Fighting the Shadows, Backseat Driver, Illegal Operation, Silver in December, and TGL @ North Putnam High, Roachdale, Indiana – April 16th, 2005

All the shows I went to during my stay at DePauw (at least during the school year) were in Greencastle, Indiana. Fast-forward to April 16th, 2005, where I had just gotten off of work and called Josh Query (Silver in December’s manager). Josh promised me a few weeks before that ey would be able to drive me out to the show, which was in Roachdale, Indiana. This town, in the middle of nowhere, is where North Putnam High School resides. However, with less than an hour before the concert, Josh had forgotten eir obligation to schlepp my non-car driving ass around, so we had to meet up a little later than the four o’clock meeting time that we came up with. After making it out to the show, I get the typical Greencastle treatment – ushered in (without having to pay entrance) and bombarded with the typical niceties (along with the oft-questioned “Are you going to put this review up?”). The show was in an absolutely huge gymnasium, which was probably only a miniscule fraction smaller than a football field. From the back of the hall, it took at least ninety seconds to walk up to the stage.

The show still started late, which was a little shocking considering that we got to town about 10 minutes after the show was to have started. Finally, Fighting the Shadows took the stage, a new sight for me as I was not familiar with their music (turns out they were local to that high school). Fighting the Shadows were a rock/metal type of act that seemed to play the part of rock stars perfectly. The lead singer tried to rile the crowd up almost as if there were hundreds or even thousands of individuals in the hall, instead of the 80 or 90 that were present. Fighting the Shadows had the nu-rock/metal sound going for them, and while they did have intelligent songs, the major thing that hampered them was their concrete-still appearances. It is understandable to expect someone trying to pull off a sick solo to stand still, but when someone is playing a few chords, there is no reason to just be still.

The set played by Fighting the Shadows was very short (barely lasting fifteen minutes), and Backseat Driver (who are notoriously uneven during their shows) would do much to ensure that the show was back on time. Even if the band had a weak time or two during my own shows, they shone with a much brighter light during this show. Their set was riddled with problems, first with a shoddy mic cable and then by a muddiness to the low-end of the bass and guitar. Backseat Driver would forge on and create a mixture of New Found Glory and MxPx, inserting with high frequency virtosic guitar solos (in the vein of the hair metal that had preceded them. The melodramatic theatricality of the band was a highlight of the concert, but what really got Backseat Driver in trouble time and time again was the assumption of too many duties by lead singer Shawn. This meant that the instrumentation would subside and ey would try eir best to forge on with the track, but without something like a double vocal to bolster eir own at-times falsetto sound, some of the tracks sounded a little weak. Aside from this vocal thinness, Shawn’s indecipherability became more prevalent as the set marched on, which was something that constructed a wall between the band and their audience. Still, this set was one of the more memorable Backseat Driver performance, even after all the problems they faced.

We had tried unsuccessfully to get the next band, Illegal Operation to play our last concert at Greencastle. Needless to see, I was more than curious to see how they sounded, especially after getting a number of negative comments about the band from local individuals. For those uninitiated, Illegal Operation moves through a number of influences, serenading their fans with an entire host of influences. Where the guitars start off Illegal Operation’s set with a decidedly Avenged Sevenfold style, the problems begin detracting from the overall sound of the act. Before becoming attenuated to the band’s general sound, the PA renders Illegal Operation’s sound into something that is fuzzy and mucky. Illegal Operation has problems that arch a little farther beyond what could be simply marked up to PA error; the song structure that predominates throughout their set is tepid, clichéd, and plodding. Later tracks (perhaps newer in composition) give the band a fuller and more solid sound, especially those that couple a double-part harmony with the Papa Roach-esque drumming present throughout. Illegal Operation’ set showed a band that does possess potential and also a gap between the studio and live band sound they possess.

Silver in December, during this show, really put to light an incredible stage presence that was never a major part of the band. While there were some rough parts (bassist Peter does not have a smooth bass sling and still feels a little clunky in eir performance) in the stage show, by and far Silver in December proved in this show to be the most spastic and lively band around. New (at least to me) tracks provide the musical equivalent to the newly-formed stage show; “King of Hearts” brings the audience to a fever pitch, going so far to insinuate itself into the listener’s heart to show the beginnings of a pit. Silver in December has matured the fastest of any Greencastle band; it is with this solid sound throughout (and cohesive sound) that they challenge TGL as the dominant emo/post-hardcore act in town.

TGL takes the stage for the last performance of the night; never a band to stay static in any sort of way, the “old guard” shows up all the “new” (relative to them) bands by the inclusion of new and exciting tricks in their repertoire. By far, the moderation of bassist Zach’s vocals from the simplistic screaming that was such a hallmark of the band into a melodic and harmonically pleasing style was the greatest surprise of the night. TGL, in a much more expected move was able to actually work together in a nigh-perfect way. Gone are the errant drop-outs that marred otherwise great performances by the band; in their place are formations like the guitar-doubling present at points between Jake and John and a “TGL” sound. The only thing that was a downer at this show was the fact that the vast majority of individuals had already left the venue by the time that TGL took the stage; only sticking to the local acts, the patrons missed out on the most polished music of the night.

Where Silver in December had traversed the most ground between shows (in terms of raw talent and general sound), TGL maintained their valid claim for “best band in town” by coming up with instrumentally difficult arrangements bookended by a impressive stage show and compelling popular music. Backseat Driver was able to increase their general sound and diminish the doubt in my mind that their next show would showcase any weakness, and Fighting the Shadows came out strong as a new act, even if some facets of the band (set length, stage presence) were lacking. Illegal Operation, during their set showed a band that still had some work to do, but overall was an essential piece for making this show an enjoyable cross-section of music done by central Indiana bands.

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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