with the Farewell Bend and Fura

Chapel Hill, NC • January 28, 1999

If I had remembered to bring my camera to the show, I certainly would have tried to frame the club’s behind-stage backdrop: a striking velvet Elvis, a basketball hoop, and a large screen TV. Why were all those things juxtaposed behind the stage of a punk dive? Well, this wasn’t a punk dive, it was a sports bar.

The show was originally supposed to be at Go Rehearsal, but Go was forced to cancel all shows for a while, apparently by order of the local authorities. So, the sports bar did Go a favor and hosted the show, which made for a strange scene, but was really cool of them. Since I was a couple hours early, I entertained myself by eavesdropping on some of the regular patrons’ conversations. As the soundman did his thing and bands and fans milled about, it was great to listen to the comments of people who would never think of entering a punk club. Needless to say, most of them took off when the music started. Not that there was a bad vibe at all, just neat and interesting.

Local band Fura started things off with a long set of long, emo-like, loud/quiet songs. I wasn’t too into them, but most people there seemed at least mildly interested. They seemed well rehearsed. Once they finally finished their set and broke down, the Farewell Bend wasted no time in laying into the rock.

The FWB are a collection of Midwest emo heroes from the dearly departed Giant’s Chair and Boy’s Life. San Diego-based Boilermaker’s bass player was added when John Rejba left the FWB a few months ago. Considering that this show was one of the first with the new lineup, things went really well.

I was pretty amazed at how Brandon Butler’s vocals sounded live. I’ve never been a big fan of the way his vocals are effected on record, but live they were full and up front, allowing the great natural tone of his voice to shine through. Unfortunately, their set was interrupted twice by a bad power connection, once during the opening song and once during a new song with a great doubled vocal. Musically, these guys sound, well, like a combination of Giant’s Chair and Boy’s Life, just catchier. What strikes me most about the FWB is Paul Ackerman’s drumming. The best rock drummers don’t rely on racks of toms to make their music; they create with the bass, snare, and hi hat. (Can anyone say Bill Ward?) This is what Ackerman does, and his beats give the songs rocking forward momentum.

Bluetip headlined the evening with a set of material that drew heavily from their new record. There were only two songs from their breakthrough Dischord No. 101 . The new stuff came off pretty well live. They were definitely a bit looser than when I saw them a couple years ago. I think this can be attributed to their latest drummer, who lends effortless smoothness to the band’s dynamic. Bluetip are definitely getting into a bit more experimentation, especially with the guitar sounds. Guitarist Dave Stern played through a pretty impressive buffet of pedals and was doing things like strumming beneath the bridge on one song. They mostly stick to pounding out the rock though, which I think is their forte. As usual, Jason Farrel’s vocals were smooth and on target.

Even with the last minute change in venue, the rock would not be denied.

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