Los Angeles fivesome Touché Amoré led a grab bag lineup of emo and hardcore bands on Wednesday night at Slim's. The sold-out show was already crowded when Albany, NY's Drug Church took the stage to deliver an opening bout of aggressive post-hardcore riffs.
Seahaven were the odd man out on the lineup — these four Southern California dudes play alt-rock that draws straight from '90s radio rock. Their style left half the audience furrowing their brows in confusion. Lead singer Kyle Soto looks a bit like a skinny, half-sized Channing Tatum--and like Tatum, the music comes off as overly dramatic, a bit comedic in its sincerity, and ultimately targeted towards a younger demographic (no offense to teenage girls).
Emo/indie rock veterans mewithoutYou brought an entirely different vibe to Slim's. The band released their first EP in 2000, which gives you a sense of how long they've been around. Unfortunately, I didn't know the band before the show, but anyone could tell that the crowd was digging the throwback. More art-rock than hardcore, mewithoutYou played with Conor Oberst-esque quivering vocals and a surprisingly clear sound. A roar would rise up with the first few notes of almost every song so I imagine they were playing all the hits.
"A Glass Can Only Spill What It Contains" was a mid-set highlight with its post-punk chorus and half-spoken word, half-sung verse that could have been ripped straight from an Interpol song (or vice versa). I heard all sorts of styles incorporated by vocalist Aaron Weiss — from straight-up screaming to the down-home twang of Kings of Leon. "Nice and Blue" — perhaps the band's loudest song of the night — whipped up a frenzied crowd sing-along with Weiss.
By 10pm, headliners Touché Amoré stepped on stage and launched into their full repertoire of thrashing, melodic emo revival. Pulling mostly from their critically-acclaimed 2013 LP Is Survived By, Touché Amoré was a furious, throat ripping reminder that this so-called #emorevival isn't just a trend. These bands have been toiling, giving it everything they have, for years now. The fact that they're being recognized by Pitchfork and booked for festivals around the country is only a recent development.
It begs the question: is it cool to care again? From the stylish haircuts, to the fashionable clothes, the crowd sing-alongs, the mosh pits, the smiles and thank you's from the band, it is hard to argue that anyone at the show didn't care passionately about this revival. Music critics often argue that the trend is due to the emo generation growing older and putting themselves in positions of power, and then hawking and promoting nostalgia. I'm not fully buying it.
Today, we're stuck with a depressed economy and more hopelessness than ever in recent history (at least within the Bush-era, change was a real possibility). This generation is working harder than ever to succeed and getting rejected left and right. Wages are stagnant, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. It's not a pleasant picture. So are we surprised when a genre that celebrates passion and failure rises to prominence again? It's an inward passion — Touché Amoré makes that much clear — but you know what never rejects you? This music. No matter how shitty and confused anyone might feel, if you give it a try, this music will be there right beside you, pumping effort into despair. These days, it can seem like there's precious little else to hold onto.