If you’ve read any of the online comment sections surrounding the release of Inviting Light, the latest full-length from The Flatliners, you’re no doubt aware that critics of the band feel they lost a couple miles (or is it kilometers?) per hour off their collective fastball. Let this be yet another lesson to you as to why it is never, ever a good idea to read the comments; let it be known that The Flats still slay.
As the northeastern US leg of their Inviting Light tour wound down, the band found themselves headlining a sold-out Sunday night show at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The band kicked off their hour-plus set with “Mammals,” the slow burning lead track from Inviting Light, and seemed to have the capacity crowd hooked from the first notes. I’m not entirely certain if the band finds that reassuring, but I know that I do personally, given the amount of love I have for Inviting Light and the prevailing chatter about the band’s first non-Fat Wreck release in a decade. The quarters at upstairs at the Middle East are cramped and hot and sweaty when the venue is sold out, but the crowd was in high-energy motion by the time the crescendo built to the first chorus in “Mammals,” resulting in the first stage dive attempt of the night (albeit not an overly successful one).
The band tore through a seventeen-song main set that was pretty equally representative of their recent catalog, with four or five songs each from Inviting Light and it’s two immediate predecessors (2010’s Cavalcade and 2013’s Dead Language), though the two song encore consisting of “He Was A Jazzman” and “Shithawks” ultimately tipped the scales in Cavalcade‘s favor. Frontman Chris Cresswell’s voice sounds just as snarly and aggressive as ever when he wants it to, though he’s really pushed himself as a singer in more recent years. A lot of times in the live show of a rather dynamic band, you’ll find the bass player locked in to his spot at the drummer’s side allowing whoever is singing or playing guitar (or both) to roam and wander, both literally and musically. That’s not the case in The Flatliners, as the rhythm section of Paul Ramirez (drums) and Jon Darbey (bass) exhibit little in the way of interplay on stage yet remain more musically locked in the vast majority of their counterparts, making it look both infectiously fun and frustratingly easy in the process. Cresswell and lead guitarist Scott Brigham have grown immensely as guitar players over the years as their sonic palettes have expanded, and they too seem to bounce off each other in effortless, symbiotic ways. Much has been made of this being the year that not only do all the band’s members turn thirty (which boggles the mind) but the year that the band itself turns fifteen (which causes the mind to explode, Scanners-style), giving the band a well-earned reputation as valiant road warriors. If Sunday’s show — and specifically the crowd reaction — at the Middle East was any indication, they may actually just be hitting their stride now, which is a pretty inspiring thing.
Direct support on this entire tour was provided by Pkew Pkew Pkew and Red City Radio‘s Garrett Dale, the latter doing the solo troubadour thing. We’ve been big fans of the four handsome Torontonian Pkew fellas since their self-titled debut album was initially released a year ago on Royal Mountain Records a year ago, so news not only of their spot opening for the Flatliners but the more recent announcement of their having signed with SideOneDummy Records has made for pretty exciting times. The band’s live show is just as fun and high energy and handsome (did we mention handsome?) as their album is, and even though a lot of the songs might be straight-forward jams about hanging out and drinking beers, don’t let that fool you; these dudes can really, seriously play. There’s a camaraderie between not only the individual band’s members but really between all the members of this two-week East Coast jaunt, with the Flats, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Garrett Dale making frequent references to the good times they’ve been having on this trip. Dale is another classic example of not letting the occasionally straight-forward nature of the songwriting fool you; in the solo format, he’s got a gravelly voice that is full of the kind of heartbreaking soul guys like Chuck Ragan and Tom Waits have made their hallmarks, and it forces you to take notice whether he’s singing about lost love or seeing a dead body or, well, the devil’s weed.
Local support on this show came by way of Dan Webb and The Spiders. DWaTS are one of those local bands that I’m sure most scenes might have that really should be bigger than they are. The four-piece rock-and-roll band plays hard and fast, a not-quite-punk-rock but also not-quite-90’s-alternative vibe that cuts across genres and makes them a perfect fit on a fairly wide range of bills, especially on one as varied as this particular show. One of these days, DWaTS…one of these days…
Check out our full photo gallery below. While you’re at it, the Flatties recently announced a set of West Coast tour dates around the US and Canada. They will be accompanied by The Smith Street Band, up until It’s Not Dead Fest. They are also adding a few dates to the end of July, in Canada, supporting Sum 41. Check out all the dates here.