Equal Vision Records has always been a powerhouse of an independent label, with alumni including such influential acts as Refused, Saves the Day, Converge, H2O, Coheed and Cambria, Give Up the Ghost and countless others. The label remains as relevant as ever, as made exemplified by the exciting and diverse line-up of Say Anything's current "Rarities and More" headlining tour.
In addition to Say Anything, the all-Equal Vision tour includes Eisley and HRVRD, along with up-and-comers Northern Faces and I the Mighty each opening a leg. I attended the sold out June 23rd stop at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. The 933-capacity venue is a bit smaller than those that Say Anything typically play, which seemed appropriate for a tour in support of All My Friends Ere Enemies, a collection material from before the band's breakthrough album, Is a Real Boy.
The intimate setting also afforded mastermind Max Bemis with the opportunity to get closer to the crowd. He said that, since they had the next day off, the band could go extra wild that night. And wild they went, for 75 intense minutes. Bemis deserves recognition for embracing the old material. He easily could have cashed his check for the rarities compilation without ever playing the songs; instead, fans are being treated to an entire tour dedicated to them. Bemis later told the audience that it was "the most fun tour of our lives."
The setlist was split down the middle between album tracks and early rarities. I was particularly impressed with the song selections, because the newer offerings focused more on deep cuts rather than the hits. These included "Every Man Has a Molly" (which received the most vigorous crowd reaction of the night), "The Futile," "Died a Jew," and "Peace Out," among others. Bemis confessed that the latter is his favorite part of the set, because he's always astounded by how many people know the words.
Some of the older songs were written more than a decade ago while Bemis was still in high school and without a full band. ("All My Friends," for example, was one of the first songs Bemis ever wrote as a young teenager.) The tracks are endearing in their simplicity, but they still display early stages of Bemis' lyrical and songwriting prowess. Many of them have been reworked to suit the band's three skilled guitarists, including a full-band version of the previously-acoustic "The Presidential Suite."
After leaving the stage following "Alive with the Glory of Love," Bemis returned with an acoustic guitar. "I'm gonna play a song that I've never played live," he said, "And also that I've never rehearsed." Despite his forewarning, it was a beautiful, error-free rendition of "A Boston Peace." His bandmates proceeded to join him for "Say Anything" and "A Walk Through Hell." It was a fitting closer, as "Hell" is the song that inspired the interest in a rarities collection in the first place. Bemis allowed the crowd to sing the final chorus to conclude the night.
Eisley co-vocalist/guitarist (and Max's wife) Sherri DuPree-Bemis was sick for their set, but you'd would never know by listening to their performance. Equipped with tea, she sounded great - as did the rest of the DuPree family band. They didn't spend much talking, but DuPree-Bemis did mention that it was the best crowd of the tour so far. They're touring in support of their new album, Currents, and the set was bookended by cuts from the album - the title track and "Drink the Water," respectively. They also mixed in old favorites among the new material.
There's never a dull moment during a Hrvrd performance, as exemplified by their set. It began with a melodica to kick off "Black Creme" and continued for half an hour. Not only are the members of Hrvrd great musicians, but they also put on an engaging show. Their performance is theatrical, nearly vaudevillian. Singer Jesse Clasen went so far as walking through the crowd while singing "French Girls," a song that also features trumpet and maracas. He then adorned a creepy old man mask and lurked around the stage at the end of their set. As a longtime supporter of the band, I'm happy to see them reaching a wider audience.
Openers I the Mighty caught the audience off guard by entering the stage to "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music before kicking off with the raw screams of "Speak to Me." It was their first day on the tour, but they showed no apprehension. They made their 20 minutes count with full-out energy. Most of the material came from their excellent new album, Satori.
The "Rarities and More Tour" is a testament to how far Max Bemis has come as a musician. He has brought Say Anything to the masses without forgetting where he came from. Bemis revealed that the band has already started working on their new record, which will be out next year. Perhaps even more exciting, he teased the idea of a tenth anniversary tour for Is a Real Boy. While the show provided a befitting retrospective the band's past, they still have a bright future ahead.
Co-headlining tours can be disastrous. Too often, there is one band that consistently outshines and outdraws the other. Further, there are times when the respective audiences don't mesh. These issues were not a problem for the Say Anything/Motion City Soundtrack tour, however. The pairing was a match made in heaven when it rolled through the House of Blues in Boston on November 8.
Opening the show was A Great Big Pile of Leaves. The Brooklyn trio's indie rock sound doesn't match the pop punk tone of the rest of bill, but they refused to let that affect their performance. Their 25-minute set was especially impressive considering that this is the first real tour.
Saves the Day was up next. They have been an active group longer than the other bands on the tour, but they were nothing but happy to be part of such a great package. Frontman Chris Conley's showed off his soaring pipes throughout the 45-minute offering, with a set featuring a mix of everything from old favorites ("Rock Tonic Juice Magic", "Third Engine") to brand new songs from the band's forthcoming Daybreak.
Motion City Soundtrack was scheduled to play next, but the audience received a special treat that night. The band entered the stage playing the pulsating beat of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole". They were joined by Say Anything vocalist Max Bemis to sing the spot-on cover.
Following the song, the band explained that their singer, Justin Pierre, had lost his voice. In lieu of canceling the show, they recruited some of their talented tourmates to fill in. While some members of the audience seemed disappointed to not see the band in their full capacity, most were excited at the prospect of what other surprises were in store.
And the surprises kept coming. The Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli, who is filling in on bass for Say Anything on the tour, sang the next two songs, including fan favorite "My Favorite Accident." He would return later in the set to sing three more tunes.
Other guests included A Great Big Pile of Leaves' energetic singer Pete Weiland, Say Anything guitarist Jake Turner, Saves the Day drummer Claudio Rivera, Saves the Day guitarist Arun Bali, and Conley. The latter concluded the unique engagement with atypical closer "Hold Me Down".
Not every guest knew all of the words to their respective songs due to the last-minute nature of the endeavor, but they all seemed to enjoy themselves - and the audience was more than happy to fill in any blanks. Pierre didn't make a peep all night, but he rocked out harder than ever on his guitar to make up for it.
Say Anything had a tough act to follow, but they managed to match the fun of Motion City Soundtrack's performance. They kicked it off with "Crush'd", an awkward choice for an opener which they made work. Their hour and fifteen-minute set contained many mid-tempo, beat-heavy songs ("Baby Girl, I'm a Blur", "Do Better"), but the crowd went wild whenever they busted out a faster tune.
The set contained a couple of surprise treats as well. The band played "Colorblind" from their little-known, self-released debut, Baseball. They were also joined by members of Saves the Day to perform "Crawl" from Two Tongues, a collaborative project between Bemis and Conley. The set ended on a high note with a rousing rendition of the anthemic "Admit It!"
Bemis noted multiple times how happy he was to be on the tour and how appreciative he was of the crowd. He even went as far as saying that it is his favorite tour of which he has ever been a part. And, judging by the hoarse voices and smiling faces of fans as they exited the venue, much of the audience was in agreement.
Additional videos available here. See all of my photos here.