Photo of Emarosa by Henri Isaac
There were several great shows in Portland on the night of October 17th, but I’m very content with my decision to see Emarosa’s headliner.
Local band Fighting Casper started the show off with yet another set that reminded me just how talented they are. Scotty Fisher is the core of the band, so it’s often unpredictable who we’ll see on drums and bass, but their sound is always precise nonetheless, and they seem to have a solid lineup for the time being. Many of their songs open and close with gorgeous instrumentals that sandwich the much more brutal and aggressive middles of each compelling storytelling track. Fighting Casper is definitely a band to keep your eye on, especially if you’re into heavier music.
Jule Vera was next, and the first touring band of the night. I hadn’t heard any of their music before, so I went in with no expectations. My eyebrows shot up during their first song because every aspect of their sound was so strong from the get-go. I was positioned next to one of their guitarists, so their parts popped out more which gave me an appreciation for each element of their sound that I may not have realized if I didn’t first experience them live. Aside from bass, guitars, and drums, Jule Vera also had keys, electronics, backing tracks, ukulele, and Ansley Newman’s strong vocals which combined to make each song feel full. Most songs were dance-worthy, but it was fun to hear some other jazz, and southern rock-esque influences occasionally come through. They are a very solid live band.
A Lot Like Birds kept things moving with a relatively even mix of old and new songs. The last time I saw them, they played DIVISI in full after going through a massive musical transformation which attracted me to their music because of the gorgeous vocals leading the way. It was nice to hear some of their older songs because bassist Matt Coate’s voice acts as a sweet foundation for Cory Lockwood’s screams. This dynamic reminded me of Julien Baker and Jeremy Bolm at the end of “Skyscraper” by Touché Amoré. It’s a chilling contrast when done well, and A Lot Like Birds have it down. Their set passed quickly, but made DIVISI jump up a couple spots on my end of the year list.
After, some jazzed-up party music rang through the venue during soundcheck, Emarosa finished out the night with an electrifying set. The last time they played Portland was on the final date of Vans Warped Tour in 2016. At the time, Bradley Walden’s throat was damaged from an entire summer of inhaling dust in the hot weather, so a guest vocalist helped him sing each song of their set. It was exciting to see who came out for each song, but I was definitely looking forward to hearing Walden sing this time around. He let the crowd help him out a bit with songs like “Young Lonely.” He walked out into the crowd during one song and then again with the guitarist on his shoulders, but he couldn’t go very far because of the low ceiling and lights hanging down. Seeing Emarosa was as much fun and as interactive as seeing bands like The Maine because they really make their set an interactive experience.
They played a solid amount of songs from 131, some from Versus, and a Paramore cover featuring their tour manager on guitar. Walden wanted to keep things rolling and didn’t know much of what to say during the couple of pauses between songs, and if I heard correctly during a quiet moment, someone thought it would be okay to call him “daddy.” He seemed taken aback, but didn’t hesitate to call it out. He explained, “You can’t say that. If you said something like that to a woman, it wouldn’t be okay, so it’s no different just because I’m a man.” I’m really glad he called it out because bands are just people who happen to be on stage performing music we come to enjoy, and should feel safe and comfortable in doing so. Respect those who are on stage as well as those who aren’t. He moved on quickly from this, but the significance of the moment gave me an even deeper appreciation for Emarosa.
They closed the show with “Cloud 9”—the song that initially caught my attention leading up to 131’s release last year. Each song they played sounded just as massive live as they do on the records. Seeing Emarosa headline has me curious and eager to see what’s to come for this band.