July 9, 2012 - Common Ground Festival, Lansing, MI
August 26, 2012 - The Loft, in Lansing, MI
August 27, 2012 - The Pike Room at the Crofoot in Pontiac, MI
On day one of Common Ground 2012, I ambled down to the Pearle Vision Pavilion and happened upon A Silent Film performing. Which song? I have no idea. I have a terrible memory. But performing they were.
My first thought was, "That sounds really good!"
My second thought was, "Holy drummer."
Then I had to step back and take it all in. Lead singer (Robert), moving all over the stage, sometimes thunking down on a keyboard. Bass player (Ali), jamming away with a smile on his face. Guitarist (Karl), rocking out in a quiet kind of way but occasionally tossing out little grins at his bandmates, and drummer (Spencer), drumming the shit out of the song like he really meant it. I hate watching drummers who just look like they're just there to keep
the beat and maybe fill in some transitions. No. You're giving the song
its GD heartbeat. Own it, kid. And he does. It's a beautiful thing.
Here's the thing about A Silent Film. You can listen to their albums, and they're good. I mean, really good. Their sound is kind of like a good croissant. Rich and layered but also light. At its loudest, it isn't oppressively weighty. It's dynamic. Lovely. But when you see them live, you can really see the layers come together. They come to the fore and fade back seamlessly to weave their songs together so they sound like the album versions only more. Better. You know, the way live music should be.
These guys hit that crucial balance between being in the music and performing for the crowd. They're performing like these songs mean something to them, and like performing them means something to them. I hope they don't lose that as they inevitably become absurdly famous. I go to a lot of shows and what I said about drummers applies to other performers as well. Hearing music is all well and good but really great music should be felt. And if you're performing but I don't catch that you feel it, then I don't understand what it is you're doing up there. You don't have to cry about it, but don't stand up there looking like you'd rather be playing cribbage, either. Thankfully, I never caught wind of any cribbage--or bocce ball--hobbies during any of A Silent Film's performances.
There is one bad thing about ASF shows. They're too short. Oh, they're normal sets. It's just that normal doesn't quite seem enough. The guys do seem inclined to hang out after the show, though, selling merch and chatting up fans. I met Spencer and Robert and they seemed genuinely interested in meeting people and were gracious, humble and enthusiastic about what they do. It was really great for a shy cat like me to get a few moments to say hello.
A couple of notes about the venues. Common Ground is a terrific festival. I'd never been before, but the sound on both stages was really good and the range of performers was fantastic. Definitely check it out if you get the chance. It runs in the evenings for a full week in July.
The Loft in Lansing is a really cute, small venue. They've had some good acts (AWOLNATION, As I Lay Dying) and have more scheduled (Mutemath, Rusted Root). It's definitely worth stopping in if you're in the area but it's nestled snugly between some bars, so look closely for the sign. Had I not seen the guys from the band go in the front door, I might've missed it.
The Pike Room at the Crofoot in Pontiac is a new favorite. The small stage forced Ali into performing some impressive Robert-evading maneuvers but also brought Spencer closer to the crowd which is never a bad thing. The Pike room is just one of the venues within the building and they seem to get really great acts. It's easy to find and parking is a snap. The staff was also super nice and gave me some music recommendations, directions back home and a walk to my car!
A Silent Film's dynamic, energetic and emotional sound comes alive on stage. If they swing by your part of the world, they're absolutely worth checking out.