That about sums it up, as I bang around on this keyboard trying to sum up ways to describe this experience. I witnessed two nights of this unique tour. Twelve dates in the whole tour sold out. UK’s TesseracT headlined with Intronaut pulling double support duty. They played as the backing band for Ben Sharp’s Cloudkicker before their own Intronaut set. All tour long. Playing and mixing all the various instruments on his Cloudkicker recordings makes touring next to impossible. Intronaut finally filled that gap, after three years of planning. Very special. I’ve heard of single musicians doing double duty. Protest the Hero’s drummer did it touring with them and his old band, The Kindred. The Defibulators’ guitarist Roadblock did it as well, playing with The Dixons before a lengthy Defibs set. A whole band doing their set, plus a second set of music that has never seen a crowd is very rare.
TesseracT had a bit of a rougher time. Singer Ashe O’Hara was sick pretty much the whole month, even to the extent of not performing for the sold out dates in both Boston and Philadelphia near the end of the tour. In my interview with TesseracT’s bassis Mos WIlliams, he said the crowd was very accepting of the announcement and filled the vocal void with their own voices. Ashe did perform for the final night at New York’s Gramercy Theater, but he was looking rough when I saw him at Aftershock in Kansas, just six days earlier. Also, second guitarist James Monteith was absent for this tour, as well as the last. Regardless of the hurdles, they powered through and still created a very dynamic and textured atmosphere, very true to their performance styles. I was also treated to an extended photo shoot, both for sound check and their full set.
Click here for the pictures and reviews from both nights.
Oh, Ashe is no longer in the band. He has since been replaced by former lead singer Daniel Tompkins, who previously recorded One with TesseracT. Daniel made his return official at their performance at this summer’s Sonisphere. Absolute blurst.
Here’s the scoop on the two cities. I live in New York and I vacationed my birthday week at home in Kansas City. For the earlier Kansas date, Maps for Travelers held the local opening slot at Aftershock. I would say the venue is comparable to The Studio at Webster Hall. While very vocal melody heavy, Maps heaviness wanes between reverb and revenge. The echo of the chords reflect the emptiness of the words. They fit their self described heavy indie rock sound. A solemn trumpet accompanies along in some songs as well. I was really pleased to see the brass. Its use was the spark I was looking for. As the haunting horn brayed on, the band was building behind it, kicking drums in double time as their set came to a close. I picked up a cd and a shirt with two hot girls holding hands painted on it. I fucking love that shirt.
Next was Cloudkicker, Ben Sharp’s solo studio project. Ben is a multi-instrumentalist and all the post production he helms as well. After several years of talks and idea batting, Intronaut and Sharp had worked out a plan for a touring Cloudkicker lineup. Intronaut would back him and his music live, which is solely instrumental. Fitting in well with the tour package, Coloudkicker’s music has many progressive layers from grinding and ambient noise to chordy, compelling bilss. All that being said, we were still seeing a metal show and Sharp had obviously heavied up his set to some degree without sacrificing his dynamic chill. In both shows, Kansas City and New York, he drew a solid crowd of followers.
Intronaut fans got a special treat, as they essentially saw two performances from the band. I first caught these guys in Boston with BTBAM earlier this year. Intronaut was the most raw and sporadic of the line up, but always maintained a driving groove through their set. Shrouded in conetxt-sensitive CO2 clouds and lazers, they set their environment on their own terms and choreographed the effects to specific crescendos and movements. Intronaut weaved though selections from their three releases, mostly Habitual Levitations on Century Media, as they upped the room’s heart rate, prodding its readiness for TesseracT.
As a cool side note, Intronaut’s guitarist Sacha Dunable manufactures, plays, and sells the guitars he has hand made. Dunable Guitars is the moniker and the finished products are absolutely beautiful. Notable players are Kerry and Shiv from deafheaven, Chris from Anciients, and Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Mark Trumbo.
Last time I caught TesseracT was almost a year ago, when they closed out a headlining tour at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus. That was the first time I had seen them perform with Ashe O’Hara in front. He capably resonated every note of their vocal catalogue from both releases bla bla blah. He fucking aced it. I was eagerly anticipating the same level, until I caught wind of his illness this tour. I was slightly deflated, but I was still eager to see them perform. More so now that they have been touring Altered State‘s songs for the better part of a year and I was interested in how they have changed up their live set and song arrangements. In my interview with bassist Mos Williams, he said “It’s fantastic to make that change because it keeps it fresh for us. It also gives the audience something slightly different. We know the audience want to hear the album, but we also get quite excited to see their reactions to the different changes. It’s only little bits. We’re not going to drastically change it.”
The Kansas City date was fun and I enjoyed my first look at what this tour package has to offer. Each band had their sway with the crowd during their respective sets, but I really feel Cloudkicker won the room that night. A beaming Ben Sharp was something I was sure to see again, regardless of what city he has this unique pleasure of playing in.
The last and final stop on the tour was again, in New York City. What a pleasure to now see two TesseracT tours close here. There’s just one thing: Ashe hasn’t sang the past two nights and there is much fervor as to if he will tonight. They are also just on the brink of a sold out show at Irving Plaza, which caps at a thousand people. Holy shit this night is going to rule. I got in early to talk with Mos Williams about the past year, and most recently, the past few days they played without Ashe singing. You can read that here. Afterwards, I was able to take some pictures of their soundcheck, a side I’m not usually privy to, so that was fun.
There was no local opener and the show started right into Cloudkicker. Just as before in Kansas, and I can imagine in every city on this tour, Ben Sharp’s fans were out in full force. Again, the calm and collected Sharp played in delight as a live band backed with his music. This time, he was accompanied by a massive backdrop, screening images of Earth captured from satellites and space stations. He let out a heartfelt speech at the end of his set and hung down in the photo pit for several fan photo opportunities.
There was also no local press. Okay, so it’s the first band and the headliner goes on later, whatever. Second band, no photogs. What the fuck New York? This performance I feel Intronaut really came harder. Their attacks were more aggressive, the vocals pushed harder and every embellishment they could take they rode out.
I was still the only person taking pictures from the photo pit. Fucking astonishing. Standard venue photo protocol allows me to shoot the first three songs of the band’s set. Then I exit the photo area. If I’m the only one here shooting pictures, I’m going to push for more. TesseracT’s manager put me right back in front of them, more bummed than shocked that I was the only photographer, but happy to oblige.
As I suspected, Ashe was still not 80% for his final night of tour. Being sick sucks and I can’t bash him for that. That being said, he disregarded his current physical limitations tonight. On their record and in their previous live show, his vocals were all beautifully polished and clean. Ashe has a ridiculous range and he absolutely is able to hold those long wails and sweeps. When he’s not sick. He was really pushing his voice and it sounded painful, both nights I saw him. What the real bad news is, Ashe is no longer in TesseracT. It’s a shame had had to go out like that.
Musically, they exceeded the level of performance I was hoping for. They subtly tweaked a few songs, but if you knew what to listen for, the changes were very audible. Opening with a bridge, a half time drumbeat, or just an extra little lick here and there made the listening experience very enjoyable. That also came into play due to full guitar duty landing on Acle Kahney, rearranging guitar parts and sequences in second guitarist James Monteith’s absence. Mos comments “Acle has adapted what he plays and there are times where he’s almost playing two parts at once. It can be tough on Acle, but we’re very lucky that we have the technology to get away with that. ”
So to put a wrap on the whole thing, “NautKicker” was amazing and a real treat to see twice. I don’t doubt it will be a long time before Sharp takes to the road again. I’m bummed to see Ashe no longer performing the songs he wrote for TesseracT. “It’s insane to come out here and headline and sell out bunch of the shows. I’ll put that all to the new album,” says drummer Jay Postones. Altered State really catapulted TesseracT and captured many, many new fans. It will be interesting to see what unfolds on their next album cycle, which is currently being written with Daniel Tompkins.