Posted by: Necci – Oct 17, 2012
This past Friday, Sundials celebrated the release of their Asian Man Records debut, When I Couldn’t Breathe, at Strange Matter. The original lineup included Pedals On Our Pedal Ships, who had to unfortunately drop off at the last minute. This didn’t keep the show from achieving greatness, and showcasing a nice pocket of the punk scene in the city.
Hold Tight! has been on a roll with the release of their recent full-length Blizzard of ’96. The band has always been easily compared to the likes of Jawbreaker, Saves The Day, and even The Get Up Kids, but this recent output makes a strong argument for their unique brand of pop punk. Songs like “Purple Beanie” really come alive in a live setting, allowing the listener to see glimpses of Dear You-era Jawbreaker as well as Hold Tight!’s penchant for incorporating positive attitudes into every tune. It’s easy to fall into ruts where adolescent angst takes the forefront and all else is left by the wayside. It’s a rare feat for a band that exists within this stylistic spectrum to always see the bright side of things. Hold Tight! accomplish so much while still sounding fresh. Their live sets are a remarkable thing to behold as well. Succinct and unbelievably sweet, each song carries its identity well, even when segued with three to four of the band’s other tunes. There is never a moment when you might think you have heard a single really long Hold Tight! song. You have to admire that there is a ton of heart being put on display for their audiences. The kids respond by shouting back lyrics that can easily act as life lessons. They are one of the best live bands that Richmond has to offer, and they were greatly utilized as openers for this night of celebration for their friends in Sundials.
Photo by Jake Cunningham
Family Cat has impressed me since I first caught them opening for Lemuria. I was bummed to miss them when they opened for Planes Mistaken for Stars. Considering that lead singer/guitarist Tyler Walker lives in Texas these days, any chance to catch the band is a chance to drop everything and watch controlled chaos at its best. After their set, the band joked about one of their songs directly ripping off the Long Island outfit Brand New. I think this comparison is apropos. The expectations for a band like Brand New are very similar to those that can be attributed to Family Cat. Each song lends itself to a different idea, whether it’s a more lyrically focused section or a jam part, being expanded upon and allowed to breathe. The frenzied energy behind their live sets always draws me in and I find myself completely focused on what comes next every time I catch Family Cat. Their record Dealing With Depression is about as honest as they come, albeit with tongue-in-cheek song titles. Yet you never once doubt the genuine approach the band takes. Their sound takes a bit more from bands like Braid, The Lawrence Arms, Hot Water Music, and the like. It’s a good contrast to Hold Tight! and it also offers a comprehensive look at the list of influences you could consider when discussing Sundials. It was great to see Family Cat again and I hope that they will carry on despite the long travel required. They are doing something incredible, and a future that includes them is a lot more exciting than the alternative.
As I mentioned, the two openers were neat composites of what you could describe as the “Sundials Sound.” Hold Tight! approach every chorus with the aim of making it into a strong anthem, and Sundials definitely take a similar approach with the dual vocals of Harris Mendell and Carl Athey. On songs like “New York Crunch,” “Some Kind of Time,” “Mosby Blues,” and many others, they pull this off flawlessly. Family Cat creates similar melody patterns, but they also incorporate a lot of indie rock tricks and can be noisier at times. If you listen to the introductory patterns of When I Couldn't Breathe opener “710,” you'll find that the same can clearly be said of Sundials. Sundials focused the majority of their set on the new record, and I was beyond happy to get to finally hear most of these songs in a live setting. “New York Crunch” has been a mainstay in their set for quite a while, and you can tell by how effortlessly the band performs it. What really drives me wild about the new record is how it feels like a perfect evolution from Never Settle, and yet most people seem shocked that it's the same band from that record. The same can also be said about their live sets. There is a demonstrable climb in confidence that the band seems to experience while they are on stage. They are tight, but they avoid making things sound too squeaky clean. The vocal dynamic between Mendell and Athey is awesome, and the intensity of drummer Cory Chubb is contagious. It’s been a real treat to watch this band just get better and better. Despite the few short years that Sundials have been around, it doesn’t show at all in the way they present themselves through their songwriting and live performances. Closing with another song from the new album, “Some Kinda Time,” seemed fitting, and the quick tempo change at the end was nailed perfectly.
This was a great night for this facet of the local music scene, and provided a strong showing from all three bands. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: there are a lot of great things happening here, and this show was a great celebration for Sundials and their achievements as a band thus far. What better way is there to throw a party than to invite all of your friends to drink and be merry?
By Shannon Cleary