All photos by Mike Kurman.
It’s been eight years since post-hardcore rockers Glassjaw have officially released any new material. During those eight years, the band members have been keeping busy with side projects – Head Automatica, Men Women & Children, and United Nations, to name a few. They’ve been working together as a band, sure, but the most they’ve said was “a release is coming soon!” [in '07] or “our old record label sucks”.
I was beyond excited to pick up tickets to their recent tour, which I caught at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore last Sunday. The concert felt like a band shaking off the dust, getting ready for something big. It was a statement: here’s what we’ve been doing, and we’ve been waiting a long time to share it with you. The show was heavily weighted towards their “new” material – some of which has been around since 2007, but hasn’t seen a studio release until recently.
And wow, the new material is good. It still has roots in the old Glassjaw sound – sudden and unexpected dynamic shifts, spastic singing/screaming, and a fluid style that defies categorization. But this time around, it’s pretty clear that the music is just a platform to showcase Daryl’s unique vocal style. The music is sparse, leaving plenty of room for the vocals to breathe. The guitar riffs are never as memorable as the vocal melodies. The show reflected this dynamic as well – Daryl was the only musician really garnering attention. The other three guys mostly stayed in the background as Daryl paced the vast, empty stage.
Daryl is a blast to watch. Like his vocal style, he’s unpredictable – he paces the stage, jumps off amps, moves like Jello. He acted like a caged animal. He would look over at us with a monkey face, with his eyes and mouth wide open, but there was this disconnect, like he couldn’t understand why we were watching him. He would strut around the stage like…a flamingo? A raptor? I don’t know. But my favorite moments were during the intense screaming, where he would get introspective, turn his back to the audience, grip the mic with two hands, and unleash something buried deep inside his organs.
For fans, this show was a real treat. First of all, most of the songs were at least slightly different from their album versions. For example, they added some groovy guitar lines to the pre-chorus of “Gillette Cavalcade”. Daryl changed the vocal melodies on the chorus of “Pink Roses”, and would occasionally leave some screaming to the audience, like the intense chorus of “Two Tabs of Mescaline”. I knew I was surrounded by fans when Daryl took a break during “Convectuoso”, one of my favorite B-sides*, and a guy standing near me sang the whole “a notch on my belt is how you will exist” verse.
They only played one track, “Siberian Kiss,” off their debut album, as their setlist was mainly geared towards their newer material. I got the feeling that they were mostly road-testing these new songs for future tours. They hit all five tracks from Our Color Green: The Singles, an EP that came out last year. Plus, for the encore, they ran though all the tracks off their Coloring Book EP except “Stations of the New Cross”. I must admit, “Daytona White”, a solid ballad with the sing-along line “I can’t breathe without you” was a great way to cap off the night.
As we left the venue, everyone in attendance was handed a copy of this EP. It’s a tour exclusive, so good luck finding a physical copy anywhere else! Was this a souvenir for the show, so I’d remember it forever? Was it a statement about artistic integrity? Or was it a middle-finger salute to the record labels that have screwed them in the past? I spent the entire show trying to understand what Daryl and the band are really about; maybe their next album and tour will reveal more.
* To my surprise, they also played “El Mark”, another rare track that’s only available on the Cosmopolitan Bloodloss single.