Awake At Last, The Things They Carried, Those Mockingbirds support The Venetia Fair on their Final NYC show
Review by Michelle Turk - Links: Twitter
Much to the surprise of the cult-like following for Massachusetts’ theatrical rock group The Venetia Fair announced their break-up (NOT HIATUS) at the end of 2015. Their penultimate concert took place at Webster Hall on February 19, 2016 in the Marlin Room. Fans and band friends gathered to see the Venetia Fair grace New York City just one last time. I had never seen the Venetia Fair and I don't think I was quite prepared for the artistic chaos I was about to experience.
On the opposite side of the spectrum of chaos was the opening band Awake at Last, a Delaware 5-piece rock group. Upon first impression, I thought that the band was very well dressed and when they started playing they reminded me of a young My Chemical Romance and The Used. Awake at Last has a finely crafted performance and at times very well choreographed. Even though they were very well put together, when they asked the crowd to dance for their third song into the set, bassist Tyler Greene and guitarist Eric Blackaway had no problems setting the pace with their energy. Vocalist Vincent Torres dedicated their last song of the evening “Never Be a Memory” to all of the artists in the room. The band released a music video for “Never Be a Memory” just last month. Their set was the NYC stop of their month long tour through the Northeast after which they will be returning to the studio to record an EP.
Following Awake at Last was New York City’s own The Things They Carried. I saw The Things They Carried once many years ago and really enjoyed hearing all of the ways the band has grown to find a unique sound. After a few lineup changes through the years, it seems that vocalist Steve Schwartz has found a lineup that is as exciting as they are talented. Drummer Jesse Burton adds a lot of flavor to all of their songs that make it easy for the crowd to move to. Guitarist Ronnie Minuche adds uninhibited energy to their live set. The band’s newer sound caters to vocalist Schwartz range, which is incredibly wide and quite often reminded me of vocalists Tillian Pearson and Jonny Craig (Dance Gavin Dance). The Things They Carried set off in March for tour with Foreveratlast.
After The Things They Carried was another band I had not seen in many years: Those Mockingbirds from New Jersey. Those Mockingbirds is bluesy and truly a rock band who has the potential to be touring with bands such as Manchester Orchestra, Modest Mouse, and Queens of the Stone Age. One of my favorite moments of their set was when guitarist and vocalist Adam Bird held his guitar up to his mouth and screamed into his guitar pickups. Their sound is versatile and their live set reflected the madness that was about to ensue by the Venetia Fair. Those Mockingbirds have a long history of touring with The Venetia Fair, which made it quite appropriate for them to support on The Venetia Fair’s final NYC show. “Following this set, the Venetia Fair is legally not allowed to return to New York for the awful things they've done here,” Adam said to the crowd while describing one of the stories of the bands’ histories together. They dedicated the song “S.a.L.T.” to Venetia Fair keyboardist Joe Occhiuti and told the crowd that the Venetia Fair requested the crowd spit on them. They closed out their set with their most recent single “How the Story Goes.”
What happened next was the unforgettable first and last time I will see the Venetia Fair. They opened the set with “Too Late to Dream.” Frontman Benny Santoro told the crowd, “We used to be the Venetia Fair.” He wait a beat before saying, “Now we are old guys. We are accountants. We are going to be boring until we die!” He then furiously licked his lips and the band played “The Day I Set Them Free.”
Following “The Day I Set Them Free,” Santoro asked the crowd if they remembered when the band had their old drummer. It has only been a few months since Chris Constantino left the band as drummer but he jumped on the kit for the next two songs of their set and played without missing a beat.
Constantino wasn't the only ex-member of the band to join them for this show. For the next song, founding bassist Samuel Parsons came up on stage, wearing only ripped off shorts just like Tobias Funkë’s “never nudes” on Arrested Development. History of the band’s founding in Santoro’s dorm room with Parsons was mentioned. When Santoro mentioned their 2009 record The Circus all hell broke loose. The band played “Because You're Lonely” and there was hardly a voice in the room that was not screaming the song at the band. At one point in time, Charles “Mr. Chark” King ran over and sawed his guitar on the keyboard.
Throughout the set, Benny Santoro mentioned how mean the Venetia Fair has been. As the crowd screamed out their song requests, Santoro told them to stop yelling because they are nice guys now. “I wish I didn't write all these mean songs now that I'm old,” he confessed. They played their break up in a way that showed their playful personalities all along. “Do you realize you are looking at five accountants, you weirdos? Math is our fucking passion now!” Santoro shouted.
The band closed out their final New York City set with two last songs. “We won't be coming back after we play these last two. We don't know anymore songs!” Santoro introduced the sad ballad “Go On Paint Me a Picture.” The last song the band played was “The Ringleader” during which Santoro dove on to the crowd while Occhiuti stomped on his keys chaotically.
Overall, I feel really grateful to have only seen the Venetia Fair this one time for a trip that I could only describe fairly as if Queen was on acid and pirates hijacked the drama club. I was really not prepared to have such an experience. The Venetia Fair performs for the last time Sunday February 21 at ONCE Lounge in Somerville, Massachusetts with the Color and Sound and Old Best Friend.