Few bands have faced such a turbulent whirlwind of line-up changes than that of Dance Gavin Dance. Yet, despite having three different singers throughout their career, with every drop out surrounded in varying levels of drama, the post-hardcore five-piece have been able to consistently bring out release after release with minimal to no trace of halting; the longest wait between records being just two years.
Here we are now in 2016; the band have been going for 10 years, and along with an anniversary tour recently closing in the US (soon to come to the UK and Europe at the end of the year), and the band’s line-up being the most stable it has been ever, they’ve also released what should be seen as a celebration album for the aforementioned milestone and accomplishments.
‘Tree City Sessions’ is the band’s first live session output, recorded in Pus Cavern studios in the band’s hometown of Sacramento, which sees the quintet record and recapture songs from two songs off of each of their full-length records to date. It’s like a non-lazy version of a greatest hits and, with Tilian Pearson as the band’s co-ringleader (alongside Jon Mess), it also brings to light his stamp on the band’s Jonny Craig era and Kurt Travis era material.
Pearson transitions and slots into Travis‘ work a lot easier than that of Craig‘s; ‘Alex English’ and ‘Carl Barker’ still lifting the more rock orientated vocals of the latter singer whilst transforming comfortably into Pearson‘s more high-pitched soars. He holds his own with fan favourite and hard to face toe-to-toe cut ‘Lemon Meringue Tie’, proving that Pearson can still kill it like Craig did but make the song his own now that his boots are filled.
The tag team effort with Mess is also something to be noted, with his gruff barks aside the almost polar opposite stylings of Pearson on tracks like ‘The Jiggler’ and ‘Spooks’. It cements the fact that he as a vocalist is just as important as the singer, something that certainly wasn’t acknowledged fully with the band’s Craig era records and also with the Travis era because, well, he wasn’t there for the most part of it. Everything is gelled together, of course, by the instrumental backdrop, most notably with line-up mainstays Will Swan and Matt Mingus, and bassist Tim Feerick grooving behind it all.
It’s come to be expected with how long the band have been going now, but being able to perform a live session album and making it sound like it could be a new full-length is a testament to how experienced, finely-tuned, and robust the machine that Dance Gavin Dance is today. Considering the band were thinking about throwing in the towel back in 2011 when they put together ‘Downtown Battle Mountain II’, it’s admirable to see that not only have they persisted with a further two records (and a third in the works), but that they’re stronger and more passionate than before. Let’s see what the next decade has instore.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)