PHOTO: AICiT Photography/Ryan Brucass
WORDS: Ryan Brucass
There was a sense of anticipation in the air as the space outside the Rescue Rooms filled with fans waiting to see TESSERACT take to the stage. The Rescue Rooms is a fairly small venue yet once it fills with a decent crowd and the house lights dim a great atmosphere builds as they wait for the first band to take to the stage, tonight that band would be Post Rock duo NORDIC GIANTS.
NORDIC GIANTS came on under dark sinister lighting; Loki (Keys, Synth, Trumpet & Loops) and Rôka Skulld (Cymbals & Skins, Bowed Guitar, Samples Pad) backlit by a single spotlight each, which slowly changed between red, blue and green throughout the set. The duo were dressed in feathered costumes featuring masked ball-style eye masks, headdress and more feathers covering their shoulders and waists. These costumes gave a bird-like tribal look and added to the NORDIC GIANTS’ mysterious look. The reason for the low lighting soon became clear as the projector screen and smaller TV came to life with a mixture of anime and live action video to accompany the music. NORDIC GIANTS created a relaxing, almost hypnotic sound scape using a mixture of live drums, keys, and guitar played with a bow, combined with looped vocals and synths. The reaction of the audience was interesting: they simply stood watching the video on the giant projector and small TV screen and were not actively engaged in the performance. This could be because it felt more like modern art /audio-visual installation than a set by a live band as the songs blended into one. NORDIC GIANTS wouldn’t seem out of place if they performed in a gallery such as the Tate. They never spoke to the crowd during their set, which made them feel a bit distanced, but this only added to mysterious nature of the performance. It left the audience with mixed reactions: some really liked it, others just seemed confused. Overall the performance felt dreamlike which might have been a clever link back to the costumes having a native Indian look: Native Americans had a strong belief in dreams being there to guide you in life.
Next up was THE CONTORTIONIST. Under a mixture of blue and red lighting the band’s songs built from slow melodic riffs from Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard. They were joined by Eric Guenther on keys before the heavy drums of Joey Baca come crashing in with Jordan Eberhardt’s bass. The song increased in intensity as Michael Lessard’s mixture of metal growls and softer vocals joined in. During the instrumental parts of songs Lessard had a strange look on his face, like he was in a trance created by the music. The crowd was warming up well as people started moshing, the energy of the band fuelling the audience.
Once more the venue was plunged into darkness and the crowd began chanting “TESSERACT, TESSERACT, TESSERACT” while the stage filled with smoke from the fog machine. Eventually in the shadows the band could be seen on the stage which got cheers from the crowds as the tension in the room built: this is what they had been waiting for. White spotlights created a backdrop of intersecting lines of light cutting through the smoke, as the band kicked off their set with Phoenix and Messenger from their latest album Polaris. TESSERACT gave it their all from the start; moving around and head-banging, they soon had the crowd singing along. Jay Postones’ double-kick drums and rumbling riffs from guitarists Acle Kahney and James Montieth contrasted with the melodic key of Eric Gunenther and the impressive vocals of Daniel Tompkins who can really hold the high notes. Add to that the rhythmic bass of Amo Williams and you knew you were in for a night of great music. The band somehow sounded heavier live than in their recordings but maybe that is just down to how loud they sound in a small venue. The lighting was constantly changing throughout the set to create an atmosphere to match the songs: white strobes for the heavier songs; static blue for the slower tracks; then a mix of red, green, purple lighting when things got faster again. The crowd fed off the energy of the band and gave a roar when Tompkins stopped midway through the set to thank the fans “We have a message for you…. We want to thank all the TESSERACT fans, we wouldn’t be here without you”. They are true showmen putting lots of energy in from the start and maintaining it throughout the rest of the set.