A Skylit Drive

support Dance Gavin Dance + Adept
author AP date 11/11/09 venue Underworld, London, UK

This cold Wednesday evening dangled on the verge of disaster when it seemed as though the only reason I had showed up was about to be exterminated. The smug righteousness I would have to endure from TL if anything about this night went wrong felt like an unbearable, and suddenly not so distant prospect when I noticed that Adept's merchandise was not there, and neither was their fucking tour van, or even the band for that matter. It was absolutely paramount that this show would color TL green when I would later rub it in his face, and hope was dwindling.


Having listened to fellow scribe TL praise this band to the skies both live and on record, I have anxiously been looking forward to checking the band out. But as time drags on and Adept are nowhere to be seen, the crowd grows impatient and chatter turns to speculation that the band has canceled their performance tonight due to some unforeseen circumstance. After 45 minutes the suspense starts to turn into disappointment, as the 23:00 curfew makes it unlikely that Adept have time to pull off a performance even if they do show up.

But lo and behold, Dance Gavin Dance's stage setup is suddenly torn down with unprecedented haste as Adept's musicians rush on stage one by one to tune their instruments in what must be the quickest display of setting up I have ever borne witness to. Not five minutes later vocalist Robert exclaims, "Thank you for waiting. This has been the most stressful day of my life [ed. I have since uncovered the reason for the delay: some band member lost their passport in Brussels]. The good news is that we made it and we're going to play some songs for you!" The bad news is that Adept have all of 15 minutes to play them – meaning four songs.

Initial reception is penurious, but as "Shark! Shark! Shark!" explodes from the speakers, the crowd warms up to Adept's poppy brand of screamo. In fact, this is probably the only song anyone in the crowd recognizes judging from a complete lack of sing-along for even the ridiculously catchy "At Least Give Me My Dreams Back, You Negligent Whore!" Still, the brief bout of unadulterated fury leaves no one cold, and we are left wanting more. Clearly Adept are set on redeeming their late arrival with all the energy they have left in them, which naturally translates to a rather frantic presence on stage, but unfortunately four songs simply isn't going to cut it as a performance to remember.


Dance Gavin Dance

Dance Gavin Dance, too, is a band that TL likes to advertise and make reference to wherever he can. My own acquaintance with the band amounts to passively listening to the latest album during my late-night drive back from Metal Town in the summer, and if I'm perfectly frank, part of the reason I chose to go to this show was because I could, and TL couldn't, and there are few things more gratifying than reminding TL of the rich gig culture in the UK and all his favourite bands that he never gets to see. The other reason was that I really wanted to see Adept.

But as has been proven to me time and time again, it's the bands I have no expectations for that tend to impress me the most. Dance Gavin Dance is no exception. After overcoming the initial surprise that this band sounds more like The Fall of Troy than the standard screamo outfit I had envisaged them to be (in fact, I'm more tempted to label it something like indie math rock), I'm completely and utterly mesmerized.

One of the most interesting aspects of the band's music is the use of classic Fender guitars which are incapable of powerful distortion – which allows the band to make use of a lighter tone seldom, if ever, heard in the scene the band is unwillingly lumped into.

Add to that the fact that lead guitarist Zac is playing what basically amounts to a continuous solo (his riffs rarely depart the upper third of the fret board) with a distinct funk influence, the random and yet oh-so-appropriate reggae part injected into one of their songs, or the fact that the various members connect with the audience like no other, and it's hard not to be impressed. Zac spends the entirety of the band's set leaning into the crowd (one of the advantages of no crowd control barrier at the Underworld) letting the over-excited, screaming girls up front ruffle his hair and land kisses on his cheeks like it's Marty Gras, while Kurt delivers his vocals with the grace and conviction of some country street musician. The performance is so intimate.

If only it were longer. But fortunately, as posters around the venue have already divulged, Kurt announces that the band will be back in April for a headlining tour, bringing with them In Fear And Faith and Asking Alexandria (which causes BL to wet his pants with excitement). As long as my bachelor project and other commitments allow, I'll see you in Portsmouth 'cause I just got a taster and I'm starving for more.


A Skylit Drive

One thing that bothers me about A Skylit Drive is their vocalist. Shit, with a voice like that you lose your right to call yourself a man. It is no-balls high and completely devoid of power, which is why this band’s music tends to piss me off. Unfortunately, just like Alesana the band have an uncanny ability to write infectiously catchy songs that occasionally find their way to my playlist as guilty pleasures – or rather, two of them do: "I'm Not A Thief..." and "Eva the Carrier". These are also the only two songs I recognize in the band's setlist tonight, though I'm sure all the relevant pieces get an airing judging from the maniacal crowd response.

So maniacal is this crowd response that one particular scene whimp manages to warrant the hatred of some 500 others with his constant, reckless stage diving; but then, I myself am too preoccupied with what an absolutely fantastic performance A Skylit Drive puts on to exact my elbow to his face. As you might have gathered from the ramblings in the first paragraph, I am not A Skylit Drive's biggest fan, but to let that damage my assessment of the band’s live presence would be foolhardy. If you remember TL's complete surprise at the Alesana show earlier this year, then mine tonight must have been something along similar lines because believe it or not, I found myself enjoying every minute of the damn thing.

If Dance Gavin Dance were up close and personal, then A Skylit Drive is in our faces – constantly. Bassist and screamer Brian White in particular leaves a lasting impression with his insane stage antics, stage dives and general disregard for the health and safety of anyone within five metres of his instrument. Not that the other members aren't giving it their all as well. Drummer Cory La Quay puts on his own little private show in behind the kit, playing some songs while standing up, delivering the deeper growls and swinging his sticks like a seasoned pro – although honestly he looks like a complete douche... in an awesome over the top way.

In fact my only complaint is the vocalist, "Jag", as they call him. Next to his frenetic compatriots he looks like a shy little girl, keeping his shoulders tucked in and clutching the microphone like it's the first time he’s seen one – let alone an audience. He radiates this annoying nervousness, and his smooth ginger hair and ridiculously high vocals do nothing to better the image. Quite simply, he looks like that weird kid at middle school whose pants you just pulled down in the middle of a crowded cafeteria. But fuck it, there's so much else to look at that it hardly matters.

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