by: Chris Torrey
Tucked away at the north end of downtown Los Angeles lies a very small, unimposing venue. Club Bahia, known for hosting primarily Hispanic DJs and live acts, seemed like a peculiar choice to host Georgian screamo/post-hardcore opener Circle Takes the Square and the Massachusetts-based post-rock/post-metal giants, Caspian. Though I arrived about 10 minutes before Circle was to come on stage, most of the room was empty with little pockets of social activity centered around the merch booth and bar. When I took my place against the stage where I stood the remainder of the night, I had no idea what the opening act would sound like or how they would perform to a mostly vacant club.
The trio stepped on stage to little fanfare, but once the tribal intro started thumping from the speakers, I knew this crowd was in for something special. I have seen my fair share of openers in my time, but never have I encountered once with such ferocity, energy, and such apparent passion as Circle. Lead vocals came from Drew Speziale and Kathy Coppola, guitarist and bassist respectively, but very often you could hear their screams and spoken word joined in by drummer Caleb Collins. By the end of their first track, "Enter By the Narrow Gates", I was totally enthralled by their superb playing and gorgeous lyrics (though, admittedly, the vocals were often overwhelmed by the engaging instrumentals). I could only describe this extremely satisfying set as a vein-popping, mosh-worthy good time. Had the energy in the crowd been more present, I would have happily run my body into others' without a care in the world. Math-rock, prog, black metal, and thrash influences were apparent throughout the lengthy-but-not-too-long set, and the snappiness of the drums combined with the sometimes tug-of-war, sometimes concerted efforts of the male and female vocals meant I couldn't leave the venue without their album in hand.
After the seven delicious tracks Circle delivered to us, I was thoroughly pumped for the main course. Looking around I noticed that at some point in the previous set the room had filled up quite nicely. Though breathing space between people existed, a good thing for this flannel-clad author, I was quite happy to see LA turn up for the show. As the five touring members of Caspian filed onto the small stage I leaned against, my excitement shot through the roof. Despite having never seen them before, I knew the professional-grade earplugs I brought would be put to the test against the onslaught of three grinding guitars, one booming bass, and some of the most solid drumming I've ever heard, if their studio releases were any indicator. In this way, my expectations were met. However, this does not begin to describe how other expectations of mine were shattered beyond belief.
Each clad in all black, each with a different style of shirt, and all but one sporting some version of facial hair, the group of men from MA delivered a performance I had not been privy to since my first time experiencing post-rock and post-metal live. The guitars roared across the minuscule club and the heavy, heavy drums beat furiously in time. Throughout much of the hour and a half set, I couldn't help but close my eyes and be swallowed by the disquiet all around. Every now and again I would take a peak at the other audience members and was not surprised to see them all as captivated as I was by the chaos and beauty expressed on stage. At one point, the band took a moment to tune their instruments and even one of the guitarists pointed out how the club was so quiet, they were able to hear themselves tune. Certainly a pin could drop and be noticed in that silence of respect and awe.
The tracks played ranged from their newest release all the back to their first full-length, "You Are The Conductor", with standouts being fan-favorite "Gone In Bloom and Bough", encore track "Fire Made Flesh", and the quintessential closer "Sycamore". Every moment there was a moment of aural bliss that I am extremely grateful to have experienced. If you've never seen Caspian live, I urge you to resolve this issue immediately. Studio recordings and even live on Bluray cannot capture the sobering calmness and bombastic textures these men craft on stage. As for me, I'll be waiting until the next time they roll through the Los Angeles area like a hurricane of tumultuous sound and soothing tranquility.