Dance Gavin Dance
with The Contortionist / Hail the Sun / Good Tiger / The White Noise
The Social / Orlando, FL • 10.17.16
by Christopher Long
400 fresh-faced, enthusiastic young people recently packed downtown Orlando’s iconic hotspot, The Social, to witness a spirited hard core / post core / math core / pop core / grind core / prog core collective – a spectacular shredfest that resulted in non-stop shredding vocals, relentless shredding guitars, countless shredded sticks and numerous shredded eardrums.
Possessing the finesse of an awkward 13-year-old school boy struggling to score with that girl in science class, So-Cal’s garage punks, The White Noise, stepped up to the lab table and dropped a spider right down her shirt. While acting pissed, spewing foul language and spitting on the crowd will definitely get you noticed, sometimes you gotta buy candy and flowers in order to close the deal – especially when you’re the opening, opening, opening (opening) act.
Driven by Telecaster-dueling Safety Fire shredders, Dez Nagle and Jo Ardiles, Good Tiger delivered – in spades. The global-based supergroup overcame a dreadful front-of-house mix to serve up savory slices from their debut album, A Head Full of Moonlight – with balls-on precision. Despite being practically inaudible, frontman Elliot Coleman succeeded in connecting with fans and offered a much-needed frequent melody factor to the festivities, while drummer, Alex Rüdinger’s masterful performance provided one of the evening’s shiniest highlights.
To say that West Coast powerhouse, Hail the Sun, faced audio challenges would understate the severity of the situation. In fact, the combo’s set was, in a word – heartbreaking. With veins bulging from his neck, lead vocalist / drummer, Donovan Melero, “urged” sound techs “passionately” to kill the stage monitor wedges umpteen times, as mega-decibel, low-end feedback enveloped the band’s entire mix throughout much of the 40-minute frenetic performance. However, even in the face of tremendous adversity, the recent Warped Tour alumni forged ahead, exuding total professionalism – and with guitarist, Shane Gann, sparkling like a diamond all the way.
There are shredders. There are virtuosos. And then there’s The Contortionist. Oozing mystique, the six-piece ensemble commandeered the night’s proceedings unobtrusively, as an instrumental intro blasted through the P.A. at approximately 10pm – by 10:01, the blackened stage had erupted in a storm of seizure-inducing, strobe-like LED lighting. Best described stylistically (by me) as Pink Floyd-meets-Rush-meets-King Crimson at a Type O Negative revival hosted by Voivod, the dynamic Indiana-based prog purists annihilated the masses with their self-described, unique style of warped time signatures, percussive mathematics and spider-fingered fretwork. Frontman, Mike Lessar, proved a convincing (and compelling) storyteller throughout, while guitarist, Robby Baca, treated fans to his seemingly limitless Gilmore / Fripp-like, shredmaster ability. And for my money, seeing drummer, Joey Baca, that up-close and personal, was well worth the price of admission.
The biggest bummer about the event was the mind-numbingly long switchover time between bands. And as the clock (now) passed 11pm, even Dance Gavin Dance drummer, Matt Mingus, could be seen yawning onstage while prepping for his band’s headline slot. And be sure, these kids from Cali were most definitely the headliner. Near uncontrollable chaos ensued as Dance Gavin Dance (finally) hit the stage. Opening the show with “Chucky vs. the Giant Tortoise,” the six-man battalion stormed through a blazing set – visiting each of their proper studio albums, from the 2007 debut effort, Downtown Battle Mountain to the newly-released record, Mothership. And although dual frontmen Jon Mess and Tilian Pearson connected with the crowd mightily, it was founding guitarist and indie record mogul, Will Swan, who brought the bona fide star power, as the enormous, loveable-looking tan teddy bear shredded his sunburst Les Paul effortlessly from start to finish.