`Note: Our reviewer tapped out at intermission, but please post your own comments on the show’s second half at sacurrent.com.`
Twenty-five songs are just too many for one night. Most bands don’t even have 25 decent songs to play live, forget about trying to run through them all in a row. Cinderleaf, however, is the exception. Thankfully the band was kind enough to split their set in half.
Cinderleaf opens their first half with “Hall Tom,” a short, upbeat number that gets the entire room singing. Afterward, guitarist Andy Pape remarks that the song was probably written in ’97. I would normally commend an audience for remembering lyrics more than a decade old, but the band seemed to know nearly everyone in the room on a first-name basis, as if they were all in on the writing process. This was the kind of show where the line between band members and fans was blurred to the point of obscurity.
Cinderleaf follow their crowd-pleaser with the more modern-rock “Losing the Signal,” then “On a National Band,” which features singer-guitarist Jason Stiles playing echo-and-flange-filled riffs. “Majorette? Or Brenda Walsh?” and “An Annual Event” reveal noticeable influence from Sunny Day Real Estate and Hey Mercedes. Before jumping into “A Ring Around Her,” Pape suggests everyone show love to the one they’re next to, to which drummer Kevin Holmes responds by getting up and laying a hug on bassist Chris Brown. “A Ring Around Her” is the band’s most infectious song yet, with absolutely unforgettable instrumental hooks.
During the songs “Brighteyes Goodbye” and “Trajectory,” I noticed just how solid Holmes’ drumming is. Despite some of these songs being 10 years or older, Holmes attacks each one as if it were as fresh as the day they wrote it. Holmes brings the band together, and other locals would do well to take note — a good drummer is indispensable.
“Aerial Display” is more somber than the previous songs. During a quiet moment, Stiles sings, “You call me baby, and I just look away.” Immediately afterward the band erupts into a frenzy, with Pape falling into the drumset, narrowly escaping disaster by flailing his arm up into the colored glass behind him.
First-half closer “A Counterfeit” is equally entertaining, showcasing the depths of Cinderleaf’s songwriting prowess — though what’s most enjoyable is simply watching the band members interact with one another. It’s evident that each of these songs offers a glimpse of a shared history — road trips and parties that the rest of us can only wish we were invited to. — Steven Gilmore