm or so. 


1. Heavy Boots
2. Cry Cry Cry
3. Vitamin C (Can cover)
4. Party's Over
5. This Is For Love
6. Hotel Plaster
7. Maybe Tonight
8. Brooklyn's On Fire
9. You Come to Me
10. You Were The Devil
11. The Way it Is
12. Monterrey Honey (Cotton Matthew cover)
13. My Baby Don't Lie
14. Vultures
15. The Tower


16. Neptune City

Nicole and her band were absolutely fantastic.  She's very entertaining, and has a witty and personable sense of humor.  The venue was near insufferably hot, thus the focus of a lot of humor (and discord). Seriously though, everyone in the audience was sweating, so you can imagine what the band looked like.  I was afraid Nicole was going to pass out from a heat stroke.  Regardless, she sounded great, and put her heart and soul into her performance.  
She dedicated "Maybe Tonight" to a pregnant woman in the audience, "Neptune City" to Clarence Clemons, and "Brooklyn's On Fire" to the Milestone Club - saying they should rename it "The Milestone Club's on Fire."  The merch girl played a tambourine, I believe, in a few songs, so Nicole introduced her.  She said the merch girl actually made (hand crafted) the gold plated mirrors they had for sale, and called her "gildfinger," and sung "gildfinger" in the same pitch as "Goldfinger" (the James Bond theme song), and there for about a minute or so I had a deep yearning for Nicole to sing "Goldfinger" in its entirety; when she sang "gildfinger" I swear she sounded just like Shirley Bassey.   

I was perfectly happy with the set.  Granted, I think Neptune City is better than Mondo Amore, but I realize this tour is mostly meant to promote Mondo Amore, so I'm just happy they played as much off Neptune City as they did.  "Heavy Boots," "Hotel Plaster," "Maybe Tonight," "Brooklyn's On fire," "The Way It Is," and "Vultures" are among my favorite tunes.    

The tour poster I bought.  I guess these were left over from the previous tour, because it says "wintertime" on it.  Still, I like the design of it.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy Concert Review

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy concert on Sunday, May 1, 2011
at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC

The Doobie Brothers get the Merlefest 2011 trophy, but Robert Plant & the Band of Joy came in second.  This band should've had the prime time Saturday night spot instead of Lyle Lovett.  They were much better.  I could hardly believe I was seeing Robert Plant in Wilkesboro, NC.  One thing has become apparent: the sky's the limit for this festival.  

I couldn't watch much of the show because I had to work storage, again, starting at 4:00pm - thirty minutes after they took the stage.  Opening up with Black Dog was pretty awesome though, however, from what I hear, the show got better as it went, making me wish I could've stuck around a bit longer.  


1. Black Dog
2. Down to the Sea
3. Angel Dance
4. Black Country Woman
5. House of Cards
6. Monkey
7. Somewhere Trouble Don't Go
8. That's the Way
9. A Satisfied Mind
10. Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
11. Ocean of Tears
12. In the Mood
13. Please Read the Letter
14. House of the Holy
15. Ramble On


16. Harms Swift Way
17. Gallows Pole
18. And We Bid You Goodnight

One thing should be made clear.  This isn't a Zeppelin cover band.  It's a group of musicians Plant has assembled that blend his English hippy-folk vibe with their rootsier Americana.  The result is a rich layered sound blossoming with talent and technical proficiency.  Very different from that raw rock Zeppelin sound I think a lot of folks were expecting.  The Zeppelin covers were't Zeppelin-esque at all.  But they sounded great.  Plant is a musician in the truest of sense.  He's influenced by a variety of genres - rock, folk, bluegrass, Americana, etc… it adds a great level of depth to this band's sound.    

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Doobie Brothers Concert Review

The Doobie Brothers concert on Friday, April 29, 2011 at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC


1. Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)
2. Jesus is Just Alright
3. Dangerous
4. Rockin' Down the Highway
5. Clear as the Driven Snow
6. Nobody
7. Far From Home
8. World Gone Crazy
9. Chateau
10. Takin' it to the Streets
11. Don't Start Me (to) Talkin'
12. Little Betty Pretty One
13. Black Water
14. Long Train Runnin'


15. China Grove
16. Without You
17. Listen to the Music

To my dismay, I didn't get to watch this concert, I only got to listen.  I had to work storage from 9:00pm - close, so all I could do was concentrate on the magnificent sound coming from the Watson Stage - electric guitars (beautiful tone), acoustics, saxophone, harmonica, bass, drums, etc.  This band can ROCK.  They're as rockin' a live act as I've ever heard at Merlefest.  They blend their instruments together so well, do these amazing three or four-part vocal harmonies, jam out with prolonged instrumental work, and really get the audience dancing.  They put their energy and their emotions into their music, and the audience's reaction reflects it.  Vocally, they remind me of Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Beatles.  Musically, I think they're more influenced by the rootsy approach - sort of like the Allman Brothers.  I definitely recommend checking these guys out if they come to your town; they don't disappoint.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Explosions in the Sky Concert Review

Explosions in the Sky concert on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at Amos' Southend in Charlotte, NC

The third post-rock show of the year for me.  And it didn't disappoint.  Amos' Southend was packed.  There were as many people there as there were at the Avenged Sevenfold and Black Tide show I went to back in '07, which I didn't expect considering the region's weak post-rock scene.  There are tons of kiddies in the Charlotte area, and neighboring areas, that love that A7X/Carolina Rebellion-type of music (you know tickets for Carolina Rebellion are going for $200-$300 now?), but there aren't a ton of kids that like post-rock.  The crowd really was surprising.  I got the vibe there were a lot of concert virgins there though.  I stood on the balcony to the left of the stage (from the audience's POV), with a bunch of kids who I think were part of a youth group.  There must've been twenty or more of them.  When the opening band, The Octopus Project, said "fuck" on stage, they all looked at each other in puzzlement.  Needless to say, regardless of the venue being packed, it wasn't the most vivacious audience I've ever been apart of.

The Octopus Project was a funky type of post-rock/electronic band.  They weren't mind-numbingly good by any means, but they were entertaining and fun to listen to.  I can see why EITS would choose them as an opener.  The chick in the band played one really weird electronic instrument that made noises according to the frequency she neared and distanced her hands from its motion sensor.  It made a high-pitched whirring noise.  I think the crowd really dug them.  They got about as much applause as Explosions in the Sky did.              

Explosions in the Sky Setlist:

1. Postcard From 1952
2. The Birth and Death of the Day
3. Your Hand in Mine
4. Last Known Surroundings
5. The Only Moment We Were Alone
6. Catastrophe and the Curve
7. Let Me Back In
8. Greet Death
9. Trembling Hands

They played a lot of their new material, which isn't as good as some of their older stuff.  "Postcard From 1952," "Last Known Surroundings," "Let Me Back In," and "Trembling Hands" are all from their 2011 release Take Care, Take Care, Take Care.  I think it's a pretty solid album - not the best I've heard this year - but solid.  Explosions in the Sky isn't going to write a 'bad' album.  But it's pale in comparison to The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, How Strange, Innocence, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, etc…  They did play two songs from The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, which was nice.  I really really really wanted to hear "First Breath After Coma," but I don't think it'll be on a setlist for this tour.       

Their sound was ace live.  I think the dynamics of what this band does come across beautifully in a dark venue.  They're one of those few bands that I'd actually say sound as good, if not better, live than on a disc.  The guitar tone is crystal clear.  The drumming is very martial in tone.  That is, instead of playing a 4/4 kick heavy drumming style, Hrasky plays more tom and snare - the type of drumming similar to what you'd hear in a marching band.  It helps to push the music during a slower, arpeggio paced song.  When the drum beat speeds up, it's usually when the guitars are going hard and heavy.  This band is centered around their beautiful guitar work though.  Three guitar players, at times, and one bass, interlocking melodies.  They can go loud and aggressive and they can be soft and sensitive.  Like a lot of post-rock bands, many of their songs are crescendo driven.  They build up slowly before reaching a climax.  They are very technically proficient.  They excel in playing and feeding off each other.  Their style makes for a magnificent live performance.

I was so damn hungry during this show though.  I feel like I could've enjoyed it even more if I hadn't have been thinking about eating.  

It's easy to see how this band has become such a massively influential post-rock giant.  They maintain their loyalty to the first wave of post-rock, but stray enough to create their own brand of innovation.  I think they're close to solely responsible for this new wave of post-rock we're hearing these days.  While their brand can't rival the GY!BE's and ASMZ's of the world, it's certainly created it's rightful spot in the genre.  I look forward to seeing what direction it will take in the future.     

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rush Concert Review

Rush "Time Machine Tour" concert on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC

There were three negatives going in.  One, I knew I had to be a ticket scalper since one of the guys I bought a ticket for backed out on me a few weeks ago.  I told him I'd try to sell his ticket at the door, but if I couldn't, he'd owe me the price of the ticket.  Two, since this show was inexplicably rescheduled from Friday, April 1 to Saturday, April 2 sometime earlier this week, it meant missing the Final Four.  Three, I knew what they were going to play before I ever even entered the coliseum. I don't think the set list has changed once since the start of the first leg.   

Rush Setlist:

1. The Spirit Of Radio 
2. Time Stand Still 
3. Presto 
4. Stick It Out 
5. Workin' Them Angels 
6. Leave That Thing Alone 
7. Faithless 
8. BU2B 
9. Freewill 
10. Marathon 
11. Subdivisions 

- - - Intermission - - -

12. Tom Sawyer 
13. Red Barchetta 
14. YYZ 
15. Limelight 
16. The Camera Eye 
17. Witch Hunt 
18. Vital Signs 
19. Caravan 
20. *Drum Solo* 
21. Closer To The Heart 
22. 2112 (Part I: Overture & Part II: The Temple of Syrinx)
23. Far Cry 


24. La Villa Strangiato 
25. Working Man 

Three men on a stage have never produced such a sound.  It was the best classic electric rock vibe I've ever heard live.  These guys can PLAY.  Peart delivered an awesome drum solo, as I expected him to, complete with a rotating "time machine" drum kit.  This concert went on and on and on and on and on, it clocked out after at least three hours.  After Subdivisions, Geddy said "were old men… we need a break."  A twenty-minute intermission ensued.

Rush has experimented with different sounds throughout their career, and the purpose of this tour, as presented in the title of the tour, was to take the audience through the decades to experience their prowess and amazing repertoire.  Many think of Rush as a very serious band that's all music and no play, others as some type of alternative heavy metal; but they are neither.  They are a fun-loving progressive rock band, and they smiled often and danced around on stage simply having fun while displaying amazing musicianship.  The first set had some great stuff, including one of my favorites, "Leave That Thing Alone," an instrumental with some really catchy guitar work.  "The Spirit of Radio," "Time Stand Still," "Freewill," "Marathon," and "Subdivisions" are all great songs.  There was a large screen behind the stage they played films on.  Often it was a clock counting down to a particular year - usually signifying the year of a particular song release of the song getting ready to be played, or in one case, an album release.  During the intermission, the clock counted up to 1980, the year Moving Pictures was released.  At the start of the second set, "Tom Sawyer" came on and they played Moving Pictures in full.

They also played some material from their upcoming release, Clockwork Angels, notably, "BU2B," and "Caravan."

They only played the first two parts to 2112.  I would've loved to see the whole thing played.  But it is a twenty-minute song… and they played for over three hours as it was… I guess these old men can only do so much.  

But for old men, they still rock pretty hard.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Concert Review

Godspeed You! Black Emperor concert on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA

I made plans some time ago to go see this one with one of my cousins, which is incredibly appropriate since he's the one responsible for introducing me to the post-rock genre a few years ago, and in particular, introducing me to Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  There's not another soul I know (personally) whose musical tastes, and whose reasons for listening to music, are so similar and so compatible with mine.  With that said, this was an incredibly highly anticipated event for me.  When GY!BE announced the tour back in September I could hardly believe it.  But at the same time I figured it would happen eventually, considering the greatness of the project.  It comes as no surprise that this band has sold out nearly every venue it's been hosted by, including Athens, GA.             

I had to do some research before this show, which has been an ongoing thing for a few weeks now, not because I was unfamiliar with the band's music, but because I'm still not completely familiar with all the subnames of the songs.  I'm only real familiar with the full names of the tracks (i.e.: " Sleep," Static," "Providence," etc etc).  I know a few subnames of particular portions of tracks I like, but not all of them.

First of all, it should be known that I had to sacrifice a day of school to attend this show, which meant rescheduling an exam.  Since it was roughly a 5-hour drive from northwestern NC to Athens, and the show ended at 1:00am, it put me back around 6:00am, on a day of two exams (on top of the one I had to reschedule).  As far as school goes, the timing could't have been worse.  But it was the chance I took when I ordered these tickets before the start of the semester, and the bad timing didn't come as a surprise.  Nevertheless, nothing was stopping me from going to this show.     

Athens is a real neat town.  It reminded me a lot of Asheville or Wilmington in that it's maintained an element of natural beauty despite being metropolitan.  Plus, it just has that hipster vibe to it.  This show was right in downtown.  Upon arrival, I wasn't surprised Godspeed You! Black Emperor chose it as their one destination of the South.    

After eating at a local pizza restaurant, we walked down to the venue and got in line outside and stood there, waiting, for at least an hour.  Everyone was really friendly.  Two dudes inside the venue told us they'd driven 14 hours from Texas.  I thought "holy shit… I thought I was a hardcore Godspeed fan…" I wouldn't be surprised if the band is anti-South.  We should probably consider ourselves lucky they managed one date as far south as Georgia.

I was surprised they had merch for sale.  I figured the band was anti-merch as well.  I remember reading somewhere their philosophy was "make your own Godspeed You! Black Emperor t-shirt."  They're so anti-capitalism and consumerism.  I'll bet Constellation forced them to sell some stuff.  They had two t-shirts for sale at $20 each, all their albums, and a beautiful glossy silkscreen poster for $20.  I went with the poster.  (See picture below)

As far as standing position in front of the stage, we were pretty close to the front.  There might've been two rows of people in front of us?  The most irritating part of the night was crowd chatter during the opening act.  The opener was an individual artist who played multiple guitars.  He was actually really impressive and technically proficient.  His playing reminded me of Trace Bundy (except he probably wasn't quite that good), with more wailing and capo switches.  He was extremely kind and gracious considering the rudeness from his audience.    

Godspeed You! Black Emperor Setlist:

1. Hope Drone
2. Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
3. Gathering Storm
4. "Murray Ostril"  ...They Don't Sleep Anymore on the Beach
5. Monheim
6. 9-15-00 (outro) / The Albanian
7. Atomic Clock
8. Chart #3
9. World Police and Friendly Fire
10. Slow Moving Trains
11. The Cowboy
12. Moya
13. Blaise Bailey Finnegan III
14. String Loop Manufactured During Downpour… [Outro]

The only one I'm not positive about is the outro to 9-15-00 played after Monheim.  They played a lot of interludes in-between songs, a lot of which were hard to decipher, and they ran together.  They definitely played something between Monheim and Atomic clock.  It might have been a snippet of The Albanian, a track I'm fairly unfamiliar with, but I'm not confident.  They might have mixed 9-15-00 and The Albanian together (which I feel was probably the case, but again, not sure).  One thing became apparent after seeing this band live, and my cousin commented on it as well.  Just like A Silver Mt. Zion, this band is incredibly influenced by free jazz.  A lot of their interludes were very chaotic and uncoerced, much like in free jazz.  I think the chaotic aspect of their music is probably symbolic to their anarchistic tendencies.  A lot of their songs disintegrate from something beautiful into something chaotic and tumultuous.  They did this even more so live.  Blaise Bailey Finnegan III, at around the 14:00 or 15:00 minute mark, went into something highly varied from what it sounded like on Slow Riot.  The intro, Hope Drone, is another example, as is virtually all the interludes that consisted of tons of feedback and reverb.    

I've come to realize nearly everything this band does is done to convey a message.  Whether it's the monologues or voice tracks (and the music that encompasses them), the song titles, the sound that's meant to evoke a particular emotion, the artwork… nothing is inconsequential.  The film loops are no exception.  The films played during the set were fantastic.  Nicely contrasted.  My favorites were the ones, I think played during Moya, that consisted of ancient script-type writing, and even occultist symbols.  Some also looked to be Hebrew.  Others included typed texts from war documents.  They flashed so quickly I could't make out what they said, for the ones in English that is.  I only saw single words as I focused in, and that was enough to let me know they were documents regarding wars or foreign policy of some type (very fitting for BBF3).  

I also liked how the band did absolutely no talking during the show.  One track ran into another.  It was like one long 2 1/2 hour cohesive piece of music, woven together.

As I expected, they sounded amazing.  Monheim and Moya, in my opinion, were the best played tracks of the night.  My cousin liked what they did with BBF3.  I honestly couldn't have asked for a better setlist.  I'm not sure there's a single "bad" part to any Godspeed song.  It's just some are better than others, and they played a lot of good ones last night.  Not to boast, but I think Athens might've gotten the best setlist of the tour so far.  The only song missing that would've been amazing to hear, that they've played at a few previous shows (DC for sure), is The Sad Mafioso.  But the set ran well over two hours as is.  It was very strategic for them to put on that recording of String Loop Manufactured During Downpour as an outro.  It prevented the audience from being able to ask for an encore.  They slowly left the stage one by one, waving to the audience as they went, while we listened to "where are you going?" over and over along with the droning of distorted guitars.  It was awesome.    

Just to critique though, there were some variances I wasn't crazy about.  One of them was Efrim's slight switching of the notes played during Chart #3.  Recall the notes of the gentle atmospheric strumming of the guitar while we listen to that insane man describe his dream about passing through corridors and dark serpentines and penetrating to the most high god.  Yeah, Efrim didn't play those notes as they were on the album.  Also, there was no trumpet or French horn in Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.  That one's pretty picky, but it's something I noticed; I'm sure there's nothing they could have done about it.  I don't think any of them even play horns.  Also, during the same track (Lift Yr. Skinny Fists), maybe it was just me, but the drum beat seemed a little different.                    

During World Police and Friendly Fire

During Moya

the 40 Watt Club  

My beautiful, glossy, silkscreen tour poster

Simply put, I've never been to a show like this before.  It was absolutely fantastic.  If I didn't have school, I'd travel long distances to see it again.  The show is unique because the band is unique.  There is no other band that even comes close to being similar to Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  Now that I've seen them in concert, I can spend my days yearning for a new album.