Best Buy Theatre, New York City
*please keep in mind that all of these pictures were taken from the crowd and are not of the usual proshot variety.*
Best Buy Theatre, New York City
Capacity: 2100 (Sold Out)
I never know what’s going to happen at a glassJAw show. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone really ever does. Perhaps that’s part of the fun. Perhaps it’s what makes the shows as unpredictable as the band itself. Whatever the reason, it worked. We weren’t even made aware of the openers until two weeks before the show, and even then, we were only informed of one of them (Tidal Arms, Fran Mark from From Autumn To Ashes’ new band). In typical glassJAw fashion, the rumours about the show swirled around both the internet and the queue. Unfortunately, the most popular rumour (that Converge was added on the bill just days earlier) never came true.
In queue, we met people from all over the country and even one guy who came from Columbia for the show (he clarified, “the country, not the university.”). You would think that with the legions of devoted masses that listen to this band who were present, it would make for a very very good show. It did, and it didn’t; this will be discussed later, but first, a discussion on the band themselves.
By the time they took the stage, the stage itself was stripped down as far as possible. Outside of the instruments, there was nothing onstage. Perhaps this was a silent announcement that the band didn’t need fancy trappings to put on a good show. It is of my opinion that they chose to keep an empty stage because they were going to allow the music to speak for itself. Of the twenty two songs played, ten were new since the release of Worship and Tribute. Of those ten, they could be broken up as follows: three that have become live staples (You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon, Jesus Glue, Natural Born Farmer), one reworked song (Stars / Stars Above my Bed), one newish song (All Good Junkies Go To Heaven), and five brand new songs (Black Nurse, Please Don’t Let Me Down, Vanilla Poltergeist Snake, Miracles and Inches, A Song To Break Up To). With these tracks in mind, I feel as though it would be safe to assume that we the majority of the new album. Both Worship and Tribute and Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence contained twelve tracks, so I wouldn’t put it past them to road test an eleventh and twelfth song on their spring tour.The arrangement of the setlist was something that perplexed everyone present. You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon received the honour of opening their set. It has become a forceful and powerful vocal explosion that completely sets the tone for the rest of the evening. Lit only by subtle green spotlights on the backdrop and the glow of the chandeliers overhead, the band, minus Daryl, walked out onto a nearly dark stage. Drummer Durijah Lang drew out the intro so long that it almost tipped into uncomfortable territory; it was the band’s way of building the tension. Whatever method they chose, whether it be a long intro or walking out one at a time, it undoubtedly worked in their favour. After ninety seconds of just drums, Daryl marched out with a confidence and a purpose that I’ve never seen from him before. He picked up the microphone, gave the audience a look as if to say, “are you guys really ready for this?” and exploded through the first song. They transitioned seamlessly into Tip Your Bartender before even mentioning a word to the crowd. By the time they had gone through Mu Empire and had started into Ape Dos Mil, they had he crowd eating out of the palm of their collective hand. He turned the crowd pleasing sing-a-long into a call and response choir. Gilette Cavalcade of Sports was slightly reworked: the slower parts were a little bit slower and the fast middle eight was significantly punchier. Perhaps this was done to provide a feeling of cohesiveness to the setlist after having followed Ape Dos Mil.
Things took a small change starting with Stuck Pig. It didn’t feel as though the songs had the visceral spark that they usually do. That’s not to say that they were bad by any means; if you’ve never seen them before, you wouldn’t have known the difference. They just didn’t have that punch in the throat feeling that is usually present. For songs like Stuck Pig and Pretty Lush, it’s essential for it to be present otherwise things feel a little flat. This didn’t last for long, though, as they leapt headlong into Lovebites and Razorlines, a song that is so full of rage and fight and power that it’s impossible to want to do anything but scream yourself hoarse. They couldn’t have done a non visceral version of this song even if they would have wanted to. From there, they transitioned into three songs featured on their recently (as of that morning!) released EP: Jesus Glue, Natural Born Farmer, and All Good Junkies Go To Heaven. These three songs have been present in their setlists for the past few years and every tour that they’re played on; they get more potent and more frenetic. It is, however, interesting to note what happened during these three songs. From the opening bars of Jesus Glue, the crowd split in half: there were those that knew the new songs and there were the pockets of people that stood there with very confused looks on their faces. These three songs, single handedly, set the internet ablaze over the summer when they were released on 7” in very limited runs. They were part of a scavenger hunt that took kids to a Long Island pizza parlour and part of the great vinyl collecting event of 2010. I applaud anyone out there who managed to get all of the singles. These three songs are, on their own, weird separate entities. Together, they work as three parts to the whole: they don’t quite make sense, you don’t really know why, but you don’t really care because they represent the glassJAw that we’ve all come to know and love: the one that is entirely perplexing, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
There were 2100 people present at the show and they went from simultaneously singing along with All Good Junkies to a good minute of stunned silence at the opening of El Mark, or according to the general consensus, “Wait. Is this what I think it is? OH MAN. It is. El fucking Mark OMG.“. From my vantage point, the entire front row next to me and most of the second row behind us went from excitement over hearing the new songs to standing eyes wide, mouth agape, and whispering to the person next to us, “is this what I think it is?”. El Mark, released in 2005 as the b-side to the UK version of the Cosmopolitan Bloodloss single, to my knowledge has never been played live. If we were stunned by one rarity, we were definitely floored by it’s follow up, the equally rare Convectuoso. These two songs separated the wheat from the chaff, the hardcore die hard fans from everyone else. This five song block in the set, it appeared, was geared specifically to the former group as the louder we sang, the bigger Daryl smiled. By the end of Convectuoso, he was grinning from ear to ear. It meant as much to us to hear those songs as it did to him to play them.
Overall, the band turned a solid, if unpredictable set. It wouldn’t be glassJAw without the ever present element of unpredictability. There were two things, though, that were a little confusing: the crowd and the encore. When going into a show like glassJAw, you expect a few things to happen. You expect to be at least a little bit battered and bruised the next morning. You expect to be gross and sweaty by the end of the show, so much so that nobody really wants to sit with you on the train home. You expect to be emotionally and physically exhausted walking out of the venue. Perhaps everyone was still hung over from New Years Eve, but the crowd was particularly tame, even with the high energy setlist. The other thing that I found particularly strange is creating an encore with five brand new songs that nobody knew and effectively killing any momentum that the band had created during the main set. I would have expected that they end on a high note instead of a new note. I feel that it would have been more advantageous to mix the songs in with the regular set. Hopefully, they will have figured out a proper mix of new and old songs in their setlist for spring. I will not, however, complain about hearing new material and in playing it all at the end, it gave us the opportunity to fully digest the new songs. If they stay in roughly the same mixes as played live, it is safe to say that the next LP will be as angular, paranoid and caustic as we have come to know and love.
Condensed Highlights: Daryl turned comedian before Pink Roses, El Mark, a viscious Two Tabs of Mescaline into an even more viscious Siberian Kiss, hearing what I can hope is most of the new record and being completely confused in the best way possible.
You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon
Tip Your Bartender
Ape Dos Mil
Lovebites & Razorlines
Natural Born Farmer
All Good Junkies Go To Heaven
Two Tabs Of Mescaline
Black Nurse (New-ish)
Please Don’t Let Me Down (New)
Vanilla Poltergeist Snake (New)
Miracles and Inches (New)
A Song To Break Up To (New)