All photos courtesy of The Appleseed Cast
Over their 15-year career, The Appleseed Cast have slowly morphed from their emo roots into a dynamic and powerful post-rock group. I must say, I haven’t paid too much attention to the band since 2003’s Two Conversations. But Saturday night’s show at the Rock and Roll Hotel impressed me – I felt like I was discovering a new band. Their current sound has only sparse vocals, and rarely anything resembling a catchy chorus. It’s all about the swelling guitar lines – with three guitarists, they have plenty of flexibility to create intricate harmonies.
Post-rock shows like this are hands-down my favorite shows to see. I like my music LOUD. But post-rock brings a certain kind of intensity that goes beyond volume. I imagine the creative process for The Appleseed Cast goes like this: “that’s a nice melody you wrote there. Wouldn’t it sound better if we nearly drowned it out with slow, droning riffs?” And it does. It takes a little extra work to hear the melody, but the melody’s more powerful because you had to work to find it. It’s a diamond in the desert.
The Appleseed Cast looked like blue-collar rockers, donned in plaid and flannel. It’s pretty much exactly like I’d expect a band from Lawrence, Kansas to look. Their performance was inwardly focused, with the band members mostly concentrating on their own sound rather than the audience. Their bassist acted as liaison – he would occasionally shout into the crowd (neglecting the mic) to announce songs and thank us for coming out.
Listening to this sort of music is a meditative experience for me. It doesn’t necessarily demand your attention at any given moment; you can get lost in your own thoughts as the guitars shift from one harmony to the next. You can feel the calm before the storm, right before the band breaks into a loud section, right before the drummer really lets loose. I guess these tunes are for people who got sick of the usual verse-chorus dynamic that we’ve heard a million times in every pop song ever. I’m sick of that pattern – I want to discover something new.
The set spanned their career, playing “Fishing the Sky” from 2000′s Mare Vitalis, two songs off their brand-new EP Middle States, and everything in between. They only played “Hanging Marionette” off of Two Conversations – I would’ve loved to hear “Fight Song” too, but you can’t please everyone! “Here Are We” was one of my favorite tracks of the night – it starts off with quiet, bouncy guitar lines, and slowly builds to a climax. The track “South Col” was a great choice for the encore; its dark conclusion set it apart from the soft-loud dynamic of some of the other songs.
As I left, I briefly considered hanging out at the dance party upstairs, but the contrast was just too much. I just had this introspective experience, spending over an hour going through waves of tension and release…the Tiesto playing upstairs felt like an alternate universe.