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Earlier | Later

Two Saturdays ago - November 10 - I went to The Crocodile Cafe to see Annuals for the third time this year. Opening for them was The New Frontiers and Manchester Orchestra. The show was all-ages, and when I arrived just after New Frontiers had begun, I found the room was divided roughly in half, with the all-ages side already pretty full and the 21+ side still fairly open. The 21+ side steadily filled in during the opening set, but never got too crowded.

Both of the opening bands were quintets comprised of two guitars, bass, synths/percussion, and drums, with a male guitarist as lead vocal and backing vocals from most of the other guys. Although first act The New Frontiers were competent and sounded fine, I found them fairly unremarkable overall - none of their songs grabbed me, nothing in particular stood out from other bands of that style. Manchester Orchestra, however, had a more individual sound. They opened and closed with solo songs by the lead singer, complementary introspective pieces about the pressures of being a working musician out on the road. In between the quiet bookends, they rocked out harder than The New Frontiers, making good use of contrasting quiet sections within the songs. One notable song opened as a sort of Gospel spiritual, featuring just lead vocals and an organ drone for a while before gradually adding some guitar, and building up to the rest of the band coming in for a rock-out ending. Overall I enjoyed their set more than The New Frontiers' set, and although Manchester Orchestra also didn't quite win me over as a new fan, I feel they offered more potential for future goodness.

Annuals are a sextet from North Carolina, including Adam Baker (lead vocals/synths/drum), Kenny Florence (guitar/backing vocals/drum), Mike Robinson (bass), Zack Oden (guitar/drumset), Anna Spence (keyboards/backing vocals), and Nick Radford (drums). When I first saw them, they were headlining at Neumos. After the second time, I wrote that I expected them to be headlining The Showbox when they next came to Seattle. Perhaps that was a bit hyperbolic, but still I was surprised that they were returning to a relatively small club, and I wondered how they would all fit on stage, let alone whether their expansive sound would overwhelm the smaller space. Of course, they proved to have no problem with the space at all, physically or audibly. They even had two members of Manchester Orchestra come on stage for added backing vocals and drum in one song. Throughout the set, I was impressed by the clarity of the sound and well-tempered volume: even without earplugs, there was no feedback hiss and even more surprisingly my ears weren't ringing after the show. Their set included a couple new songs, one of which featured guitarist Florence on lead vocals, usual lead vocalist Baker on the secondary drum kit, and Oden playing Baker's synth as well as his own guitar. Rather than break up the momentum of their set, they said they weren't going to bother leaving the stage before the encore, and they played another new song, the anthemic "Do You Like It?", which with its dramatic sound and repeated calls of "Goodbye!" in the lyrics is a perfect set closer. As evidenced by their set list, that was indeed the planned encore, and they left the stage when they were done. However, the audience enthusiasm was so great, it dragged them back out for an unplanned encore. For my part, even after three shows this year I'm eagerly looking forward to their next visit, and to a new full-length album they have planned for next year.


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