It’s no secret that I’m a huge supporter of The Cab. Stemming back to their Whisper War days, everything they’ve done aligned perfectly within the realm of music I listen to constantly. Their latest album, Symphony Soldier, was released back in August, and it pretty much set the precedent on what this genre should be. The album was far and away my favorite of 2011, and I’ve never been more confident in a band as far as future musical endeavors go.
Additionally, another album that climbed my Best-of list with each listen was Everything’s Fine, the sophomore record from The Summer Set. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I just don’t really care about bro-pop-core bands with breakdowns like I used to. Granted, I still like some pretty embarrassing stuff, but Everything’s Fine’s acoustic-indie-pop nature appealed to my likings more than I ever thought was possible, as it was definitely a significant departure from the band’s sugarfest debut in 2009’s Love Like This.
Now, even though I spin the albums of bands I love regularly, I can’t say the same for seeing those artists perform live. I’ll be honest: I’ve probably been to a total of 2 shows in the past few years. I’m a terrible music fan, I know. However, seeing (for the first time) The Cab play at Orlando’s House of Blues proved exactly why I need to see them every chance I get.
As Everything’s Fine and Symphony Soldier were both released last summer, The Cab and The Summer Set figured it’d make sense to tour together in promotion of the records. It probably made even more sense considering the two groups are best friends ... appeal to the same audience ... and both happen to put on one hell of a show. Perhaps the most fitting part of all was that one of the stops on the co-headlining Everything’s Fine/Symphony Soldier Tour took place right in New York City.
Something about the New York shows I’ve been to always seem to give off a different atmosphere than those in other cities. It was a typical New York February night: cold, snowing, cold, and also really, REALLY cold. But that sure as hell didn’t stop the crowd from having as much energy as the ones who were performing. Alongside The Cab and The Summer Set were Paradise Fears, Days Difference, and He Is We. I’m probably not alone on this, but one of my favorite things about shows is not only seeing the bands I initially went for, but seeing the bands I know nothing about. For this particular show, it was the two openers: Paradise Fears and Days Difference.
Paradise Fears played to a crowd that was still filing in, but it was admirable to see them play like they were performing to a sold out Madison Square Garden. In this case, it was a sold out show at Gramercy Theater (cap. at around 700) and I’m sure it helped that the crowd was pretty into it. All in all, they weren’t that bad. It’s typical synthy-poprock, but definitely not as trendy. However, they win the award for “Mash-up That Should Never Be Done” with their Stereo Hearts/Cute Without The “E” combo. That actually happened. It is impossible to make that up. Check out one of their songs here.
Unfortunately, I can’t really share similar praise for Universal Republic’s Days Difference. The band hardly provided any stage presence, the vocals were barely audible, and the songs themselves were just kind of boring. They’re supposed to play this energetic pop, but the expected enthusiasm that was present on the records were nowhere to be found live. The biggest reaction they got out of the audience was when the singer took off his jacket and when they sent a giant blow-up duck to go crowdsurfing. I ended up catching myself staring at where the duck was headed instead of watching the actual band. Oops.
He Is We, on the other hand, showed them up to the extreme. Frontwoman Rachel Taylor livened up the room from their Days Difference daze with her always inviting vocals (and always gorgeous looks), and the set complemented expectations well. I was a big fan of their album, My Forever, so a performance consisting of those tracks was a pleasure to watch. The highlight was easily “All About Us”, the pop smash and fan favorite that included a guest spot from Brian Dales of The Summer Set. By the end, it was clear that the Dales-He Is We fusion is begging to be made official via a studio version.
At this point, the snowing outside turned into a light rainy drizzle. The crowd still squeezed in as much as it possibly could. Even the dads who took their kids to the show started to wake up from their slumber in the balcony seats. The anticipation made itself known as The Summer Set arrived and exploded with “The Boys You Do (Get Back At You)”, and it was an opener that could have woken up half the city. The set was an even mix of Love Like This and Everything’s Fine, and pristine musicianship was consistently present as drummer Jess Bowen held down the fort with Dales providing pitch perfect vocals throughout. Dales showed off more than just his voice as there were times when he played guitar on some tracks and even played on drums that were placed alongside Bowen’s kit. The coolest surprise of all was the band’s inclusion of the song “Crash”, which was a bonus track to Everything’s Fine. If anything, it was nice to see a band that finally gives some love to their b-sides in a live setting, which is certainly something you don’t see much of.
As The Summer Set started to wind down, the crowd did anything but. The Cab took the stage and kickstarted their hour long performance with “Angel With a Shotgun”, which showed instantly what the hype was all about. Never missing a note, vocalist Alex DeLeon led the pack throughout the first few songs (“Angel”, “Temporary Bliss”) until they arrived at tracks that flaunted more of what the other members had to offer. Drummer Dave Briggs and guitartist Frank Sidoris were an absolute force on “Animal” and “La La”, while pianist Alex Marshall sounded even better than the CD at times and provided fantastic harmonies on “Endlessly.” Naturally, The Cab’s set consisted mostly of cuts from Symphony Soldier, and it’s definitely for the best considering how well they were able to pull them off in contrast to the actual album. It wasn’t until the lights dimmed and the mood went from invigorated to reposed when three fifths of The Cab left the stage and only DeLeon and Marshall remained. DeLeon began to address the completely-filled venue with the utmost appreciation, and you could feel the genuinity in every word he spoke. The duo started an acoustic min-set which included “Lovesick Fool” and “Vegas Skies”, and between the emotional ambience of the latter and the crowd singing along to every word of the former, I couldn’t have been the only one who wanted to kiss the person next to them. The rest of The Cab returned shortly after to finish off with “Living Louder” (also featuring Brian Dales) and an encore of “Bounce” and “Bad,” which finally brought the night to a close.
I guess shows are a funny thing. With albums, people usually apply a personal connection to them. It’s not so much how “good” it is ... as it is what the album means to that person, or what memories/experiences/feelings they apply to it. You can play that album over and over again and almost be taken right back to the time period that first established those perpetual emotions in the first place. Shows can be extremely personal too ... but nothing quite captures that feeling you got seeing the band live when you go back to listening to the albums, or when you go back to watching videos from the performance. Of course, you can see the same artist again — but it still won’t encompass the exact ecstasy that was felt the time before. And maybe that’s the beauty of it all. That each show, in a sense, is a different album. And with every “album” comes a different emotion — whether it’s good or bad. But instead of waiting every 2+ years for an album from your favorite artist, you can go to as many shows as you want and get a completely different memory that’s going to cement itself for as long as you let it. The Cab essentially affirmed that for me. Austrian composer Gustav Mahler once declared, “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” — the same could be said about concerts, and The Cab’s Everything’s Fine/Symphony Soldier Tour contained everything needed to provide a night that won’t soon be forgotten.