There’s almost nothing so darkly cathartic as an emo concert. Though many bands of the genre have drawn criticism for their controversial and cliched lyrics, those at the forefront are more serious and skilled than ever. Two such bands are Pianos Become the Teeth and Philadelphia-based The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP), who last night performed their final show of a joint tour in support of their new albums, Wait for Love and Always Foreign, respectively. The bloated lineup also featured emo-punks Teenage Wrist and soft rockers Queen of Jeans, technically giving the night three openers for a show that ended up being nearly four hours in length. Yet somehow, the pace of the performance kept things moving.
With a glowing blue background and a shining white light from below, Pianos Become the Teeth took the stage following the other openers. Lead singer Kyle Durfey immediately ripped into a fit of head-banging, sometimes grabbing the mic stand with all of his strength or tossing it aside to whip the cord of the microphone around his contorting body. Durfey no doubt always delivers the songs of his formerly hardcore band with such intense physical expression, but I can’t help wondering if the imminence of Father’s Day brought an additional twinge of sorrow to his approach considering that his father’s death was the main inspiration for the 2014 album, Keep You. Though the band’s newer music is a little easier on the eardrums, their live performance was nonetheless relentless as they let the amps wail with an unending distortion between songs, never allowing for a moment of pure silence in the entire set. These days the sound and look of Pianos Become the Teeth are a lot more digestible for the mainstream audience than they were before Durfey became a family man, but the subtle hints of their hardcore days that remain are what make the band an emo standard-bearer.
If the night had ended there, it would have been more than sufficient, but TWIABP still had to take their turn. Where Pianos Become the Teeth drew from the ever-reliable power of a four-piece rock band, TWIABP attempted a more orchestral sound, featuring a trombone, saxophone, trumpets, and a keyboard synthesizer. They followed a similar technique to Pianos Become the Teeth, leaving almost no moment unfilled with some sort of amp noise, building a wall of sound that would collapse in a mid-song emotional release with every break of the rhythm.
A gap formed between those crowded at the edge of the stage and those who moved to the center of the room for the writhing mosh pit that’s characteristic of every emo concert. Playing songs from albums old and new, lead singer David Bello used his confessional lyrics to discuss personal and public criticisms of himself and the world at large. Two plastic skulls at the base of the drum kit served as a haunting memento mori, suggesting perhaps, just as the band’s newest album does, that the world is actually not so beautiful right now. Though the long-haired darkness and depression of emo is a genre I don’t often indulge in, the sheer talent of these two bands is undeniable and unshakeable, having withstood transformations in sound, style, and lineup. Despite the divisive opinions surrounding emo style and subject matter, it’s indisputable that for those who cope by wallowing in their pain, these two bands will be there to light the path. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER