With the release of a short EP, In Your Absence, Buddy Nielsen and company of Senses Fail recently returned to the road to honor their 2006 sophomore full-length, Still Searching, by performing the record in its entirety. The band was supported by Canada’s Counterparts & Like Pacific as well as Orange County’s Movements.
On this stormy night in San Francisco, openers Like Pacific briefly took Great American Music Hall’s stage to perform 8 - 10 songs and discussed the importance of the Bay Area to their career. The Canadian rocker’s set included 30 minutes of pissed off lyrics, screamed above power chord chugs and pop-punk percussion—which the crowd really seemed to enjoy. Kudos to walking on stage to the Goosebumps soundtrack, that was legit.
After a quick set change, the alternative emo group Movements graced the stage. With in-ear monitors and only one guitarist, it was like a weight was lifted from the crowd as the clearest and most crisp music of the night was presented. The band performed songs both familiar and new, and even let a super fan take the mic to excitedly scream a few lines before stage diving back into the crowd. It was clearly the show’s highlight for both her and the band.
Counterparts were up next…and as they took the stage, the mood shift in the room was palpable. The band had no desire to go through sound check, eagerly chomping at the bit to get the party started. Fans began to stretch out, and throw their hoodies over their heads in anticipation for what was to come. The band quickly introduced themselves before 45 minutes of solid hardcore/punk bled from the auditorium’s sound system. Mosh pits and hardcore dancing ensued. Frontman Brendan “B” Murphy never missed a scream, and continually complimented the crowd on its energy while asking them to take it to an even heavier level. Without a doubt, this was the performance of the night.
Finally, two hours into the evening Senses Fail took the stage. Nielsen and his already sweaty beard jumped right into “The Rapture.” Between tracks the frontman expressed how much this album meant to him, relaying that he was in a very fragile mental state upon its release. Exuding a sort of “apology” for prior performances of the songs, Nielsen explained he couldn’t perform them to their fullest back then because his head wasn’t in the right place. Lectures of “treating every living being with respect” were also a between-track filler, which ironically came around the same time he screamed aggressively to the side of the stage for, what seemed like, allowing fans to come up and stage dive. With the album’s ups and downs in energy, fans sang every word and filled in the chants for “Bonecrusher,” “Shark Attack,” “To All The Crowded Rooms” and others.
What made Still Searching a standout in the 2006 emo scene was its gutsy move to present classic guitar solos in a palm-mute era. Whether it’s because the music was over-layered/over-produced in its inception or because the band’s soundman phones it in, most of the lead guitar licks were buried throughout the night, leaving our minds to fill in the blanks. It was also devastating that a Still Searching vinyl release wasn’t available at the merch booth. Perhaps (hopefully) it sold out earlier in the tour, or the rights couldn’t be retrieved. Either way it felt like a missed opportunity for income.
Once “The Priest and the Matador” concluded, the final track from Still Searching, Senses Fail performed various songs from their 15-year catalog. The truth of the matter is, it's great to see that this band has survived a 15-year career in an industry filled with turmoil, but with “album reunions” being the current climate of the emo-core scene, one can wonder where the band can go from here to continue to stay afloat.
Text by Andy Mesecher
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