Norma Jean, The Receiving End of Sirens, Moneen
Orlando, Fl. • May 1, 2007
The last time Thrice came through Central Florida, they were one of the headliners on the massive Taste of Chaos tour. The time before that, they sold out a top-billing tour at the House of Blues weeks in advance.
So tell me, why were they suddenly booked to play The Club at Firestone – a venue that can cram only 1,000 or so bodies inside? Whether it was scheduling constraints or wanting to bring the intimacy back to their shows, it was one of those good ideas that didn’t quite turn out as great as they might have hoped.
An early door time found hundreds of us lined up in the sunny streets of downtown Orlando. Forty-five minutes of standing in line next to “fuckin’ high school emo kids” – as the solo concert goer in front of me called the majority of the early arrivers – was not a great omen. Arriving inside and finding it already shoulder-to-shoulder and discovering a flimsy little security barricade at the foot of the stage (too flimsy to allow photographers inside, but more on that later), I did not feel very hopeful for a positive outcome on the evening.
Opening act Moneen play a progressive blend of emo pop. It was a dreamy, heartfelt delving into one’s soul that sways between quiet sappy and guitar buzzing screamy. Similar in sound and style, The Receiving End of Sirens played another drawn set of feedback and songs that all sound the same. These guys are attempting to elevate themselves into the epic side of the genre, but after three viewings of this band, I’ve yet to see them pull themselves out of the puddle of mundane.
Norma Jean draw a crowd almost as large as Thrice’s. They’ve done Ozzfest and toured with all the big metalcore acts. For the type of new metalcore they play, they do it with the best of them. It was during their set that the audience began churning and testing the bounds of the barricade. Ironically, since I was not allowed into the security pit because it would have been “unsafe,” I was left to fend for myself in the midst of the developing chaos, camera in hand. This may not mean much to you, but until you’ve tried to take clean, crisp photos of a poorly lit band 25 feet away in the middle of a pit of sweaty, smelly teenage boys, you don’t understand what a damper this can put on your evening. It’s hard to enjoy the music when you’re too busy watching your back and face for flying fists.
I stuck it out to await the headliners. I’ve gone back and forth about Thrice. The first time I saw them, I was bored, and I left early. The second time was right after Vheissu came out, and they had pissed off a good portion of their audience by steering away from screamo and into Radiohead territory. It was an outdoor performance, and the sun was setting, and I had to shoot the bands scheduled to follow them, so I had no choice but to stay the whole set. By the time they played the bone-chilling “Red Sky,” something clicked, and I found myself moved. Since that night, I’ve been waiting to catch them again and see if it was a fluke or if I am a Thrice convert.
As soon as the curtain parted on the dimly lit stage, the whole evening became a blur. The crowd turned up the madness; every security guard in the place crammed past me and into the barricade, which was on the verge of collapse. Crowd surfers caught big waves, fists and feet were flying, and Thrice started off aggressive by playing the anthemic “Image of the Invisible.” It was a different environment jacked up with testosterone and angst, and the serenity I had discovered in Thrice previously was not present that evening.
To me, Thrice are a schizophrenic band that change each time the wind blows. This night was for the frat boys and emo kids, not for me. Still, I’d see them again and hope for the other side of their personality … and for a stronger barricade.