Between the Buried and Me Take Over Sundance Saloon Waukegan, IL 7-30-15 w/ Animals As Leaders & The Contortionist

While circumstances do not always allow for ideal situations, nothing implies dedication more than melting such surroundings with an immaculate performance. Headlining The Coma Ecliptic Tour with supporting artists The Contortionist and Animals As Leaders, Between the Buried and Me overcame venue and health issues, for a flawless performance at the Sundance Saloon in Waukegan, Illinois on Thursday July 30, 2015.

Beginning just a few days prior to Coma Ecliptic‘s official release, the North Carolina natives embarked on a 33-date nationwide tour (including a couple of shows for the Canadian neighbors). With all three bands having toured together at one point or another, the lineup alone implied what familial good times and unimaginable human talent were in store. Illinois’ first of two scheduled stops hit a snag with the originally-intended venue, forcing the behind-the-scenes powers that be (oh how they must be thanked) to conjure up a new venue, on the same date, for all the foaming-at-the-mouth fans who were blowing up social media. Obstacle one: evaded.

Then, merely two days before New Venue Illinois Show, drummer Blake Richardson issued a public apology to fans, bandmates, and touring crew for the July 27th leg of the tour in Salt Lake City, Utah. Richardson appeared to have had a mild outburst on stage due to nerve problems in his leg. His apology reflected just how serious this battle was, and how his actions (although extremely mild considering that of other musician reputations) were sincerely regretted. Richardson’s humility highlighted both his and the band’s mission to positively reflect music, both on and off the stage. Obstacle two: evaded. Then finally, on July 30th, fans poured into the vast Sundance Saloon to welcome their resilient band back to the Land of Lincoln.

With hardly any lights exposing them, Indiana natives The Contortionist took the stage in shadowy existence. “Holomovement” seeped into the darkness with celestial ambiance, taking fans all the way back to 2012’s Intrinsic. Michael Lessard (vocals) breached the darkness with rivets of calm, clean vocals, then surged effortlessly into a roar of piercing growls. The vaporous synth of “Primordial Sound” wafted off the talent of Eric Guenther (keys), and dissipated into the heaviness of “Thrive.” Ending their set with “Language II: Conspire,” Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard (guitars) edged their instruments into eloquent unity. While their exit bow could hardly be seen, fans amounted generous applause and shouts of “one more song” as The Contortionist disappeared into the darkness. Whether the miniscule use of lights was purposeful or not, it certainly matched the transcendent effects within their music.


Animals As Leaders wreaked a havoc only “Tooth and Claw” could produce, beginning their set with the grisly, raw force to be reckoned with. Still coasting off the success of 2014’s Joy of Motion, the band certainly lives up to such a title with constant tours, special performances, and writing future tunes. Zoning into performance mode, Javier Reyes (guitar) became swallowed in the rigor of following his 8-string through some ultra-complicated riffs. On quite another end of the spectrum, Tosin Abasi (guitar) allowed his instrument to mirror his emotion: deeply nodding in moments of a heavy rising or turning to catch his bandmates’ reactions in a language only privy to them. Matt Garstka (drums) took center stage on “Mind-Spun,” carving incredible standards for Prog-Metal drumming. Speed is shown no mercy, hits are effortlessly sewn together, and the guy was grinning as if he just won the lotto. What is this creature? Garstka is the one keeping other drummers on their toes. Going on to perform “Physical Education,” “The Woven Web,” and closing song “Cafo,” Animals As Leaders supremely engraved their name in tiny, Waukegan, Illinois.


Roused by the silence of awaiting their headliner, fans chanted “B-T-BAM” until the lights faded out, and five unmistakable shadows walked onto the stage. Expecting to hear all of the Coma Ecliptic fans could handle, a nostalgic surprise emerged in the form of opening song, “Selkies: The Endless Obsession.” Sending fans into a sentimental frenzy, the barricades groaned forward as Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring (guitars) melted into the opening “Selkies” riff. Flitting over their instruments with mastered simplicity, the fuel of familiarity exposed their comfort and skill. Tommy Rogers’ (vocals/keys) savage growls faded into a zephyr of clean vocals, quieting the crowd only long enough to conclude the song to deafening acclaim.

Transitioning into “Coma Machine,” the Rock-Opera eccentrics funneled through Rogers’ keys, building towards a climactic sludge of signature Waggoner and Waring. Richardson (drums) meticulously placed each of his hits within the millisecond of time that allowed such precision to flourish. With beefy precision, Dan Briggs (bass/synth) buried “Coma” deep into the thunderous pulse of each fan. Yet, it was “Lay Your Ghosts to Rest” that brought fans and band together in a singular, ruthless union of lyrics. With an echo of voices louder than Rogers’ own, the breathless shouts erupted into a pit of elbows and fists, challenging the barricades with all of their might.

Continuing on to “Memory Palace” and “Famine Wolf,” true Between the Buried and Me fans already knew what was coming when “Ants of the Sky” began. Linking arms with strangers and skipping to the twangy, Country breakdown, old fans danced out the minute-long groove, while new fans burst with jovial discovery. Between the Buried and Me ended the night in grand form with encore, “White Walls.” The 2007 Colors hit was immediately recognized and carried into action atop Richardson’s rigid intro. Waggoner and Waring followed en suite, balancing an iron melody as one, then drifting into seamless individual pillars. Exercising the all-throat vocals of “White Walls,” Rogers’ portrayed severity and strength in the un-wavering effects of his sound. Briggs’ animated expression mimicked his instrument as he coaxed the weighty bass line into vital exposure.

While the venue was not accustomed to delivering such intense sound, and the obstacles of life stacked against them one too many times, Between the Buried and Me’s performance certainly did not suffer. Illuminating both the vocal and stylistic differences of Selkies vs. Coma Ecliptic-era Between the Buried and Me, the setlist harmonized, satisfied, and exceeded fans’ expectations. Enjoying each song only cemented what the die-hards already knew: this is the product of never being afraid to evolve.

Photo credit Catt Garcia

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