Written by Emilia D’Albero, Photos by Michel Dussack
Those people who attended Orion Music and More last Saturday know that Bowling Green band Cage the Elephant and New Jersey natives The Gaslight Anthem can rock hard enough to draw thousands of people to their respective stages at Bader Field. But those people who arrived in Atlantic City a day early had the opportunity to see both bands perform at the House of Blues and to experience their raw power and energy a second time. Both Cage the Elephant and The Gaslight Anthem played phenomenal sets full of hits both old and new, incredible audience interaction, and inspiring enthusiasm from each and every member of the bands.
First to take the stage was A Place to Bury Strangers, an extremely heavy three-piece hailing from New York. They have an extremely unique stage presence, which compliments their extremely unique style of playing music. From the moment they walked out, they were shrouded in darkness; they had no lighting except for the occasional strobe placed strategically in front of them that went off during especially heavy moments of their songs. The combination of their very loud, very heavy guitar, thrilling bass riffs, and fast, rhythmic drumming already makes for an exciting performance, but what really makes A Place to Bury Strangers stand out is the way they interact with their instruments, each other, and the audience. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of one of their performances is how rough they are with their instruments; frontman Oliver Ackermann has no inhibitions about swinging his guitar around and lifting it high in the air just to let it fall to the ground, and bassist Dion Lunadon actually seems to enjoy smashing his bass guitar against the stage with all of the strength he can possibly muster.
A Place to Bury Strangers is a band that quite literally gives the audience their all- towards the end of their 30-minute set, Lunadon extended his instrument to a member of the audience, asking, “Do you play bass?” to which the boy promptly replied that he did, and Lunadon let him play bass along with Jay Space’s drum beats for a few minutes before retrieving his instrument. In its entirety, A Place to Bury Strangers’ performance was impressively loud and incredibly entertaining, and I am very happy that I got a chance to see them perform again at Orion Music and More on Sunday.
The next band to take the stage was Cage the Elephant, a rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky, whose performances are just as fun, if not more fun, than A Place to Bury Strangers’. Headed by Matt Schultz, Cage the Elephant barreled through fast, heavy tracks like their opener, “In One Ear,” as well as calmer songs that their audience could sing along to, such as “Rubber Ball”. Matt Schultz is a madman on stage; he is constantly moving all around the stage, shaking his limbs vigorously, and just generally being difficult to follow around. Schultz’s energy is incomparable, and he is well known for his ability to extend that energy into his audience by crowdsurfing, screaming into their faces, walking on the crowd, and jumping into his audiences from high heights such as large amps and sometimes even balconies.
Cage the Elephant definitely keep their fans in mind when choosing their setlists; Friday’s was a great combination of their bigger hits and lesser-known songs, all of which got a very positive response from their fans. Songs like “Around My Head,”“Flow,” and “2024” were accompanied by the audience singing along, while heavier and faster songs like “Aberdeen,”“Tiny Little Robots,” and “Back Against the Wall “caused pits to break out in the middle of the crowd. Matt Schultz likes to talk to his fans between songs and especially after getting back onstage after crowdsurfing; after his first excursion into the sea of people, he took the microphone to let us know that the middle-aged woman standing behind me had attempted to unbuckle his belt, for which she felt no shame. At one point, he even encouraged the people sitting in the second level to jump off the balcony into the crowd, but later issued a disclaimer that he “doesn’t encourage it, but wouldn’t stop you if you did it.”
The pure energy that Cage the Elephant exudes onstage is outstanding and definitely contributes to their unique live performances, which have been a large part of them recently being shoved into the spotlight. Of course, the most anticipated moment of their set was when they played their biggest hit, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” during which the crowd sang along with every word, jumped up and down, and screamed their hearts out. Closing with the insanely fast and rhythmic “Sabertooth Tiger,” Cage the Elephant proved that they know how to rock and definitely how to satisfy a crowd that, for the most part, came with the intention of seeing the band that was supposed to perform after them.
Since Friday’s show was in New Jersey, it was not surprising that the majority of attendees were there to support The Gaslight Anthem, since they are a New Jersey band. As soon as they walked out onstage, screams and shrieks filled the House of Blues and did not stop until the moment the band left the stage. Opening with “Great Expectations,” The Gaslight Anthem made it clear that they were there to rock and to have fun with the people who came to support them. It seemed like every person in the venue was singing along with frontman Brain Fallon as his voice rang out flawlessly on songs like “Drive,”“Old White Lincoln,” and their latest hit, “45.”As excited as the audience was to hear a song like “45,” they went just as crazy for older songs, like “Wooderson” and “Angry Johnny and the Radio”. It was obvious that the people who came to the House of Blues that night truly loved this band; the energy level in the venue did not drop even a bit, even after The Gaslight Anthem left the stage between the main set and the encore.
The Gaslight Anthem’s encore was perhaps the most memorable part of the evening, because they played some big hits as well as a cover of “House of the Rising Sun,” which sparked the loudest sing-along yet. The Gaslight Anthem took the stage for their encore with even bigger smiles than they had left the stage with, which made it clear that they absolutely love what they do and how it makes their fans feel. The amount of passion in their 5-song encore performance topped their main set and encouraged the crowd to get even more rowdy and excited for the last two songs of their set, which just happened to be two of their biggest hits. Closing with “American Slang “and then “The ‘59 Sound,” the band showed the venue just how much they love their fans by putting their whole hearts into their performance and really giving it their all. “The ’59 Sound” literally shook the venue, and I was impressed by the dedication of band and fan alike, which made me very excited to see The Gaslight Anthem again the next day.
All three bands that played at the House of Blues on Friday night provided a wonderful warm-up for, as well a preview of, the coming weekend. Seeing these bands so energized and ready to take on Orion Music and More was inspiring; I can only hope that anyone who was at the venue for that show attended each band’s set during the weekend to support them even more, because they all certainly deserve it. It was a perfect pre-show and I am very happy that I was able to have the experience of seeing the bands in a more intimate setting before I saw them play at Orion Music and More.