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CAVE IN LIVE IN HOLLYWOOD: TO MYSELF I’M REPEATING SEEING ISN’T BELIEVING

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cave in liveCave In shows weren’t always fraught with apprehension, as was last week’s support set to Coalesce at Hollywood’s Knitting Factory. It’s weird but the whole experience came into sharp focus, actually, upon my exit from the club. Opposite the silly L. Ron Hubbard library stood a vendor and her rack of sizzling, spitting hot dogs. The price was right, dinnertime was hours past, and I love hot dogs. And though each was wrapped in unnecessary bacon, I happily forked over my three bucks only to be handed a cold frank on a foam-rubber bun topped with streaks of revoltingly white mayonnaise. Staring down at Anita Baker’s star on the Walk of Fame, I felt like crying. Was I hungry enough to choke down this corruption of an American classic?

It’s a metaphor. See, I’d been starving for long-dormant Cave-In (hot dog) but would be forced to endure Coalesce (leathery bacon) and a roomful of Hollywood hipster beard-combers (that ghastly mountain of mayo). But hours before, at show time, my enthusiasm for reunited Cave In was alive but cautious; a lot has happened since their transformation from sturdy but unspectacular East Coast metalcore to towering, ethereal space rock on 2000’s Jupiter. It seems that the crises surrounding Jupiter’s triumphant but traumatic follow up, Antenna, left Stephen Brodsky and crew in a fragile state nonconducive to their lost trademarks of dynamics, melody, and daring. The band’s quiet post-RCA return to indiedom Perfect Pitch Black was an excusable retreat into their hardcore cocoon (save for Brodsky’s monolithic “Paranormal,” a spiritual companion to Antenna centerpiece “Seafrost”), but that was back in 2004. So, after a long rest sabbatical, why is 2009 EP Planets of Old a tuneless dud, packed with random riffs and the sadly ordinary screamery of bassist Caleb Scofield? Is Cave In the latest band to innocently invest in false nostalgia, turning away from their rightful evolution in order to embrace the safety of pre-maturity genre exercise at the behest of bearded guys wearing post-millennial flannel shirts? Will Cave In no longer be a beautiful, engaging Beatles to Converge’s darkly violent Rolling Stones?

If Thursday’s show is any indication, Cave In have yet to rebound from their fatal disappointments. While the set was front-loaded with screamy oldies, the soaring dynamics of “Dark Driving” and Jupiter’s usual live representative “Big Riff” hinted at the band’s unmatched sonic peaks; elsewhere PPB’s lame “Trepanning” (announced by guitarist Adam McGrath as ‘an old song’) and the inclusion all four PoO tracks gave the impression of an immature, pre-identity Cave In. When McGrath dedicated tunes to “old friends – you know who you are,” it was a prompt answered with scant applause, as admirers of their early work were either unable to identify themselves or were just unconvinced by his pleas that the band which recorded Antenna wouldn’t be troubling them anymore. It was doubly dubious when McGrath encouraged all present to thank Scion, as though gratitude was due to the company for redirecting its ad budget so endorsements could come directly from the mouths of our spiritual leaders in music. At the third mention of Scion’s saintly deliverance of this free show, there was a frustrated murmur to my left “We would’ve come anyway, dude.” Yes, and we would’ve paid $20 to be spared talk of ugly cars.

As the uncomfortable set lurched to its terminus, I realized that a frustrating twist of fate has rendered Jupiter/Antenna fans like me similar to the once-disgruntled fans of metalcore Cave In: dissatisfied and jilted. The difference is that we demand a return to growth and progression, not nostalgic allegiance to their pedestrian old shit; we want full exploitation of Brodsky’s expressive tenor and McGrath’s metalgaze effectgasms, not anonymous machoisms or veiny shouts. But just when I moved to renounce my citizenship in the nation of Cave In, the 13-song set ended on a tantalizing note with lost track “Inflatable Dream,” a Jupiter-era prelude to Antenna’s twinklecore whose performance I’ll choose to interpret as a sly promise for the future.

–ADF

Anso DF is wrestling with confused feelings of affection for Dokken and Europe on daily metal column Hipsters Out Of Metal!

*Photo lifted from Revolver Mag.

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