By Allyson Bills
Tours of band’s seminal albums are very common nowadays. It gives the fans a chance to see songs that normally aren’t played live for one night only. I’ve been fortunate to see bands such as Cursive and Jimmy Eat World play full sets of the albums that helped define their careers. When I heard The Appleseed Cast was doing a tour in order to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of 2000’s Mare Vitalis, I was excited because this is one of my favorite albums off their discography. Seeing Mare Vitalis being played in its entirety would be the third The Appleseed Cast album I would be seeing live. In 2010, I had opportunity to see The Appleseed Cast play both 2001’s Low Level Owl Volumes 1 and 2 at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix. It was a phenomenal show, and I expected the same with Mare Vitalis.
So I took this chance to check out Mare Vitalis live on a Wednesday night at Crescent Ballroom. At promptly 10 p.m., The Appleseed Cast took the the orange-lit stage unassuming and quietly like they always do. They quickly went into to the first track from the album, “The Immortal Soul Of Mundo Cani.” The band sounded on, just like all the other times in my years of seeing The Appleseed Cast.
However, in the middle of their second song “Fishing The Sky,” Chris Crisco’s (guitarist and the only original member of The Appleseed Cast) guitar strings broke. Not once, but twice. Crisco is a man of mystery and rarely talks onstage, and always lets the other band members do the talking on his behalf. This is when guitarist Taylor Holenbeck joked about how the band needed to take a break, adding “we looked so cool at first,” and “we got all night” after the second string breakage from Crisco’s guitar.
The band plowed straight through the rest of the nine-track Mare Vitalis. It was a treat to see both “Santa Maria” and “Secret" live because these two songs aren’t usually included in The Appleseed Cast setlist. “Santa Maria” never really has been my favorite track off Mare Vitalis, but that changed last night. There was so much energy to the sing, and it sounded like The Appleseed Cast was finally getting their groove back from earlier technical difficulties. Like I mentioned before, seeing these songs live is why I love attending album anniversary tours of the bands I love.
“Secret” got off to a great start with Nathan Wilder’s drums really adding the extra energy to the song, which is found on the recording of the album. Unfortunately, Crisco’s technical difficulties continued. In the middle of the song, there was a long interlude (with the band still playing) as Crisco needed to fix another guitar string. However, Crisco still didn’t miss a beat vocal-wise.
Crisco’s guitar strings broke yet again while playing “..And Nothing Less.” This is where Holenbeck made use of the downtime to read a text from his mom regarding the current full moon in which she told him “overwhelmed all that is not right. Similar to our set.” This theme continued for the rest of the duration of Mare Vitalis through to the final track, “Kilgore Trust,” my favorite track off the album. Holenbeck used the second part of unexpected downtime while Crisco was fixing his strings to joke about how this is a “really long project for Chris (fixing his guitar string).” He added that “this is the only time we are doing this in Phoenix. You (the audience) should all feel very special.”
It was until after The Appleseed Cast played all of Mare Vitalis when they really warmed up. They treated the audience of a cover of The Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored.” Seeing that cover live finally showed the band’s magic and chemistry, something that was missing throughout the evening. This was the Appleseed Cast that I know and love. They continued their new-found enthusiasm through to their encore, “Barrier Islands (Do We Remain)” from Illumination Ritual.
We all have off day and/or nights, but the lesson learned from this show is the degree of integrity in which we carry ourselves. The Appleseed Cast could have easily given up after the second song in their set, but they walked through their difficulties and made light of an uncomfortable situation. Despite the technical difficulties, I was happy to see finally see Mare Vitalis live, something I never thought would happen in my lifetime.