Circa Survive performing the entirety of On Letting Go at the Shrine Feb. 24 (Evan Solano/LOL-LA)
“After 13 years [as a band], it feels surreal to me that we can still do this with you,” Circa Survive frontman Anthony Green bellows from the stage as he prepares to play their encore, ending an amazing night for him and his band.
It’s surreal to imagine that we live in an age where albums as a whole are not as revered anymore. I can’t imagine the last album I heard recently that I think would hold up and remain as relevant or influential a decade later. I guess that’s why I’m glad I grew up in the mid-2000s, before the age of forgettable streaming sites and YouTube channels, when albums were crafted as something to be enjoyed as a whole, from the first track to the final notes.
When the relatively quiet Circa Survive – who have been without Green as he’s been on tour with his solo band as well as his first band, Saosin – announced they would be following up their 2015 anniversary tour of their debut album, Juturna, with a 10-year anniversary tour of their groundbreaking sophomore release, On Letting Go, fans across the country went wild with anticipation. Juturna was the album that introduced the world to the sounds of Green’s post-Saosin band, but it was Circa’s follow-up release that announced to the world they had arrived.
Every song on the 2007 album captures the band at a pivotal moment in their evolution. Teamed with notable producer Brian McTernan, On Letting Go focused on honing in on the band’s frenzied-yet-atmospheric guitar tones and gave it a more deep, ethereal feel that almost added another element behind Green’s emotionally tender and unique vocals. Songwriting was another key component to the album’s success. The band started utilized more traditional song structures in their naturally progressive sound that helped give the album a feel that was more refined and cathartic to the listener.
You can often measure an album’s success in terms of how little you hit the skip button. In that sense, On Letting Go is a flawless album that immerses the listener in a sonically masterful world where dizzying guitars and lush tones only work as a whole. Each track ebbs and flows in harmony and offers so much sonically that compels your full attention on every note’s hidden layer of sound. Many songs from the album remain staples in Circa’s live show to this day, but this show was the fans’ first chance to experience the magic of this album in front of their eyes.
Held in the sprawling 6,300 -cap Shrine Auditorium in South Los Angeles on Friday, Feb. 24, the legendary post-hardcore band, along with openers Turnover and mewithoutYou hosted an intimate and sold-out night of music from an album that has resonated with fans for more than 10 years.
Virginia Beach emo-pop quartet Turnover played an amazing set with cuts from their latest album, 2015’s Peripheral Vision, like the somber yet dynamic “Cutting My Fingers Off” and “Humming.” The band is part of the wave of post-hardcore bands like Title Fight, Balance and Composure and Citizen, who traded the heavy distorted tracks of their 2013 debut album, Magnolia, for a more expansive and subtle sound that combines the melodic pop of Band of Horses and the Shins with the experimental nature of bands like American Football and Joy Division. The band’s 30-minute set was packed with beautifully soulful lyrics and intricately delicate guitar tones from guitarist Eric Soucy and singer/guitarist Austin Getz.
Philadelphia’s mewithoutYou, who have as storied a career as Circa, followed by kicking things off right out the gate with the tracks “Torches Together” and “January 1979” from their 2004 album, Catch for Us the Foxes. The band has an experimentally chaotic sound that echoes early post-hardcore bands like At The Drive-In and Touché Amoré mixed with the pensive and introspective lyrics that touch on religion, relationships and internal struggles that made groups like Thursday and Cursive so impactful in the mid-’00s. Despite the band’s massive catalog of songs, their set had a cohesive feel that made it seem like one massive song with vocalist Aaron Weiss’ screaming, spoken-word-style prose weaving between the frantic melodies.
Following the direct support, the stage was washed out in a deep blue light as the crew began setting up for the final act. The curtain hiding the band’s stage setup fell to reveal stage props depicting the hot air balloons from Esao Andrews’ amazing album artwork from On Letting Go.
As Green and the band took to the stage, there was a sense of calm before the storm. Over the PA’s soft ethereal music, Green grabbed the mic and welcomed the crowd before coolly saying, “Let’s go fucking crazy,” as suddenly the stage exploded in an array of color and confetti being shot from air cannons onstage.
Green, the humble and friendly, soft-spoken family man that millions of fans follow on Instagram, became a man possessed, scrambling across the stage and flailing around as the band smashed through the thunderous opening riffs of “Living Together.” The show became a screaming match between Green and the crowd, who were chanting every word like a mantra that only fueled the intensity from the band onstage.
Not to be outdone by the ferocity of the first song, Circa followed with “In The Morning and Amazing…,” and again the band and audience were in a battle of who could be the most intense, as riff after riff and every visceral line that Green wrote was being hurled back and forth between the two parties. This was no longer a show, it was an endurance test.
The band continued in the sequential order of On Letting Go, with “The Greatest Lie,” as Green traded his menacing stage presence for a more cool and collected approach, followed by the single that no doubt solidified the legacy of the band in the hearts of fans around the world, “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is in the Dose.”
As the twin guitar harmonies from Brendan Ekstrom and Colin Frangicetto rang out in the auditorium, the audience was suddenly treated to a dazzling laser light display that could only be rivaled by Jennifer Lopez’ “Waiting for Tonight” music video. Again, although Green was the impassioned maniac behind the mic, it was the audience screaming every line of the chorus that made lyrics like “I can’t be honest with even myself, did you ever wish you were somebody else?” that much more impactful.
A decade later, those words still haunted and meant something to everyone in that room. Even with outside forces making people feel divisive and calloused, for just a few moments, everyone in attendance was united through the music of an album that harkened back to a better place – perhaps not a better place, but a place where looking back seemed so trivial now.
The band continued with “Mandala” and “Travel Hymn” but also included “1,000 Witnesses” and “The Most Dangerous Commercials” two new b-side tracks from the On Letting Go recording sessions that the band recently released via Bandcamp with the proceeds going to the ACLU, into the set, giving fans the first look at these songs live.
As Green was introducing “Semi Constructive Criticism,” he joked a bit with the crowd, as he had been doing all night. “I wrote this song about Colin here,” Green said, pointing to Frangicetto. “This song is called ‘Fuck You, Colin!’” As Green kicked into the spoken opening lines of the song with the band, a chuckling Frangicetto hammered back with waves of aural chaos.
The band rounded out their set with “Kicking Your Crosses Down” and the title track, “On Letting Go.” Green took time between his jokes and antics to thank the audience for their years of support.
“I feel overwhelmed with gratitude,” Green said between catching his breath. “Let us rejoice!”
As the final notes of On Letting Go’s penultimate track “Close Your Eyes to See” rang out, the band stepped off stage for a few minutes as the crowd eagerly waited to hear the final song of the album that captured their hearts more than a decade ago. The band re-emerged moments later, and Green had some final thoughts and thanks for the crowd before launching into the final track, “Your Friends Are Gone.” The crowd, reveling in the final few minutes of seeing this landmark album played live were transfixed as Green swayed about the stage, one last time in an almost out-of-body experience.
As the house lights went up and the crowd began making its way onto the cold L.A. streets, we all remembered one of the final things Green conveyed before exiting the stage. “You’ve been here for the last 13 years. I promise we will always make music ’til long after we’re dead.”
The symbiotic relationship between Circa’s fanbase and the band has run a decade strong and doesn’t show any sign of letting up. The final few words of On Letting Go end with “Nobody’s here with you now, nobody cares,” but for one night, after such an amazing experience shared by both the band and their fans in an album that defined both in so many ways, Green couldn’t have been any more wrong with that line. See you in another 10 years.