Live review: Cave In, Narrows, Trap Them @ First Unitarian Church

Screenshot from live video
Review by Casey Boland

Bands have been reuniting at an alarming rate. It’s not a matter of who is back together so much as who is not. That Cave In returned is no surprise. The band entered its hiatus amicably, with members appearing on one another’s projects. With continued interest in the band, it was only a matter of time until they resumed.

Cave In began as a Converge knockoff, but quickly morphed into a more over-the-top beast, before drastically shifting gears to dense, spacey rock. Their final records mostly dispensed with all metal elements. On this year’s Planets of Old EP, the band added grit to their latter-day Queens of the Stone Age assault. Thus, it was a crapshoot as to what era the band would emphasize now.

For a weekend mini-tour, Cave In hit the road with Trap Them and Narrows. A packed house met them in Philadelphia. It was difficult to discern if the the crowd attended for Cave In or their support acts.

Trap Them delivered a twisted take on modern hardcore. Vocalist Ryan McKenney menaced the stage, long, greasy hair flailing about. Guitarist Brian Izzi’s tone was uncharacteristically thin. As their set wore on, the lack of guitar heft seemed to sap their energy. A PA mix that favored vocals and kick drum may have been the culprit. The audience was similarly staid. McKenney’s call for a circle pit garnered a lukewarm response. With a band like Trap Them, crowd reaction is almost as crucial to a set as the band’s performance (though nearly every member of a band will deny this). Nevertheless, the band played as tightly as on its impressive records.

Narrows followed with more rocking, ultra-modern hardcore. They introduced new material that easily trounced anything on their debut (reviewed here). Most noticeable was vocalist Dave Verellen. Again, with a PA mix emphasizing vocals, his trademark roars filled the large room like a smoke bomb. I wondered how he could still evoke such throat-ravaged howls nearly a decade after the dissolution of Botch. Yet he persevered over 30 minutes on nonstop fury. Guitarist Ryan Frederiksen (also of These Arms Are Snakes) mesmerized with an odd effects pedal in nearly every song. He’d be wise to incorporate it on future recordings (though one audience member quipped that it made the band sound like Korn).

Following a lengthy setup, Cave In ran through newer songs from Perfect Pitch Black, Antenna, and Planets of Old. The band was a little stiff in the joints, flubbing a few notes and fills. The mix was muddy, and guitarists Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath were lost in the fuzz. Still, the band proved why they’re not forgotten. Brodsky demonstrated his growth as a singer, while bassist Caleb Scofield handled most screaming duties. When the band launched into “Juggernaut” from Until Your Heart Stops, the crowd erupted into a mass of lunging bodies and punching fists. Even old-time promoter staff got in on air guitar and air drum action. Some of the song’s impressive guitar moves were missed (especially when Brodsky snapped a string), yet the energy of the band and audience overpowered any technical limitations.