Photo of City of Caterpillar by Brian Benavente
October 11th was the Portland date of City of Caterpillar’s West Coast reunion tour at the Bossanova Ballroom. City of Caterpillar is an influential screamo band from the early 2000’s who featured members from Pg. 99 and Darkest Hour. Their sprawling, chaotic self-titled full-length went onto inspire a lot of bands who adopted their post-rock/screamo sound (ex. Funeral Diner). The band was only around for three years and were generally not very well-received at their creative peak due to the rising popularity of the more mainstream emo sound at the time, so when they announced a string of West Coast reunion shows I was very much excited to see a band that I loved but never had the opportunity to see.
The show was opened by local post-hardcore group Longclaw. I have had an opportunity to see Longclaw a few times due to their members consistent contributions to the Pacific Northwest hardcore community. Longclaw is a band that seems to focus on emoting and building texture. There’s no breakneck hardcore sections or bass-lead mosh-inducing breakdowns to be found, but the overall intent found in their prior hardcore projects is still as alive as ever. The vocals between bassist Matthew Koenig and guitarist Jen Hauser blend well overall—both exhibiting an equal amount of vulnerability and courage. The beat is anchored by an acrylic attack that eschews flashy fills and odd meter for consistent and hard-hitting 2 and 4’s, a sound choice on drummer Stacey Spencer’s behalf as it allows all instruments to hold an equal amount of the listeners attention. The post-rock indebted passages, as delivered by guitarist Alexander Case, truly flesh out the sound and help add ambience to the mix. Longclaw recently released an EP, and seem poised to keep pushing their pensive sound. Catch this band if you get the chance.
The second band to play was Dreamdecay, a fuzz-heavy spacey “Washington” band that features Jon Scheid from Portland math-rock heroes Duck, Little Brother, Duck!, and U SCO. The band was in a similar vein to Longclaw, but instead of allowing mood to build itself, Dreamdecay took a driving direction to their sound. Their singing drummer employed an odd set up on the drums, opting for a crash cymbal in place of a ride, allowing the songs to be carried by spastic floor tom/hi-hat work. I was overall pretty unfamiliar with this band, and from my research they are a rather new endeavor, one that I’m excited to hear more from.
The co-headliner of the night was next. Thou is a NOLA institution that has been a champion of strict DIY ethics since their inception. I have had an opportunity to see this band a couple of times in the past at Blackwater and Anarres Infoshop; both are intimate venues with semi-decent to nonexistent sound systems that provided an intimate setting, but left me wanting to hear them in a venue that could effectively capture their bleak/massive sound. Thou began the set and immediately a marked shift in mood spread throughout the crowd, a sense of dread seeped to all corners of the room. The dual down-tuned riff exhibition that guitarists Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium put on was immediately grasping, forcing even the uninitiated to bang their heads to the molasses tempo anthems of nihilism, anarchy and misery. Bryan Funck contrasted the music; shrieked in a black metal-esque delivery. Before the show, I was having a conversation with a friend and humorously found myself fumbling over whether they were a doom, sludge, or black metal band, but ultimately Thou is a band that defies genre, Thou is Thou.
City of Caterpillar took the stage and a sense of anticipation and, oddly enough, joy seemed to take over the crowd. Everything the night had been building up to was finally here and did it ever deliver. After a slightly odd soundcheck courtesy of the sound guy doing the “asshole sound guy” routine, the band launched into the opening track, “And You’re Wondering How a Top Floor Could Replace Heaven.” The room exploded with energy and singalong, mimicking the drummers counterpointed rhythms in fits of joyful air drumming, and just like that the mood shifted again to one of reverence and awe as they worked their way through their “Godspeed You Black Emperor” somber post-rock sections. They played in a uniform manner through various album highlights like “When Was The Last Time We Painted Over The Blood On The Walls?,” and finished with my personal favorite song, “A Little Change Could Go a Long Ways” which produced a similar effect; the mostly over-21 crowd reveling in reliving shows past or living what they could only have dreamed. City of Caterpillar may have missed a step here or there in execution, but were entirely forgiven due to the fact that the fire that lived within them over a decade ago burned just as brightly. This in no way felt like a cash grab reunion or a forced chemistry of musicians trying to relive past glory. City of Caterpillar felt vital and just as relevant in 2017 as they did when I first found them on a screamo message board in 2007.