Throwback Thursday: Alexisonfire, La Dispute, Four Years Strong and Norma Jean

Alexisonfire Ottawa 2010
Photo by Stephen McGill taken at Capital Music Hall in Ottawa, December 11th, 2010

Photo by Stephen McGill

I was feeling nostalgic this morning as an Alexisonfire song came on my iPod. They are a band that comepletely changed my outlook on music and I loved them more than any other band since I fell in love with Nirvana as a kid. I had to dig deep into my vault of unpublished reviews and found this one from December 2010. I still miss this band very much.

With the sound of violins and drums from the baroque period, Alexisonfire, a band once considered screamo, brought their newfound hardcore sound to Ottawa.

Opening with a portion of “Vex,” an instrumental track from their latest EP Dog’s Blood they flowed seamlessly into hit single “Young Cardinals.”  They began the show all business, not their usually chatty selves.  But mid-way through the set they broke into “We are the Sound,” which finally prompted frontman, George Pettit, to address the crowd.

“Nation’s capital let me hear you sing along to this one, let me hear you repeat after me!” And they did. The crowd never stopped singing, on a night which had Phil Collins tunes playing beforehand to set the mood, Alexisonfire singing happy birthday to friend “Bruno” on stage and later covering Midnight Oil’s “The Dead Heart.”

Alexisonfire only played tracks off their two latest albums, Young Cardinals and Crisis, as well as a track off of Dog’s Blood. This was surely a result of the decision the band made to no longer have Petite scream, instead adopting a more hardcore style vocals.  Just when I thought they had totally abandoned their old stuff, they delivered with the song that started it all for most fans “Pulmonary Archery” and “Accidents” in the encore.  Kicking off the encore was an amazing rendition of “The Northern,” in which Dallas Green launched into a portion of the old blues classic “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying.”

The best band of the night not named Alexisonfire was Grand Rapids’ La Dispute, who unfortunately were the very first act and therefore had limited playing time.  The band kind of has the sound of old-school At the Drive-in, with powerful lyrics of yearning and questioning intentions.  The very strong lyrical content is a plus in a genre where it’s often lacking. Lead singer Jordan Dreyer is constantly jumping all over the place as he tears through his fast-paced singing. They are a definite must-see and are wasted as an opening act.

Hitting the stage after the opener was Four Year Strong from Massachusetts.  The band blends four different singing voices into their Pop-core act (Pop-core is hardcore music with pop-punk vocals).  They delivered a very fun-filled set full of energy and movement, which was impressive to see as the three guitars and keys run around while playing their instruments.  They played a lot of music off their new album Enemy of the World. Guitarist and vocalist Dan O’Connor told the crowd that the band’s very first tour was with The Fully Down, “an amazing band from Ottawa, and that is still to this day the best tour we ever had.”

Rounding out the bill was veterans of the metal-core scene, Norma Jean.  They had almost as much crowd interaction (requesting claps, bull horns, hands and fists in the air, movement…) as they played music.  Lead singer, Cory Brandan, egged on the crowd saying “you guys are loud but motionless, did you all take your Tylenol PM before coming tonight?”  Every song the band played came off a different album and they closed out their set with “Memphis will be laid to rest” dedicated to all their “old-school fans.”