Live Review: Caspian, Native, and Torches at Soda Bar, March 2, 2013

Photo credit: Hutton Marshall
Native by Hutton Marshall

Post-rock is a genre that requires thoughtfulness, patience, and the capacity to make an ungodly amount of noise. The five-piece, Boston-based Caspian have all the pieces in place and, crammed onto the tiny stage at Soda Bar, they proved that to a dense, shoe-gazing crowd on Saturday night.

Caspian’s two openers were Native and Torches. Torches played crisp indie rock that could have been painfully generic if it weren’t for some creative drumming that gave the band an energy that’s unusual to the genre. Each member of the trio was a decent enough singer to infuse some vocal harmonies into the catchy, guitar-driven songs. (One of their tracks was recently featured on MTV’s Catfish.)

Native was on the other end of the spectrum. Another band with laudable technical prowess, they appeared to worry little about putting together a catchy — or even cohesive — song and focused more about putting on a good show. A fusion between post-rock and metal, Native are a thunderous band you should see live. They probably won’t gain any commercial attention unless they seriously reexamine their songwriting, but they don’t seem bothered by that.

Caspian’s four guitarists couldn’t take two steps in any direction with all their gear filling the stage the breaking point. The towering frontman Philip Jamieson — easily the tallest person in Soda Bar that night — set the tone for the set by taking the stage quietly with a calm, stern look on his face that hinted he wasn’t in the music industry for the party scene.

It began high and ambient: a delicate, pre-recorded piano played with light reverb. A pick scraping across the strings of a heavily distorted guitar — the only other instrumentation — was barely audible. Then the rest of the Boston five-piece came in, and it all started to build.

As the band stood motionless, consonant notes and washed-out chords began to mix together with rolling momentum. Four lanky men stood aligned, sweating and strumming as the snare thumped loud eighth notes with ascending fury. Just as each of the four guitarists — all clad in black t-shirts and jeans — were beating their guitars in monstrous anticipation, they all went silent and the bar dropped to a hush. Then the band erupted, acting as a single, emotionally explosive sound; it was at this moment I realized that Caspian was a beautifully orchestrated band, and that I should have brought earplugs.

The band’s set showcased much from its 2012 album, Waking Season. In it, Caspian carefully distance themselves from the rock element of their music, moving toward more elaborate song structure and sampling. The result is a creative, introverted effort that showed in their performance. The set’s best moment was their 10-minute epic, “Gone in Bloom and Bough,” which hit all the intricate lows and intense highs perfectly.

While Caspian are certainly a band to take seriously, they’ve yet to produce any truly transcendental work, the likes of which have made post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros so profoundly impactful. I may not have left the show with in awe, but I won’t miss Caspian the next time I get a chance to see them. Their last album shows they have no intention of stagnating.

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