In the liner notes to 2010’s Below & Beyond collection, Floor co-founder Anthony Vialon recalled that while his band had played together off and on for 12 years before seemingly dissolving for keeps in 2003, he and his cohorts hadn’t even managed to play a hundred shows. Or, as he put it, “Not many people got to see us live.” Since reforming in 2010, due in large part to Robotic Empire’s aforementioned discography, and then reuniting last year, the trio–which also features drummer Henry Wilson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks–has probably played another 50 or so times. So at some point over the past few years, those who missed seeing Floor the first time around were hopefully able to satisfy their live fix, a story with some parallels (and more differences) to indie rock fans finally getting to see Neutral Milk Hotel in the flesh. With the reintroduction phase more or less complete and a new album on the horizon, Floor’s first show of 2014 was just as much about the future as it was about celebrating the past.
What stuck out the most about the band’s free gig last week at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus–other than the glory of hearing most of 2002’s self-titled record played at incredibly loud volumes–was how much fun Vialon, Wilson and particularly Brooks seemed to be having. For a band that suffered through a litany of interpersonal conflicts and lineup changes when it was active in the 90s and early aughts, it was refreshing to see that the threesome enjoys playing together. Brooks–who started Torche in Floor’s wake–had a smile on his face after nearly every song as he bounced back and forth on stage, but perhaps more telling was the in-song looks shared between band members as they navigated through the nearly hour long set.
We inducted Floor into our Hall of Fame back in Issue #105, but the live setting is where these guys thrive. Despite some issues early on–Wilson kept running out from behind his kit to fix a mic or tweak a drum placement–the set really got going with “Scimitar”, with the band pregnating and extending the pause before Brooks bellows the name of the song with a haze of distortion. A similar moment transpired just before the coda to “Night Full of Kicks” when someone screamed, “Drop it!” The trio kindly obliged. As for new songs, two kept a much brisker pace than most of the band’s back catalog. The third was classic Floor, rife with massive riffs, stops and starts and Brooks’ now trademark vocal stylings, garnering an immediate “Oh my god!” from an audience member with enough tact to avoid using the acronym. That sentiment also happens to be a pretty accurate descriptor for the entire set. (Check out some live footage via (((unartig))) from the group’s 2013 show at Saint Vitus below — it’s a pretty good representation, albeit with a rowdier crowd that actually paid money to get in.)
Kadavar and Ruby the Hatchet opened the Converse Rubber Track’s show, and each did more than an ample job of warming up the crowd. The former had its share of die-hard followers in the front throwing out invisible oranges with reckless abandon and, despite some technical difficulties (at one point RtH guitarist John Scarperia ran on stage from the crowd to reposition an amp mic), Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann’s guitar solos were jaw dropping to watch (check out a pic of the Germans in action below). Kadavar and Earthless are clearly two very different types of bands, but Lindemann’s frenetic fretboard work was at times reminiscent of Isaiah Mitchell. The trio is also an example of a band whose live show outpaces its recorded output, due to both the room for improvisation and a more fulsome sound. Ruby the Hatchet made the most of its opportunity to gain new fans with a set that was punctuated by frontwoman Jillian Taylor–who has an intoxicating stage presence–making her way into the crowd while her bandmates brought things to a feverish close. I’d never heard anything by these Philly natives before, but I now look forward to watching their career with great interest.