Monday, August 20, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
Braid singer/guitarist Bob Nanna catches air at the Glass House Friday night.
Friday night saw the freshly-reunited 90's post hardcore band Braid
rocking the Glass House
. In the interest of full disclosure, Braid was one of those bands whose music spoke to me wherever I was emotionally in my life (typically abject misery). Their aggressive, angular percussion and guitar assaults were met with heartfelt lyrical narratives and melody which beautifully expressed a tapestry of feeling and could be indescribably uplifting. After incessant spins, the laser in my CD player burned a hole through multiple copies of their masterpiece 1998 album Frame and Canvas
For most of the show, the band playing this album faithfully in its entirety, down to the sonically iconic radio static which bookends the LP. Though a masterpiece it may be on record, Friday's performance in front of a half empty Glass House was hit or miss.
The sad truth? They sounded sloppy.
On the song "Collect from Clark Kent," one of the album's best, singer Bob Nanna flubbed key lines and threw everyone in the room singing along for a loop. Other songs such as "Urbana's Too Dark," a slower number known for its melancholy lyrics and complex, loping rhythm, felt disjointed, as if I'd walked into a Guitar Center where a bunch of customers were simultaneously sampling various instruments. This was made worse by guitarist Chris Broach's noticeably out of tune axe.
These hiccups were likely attributable to the fact that everybody in the band works day jobs now and is scattered across the Midwest. The geographic disparity obviously puts a cramp in rehearsal schedules.
Goofs notwithstanding, there were moments when the fog lifted and the planets aligned. The band performed with youthful energy and physically gave it their all. On the jams where Broach, who's typically relegated to backing screams, led the charge, the band gelled. On "Milwaukee Skyrocket" his voice cut through the chatter as he wailed the line "This is what you made it!" Meanwhile, drummer Damon Atkinson toned down his über technical repertoire and pounded the skins with unbridled punk fury.
On the album closer "I Keep A Diary," the slow-burning ballad featured haunting guitar tremolo swirling and tense feedback before erupting in crescendo, making for a chill-inducing grand finale.Following the album performance, the band played a handful of tunes from assorted eras of the band's existence, including "My Baby Smokes" from 1995s Age of Octeen. Featuring a sinister swinging time signature, and Nanna's low key musing followed by a guttural bellow, the song demonstrates that emo isn't simply about whining into a microphone.
But overall the show fell far from the mark set by their last California appearance at Chain Reaction in 2004. But Braid's contributions to music, however under appreciated by mainstream critics, have left the group with nothing to prove. At the end of the 90's, they played hundreds of shows and toured the world twice. More than a decade later, they continue to inspire small groups of devoted fans who gather in places like the sweltering Glass House and sing their hearts out for more than an hour with the band then eagerly line up afterwards seeking autographs. The sound may have been muddy, but it was a wonderful puddle.
Critical Bias: This will be the last time I request to write about a band I've listened to obsessively for more than a decade. It's just too weird to have to remain objective in these situations (not that we at the Weekly are concerned with things like objectivity).
Overheard: "Hmm, I don't usually get this sweaty listening to the album at home," joked Bob Nanna. "I do!" shouted a voice in the crowd.
The Crowd: Mostly male hipsters with glasses and neatly shellacked haircuts. A few comely lasses were on hand however including Amanda Valdez from San Jose indie band The Fierce Creatures.
Random Notebook Dump: The band hung out for an hour after the show to sign autographs and chat with fans. Guitarist/songwriter for San Pedro band The Littlest Viking Ruben Cortez had an early pressing of one of the band's LPs. Braid bassist Todd Bell spent several minutes excitedly explaining to Cortez the origin story of the album's cover art.
Braid bassist Todd Bell chatting it up with The Littlest VIking guitarist Ruben Cortez.
New Nathan Detroits
Killing a Camera
Never Will Come For Us
Collect From Clark Kent
A Dozen Roses
Urbana's Too Dark
Consolation Prize Fighter
I Keep A Diary
My Baby Smokes
Please Drive Faster
The Right Time
I'm Afraid of Everything
Forever Got Shorter