Aberlin, Drums of Death, and FAR

Roseland Theater

Back in my touring days, bands and fans would always ask if I’ve heard of this band or that, most of the time I had no clue who these bands were they were speaking of.  In time I began to notice that one particular band was mentioned more than any others – Anberlin.  I decided to get their cd and pop it on my ipod while I was wandering around Reno, Nevada.  The first song I heard (it was on random) was “Foreign Language.”  Now one thing I try to be is objective – I enjoy a lot of music, all genres… I did not enjoy that song.  The phrase “doo doo doo-doo” should NEVER be uttered by a band that isn’t a doo-wop or throwback band.  But they did it, and it turned me off to the band instantly.  I couldn’t bear to listen to the rest of the album.  Skip forward a couple years, the band was on tour with a friend’s band so I did a few dates with them, and apparently the song in question was the subject of great hilarity amongst the others.  I couldn’t understand how this band was still playing after such a song was released.  As I found out the first night of that tour, every single other song that this band has written and recorded is fucking amazing and I have been a royal douchebag by not giving them the time of day for the last seven years.  On top of that, the group consists of the nicest guys in rock today. 

There must be something about central Florida that just produces great music.  Anberlin, Remembering Never, Nsync (yes fuckers, Nsync) – all talented bands within their own genre, comprised of extremely humble, intelligent members.  Guitarist Joseph Milligan attributed the bands longevity to their ability to be non-genre descript in their work and never swooshing their hair or sporting the faux hawk.  Through the years, the band has maintained a commonality in their music – never “taking chances” with rap rock, emo, scream (well they tried it once…and that was that), or hardcore.  Some may attribute that to the fact that producer Aaron Sprinkle at Tooth and Nail has done every album the band has recorded under the imprint, others may just say that this band knows what it does and sticks with what works.  It has worked so well, the band was picked up by Universal Music.  This is definitely an instance where staying the course has really paid off. 

Anberlin live is a sight to behold in its own right.  Having acquired two members of the best band that never made it, Acceptance, the band exudes an energy that just can’t be captured on record.  Drummer Nathan Young uses the bass drum as a trampoline, he looks like he’s going to fly out of his seat with every hit.   As a whole, Anberlin consists of a tight unit of energetic lads that really know how to move an audience, and then knock them back on their bums. 


Drums of Death
Wonder Ballroom

I met Colin J. Bailey at the Wonder Ballroom just before his sound check.  To see the man, you wouldn’t really expect him to be a DJ/Producer/Architect of Boom.  This humble Scot was genuinely glad to see me and actually paid attention while I was talking to him, making a potentially awkward evening much more comfortable.  I was already scared to death of going to a Peaches show.  I was expecting throngs of feminist-types with unshaven armpits, frothing at the mouth, and banging their fists in the air in unison to anthems of man-hatred.  Apparently that was not the case.  Colin had produced some songs off of Peaches’ new album and conveyed that my interpretation was a common misconception about the act and that her new “stuff” reached to a much broader audience.  Since I hadn’t left the bar area to “scope the crowd” I had to take him at his word. 

D.O.D. gave the audience something different from Peaches – a stripped down, raw, emotive, house-heavy sound that drove hard and fast.  Colin attributed his sound to his home of Scotland, where the bars closed early and it was all about getting in, getting pissed, going all out, and never letting up.   Seemed very similar to America’s bar scene – get in, get your booze, and get the fuck out.  The music may have evolved and had some “girth” added to it, but the concept remains – loud, fast, and powerful.  Armed with only himself and a barrage of toys (macbook, various midi controllers, and a sampler), Drums of Death fuses house beats, hip hop vocals (with a nice bit of singing), and garage/speed sampling/mixing that kept the crowd happy and bouncing up and down. Good dude, good times, and a well-played set.



So aside from loving this band since I first saw them at Independent’s Day 1994, and then flying to see them at the Glasshouse in Pomona when they first reunited, when I saw that FAR was playing Portland…I peed (granted I was already in the bathroom and assuming the position, but that was beside the point).  Far is undoubtedly the greatest band there ever was, is, and will be.  Lofty statement, but my hoarse voice, black eye, bloody wrist, and elated mood for the past week proves it (to me) beyond the shadow of a doubt. 

Being well past my quarter-century, I am not one to get crazy at a show.  I stand, observe, quietly judge, and dictate my findings for younger people to analyze and mock (because you don’t have my job and you think you can do better muahaha).  I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach Far.  I had loved this band for so long, what if they suck now?  What if they’re too old to bring the rock?  What if I don’t like the concert?!  A decade of love would turn to anger in moments and I would disavow all knowledge of them.  I was decidedly nervous entering the venue.  To top things off…the Satyricon?  Why such a small venue?  I keep forgetting that not a lot of people have heard of Far, and just because they SHOULD have – they still haven’t. 

I skipped watching the first few bands.  One had a cellist or bassist that was falling asleep as he was playing , so rather than tempt fate I went to the bar side and enjoyed some water.  My friend kept asking if I was going to sing or not, and I honestly didn’t know.  I didn’t know how I would react.  I did know I wanted to be front and center though.  So once the switch-over began, I made my way to dead center.  Once Far started…I was climbing over bodies, screaming at the top of my lungs, trying to eat Jonah’s face.  So yes, I guess I did decide to sing.

Far didn’t play one single new song.  They knew that the fans wanted to hear what they hadn’t heard in forever (Far played the Satyricon 17 years prior…most of the people at the show weren’t even born yet).  They played every song a Far fan could want, “Bury White”, “Really Here”, “Mother Mary”, “Love, American Style”, and “The System” were just a few of the old-favorites that the band jaunted through in their 45 minutes.  Sadly, nothing off Quick was played (nor the infamous “Live to Tell” cover), and THANK  GOD they didn’t play “Pony”.  I don’t remember the rest of the evening, I was spent and barely knew where I was…and THAT’S how a show is supposed to leave you.  Looking forward to gooooood things in the near future from the newly reunited Far! 

Mark Johnston, a native Californian, has travelled the world with various circuses, sideshows, and arena rock tours. As a musical monkey he has delighted fans the world over. Upon his return, he has since founded the Atomsmashers Publishing Company, written 2 books in the company's Warm Horchata series, created a weekly comic strip based around LA's more "colorful" characters, written reviews, articles, and rantings under various pseudonyms; this has since culminated in Johnston being named Captain Fabulous by the Superhero Association of America.