Terrible Things, 1.19.11 @ The Mad Hatter

Terrible Things
The Mad Hatter, Covington KY

Perhaps it is unfair to judge a band based on the parts and not the whole, but it’s bound to happen, especially when you talk about a band such as Terrible Things. Consisting of Josh Eppard (Weerd Science, Coheed and Cambria), Fred Mascherino (The Colour Fred, Taking Back Sunday, Breaking Pangaea), Brian Weaver, and Andy Jackson (Hot Rod Circuit), Terrible Things is an amalgamation of the best elements of the sounds of your generation. You probably have a pretty good idea of what they should sound like, but you probably don’t have a very good idea of what they do sound like. These guys, after all, played on some of your (and my) favourite records. If you’ve seen them play in any other incarnation, you probably have a pretty good idea of what a Terrible Things live set is going to be like. Take that notion and get rid of it because it won’t help you at all.

From the moment these guys stepped out on stage, it was pretty clear that they were about to do something special. The venue itself is less of a “rock club” and more like a basement, which, it seemed, suited them better. Whatever ego they could have had (and deservedly so), they left at the door. They unceremoniously walked out and without saying a word, barrelled into their self titled opening song. For a band that has never played here before, they managed to whip the crowd into frenzy. With a catchy hook and fairly easy backing vocals (We’re doing terrible things), all three hundred people were singing along in no time. The songs themselves were fairly uncomplicated, and almost properly so. Sometimes uncomplicated is better. Sometimes the lack of guitar trickery or crazy time signatures is a good thing. It allows us to see how incredibly talented these musicians are. Lullaby, on record, is a slow burner, but live it takes on a life of its own. The vocal interaction between Fred and Andy is eerily reminiscent of Jesse and Vinnie from Brand New on Your New Favorite Weapon. The biggest highlight of the night, personally at least, was The Hills of Birmingham. It’s not only one of my favourite songs that they do, but it has one of my favourite vocal harmonies that they’ve recorded. Andy and Fred play off each other so well, both vocally and musically. Both of them have such distinct voices that, in a live setting, they can do things that they can’t do on record. The result is a raw, authentic almost early 90s Jimmy Eat World highly nuanced vocal tag team.

There wasn’t much dialogue or banter in between songs. Maybe it was the anxiety of winning over a brand new crowd. The banter that was there was pretty short and pretty sweet. They interacted with the first couple of rows throughout their set, making the Mad Hatter feel like a proper basement. The interaction that they had with the rest of the crowd was humorous.

Guy in crowd: I love you guys!
Fred: Who said that? We love you too! OH! it’s gun guy from earlier! We love you Gun Guy!

The biggest response of the night came almost at the end of their set. If you’ve never heard of Terrible Things before, chances are that you’ve heard Revolution, the video for which is below. It’s one of those impossibly catchy songs that seems to get stuck in your head. It’s summery without being sticky sweet, and lately it’s been popping in little bits and pieces everywhere. If you didn’t know any other song that they played, you definitely knew this one. The crowd was fully engaged and by the first chorus, they were out singing the band much to everyone’s surprise. There was a moment in the song where Fred was completely taken aback and looked at his bandmates with a look of “if this really happening?”

I think the thing that struck me the most is how much they resemble bands like Braid, Rival Schools, and the Promise Ring during their set. They’re not a pop punk band, but they act like it at time, jumping on and off the crowd, conducting them like one giant rock and roll chorus. Overall, though, they turn in a solid, high energy set (well, as high energy as you can be for this type of music, though once they really get rolling, they’re a forceful onslaught of movement and electricity). They take the best parts of their influences and their former bands and they’ve managed to melt it into one big thing. Never once did I get the impression that they set out to be showmen, because they’re not. They truly come across as a bunch of friends touring around the country in a van and they couldn’t be happier about it. You’d think that once they were off stage they wouldn’t have a reason to keep that up, but even interacting with fans after the show you can tell that they’re “so stoked on life right now”.

The biggest compliment that they could have earned came as we were leaving the venue. A group of late teen / early twenty somethings were walking to their car. They were discussing the show and the driver said, “but Terrible Things. They need to change their name, you know, because they’re not terrible! They’re actually pretty amazing.” This tour and the one that they’re going to do with Streetlight Manifesto later this month are, I would safely bet, probably one of the last two tours that you’ll get to see them in such a small and intimate setting. It would be safe to say that they’ll be off headlining their own tours in bigger spaces soon enough and to miss them like this would be a terrible thing indeed.

Terrible things
Wrap Me Up
The Hills of Birmingham
The Arsonist’s Wife