Copeland: Cracking Nostalgia in Chicago

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The Double Door is one of those classic music venues in Chicago that almost seems like a stereotype – tucked beneath a train line, it could appear to be a graffiti riddled wall easy to overlook. Inside, it shows its age with darks walls, dim lights and the vinyl-gleamed stucco that old buildings brandish like tattoos. This place was made for music, and even though its location seems pushed to the side, everyone in the city knows and respects its reputation.

There couldn’t be a better location for Copeland’s Now/Then tour. A band who has never particularly been directly in the spotlight, they have caught the attention of the highest aspects of the scene, be that vocalist Aaron Marsh’s recommendation plastered on the cover of arena-rockers Paramore’s debut album or gathering powerhouse talents like Ace Enders and Kenny Vasoli to open for their (first) farewell tour.

The Now/Then tour is an ethereal experience that might focus on the “best of,” but it encompasses every aspect of what makes them such a unique brand. Their writing is nearly orchestral in arrangement, which lends to the fact that they’re one of the few musical acts that might actually sound more polished live than recorded. With a tour structured on working backwards through their discography, Copeland have shown not particularly their growth as a band, but how well-crafted their music has been since Beneath the Medicine Tree came out 13 years ago.

rae-cassidyWith the floor filled with talkative hipsters finding the happy medium between a light buzz and shouting conversation, opener Rae Cassidy took the stage. Armed with three violinists and a ukulele, Cassidy set right in, lightly plucking against the swell of violins. Her voice, bright and powerful, seemed to silence the crowd instantly, with a round of shushing sweeping the back of the room.

A mix of pop and indie R&B, her music was a perfect hybrid of someone who seemed influenced by Copeland’s softness, but embraced multiple genres to flesh itself out, unafraid to let the violins and gentle pauses lead the song. Though the music was soft, her voice was beautiful.

Standing center stage like a princess in a summer dress, she sang with command. I couldn’t help but think of a female Kenny Choi from Wolftron (and Daphne Loves Derby) with country and folk influence imbued with the purpose of Lorde. I was left wondering not only how I had never heard of her before, but also how long it would be before she became a household name.

copeland-3While finishing her last song, Copeland took the stage, becoming her backing band while perfectly transitioning from her setlist to theirs. Their first song, “Not So Tough Found Out” (featuring Rae Cassidy!) suddenly became “Chin Up” as Rae left the stage, only to crop back up throughout the night to provide backing vocals. Her violinists remained on the side, adding to almost every song they played.

Split into two distinct playlists, their first set contained music exclusively from You Are My Sunshine and Ixora, including the version of “Ordinary” off of the companion Ixora: Twin album. It was a perfect ploy to lure back the drop-off fans, who listen to nothing but the “classic” albums. It’s easy to say that a band “doesn’t sound like they used to,” but watching them work backwards, it became obvious that Copeland has known their trajectory all along. It was fascinating to hear the crowd singing along louder with each song as they became more familiar with the material.

After an intermission, they returned to play from their better-known albums, In Motion and Eat, Sleep, Repeat. As expected, this set was much more energetic. Not only because the crowd as a whole knew the words to every song, but because it included the few pop songs with Aaron Marsh on guitar, including “No One Really Wins”. Paired against and after their new material, there was a distinct awareness of just how talented the band was in their younger years compared to their peers. Their first albums didn’t sound like a band finding itself, with singles that sound out of place compared to their current material. “You Have My Attention” stood out as it closed the set with Marsh hitting the perfect high note against the rapidly swelling guitars.

copeland-2After stepping away for just a second, Copeland reappeared for their encore: a full six song set from Beneath the Medicine Tree, arguably their most famed record. Featuring “Take Care”, “When Paula Sparks”, “Coffee” and ending on the bittersweet “California”, the band melted the room into an intoxicating atmosphere of nostalgia and profound romance.

Now/Then is a simple, but effective concept that manages to blur the line between a greatest hits tour and a timeline of artistry that shows the complexity and craft of a band unlike anything else in their genre. They may be tucked away from the obvious, but they were built for this all along.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has now seen Copeland three times, twice awkwardly opening for punk bands, but holding their own. Aaron Marsh once hit the high note in “You Have My Attention” for what felt like a solid minute. He is for sure over exaggerating the recollection, but the crowd lost its mind cheering Marsh on as he tried to hold it as long as possible. Good times. Better than yours.

 

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Nightmare of You Bring the Feels to Chicago on Anniversary Tour

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Ten year anniversary tours are a weird trend of late. Many times, it feels like a popular band just plays a record that made them so popular that they’ve actually been playing most of the songs for the last decade anyway. Other times, it pulls a band back from the grave to see what was in an attempt to regain the energy that made the album special.

I expected Nightmare of You’s 10 year anniversary tour of their ­self-titled album to be the latter, but their recent show in Chicago was a far different experience. Instead of being a show of what could have been, it was a celebration of what was and the appreciation of an audience that still cared about them.

Nightmare of You have always felt like an enigma to me, as they never caught on the way that they should have. Nightmare of You, their debut album was a stylized, glamour-soaked indie pop album that seemed keen to take over the music scene. In the mid 2000’s, bands of similar ilk (Panic! At the Disco, The Academy Is…, etc.) became household names quite rapidly. NoY’s sound was instantly ensnaring for those who heard it, light and sweet, but with enough sexually tense lyricism to make Pete Wentz jealous. Unfortunately, the band disappeared soon afterward.

Only in recent years have they seemed to begin working again, with a smattering of demo releases on Bandcamp and one-off shows. This anniversary tour, though, proved that their debut still held the attention of fans after so long and the shows reflect that. Chicago’s date was oddly intimate and drawn out as little as possible. Much like the album itself, the show was magnificently paced with significant impact, proving its point and leaving the enjoyment intact.

The only opening act, Chicago’s Even Thieves, is a relatively new band with just some singles online and an EP handed out after the show. However, they harbor a massive talent. Even Thieves cover the stage almost entirely with two guitarists, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and singer.

Even Thieves are a talent waiting to be found. Their music is a sweet mixture of Angels & Airwaves coupled with the steadied guitar work of a ‘wannabe’ Oasis. While some of their rock songs ran a tad long, although they would immediately jump ship  into a pop punk song and spring momentum back into the room. Their main flaw was just that not enough people knew who they were. Most heads in the crowd bobbed, but few sang back. But if anything can make or break a band, it’s a powerful closer.

Several members took to the back of the stage to join in on individual snare drums coupled with an amazing drummer, creating a massive marching band style percussion conclusion that ended their set on an incredible high note. Seeing them gave me the same sense that Nightmare of You instilled so many years ago – there is something great hiding beneath the surface that just needs to be uncorked.

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Taking the stage, Nightmare of You jumped immediately into album opener, “The Days Go By Oh So Slow”. For a band that has been out of the scene for a while, NoY sound nearly perfect live. Singer Brandon Reilly belted each song with an exact precision, despite seeming slightly nervous on stage.

While their songs sizzled, the night settled into a chilled scene, contrary to the energetic songs. The crowd barely seemed to move, save for head bobs and the rambling mouths singing along to each song. Rather than dance, the audience seemed more focused on hanging onto each and every note of songs that hadn’t come to Chicago in many years.

From the agonizing dance beat of “My Name Is Trouble” through to the whimsical finale, “Heaven Runs On Oil”, NoY created a hypnotic wave over the venue. Reilly spoke briefly between songs, not about the album or to give nonchalant thank yous, but just so the audience could get to know them a little better. It allowed the audience to become a part of the show as much as they were watching it. At one point, Reily invited anyone who wanted to recite a poem onstage, only to pull a man from the front row up who delivered some quick prose before disappearing back into the crowd.

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The anniversary tour of Nightmare of You is a celebration of continued interest and mutual respect. Rather than expect the audience to relive what the album was, the band invited them to remember what it meant to them. The entire show was a reflection about what made it special, without specifically addressing the fact, making the entire event a casual conversation with the very people who had supported it for so long.

This show meant more than the usual anniversary tour. It wasn’t a rehashed, fleshed out version of a usual tour date, nor a one off for a dead band. It felt like a memory playing out on stage. The laid back format, and the way that the band treated the audience like friends, as though they were playing at a wedding, made the entire performance feel more personal. Reflecting on an album and what it meant to you to begin with can be more powerful than just a casual listen through, especially in a room full of people having the same experience.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has nightmares of himself. WHAT?! OH NOES!