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 The Format Live
with Anathallo, Rainer Maria, and Street To Nowhere - Live at Water Street Music Hall (August 6, 2006 in Rochester, New York)

by Patrick Muldowney


All age shows are scary. You find a crowd between the ages of 16 (some possibly faking even that age) mixed with people in their 40s, plus a bar alternating between bottled water and beer without any designated areas. If myspace is a parental concern, I'm not sure how all age shows featuring a teen heartthrob (Nate Reuss of The Format) escapes news, but I have to admit what potentially seemed a car crash went off without any scrapes I could notice. That is, unless you were me, who arrived to find the tour manager forgot to put me on the guest list, which once again proves that the efficiency with which the music industry is run is paltry at best. The bouncer was frustrated enough to shake his head at me numerous times, but too lazy to call the manager, or read my confirmation, he shook me through. Then, with certain stupidity, and a lack of experience with all age shows, which actually make bands timely, I arrived two hours late (usually the first band is just stepping up) to find the 2nd band, Rainer Maria, in mid-set. 

Out of all the bands, Rainer Maria was the draw for me, and should have been 3rd in the lineup, except Anathallo was running late due to a diversion they took, called Lollapalooza. The 3-piece showed great energy, with Caithlin De Marrais pulling off the surprising turnabout of sounding better live. The crowd, although somewhat interested, weren't quite sure what to think of a band who'd never been prominently featured on an MTV series. Before quickly heading back to Brooklyn after the show, the trio finished just as I would have hoped. Their last song was "Tin Foil", my favorite, but a bit of a shock considering it has been in their repertoire the past decade. Though most of the crowd was too busy finger painting to hear this song when it came out, many of them cheered at the extended rock 'n roll ending, never comprehending that most of their rock collection built off early emo like Rainer Maria.

Anathallo followed with a 5-song set. Those drawn-out, drunken bar shows could really learn something about time management from an all ages card. The stage was full of instruments, and the 8-piece band definitely fit into the "most likely to be kicked out of marching band for being too unorthodox" label. The recordings I heard prior to the show didn't excite me, but their live show did. This is one of the best live bands in America. Andrew Dost himself could put on a show, as I could see the sweat dripping from his nose by the first minute of the second song, but the other members were maximum energy also. They have quirky, choreographed moves. They have a chorus of voices. They have a multitude of sounds flying everywhere. They use messed up time signatures, and it's not because some sub-par musician messed up. They are a sensory explosion, and an experience, which is true of very few bands. Their eccentricity reflects in their writing. The first three songs of Anathallo's performance were based on an Asian folk tale about a dog whose spirit avenges its killer. If you get a chance, see them, and you'll understand why they were the band coming back from Lollapalooza.

The Format ended a highly energetic night by drawing the mostly teenage crowd out of their self-absorbed insecurity. This was the common thread, the identified factor, which allowed them to let their guard completely down without worrying that someone was watching and judging. The crowd was electric as Reuss' silhouette appeared on the dark stage sporting beatnik hat. The band ripped through fan favorites like "The First Single", "She Doesn't Get It", and "Dog Problems", while Reuss filled the moments in between crediting the raucous crowd for curing a sickness that hampered him the few days prior. One of the more valuable moments came in the lesson The Format is experiencing, as the crowd was told about how the band got dumped by their label, Atlantic, for what they understood to be poor songwriting. Reuss finished the story by reminding all their fans that they provided the true judgment of the band's success, and by the turnout for this show I could only believe that Atlantic's marketing department is severely flawed. The sordid story became an introduction to a new song called "The Apocalypse", which served as a response to Atlantic, and in its angst garnered a game response. The Format was eager to please its fan base the entire evening, even kicking out a four-song encore, and their sincerity is something that should be prevalent rather than infrequent. 


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