LIVE: The Appleseed Cast / Listener & more @ The Ballroom, Canterbury

By Glen Bushell

Canterbury has played host to a great many alternative bands over the years. Everyone from American Nightmare to Converge and La Dispute have graced the Cathedral City with their presence, as have Kansas natives, The Appleseed Cast. It is only right that following their floor show here in 2013, they return to a bigger venue.

The bill at The Ballroom, located somewhat off the beaten track, is well stacked with a wide variety of bands, and rather than be an endurance test the high quality of the music displayed this evening makes it an absolute pleasure. Local band Epona kick things off with their driving indie/emo rock, spilling into dreamy and expansive passages, and show some great promise in the early stages of their life as a band. Quick as a flash, they are followed by Glasgow’s Atlas: Empire, who bring a more abrasive post-hardcore sound to the table, and keep the energy and excitement in the room alive.

Next to hit the stage, and armed with nothing but a guitar and a drum machine, is former Dance Gavin Dance vocalist Kurt Travis. As the first couple of songs take a while to get going, Travis looks misplaced and exposed on his own up there. However the R&B tinged ‘It’s All Over’ and the up-tempo ‘Stay Please’ allow his impressive vocal range to really soar, and shows the best of this talented songwriters ability.

Given the fact that The Ballroom is at near breaking point when Listener arrive, they probably could have headlined the show. Within moments its clear to see why, as it is impossible to take your eyes from the stage. The spoken word narrative of vocalist Dan Smith is brought to life during ‘Eyes To The Ground For Change’ and ‘Falling In Love With Glaciers’. Each thick bassline, thunderous drum fill and jagged guitar riff is played with precision and the new songs they air tonight show the next stage of Listener’s evolution.

A lesser band would have a hard time following the powerful delivery of Listener, but this is not just any band. This is The Appleseed Cast. As the searing beauty of ‘Kilgore Trout’ echoes out around the room, the near 20 years of experience as a band follows with it. Each track weaves delicate melody with brooding post-rock. ‘Barrier Island (Do We Remain)’ sounds bombastic, with the classic ‘Steps and Numbers’ feeling as relevant as it did back in 2001.

They play a career spanning set that covers most of their albums. It shows just how much they transcend genre as they cruise through the beauty of ‘Cathedral Rings’ and ‘Great Lake Derelict’ from their last album, ‘Illumination Ritual’. Vocalist Chris Crisci is a man of few words on stage tonight, but he doesn’t need to say much as the songs speak volumes. Not to mention that it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off Nathan Wilder, who is possibly one of the best drummers in the business right now. Of course the final trifecta – ‘Fishing The Sky’, ‘Forever Longing The Golden Sunsets’ and ‘Fight Song’ – brings the house down.

With a career as long as theirs, The Appleseed Cast should probably be a bigger band than they are. That doesn’t stop them giving it their all with each performance, and tonight was no exception. The cult status and adoration they receive is well deserved and with still more material promised from them in the near future, their legacy will continue to grow.