On Friday, December 12th, Every Time I Die took the stage of New York’s Webster Hall in what would prove to be their largest-ever headlining show. The ensuing hour, which progressed in a ferocious blur of sweat and fists and guitar hooks, was jam-packed with 18 songs, two cakes, as many birthdays, and countless antics.
I arrived at the venue all of ten minutes before the start of ETID’s set, despite their headlining slot at the top of an enormous, five-band bill. The unusually large tour package offered Backtrack, Hundreth, Architects, and co-headliners The Ghost Inside—and while I usually would endeavor to get to a venue early for the expressed purpose of catching the supporting acts, I’d no desire to spend four hours wading through a sea of spin-kicks accompanied by mediocre hardcore tunes. And I’m sorry, because that’s an obtuse, close-minded attitude to bring to a show, but I outgrew the appeal of any emerging bands from that scene long ago. The modern iteration of the hardcore scene lacks musical and aesthetic innovation and almost seems like it prides itself on this notion. If anything, Every Time I Die was an anomaly on this roster, which appears to be their role in tour packages more and more consistently as they transcend, with every new record, what many fans have come to expect from the realms of hardcore and metal. So no, I didn’t go see any of the four opening bands. I went to a nearby dive and played beer pong till I was good and ready to endure what I assumed was going to be a pit that consumed the venue’s entire ground floor, as is tradition during ETID sets.
As the lights dimmed for the band’s entrance, a sports-announcer-esque voice came over the PA system, glibly informing the audience that, while a half-dozen of us were expected to die that night, “15 new Every Time I Die fans” would “emerge to take their place.” The band loped out onto the stage and frontman Keith Buckley announced the first song, “Thirst,” which, mimicking the band’s two-part video for both singles, was followed by “Decayin’ With The Boys.” Both songs were from the outfit’s latest release, From Parts Unknown, and the band dipped all the way into their past with “Ebolarama” before turning back to the new record for “The Great Secret.” As Buckley screamed the first lines—“Blow your f**king brains out! Blow your f**king brains out!”— it became apparent much of the crowd wasn’t all that acquainted with From Parts Unknown, a pity because ETID spent the entire summer on the Vans Warped Tour in support of this effort. However, if this daunted the band, they didn’t at all betray it, opting instead to exhibit the expert showmanship their fans have apparently come to take for granted: Buckley was neck deep in the crowd at some point during each song, standing on hands or surfing or simply sharing the mic, while his brother, Jordan, took to flinging his guitar skyward with abandon, tenuously catching it every time it fell back to earth.
The band rattled off “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space,” the only track they’d end up playing off their second-to-last record Ex Lives, and Keith Buckley graciously thanked the venue’s security staff for protecting both the bands and the crowd. He also encouraged fans to pick up ETID’s newest release, along with merch from the rest of the night’s roster, while admitting the band didn’t really care if fans illegally downloaded the album, provided they came to the show and knew the words to the songs. If that was Buckley’s qualifier for justifying the pirating of ETID’s discography, it was only half-met by the crowd, whose enthusiasm seemed a bit faint.
Every Time I Die then broke into “El Dorado,” the penultimate track from From Parts Unknown, but only played the outro—a chugging refrain of “Crush your allies! Crush your allies!”—a disappointing two times. This was followed by “Bored Stiff,” a crowd favorite for which the band demanded a tremendous circle pit and during which they unrepentantly stopped and restarted before the desired effect was achieved. Next came “Wanderlust,” “Off Broadway,” the Guitar Hero shredder “The New Black,” and “Floater.”
At some point, Buckley introduced the band and told the crowd two members were sharing a birthday that night: guitarist “Awesome” Andy Williams and bassist Steve Micciche. The singer passed out a tiny birthday cake, which was immediately torn apart by the crowd. “You animals!” he joked as pieces of chocolate went flying. A short while later, he gave the audience another cake and the result was the same.
“Floater” was followed by “Cities And Years,” “Roman Holiday,” “The Marvelous Slut,” and “Idiot.” For the band’s last two numbers, they chose a couple relatively well known songs from their album The Big Dirty: “No Son Of Mine” and the party-themed single “We’rewolf.” Buckley thanked the crowd again for endowing the band with the largest headlining show in its history and ETID exited the stage, only to have the singer re-emerge for “Moor,” an encore which Warped Tour audiences had, this past summer, dubbed their favorite cut off the band’s new album. The song is itself somewhat of an outlier in ETID’s canon; based on Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, its first half is comprised of naught but Buckley’s vocals and a chordless piano line, for which it was impossible to tell if the band was using and offstage keyboardist or a backing track. However, its heavy ending stirred the waning crowd back into a fervor, and the set ended on an energetic note.
Every Time I Die are true hardcore-scene veterans, and it shows in many facets of their sound and shows. Their performances are always top-caliber but when they don’t receive the crowd response they want—or deserve, in this case; this show was, after all, their biggest in the headliner slot—elements of their sets can seem a bit dialed in, like the shortening of an outro or a one-song encore. In any case, the band’s set was basically a giant party, and I’m sure their audience expected no less.