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Taking a year off from something after several years in the game may throw a person off a little bit, especially when they first return to it. And post hardcore veterans Lions Lions are no exception.
Frontman Josh Herzer admits that being on stage, and trying to be as active as he had been the last time the band performed live over a year ago, made him feel like he had run a full marathon. Sunday night (April 30) at Sonia in Cambridge, the rust was slightly visible, but that didn’t stop the band’s chemistry from taking charge and ending the weekend on a good note.
Celebrating their new album, Monument, with a weekend of shows, the Boston-bred quintet brought their mini-tour of New England to a close at the former T.T. The Bear’s Place space, and brought along with them a cast of bands with which they’ve grown through the scene with: Actor|Observer, Too Late The Hero, and Dreamer & Son. The combination of the four bands gave the night a mixed feeling of renewal and nostalgia.
This sense of renewal saw as much of a comeback for Lions Lions as it was a continuation of their career, and it was nostalgic in the sense that it felt like fans were gathering for a Friday night showcase at their local Elks Club, the type of shows where Lions Lions grew their loyal fanbase that had followed them all the way up to the plywood sign that garnishes the doorway of the newest Middle East attachment.
Dreamer & Son started the night off, and while frontman Sayak Das was dealing with an injured foot, he made sure he kicked the groove into high gear quickly, as he and his band wanted to make a splash. The Boston-area quartet ripped through a quick, exciting setlist crafted from original songs (“Cheat”, “Reality/Truth”, “Parked Car”), before taking a quick turn into a cover of The Killers’ “When You Were Young.” They ending their night on a powerful note with “Not One Dry Eye,” a song showing support for those suffering from depression and anxiety. Their set was short-lived, but Dreamer & Son made it count, and set the tone for the rest of the night by working out the venue’s PA system.
Berwick, Maine’s Too Late The Hero followed with a more in-your-face approach to the music. With a six-song set that included “Statement of Purpose,” “DIY Prison Cells,” and “The Big New England Finger,” frontman Jared Wilbur gripped the crowd with a sort of Ed Sheeran-meets-Jeremy McKinnon stage presence, mixing charm and humor one moment with face-melting rock the next. The rhythm was heavy and crunchy, yet fluid and smooth, and the vibe they left in the room as the final notes to “Hold Your Applause” rang out ensured that there would be no settling down once Actor|Observer took the stage.
From the intro of their first song of the night, “Absence,” one thing that was certainly not absent was the energy exuded by Actor|Observer frontman Greg Marquis. The band — our most recent Studio 52 featured artist — two-stepped their way through other tracks including “It’s Always the Weather,” “Steel Yourself,” and “Piece Of Mind,” all the while keeping the crowd moving and engaged, moshing along as Marquis himself took the lead, jumping from the stage and basking in the psychedelic light show that lasted throughout most of their set. Even if Actor|Observer hadn’t brought their a-game to Sonia on Sunday, the one thing that remained clear was that their appreciation for, and connection to their fans runs deeper and more intense than the drag-you-to-hell breakdowns they are so well known for. Going from 60 to 0 in a mere seconds is a tough thing to pull off, but Marquis and company did it with ease, relinquishing the stage to the main event, all the while keeping that crazy energy alive and well.
When Lions Lions finally took the stage, there were no frills, no gimmicks. Just an impromptu jam session that led into their first song of the night, “Killing Your Grace.” What followed was a catalog-spanning set that celebrated the past much as it welcomed the present and future. Taking a few songs from the new record, the band made a monument (pun intended) out of the Sonia stage, and while the performance wasn’t spotless, having to stop the show for a moment to deal with broken guitar strings and ripped pants, the band kept driving. “Between Us,” “Circles,” “I’m Not Afraid,” and “Standby” were plucked from the new album to be played that night, and they sure did not disappoint, showing a growth within the band’s musical abilities while also holding on to the angst that made them so successful in the scene to begin with (see songs like “Milestones” and “Are You Ready To Fly?”).
For Monument being so new, fans impressively already knew the lyrics to the new stuff, and Herzer made sure the crowd got their fair share of the spotlight, bringing the mic into the crowd to sing face-to-face with them a few times. The rhythm never died once, backed by Brandon Davis and Isaac Vigil mixing their hardcore foundation with a funky groove that played off of the rumbling riffs from basisst Chris Pulagrin, and drummer Derek Vautrinot, almost flawlessly.
A significant amount of chaos ensued when they went into their final song of the evening, fan favorite “The Undertow,” but it was all in good fun, as a concert-slash-family reunion came to an explosive end as circle pits broke out, the stage was rushed, and Herzer even shed a little blood for the cause.
It’s a common agreement that the hardcore scene is starting to fade from it’s heyday, and while the crowd that gathered at Sonia on Sunday night wasn’t huge, and a tad disheartening to see, Lions Lions showed the Cambridge crowd that, while they may be only a part-time band at this point, they’re still roaring.
All photos by Jason Greenough; follow him on Twitter @TubbyScoopDunk.