When I first heard Instrumental Post Rockers IF THESE TREES COULD TALK were performing at St. Vitus Bar, I knew that I had to be there. To me, the Post Rock genre is an escape from Metal, where the music speaks to me on a different level. It is as though the emotions are captured through each note rather than a lyric or melodic break in a traditional tune. IF THESE TREES COULD TALK are one of the many acts such as EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY and THIS WILL DESTROY YOU, that I tend to listen to on a regular basis late at night whether I am editing photos, writing, or zoning out in musical bliss. It is a genre that moves differently than Metal and Hard Rock, and what is unique about this is hearing this experimental mind vacation (so-to-speak) being performed right in front of you.
Luckily on August 6, at St. Vitus I was ecstatic to be part of the nearly sold-out crowd. Touring in support of their new album The Bones of a Dying World (Metal Blade Records), this one kicked off on August 4 for a four-day run followed by a fifteen date resuming in September. On this particular evening, the Post-Hardcore act DRIFTOFF from NYC and composer ALEXANDER TURNQUIST opened.
As I first entered the venue, I noticed right away that this was not a Metal show as the crowd was much different than your typical St. Vitus evening. Not going to lie, I had to buy a quick cocktail just to be OK with the offbeat vibe. After a half hour or so we were allowed to walk to the back towards the stage. Now I’m used to seeing crowds racing to the front in preparation for the headliner or even support for the opener.
Therefore, I ran to a post up front ready to enjoy the show. Oddly enough I look behind me, and there was about a 5-10 foot gap between the stage and the crowd. It felt as though I was back at a high school dance when the boys and girls were separated, and no one was on the dance floor.
After a few minutes in, ALEXANDER TURNQUIST took the stage. I am unfamiliar with him, so I looked him up, and his story is quite remarkable as he has dealt with surgery in 2013 where he had to re-learn how to play the guitar. His suffering and struggles continue with a bad immune system and memory loss. However, on this evening he walked onto the stage and delicately played his tunes. It was a slow, dark and moving opening as he took out his black acoustic guitar.
It was a soothing intro to the evening, and the crowd appeared to be engaged (despite being a few feet back). A few members slowly inched their way closer to the stage as though they realized it was something they are allowed to do. TURNQUIST shyly opened up to the crowd saying this was his third night in a row opening for the bands and went into “Cloud Slicing.” It was a short and tranquil set as he seemed to fit decently with the other bands.
As the stage changed, I noticed the members from DRIFTOFF looking at the lights situation where I could have sworn one of them said, “All the way down.” The stage darkened where it was nearly pitch black with a hint of red, and I am one who follows the no flash photography rule, so that was a bit of a challenge.
I had never heard of these guys as well, as they formed in 2013. For some reason, they reminded me of the early 2000’s when bands such as AT THE DRIVE-IN were still prominent (despite their recent reunion). The audience participated throughout their set as a few raised their fists in the air and others stood in a long gaze. The band interacted with the audience a bit as they celebrated a few birthdays where people in the crowd turned 21 that evening.
Clearly they wanted to make sure everyone would buy them drinks to the point that they would have trouble walking home. These guys were unique and kept my interest as I am sure they will return to New York. Finally, it was time for IF THESE TREES COULD TALK…
The lights moved to a darkened moonlit atmosphere, as the crowd at this point seemed to fill the gaps on the floor. What I liked most was watching the audience screaming and cheering despite each song remaining instrumental. The fans knew what they were hearing, as one especially yelled this night expressing how she came all the way from Canada. There were a few headbangers as well, and that made me feel a bit closer to home.
The set started off with “Solstice” from the new album The Bones of a Dying World; it began strongly as the crowd was already familiar with the new material. I don’t think they have toured that much as they did look a bit nervous and the sound seemed to distract them. However, from the fan’s perspective it sounded great.
The three guitars, bass, and drums all picked up phenomenally, and the mood was spot on. They just need to tour more and get comfortable with the variety of sound changes, lights, and technical malfunctions. I was completely lost and distracted in their set, similar to when I listen to their music at home as they went into songs “What’s In the Ground Belongs to You” and “Red Forest.”
As their set continued and fans were flowing with the energy, the band seemed to let loose themselves during tunes, “Above the Earth,” “Below the Sky,” and “Iron Glacier.” There was minimal interaction with the audience yet that didn’t bother me at all. Everyone knew the songs, despite the area of their career as they went into “The First Fire,” “Berlin,” “Malabar Front,” and closed with “Earth Crawler.”
I hardly do this, and I want to say to the group, their music itself holds a level of unspeakable brilliance that when performed live, they should trust it and let it move naturally. Mistakes happen at shows, where members also fall as fans tend to throw random items drunkenly onto the stage. These instances happen, and once they let go their live shows will escalate further. I think this is a great group of guys as the guitars were on point, despite how loud it could have seemed to them. I heard the difference, as there are certain parts in their music where I look for a higher guitar chord, and that night it gave me the same reaction. They are coming back around in September, and I am sure confidence will continue to grow, as these guys are well worth it to see.
LIVE IMAGES AND WORDS: ZENAE D. ZUKOWSKI