I’ve seen the Appleseed Cast (or the Cast as some of us call them) upwards of 30 times now; I lost exact count in my mid 20s somewhere between the El Torreon, the Hurricane, the Jackpot Saloon and now the Riot Room. I’ve now officially been following the band longer than 3/4ths of the members were even playing with Chris Crisci, the lone founding member still left.
As the group gets younger and skinnier, I get older and, well, skinnier also (I realize that’s not a very good binary I’m running here). Older lineups of the group, namely the one that recorded and toured on Low Level Owl have long since passed out of memory in the way that many of the band’s peers have. To the young fans in big glasses, skinny jeans, covered in ornate bird tattoos, one nameless member is probably the same as another one. Newer groups cop their sound and call it retro or pretend they’re doing something original; most of the time I don’t have the heart to tell them they’re not. It’s not my place to ruin someone’s pipe dream.
It’s amazing I can still get excited about a band I’ve seen so many times. A band that’s changed drummers more often than Van Halen has lead singers (Cobra is still my favorite…). They aren’t the kind of band that really inspires cult obsession as with any number of jam bands, whose fans follow them from town to town expecting a different set list each night. I catch the Cast once, twice or three times a year and have since I was probably a teenager. Their recordings have gone from promising to great to middling to pretty good again. The endless tour that is Chris Crisci’s life seems to know no certain end.
The band meandered through a mostly satisfying set list of old and new material on this night. We got the standards from Low Level Owl that most longtime fans are aching to hear again: “On Reflection,” “Doors Lead to Questions” and “Steps and Numbers.” Then there were the mid-career tracks from Peregrine and Sagarmatha: “Song 3,” “As the Little Things Go” and some others I’m probably forgetting. Several tracks from the band’s surprisingly salient 2011 release, the Middle States EP, were thrown in for good measure, although I’ll confess I don’t know their names yet. Give me another couple years and a few more shows and I’ll have them down.
Near the end of the set the band played an unexpected track from Two Conversations, “Fight Song,” that I hadn’t heard in years. It used to be one of my go-to break-up anthems (This is the end, there’s nothing to keep/This is the end of you and me); this was, of course, at a time in my life when it seemed like there was always a need for that type of angst. One of the first music reviews I did for my college newspaper was about Two Conversations, so the memories are bittersweet as they say. I can still remember having to explain to the editors of the paper what “emo” was. They finally made me scrap the term in favor of “emotional.”
Well, there you have it. My ears are ringing as they always do after seeing Crisci and his revolving door of “cast” members. I’m getting older and the band is somehow getting younger. It’s one of the rules of indie rock and emo I think; you must stay young to be relevant. Or in Crisci’s case, you must play the songs you did when you were young.
NOTE: Muscle Worship opened up the night, featuring current Cast drummer and sometimes Ad Astra Arkestra drummer Nathan Wilder. Blood Birds, featuring a scaled down version of Ad Astra Per Aspera/Ad Astra Arkestra members, were the second opener.