a Saturday night
and hundreds of kids dressed in black are somewhere they aren’t
supposed to be.
These kids, all members of a growing movement of intelligent and
appreciative music fans, have foregone the parties and social events
of their peers once again and have effectively forged a new definition
of ‘cool’ that applies absolutely to the teenage fans
in the long line snaking around Saltair last Saturday, Oct. 25.
To the members of this movement, the definition of cool provides
that emotions are OK as long as they’re sincere, that words
can mean so much more when screamed and that, well, black just looks
At the forefront of the movement is an Island Records/Equal Vision
effort that is, perhaps, the most important tour going on in America
today. The irony is that this tour consists of bands you most likely
have never heard of: Thursday, Thrice and Coheed and Cambria.
Artists like Geoff Rickly—the small, unassuming powerhouse
lead singer for Island Records’ up-and-comers Thursday—uphold
These fans are predominantly young—at the Saltair venue there
were no more than 30 people in the 21-and-over section—and
include as many girls as boys. They carry chips on their shoulders,
hearts on their sleeves and more pierced lips than you can shake
a stick at. Much as grunge was a response to the musical decay of
the late 1980s and early ’90s, these fans’ favorite
artists are composing music today with heart and soul to occupy
the vacuum that was responsible for such new-millennium pre-fab
crap as Creed and the Backstreet Boys.
And these fans are all, unwittingly or not, members of a rapidly
growing movement in music set to explode onto the mainstream.
The Touring Bands Waiting
to Break Out
New York City’s Coheed and Cambria is a thrashing mix of progressive
hardcore attached to lead singer Claudio Sanchez’s Rush-like
voice. The band’s two albums to date, Second Stage Turbine
Blade and 2003’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 are
eviscerating concept albums, all centered on the band’s mind-bending
global perspective. These CDs have helped establish Coheed and Cambria
as one of the most innovative and ambitious bands around.
Coheed and Cambria is, consequently, one of the least-known names
on the lineup. It’s also the only band on the tour not signed
to Island and, fittingly enough, is the only band on the tour with
a van—not a Prevost tour bus.
While Sanchez is hesitant to expound upon the messages proposed
on his albums—“No one is really going to get it. I’m
not sure they’re supposed to,” he said in an interview
after his set—he is clear on one thing: The band’s music
is open to interpretation.
Sanchez says that, while he has his head well around the content
of his albums, it is not necessary for all Coheed and Cambria fans
to have such an understanding.
And, with the auspicious saga that is unfolding within the minds
of the band members, it would hardly seem fair to make music that
wasn’t open to interpretation.
The first album was the second installment—and the third the
fourth—in the story of Coheed and Cambria, the title characters
in the band’s saga that is never absolutely defined.
But, regardless of the innumerable readings of the band’s
ideas, its music makes listeners think.
“It’s leave-in conditioner,” members of the band
Sanchez believes that while all Coheed and Cambria’s albums
are cerebral, the multiple levels of interpretation are not necessarily
something the band sets out to create.
“For new listeners [the new record] is not something we like
to present as, ‘Oh, listen to this record as a concept record,’”
Sanchez said. “If you find a secret meaning in the record,
look on our message board…Sometimes I post explanations there
so kids can draw conclusions.”
Savvy listeners will draw the conclusion that Coheed and Cambria’s
music is some of the headiest, most progressive music being performed
today. Coheed and Cambria’s soaring vocals and metal breakdowns
are played by a band who will, unflinchingly, cite Pink Floyd and
The Police as some of its influences.
Coheed and Cambria’s stage show is magnificent, as Sanchez’s
floppy mop of hair occupies what seems like 10 square feet of space
around his head while the tiniest, most powerful of voices comes
out of the most unlikely of people. The band is an enigmatic and
energetic machine that ought to be taken seriously.
The headlining band on the tour—with more potential for commercial
success than Coheed and Cambria—is Geoff Rickly-fronted New
Jersey band Thursday. The band is a screamingly sincere mix of cultural
and emotional concern whose first two efforts, Waiting and Full
Collapse on Impact, were collections of songs about betrayal, love,
deceit and redemption.
Rickly really stepped into some new and scary personal territory
for the band’s third album, this year’s War All the
Borrowed from a reference poet/writer Charles Bukowski made to love
(and also, arguably, one of the bleaker anti-war motivations in
recent memory), the album and its ultrapersonal subject matter is
very representative of the movement the band belongs to. Thursday’s
members are self-aware, socially concerned Joy Division fans spearheading—whether
or not they know it—a revolution.
Just as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana ushered out Poison and White Snake,
Geoff Rickly and Thursday stand poised to usher out Staind and Papa
Thursday’s live show is a call to arms for the soldier-like
fans in attendance. Opening with the acerbic social critique, “For
the Work force, Drowning,” the show played at Saltair shifted
on the weight of Rickly’s broken-down rendition of “This
Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb” and included past fan
favorites as “Paris in Flames and Jet Black New Year.”
If Coheed and Cambria is the experimental, on-the-fringe band on
the tour, then Thrice is the counterbalance—a well-defined,
radio-friendly, hardcore metal fusion that is the likely, and rightful,
heir to the angst-ridden throne previously occupied by lame-o bands
like P.O.D. and Godsmack.
Think Finch, but heavier, with a better record label and steadier
rotation on MTV (Buzzworthy for a little while there). Thrice is
a necessary, popular addition to what is otherwise a very cutting-edge
Directly prior to Thursday’s show, I saw Rickly and in the
course of the ensuing informal conversation, understood what it
was that draws these disenfranchised, underage fans to dark clubs
on a Saturday night: accessibility.
Rickly’s voice had been troubling him for the past few shows,
and when asked about it, Rickly opened up with the kind of aplomb
that can only come from honesty. Rickly—and only he and maybe
two other rock stars could pull this off without seeming unnervingly
weird—gave me a hug, not a handshake, at the end of the conversation
and proceeded to rock the house down. Accessibility—and integrity.
All the bands on this tour are making a career out of empathy. Artists
like Rickly explode on stage and on albums with the kind of outrage
and despair born of a greater subcultural awareness. Effectively,
these artists understand their fan base so well because they are
just like the fans themselves.