So 2013 is drawing to a close, and what a tumultuous year it was for music. Empires rose and fell; people plumbed the depths of human depravity and consummate professionals returned to reclaim their rightful place at the mountaintop. Some of the greatest albums in history were released, and some not so much. Bands broke up and were reformed, members changed and the whole thing was just a crazy mess of everything.
Among all this ridiculous kerfuffle, however, the greatest live band I’ve had the privilege to witness (four times, in fact) ceased to exist. I’m referring, of course, to The Chariot. Now, before all of you jump up and down and scream “Objection!”, let me finish, for God’s sake. Yes, I’ve seen The Dillinger Escape Plan and letlive. and The Chariot are better, but not necessarily for the reasons you think. Let’s dive in, as The Chariot would, headfirst…
Josh Scogin left Norma Jean in 2003 and started up another math band that sounded literally exactly the same as the ‘Jean. They developed a fanatical cult following in the States, but it wasn’t until they came to Australia in 2011 on a co-headliner with Oh, Sleeper that I fully understood them.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but I considered them a poor man’s Norma Jean. I’d only heard their albums, and they were astoundingly hit and miss. Sure, they had the odd good song like “Daggers”, “Yanni Depp” and “Teach”, but realistically, they didn’t have the captivating aura that NJ or TDEP possessed, and so I awaited the release of Long Live the way one awaits the arrival of Kevin Rudd – not at all.
I bought tickets to see them, because I was and still am a huge Oh, Sleeper fan but by the end of the night, I was wearing a Chariot shirt and holding three of their CDs because oh sweet baby Jesus. I had no idea what to expect, but it sure as hell wasn’t that. Not only were they incredibly cool to hang out with (I spent about 15 minutes chatting to Josh Scogin after their set about the energy of their performance and he was both humble and generous with his time), but they just slayed live. I also found the now-infamous “pear/house party” video from Perth, which you need to see.
Eight months later, The Chariot announced a string of four shows on the east coast. I dragged three friends along to the Wyong show. I received a concussion and a chipped tooth in the first ten seconds of the show, and my friends received similar treatment. We all saw them again two days later and we all brought friends along to this one. Suffice to say I could barely walk afterwards, but again, the band made a special effort to stay and talk to all of us even though they were due to play a show on the other side of Sydney in under an hour.
The point I’m trying to make is that the men in The Chariot made you feel like family, and they gave every single fibre of energy they had in their bodies because you were family to them. I still get goosebumps when I see videos of them live and Josh begins by saying “They call us The Chariot. We call ourselves free.”
It has been said that music unites people despite language barriers: race, gender, age, geographical location, what have you. I believe that’s true, and it’s at its most potent during live concerts. Men become brothers in mosh pits, and I have never seen a band unite people like The Chariot did. One of my best friends is the biggest pop-punk fan girl I’ve ever met, but she’s a huge Chariot fan because of their live show. Every single one of my friends who saw them play had previously, like me, seen them as kind of cool but nothing special.
Their live show changed that perception in a palpable, almost religious way. They just had this aura that made you feel like you’d known them for years, and yet this was juxtaposed by the sheer violence of their performance. I saw them was back in February at a sideshow for Soundwave 2013. They were opening a show for Bring Me the Horizon and Pierce the Veil, and they were kicked off stage after 15 minutes because they decided to drag the kit out on the floor and set up there. The curtains went down, the sound was cut and the lights came on, but the unity they’d sown was so thick you could chew it. It manifested in the attendees hoisting them onto their shoulders and carrying them back to the stage, cheering them like conquering heroes. I genuinely felt as though I was being suffocated by the atmosphere in a dew-misted field, being gently lit by the morning sun. It was the oddest sensation I’ve ever felt, but that’s the only way to describe it. I was simultaneously consumed and freed by the vibe in the room.
I had no idea that was the last time I’d ever see them.
Bands break up. It happens every day. However, the demise of The Chariot was different. The world lost a true gift that day, a gift that I was fortunate enough to witness on multiple occasions. The Chariot united people in a way I’ve never seen before or since, and I’ve attended almost seventy (70) concerts in just the last two years. In some ways, it was the best possible way to exit. They had released One Wing, the first album they ever produced that was consistently enjoyable for its entire run time. They were at the top of their game and they knew it. Perhaps they had decided that it was better to leave on a high than risk a slump that would sully all their achievements.
For that reason, I will miss The Chariot, but I do not begrudge them their decision. I liken bands like The Chariot to dogs. Dogs live life hard and with unreserved passion. I feel that this is why dogs generally live to be 15 at the most. A life lived in furious passion is like a bright-burning flame. It illuminates the darkness and enriches everything and everyone it comes into contact with, but it cannot sustain this vigor for long. The Chariot were a gift, and a reminder to appreciate the good things in life, for they do not last forever.
Long Live The Chariot
Make sure to check out Brian Hall Photography for some fantastic Chariot shots.