After a year in which we've seen so many beloved bands call it quits, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that 2011 saw a number of great reunions as well. One of the most exciting, for my money, was The Early November. The New Jersey-based group is one that meant a lot to me during my high school years and, even beyond nostalgia, their songs remain impressive. I caught the band's "final" show at Bamboozle in 2007, and while I am grateful to have witnessed the event, seeing them play a short set in the middle of the day at a big festival never sat right as an appropriate sendoff.
All of these feelings, coupled with the fact that the band is back in action with a new album due out on Rise Records in 2012, made me highly anticipate attending the first of their four holiday shows. The brought their friends in Man Overboard and Hostage Calm to the Paradise in Boston, MA on December 26 for a late contender for one of the year's best shows.
It was the day after Christmas and jubilance remained in the air. Hostage Calm came out to a warm reception and wished everyone a happy holiday before heading into "War on a Feeling." The band played for nearly 25 minutes, with the majority of material coming from their self-titled album. A highlight of the band's set was their rally cry for equal rights for homosexuals, "Ballots/Stones." The venue unfortunately has a policy banning moshing and stage diving, but vocalist Chris Martin found a loophole: "You guys can't stage dive, so I'm gonna!" he said before hopping into the sea of people as their final song, "Jerry Rumspringer," kicked in.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Man Overboard around 10 times over the last three years. They have always been good, but their live show has improved a lot over the years. Seeing them is reminiscent of a Blink-182 show: they may not hit every single note, but you better believe that both they and the audience are having a great time. (They also share a penchant for changing select lyrics to be raunchy.) Their set, almost 45 minutes long, was a healthy mix of all of their material, from their debut demo to their new, self-titled album. They also included a few surprises, namely their holiday song, "Decemberism," and a full band version of the previously acoustic "Dear You."
The band's line-up currently has three guitarists, but most of the time two of them are playing the same chords. I wouldn't mind seeing co-vocalist Zac Eisenstein set down the six string and focus on singing at shows, as he is full of energy and it would allow for more crowd interaction. Regardless, he and co-vocalist/bassist Nik Bruzzese complement each other well. The band's set ended perfectly with the fan favorite "Love Your Friends, Die Laughing," which, in my opinion, should always be their closer.
The supporting acts were good, no doubt, but everyone was excited for The Early November to hit the stage in Boston for the first time in nearly five years. They entered with little fanfare. Instead, frontman Ace Enders merely asked the elated audience how they were doing before beginning to sing "Baby Blue." Enders had to cope with technical problems; the power on his guitar didn't work for the first two songs, so he set it aside and just sang. He looked a tad awkward (one person used the term "New Jersey fist pump" to describe his actions) but also seemed to relish the rare opportunity to get closer to the audience. After a lively rendition of "I Want To Hear You Sad," he apologized and said, "It wouldn't be a classic Early November show if things didn't break every 30 seconds."
The musicians seemed to have bottled up their energy during the band's hiatus. Bassist Sergio Anello was particularly enthusiastic, playing every note as if he were performing to a sold out stadium. The vigor peaked on "The Mountain Range In My Living Room," during which he jumped off of his cabinet, while guitarist/keyboardist Joseph Marro managed to break his guitar strap and inadvertently knock over his amp. After about an hour of playing, the band claimed "Figure It Out" would be their last song and briefly left stage, but the fans knew it wasn't over yet. Anello was the first to return to the stage, stating "I think encores are overdone, so we're just going to keep playing." He was joined by the rest of the band and they performed "Decoration" and "Every Night's Another Story" to end the night.
In the unlikely event that anyone had any doubts, I am happy to report that The Early November are back and better than ever! They sounded great and, more importantly, looked as happy as ever. They were very appreciate of the crowd, constantly thanking them while the audience reciprocated with cheers. I was unsure if the fanbase, the majority of which is now in their 20s now, would be jaded, but you would have thought it was 2004 in there. Enders also gave his bandmates their due (but not without ridiculing guitarist Bill Lugg's ugly, oversized sweater). They proved without words that they have reunited for the right reasons: to come together as friends and create music that they and their fans enjoy. And it's great to have them back.