Show Review: The Appleseed Cast at Bottom Of The Hill, 3/6/10

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by Christopher Rogers on March 7, 2010

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In 2001, Kansas’ The Appleseed Cast made the leap from being a well-regarded emo rock group to something not on any charts.

The band released an ambitious precedentless work: Low Level Owl, Volume 1 & 2.

The songs of the Low Level Owl project mostly flow into one another without break, changing tempos and beats mid-stream. Some songs have choruses, some don’t. Some have singing, most don’t. Musical facets or patterns repeat and shimmer like dust devils dancing through the summer air. This aural sum flitted free of convention so thoroughly that it couldn’t well be called “emo” rock. What does it sound like? Intricate chiming melodic rock that fords forward without map yet with purpose. It sounds matter-of-factly majestic without trying to be majestic — like a hawk cutting a turn through an updraft.

The feeling that these songs carry with them is one of being borne along by waves. This is not music for holding still while listening. It sounds like ground being covered, it speaks of stepping through new doors clear-eyed, it sounds like decisive choices being made. There is a unspoken assumptive confidence to this music. Not certainty, but purpose. Sometimes purpose can matter more than surety.

2010 finds The Appleseed Cast touring on the Low Level Owl, and this brought them to the Bottom Of The Hill.

The band filled the Bottom Of The Hill’s stage.

Hearing the entire Low Level Owl piece front-to-back is gently overwhelming. The band evinced the songs with vigor, the live sound adding more muscle to the at-times ethereal pulse of the suite. The music’s cumulative inertia drew shouts of glee from the enrapt audience.

The Appleseed Cast’s singer/guitarist Christopher Crisci.

Like their inspiration (and original namesake), Sunny Day Real Estate, the lyrics in the music are less a focus than the overall ineffable feel of the sound. The singer’s voice is one more instrument to be heard in the mix. Just as on the albums, singer/guitarist Christopher Crisci’s words were lost to the buffet of the music as are shouts across a nighttime beach to the sound of waves. But a listener can get what Crisci means by hearing the way he says it. He whispered, sang, and bellowed through his multicolored beard.

As the band left stage, the evening seemed to have bolted past in a mid-tempo whirl. It felt good. What The Appleseed Cast can show us is that there are positive things that don’t necessarily have to be one-hundred percent precise for you to sense their good-natured purpose.

Christopher Rogers

Christopher Rogers is a journalist / developer / enthusiast from and about the San Francisco Bay Area. His favorite secret about the SF Bay Area is that -- --- --- ---- ---- ---- - -- ------ ----, --- - ---'- ------ ------, -- ------ --- -------.

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