Six months from now, you’re going to seriously regret not being at Chain Reaction last Sunday. In a showcase of California’s best young offerings, the small venue hosted four bands on the verge of being scene staples, headlined by Sacramento’s A Lot Like Birds and their latest addition, ex-Dance Gavin Dance vocalist Kurt Travis. With support from friends I The Mighty and SoCal’s own Culprit and I Am Cassettes, anyone smart enough to attend the show left understanding why I consider each band to be on the cusp of stardom.
Any band drawing comparisons to The Receiving End Of Sirens and Envy On The Coast has some serious shoes to fill. Fortunately, Los Angeles’ Culprit is more than up to the task. Playing every song off their new EP, Analogue, the band showed their knack for writing catchy transitions into big choruses in front of the intimate crowd. Whether it was the midtempo “Decimals & Fractions” or their single, “Sirens,” each song hit hard, perfectly emulating their album versions. Vocalist/guitarist Travis Powell is a legitimate star in the making; his fantastic tone is offset by gorgeous falsettos and a strong rasp, giving his melodies the texture needed to differentiate himself from other scene vocalists.
Ontario’s own I Am Cassettes followed next. Playing a set decidedly heavier than the lighter acoustic tunes that comprised their Lovers & Liars EP, the band showed promise, but not nearly the polish of their cohorts. It was clear from the beginning of their set that vocalist Josh Paschke and bassist Kevin Garcia are the focal points; Paschke has long been one of Riverside County’s best kept secrets, while Garcia showed incredibly technicality throughout each track. Despite the talent, the guitars could have been louder and more defined, as they lacked a signature sound or any memorable riffs or licks. Drummer Darren Garcia’s backing vocals were a pleasant surprise, supplementing Paschke’s well in near frontman-quality. Songs like “The Exit” show that the pieces are there, though it will take
Though I The Mighty was completely new to me, their recent signing with Equal Vision Records was completely justified by their set. Showing as much Circa Survive as Say Anything, the band’s unique style comes as a welcome addition to an often drab scene. Despite only promoting the single “Cutting Room Floor,” the audience rocked out to the music as if they’ve been owned the songs their whole life. Keeping the theme of the night going, the lead vocals and harmonies from Brent Walsh and Chris Hinkely were top notch. After they left the stage, I mentally noted their upcoming album Karma Never Sleeps as one of my most-anticipated this fall.
Ah, the headliner. Despite a catalog consisting of one EP (with an entirely different roster) and one leaked demo, plenty of people came out to see what A Lot Like Birds had in store. Armed with new vocalist Kurt Travis, the band played a set of largely new songs, including said demo “Tantrum (Far From The Tree, The Apple Grew Rotten).” Describing the band’s new style is near impossible; with four instrumentalists and two vocalists, the band proceeded to play a chaotically awesome set. If any Plan B track displayed any hint of what is to come, it’s “When The Wolf Is Counting Sheep,” with swift pace changes into big riffs and killer screams. Travis and vocal partner Cory Lockwood demanded your attention at all times, whether through trading cleans and screams or subtle harmonies. The complexity of the instrumentals were outrageous, constantly changing speeds and tones in a way that begs for repeated listenings. It should come as no surprise that A Lot Like Birds is still my favorite to save post-hardcore, and I anxiously await the chance to hear more.