Saturday, September 21, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: The Safety Fire - Orlando, FL (9.17.13)

The Safety Fire 
Orlando, FL (9.17.13)

When I saw The Safety Fire 
perform at a club in Orlando 
on their first tour in 2012, 
I was less than impressed. 
Actually, I thought that 
they SUCKED!

In 2012 the band was on tour supporting their debut record, Grind the Ocean, as an opening act for Protest the Hero. And pinned against co-opener, Periphery, I perceived The Safety Fire merely as another garden variety, whiplash-speed screamo band with gymnast-like guitar work. But what a difference a year makes. As I recently began scoping out selected advance YouTube cuts from their (then unreleased) 2013 sophomore release, Mouth of Swords, I noticed a distinct musical evolution. Hey, these sound like songs!

Okay, in all fairness, perhaps I should have allowed The Safety Fire defense team an opportunity to fully present their case before passing judgment. But a band's level of suckdom can only truly be measured on stage. So my son and I ventured out again recently see the band when they returned to Orlando — as an opening act for Between the Buried and Me. And this time, The Safety Fire stood out like a rose among thorns. 

Joaquin Ardiles 
Lori Peri
For starters, I was rather surprised to discover bassist Lori Peri and drummer Calvin Smith personally manning the band's merch table — meeting, greeting, taking money, checking off inventory lists — the whole shebang. Not only was I impressed by their grassroots level of dedication, but my son is likely the world's most ardent Safety Fire fan. Hence, for him to walk through the front door of the venue and immediately be face to face with his heroes, had him nearly wetting himself. In short order, we made our way to the stage, as anything less than a front row spot simply would be unacceptable  to my kid.

The paralyzing thump from the sub woofers hidden beneath the Plaza Live stage was powerful enough to render me sterile, when The Safety Fire took the stage at precisely 7:30PM — kicking off its animated, high-energy show with "Yellowism," a golden nugget from Mouth of Swords. In fact, the lion's share of the 30-minute set was culled from the band's latest record. 

Sean McWeeney
Frontman Sean McWeeney (that name kinda makes me giggle) was charismatic and engaging, apprising the early birds that this was only the band's second time performing in Orlando and further commenting that they looked forward to coming back.

Today's metal music genre certainly has "evolved" since the golden era of  British Steel, Lovedrive  and Piece of Mind. Hard-driving, hook-laden bands have all been replaced by a slew of angry prog rockers who use such terms as "percussive mathematics" to define their music. Hence, melody seemingly has become a guilty pleasure that's reserved for only Bieber and Gaga disciples. But sometimes punch and style can be acceptable trade-outs for hooks and melody. And in that regard, The Safety Fire proved to be a monstrous, unified force — a band that I dare say occasionally borders on fun. GASP! The blistering duel guitar work of Joaquin Ardiles and Derya "Dez" Nagle was stunning as they decimated such newer fan faves as "Old Souls" and "Glass Crush," while Calvin Smith punished his kit throughout with machine-like precision.

My son, Jesse Long, with Lori 
and Calvin from The Safety Fire.
However, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This particular show was owned by the headliner, and headliners typically don't afford openers much in terms of stage production. As a result, The Safety Fire set out to rock under minimal lighting — which was particularly amusing because even in the dark, they were still, hands-down, the most engaging and entertaining band of the night.

Within the span of half an hour, I finally was sold on The Safety Fire. Simply put, I'm now a fan. And as the band wrapped up its set with "Huge Hammers" from Grind the Ocean and "Red Hatchet" from Mouth of Swords, it occurred to me that I'd already gotten my money's worth on this show. In fact, it would be anti-climactic for the other bands even to take the stage after them. And in hindsight, I was right.

-Christopher Long
(September 2013)

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