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.