Upstaged by the support act

Sometimes I wish life was like a sitcom. You know the average sitcom setup for a scene:

Character A enters Room
Character A: You’ll never guess what happened to me
Group who happen to be friends look surprised before shouting simultaneously at Character A: What?
Character A then says something somewhat funny yet painfully forgettable.

That would be awesome.

My experience of Russian Circles could be described similarly.

Me: God I love Russian Circles
Group: Yeah, but they’re like not as good as These Arms are Snakes and stuff
Me: Get fucked.

Russian Circles are a very very good band. Seriously good. They’re so good, I’d seriously consider watching Eastern Promises again as long as the soundtrack was provided by Russian Circles. God that’s a terrible film.

You see, the thing that makes the band so so good is their live sound. You’ll go a long way, listen to a lot of live bands and still not come across a live sound as coherent, entertaining and just generally brilliant as theirs.

The thing about ‘instrumental rock music’ is that when it’s done properly, it really can be awe inspiring. To do it in the studio is one thing, but to put it all together live is quite another. Bands that I admire greatly all too often leave me tremendously disappointed upon seeing them live. It’s very hard to gain a better impression of an act from a live performance.

Russian Circles seem to do the opposite. Let’s get this straight: Before seeing them live, I thought they were great. Despite being from a slightly congested genre, they seem innovative and genuinely exciting. After seeing them live, they’re now rivalling Yndi Halda in the Simon Harrington favourite band stakes. They were, absolutely superb.

Their set is somewhat predictable. You know that they’re just going to run through material from Station. To their credit, they mix it up a little but you pretty much know what you’re going to get before you even get it. No complaints here though. Why mess around with something that works so well?

After the excitement of Russian Circles comes a distinct lull in the shape of These Arms are Snakes. They’re a quarter the same and yet so painfully and disappointingly different.

My flatmate: So where are these guys from?
Me: I dunno. Boston? Seattle? Some place like that
My flatmate: So they’re not from Brighton?
Me: No. They’re definitely American.
My flatmate: So they actually came all the way from America to play despite the fact that they are, let’s face it, quite boring.
Me: Fancy another beer?

There are two major problems with These Arms are Snakes. One is very addressable, the other, regrettably, is not. The first is front man Steve Snere. Steve Snere is like an annoying little child who will do anything for attention. His writhing around and ‘party party’ attitude is commendable if somewhat, well actually incredibly fake. At one point during the show he decides to climb onto a corner amp before proceeding to try and cram himself into an impossibly small crevice of which the Borrowers would be hard pressed to fill. Obviously he wants to entertain, but he fails miserably.

You can’t really explain what it is they are trying to achieve musically. Post-hardcore I suppose, but they never really end up anywhere. The songs are relatively samey and get you get the feeling that Snere’s antics are there to mask this fact. They do, however, have a decent repertoire covering all their albums and perform what I believe to be relatively limited material more than adequately. Their sound and delivery is much the same to Russian Circles.

Their set is slightly unfamiliar to me, although my attention is more focussed on what Snere will do next to make a tit of himself than anything else. He jumps into the back room and dances around for a bit before realising that no one (except me) is looking at him and saunters back on stage. No one seems impressed. It all turns into a blur and soon as it ends I step outside for a cigarette instead unable to attribute any defining factor to a band who really just passed me by.

Maybe the disappointment in their performance stems from the heights hit by Russian Circles, a band who really shouldn’t be made to live in the shadows of These Arms are Snakes for much longer.