With its themed sub-areas dubbed Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, industrial bare-bones interior and cheerfully misleading illuminated purple marquee, Atlanta’s famed goth-esque nightspot seems better suited to display “Abandon All Hope…” instead of the night’s band list. Housed in a former turn-of-the century wood wool mill, The Masquerade attracts a colorful assortment of adolescent misfits and curious twenty-somethings unable to resist the club’s dark lure. But Circa Survive’s performance, occurring in the mid-level concert hall ironically named “Heaven,” was nothing short of a miracle.
Philadelphia-based Circa Survive is known just as much for its experimental prog-rock as it is for its charismatic frontman Anthony Green, the impressive ex-vocalist of hardcore band Saosin. Circa Survive has certainly paid its dues, touring with the likes of Saves the Day, Thrice and My Chemical Romance. This summer marks the band’s first headlining experience on the “Twilight Army Tour,” traveling with a rotating line-up that includes fellow Philadelphian newcomers Days Away.
Taking the stage, Green seemed reserved but not detached, sparing no time for introductions or small talk. Launching into the fiery “Stop The Car” off of their 2005 debut Juturna, it was clear from Green’s fervent glances, furious crooning and erratic swagger that he was capable of rendering a crowd completely silent with a single verse. The band blazed through a dizzying set that spanned the emotional gamut from the gut-wrenching frenzy of “Holding Someone’s Hair Back” to the agonizing despondency of “We’re All Thieves.” Leaving his onlookers stunned, mouths agape, Green silently retreated into the depths. But after such an impassioned performance, the crowd was left longing for resolution.
Indulging the disparate chants of “Circa, Circa, Circa,” Green once again emerged from the shadows holding a Tibetan altar bell, its hypnotic hum bidding the crowd to silence over the reverb atmospherics of “Meet Me In Montauk.” Stepping on top of an amp, Green towered over the masses, bracing himself against the crowdsurfers hurtling towards him, the captain of a sinking, angst-ridden ship. But amidst a sea of flailing bodies, index fingers and bared teeth, Green was just one of the crowd.
Inflated luminescent balls tumbled over the crowd, casting an eerie electric glow as Green whispered “You’d mean so much more if I remembered.”
Mulling over doubts about lackadaisical crowds and musical blunders, guitarist Brendan Ekstrom sometimes loses himself during a show. Posting an afternoon entry on the band’s tour blog, Ekstrom seems enlightened, saying that Atlanta’s show brought him “full swing back into color. Kids stage diving. The whole crowd singing. And of course these are the shows we don’t video tape.”
But for the throng of Circa followers who witnessed Green’s passion and fury that night, there was really no need.