The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
featuring Animal Flag and Rozwell Kid
November 9, 2017 @ Middle East
By: Caroline Smith
Okay, I’ll be honest. I don’t really “get” emo as a genre, in any way, at all. I’m not saying I haven’t tried, but it’s 2017, and we’re not in the ‘90s. It’s not the same now as with the pioneers of the genre, and usually, I can’t be bothered. Regardless, I’m a firm believer that every genre has something to offer and that no conventions are inherently bad in all of their different recreations. This is mostly because I never want to end up accidentally sounding like the “I’ll listen to anything but rap and country” people. This in mind, I went to see The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die with an entirely open mind, but still, admittedly, not expecting much.
The first opener, Boston natives Animal Flag, plays music that strikes the medium between really-aggressive-music-that-I-don’t-usually-listen-to and a pretty typical indie rock sound. The band is a pretty standard composition: Frontman on guitar, as well as a second guitarist, bass player, and drummer. To me, it’s a little stranger to reconcile one of the guitarists in a Chance the Rapper hat with their intermittently harsh sound, but turn up for God, I guess. They’re not one of the worst openers I’ve seen lately, but they’re definitely not one of my favorites – however, I’ll admit this is a totally personal preference rather than an indication of how talented they actually are. In the moments when they slowed it down, frontman Matthew Politoski’s voice sounds tonally similar to Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, which I appreciated as a big Pavement fan.
My biggest complaint is that their music was really disjointed. A lot of times, I enjoy this kind of affect, since it keeps my attention from wandering and keeps the sound fresh, but Animal Flag jerked me back and forth between a more relaxed sound and something closer to metal. This left their songs feeling less like alternative rock and a little more like dubstep, complete with the corny drops. Overall though, it was a decent show, and Animal Flag does a good job getting the crowd excited for the next two acts.
West Virginia-based band Rozwell Kid filled the spot of opener #2, and I ended up enjoying their set a lot more than I was expecting considering the two or three songs I’d heard before the concert weren’t really my style. They were a bit more sonically inventive than Animal Flag, but nothing unbelievably exciting – it’s still all fairly standard-sounding for the genre. They seemed like they were having a really good time on stage, which isn’t always what you get with performers, though I personally prefer that over sadly droning into the mic like music isn’t supposed to be, like, fun or whatever. Throughout the show, they took off their guitars and flailed around the stage, and frontman Jordan Hudkins almost couldn’t stop talking to the audience…to the point where I might have liked him to. There are a couple awkward attempts at engaging the crowd that fell entirely flat, where Hudkins would try his hand at a “call-and-response” type interaction that merited no response.
Regardless, the set was overall enjoyable. Rozwell Kid proved to be a band I’d much rather see live than listen to recorded, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the new age of music where touring makes much more money than selling music, they might be onto something. Luckily for them, the audience seemed to think so as well, as it was clearly observable that a sizable amount of people came out just for Rozwell Kid. Their set amassed the largest crowd of the night, although it only lost a few members before the final act took stage: The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.
Apart from having the longest band name that I’ve ever typed, TWIABP (you can’t make me type that again) also has one of the largest on-stage bands that I’ve ever seen. I had to count multiple times to make sure that, no, I wasn’t crazy, that really was nine total people up on the tiny Middle East Downstairs stage, in addition to TWIABP’s six current official band members. A large band like this always reminds me of the seven members of Los Campesinos!, who similarly make for a concert where your eyes always have somewhere to watch, even when you’re me and a common concert occurrence for your 5’5’’ self is to have your line of sight blocked by much taller people standing in front of you.
With nine members, I could always see something, and there was a lot of something going on: the band included guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, saxophone, keyboard, and what was maybe a synth. Katie Dvorak was the one woman on stage, an official member of the band for backing vocals and keyboard, and I found it easy to pick her voice out of the mix throughout the show, since it was pretty and notably female. She became one of my highlights for the night, as well as watching the trumpet player and saxophone player. Since those aren’t instruments you usually see at a concert of this genre (or ever – I don’t think I’ve genuinely ever seen a saxophone at a show), this keeps my attention pretty well.
Notably, frontman Josh Cyr was actually the person who interested me the least of the group, and even more notably, this kind of added to the show for me. A lot of times, I feel like the main vocalist of the show ends up stealing the spotlight, but this didn’t happen here at all. I ended up really enjoying a show where there wasn’t any one person who was contributing the most. Instead, the sound existed as an amalgamation of all of the different tones and elements of each instrument and voice.
Since (confession) I’ve barely listened to TWIABP since 2013’s Whenever, If Ever, and they played a decent number of songs from their 2017 album Always Foreign (which I unfortunately didn’t get that into), so there were a lot of songs I didn’t recognize. However, the ones I could name were ‘I’ll Make Everything,’ ‘Gram,’ ‘Heartbeat in the Brain,’ ‘Dillon and her Son,’ ‘Getting Sodas,’ and ‘I Can Be Afraid of Everything.’ Now that I think about it, this makes for a lot of the word “everything.” I seemed to be the only one who was lost, though, since there were more people singing along than I usually see at shows.
Jumping off of that, it’s worth mentioning that the crowd at this concert was a particularly fun bunch – there was even a tiny mosh pit that formed in the front which I deliberately choose to stay far away from, since my personal idea of fun doesn’t involve letting a group of mostly men physically push me around. However, I enjoyed being an observer, not only of the mosh pit, but also of the people behind it still bobbing their heads and tapping their feet. At a lot of concerts I go to, not even this occurs, as people just kind of stand there moping into their PBRs. This is fine, of course, but I think I prefer a crowd where people at least make it look like they’re listening a little bit. It’s certainly a compliment to TWIABP that they were able to get people going, but it might also just be that I am entirely unfamiliar with concerts of this genre, since I don’t think I’ve really been to a concert where the word ‘emo’ could be applied to in any way since I was 14.
Overall, I really enjoyed the night. Each act engaged me in its own way by all having something different and specific to offer. In fact, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this night. It was one of the first cold days, and honestly, I much more wanted to just stay home and watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend rather than hop on two different MBTA trains to Cambridge just to stand in a dark room for three hours straight, and then wake up for work again at 6:00 am. But, as it goes, sometimes things work out. I had fun, I’ll admit it – can anyone really ask for more from a show than that?