LIVE: Dance Gavin Dance / Veil of Maya / Thousand Below @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

By Mark Johnson

Stylistically, Dance Gavin Dance and Veil of Maya may not be a natural fit for co-headliners, but when you consider the range of musicianship shared between the two, it’s a mouth-watering prospect for any technically appreciative audience.

Thousand Below take to the stage first and do a decent job of recreating tracks from their recent debut album ‘The Love You Let Too Close’. They perform their songs admirably, but James Deberg’s vocals lack power and their brand of post-hardcore is a little too vanilla to leave a lasting impression among this line-up.

It doesn’t take long for Veil of Maya to warm up and as they kick into ‘Whistleblower’, the power of the instrumentals is like being hit by a backdraught. Marc Okubo’s djent-like guitar riffs pack a huge punch when locked in sync with Sam Applebaum’s powerful drumming and Dan Hauser’s low bass tones and once the three of them lock into time, they don’t fall out of it for a single moment of their set, staying watertight throughout an impressively technical sequence of songs.

The band’s latest album ‘False Idol’ continues the trend started by ‘Matriarch’, where more melody was added to the band’s sound, but as the album’s lead singles ‘Overthrow’ and ‘Doublespeak’ kick in, they’re not short of power either, engulfing the venue with massive tones. Not wanting to be outdone by the pristine performance of the musicians around him, vocalist Lukas Magyar manages to balance low, guttural screams with clean, melodic choruses admirably, rounding off a solid all-round performance.

The band strike a powerful image on stage; Magyar commands it well, prowling back and forth, with the sight of Hauser taming a massive seven string base provides a good metaphor for the set. The band often wrestle with large ideas, but their ability to tame them and harness their ideas into impactful songs makes for a thoroughly impressive, technically superb experience.
The bar may well have been set high, but as Dance Gavin Dance appear, there’s not a shred of pressure reflected in Will Swan’s typically stoic expression. Leading his bandmates into opener ‘Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise’ he simply gets on with what he does best, laying out wonderfully infectious, groove-led guitar licks that dance off the guitar strings and move the entire audience’s feet as though the floor was suddenly red hot.

Will Swan has an iconic influence in the experimental post hardcore scene; not only has he managed to uncover three superb vocalists for his band over Dance Gavin Dance’s thirteen year career, but his network of touring musicians is also highly impressive. Eidola’s Andrew Wells and Hail The Sun’s Aric Garcia have both answered Swan’s call in the past and on this tour, Icarus the Owl frontman Joey Rubenstein drops in on rhythm guitar, as well as lending some impressive backing vocals.

Tilian Pearson enjoys one of his best performances to date, nailing every one of the expansive range of notes he employs. They’ve had their fair share of line-up changes in the past, but Pearson looks extremely well settled and having just completed their fourth album with the same line-up (something never before managed by Dance Gavin Dance), it’s clear that this consistency is paying dividends. With three records already in the bag, there’s enough ‘Tilian material’ to pad out the entire set and that’s how it plays out, with only ‘Me And Zoloft Get Along Fine’ making the cut from the older material. As good as the new material is, this old favourite gets the best response of the night, and it’s a shame we don’t get to hear more from the extensive Dance Gavin Dance vault during the course of the night.

Also disappointing is the lack of new material, given that production has just been wrapped up on album number eight. As nice as it would be to hear, it’s understandable why they’re keeping this under their hats; with so many people watching shows through their phone screens these days, the prospect of having the public’s first taste of new material be a poor-quality bootleg is not as compelling as waiting for a well produced, well marketed single launch instead.

They may not be a natural fit on paper, but Dance Gavin Dance and Veil of Maya complement each other well, providing the audience with an evening of technical superiority that’s on the one part blisteringly heavy and the next, infectiously groovy. Both bands are in their element on stage and it’s a pleasure to watch two bands at the top of their game entertain a crowd.