Rock and roll was alive and well at The Rave Friday night when Thrice came to town with a pair of bands from Los Angeles, Teenage Wrist and The Bronx. Teenage Wrist kicked things off with a promising and confident half-hour set, mostly drawing from their ’90s alt-rock worshiping debut, Chrome Neon Jesus. Even bassist and vocalist Kamtin Mohager dressed the part, sporting a tucked in print long-sleeve T-shirt. The quiet and reserved Mohager, as well as the rest of the band, seemed eternally grateful to be on this tour, and looked like they were having a blast on stage.
Next came their antithetical counterpart, The Bronx. Fronted by perpetually smirking madman Matt Caughthran, who opened the show by declaring, “It’s cold as fuck, let’s do this,” the hardcore punkers sprinted through a vicious 40-minute set, where every song was introduced by a rousing scream of, “Let’s go, Milwaukee!” Referring to the crowd several times as “motherfuckers,” Caughthran jumped, bounced, and danced wildly around the stage, drawing from a seemingly inexhaustible energy supply. Late in the set, he fearlessly took that energy into the crowd and performed a pair of songs in an instantly formed circle pit. Whether that’s showmanship or spectacle, it was something to be witnessed.
Then it was Thrice’s turn. Throughout their 20-year history, the band—singer-guitarist Dustin Kensrue, guitarist and keyboardist Teppei Teranishi, and the rhythm section of brothers Ed and Riley Breckenridge on bass and drums, respectively—has always been introverted, both musically and lyrically. Their post-hardcore-turned-art-rock style has consistently had a direct feeling of connectivity between the band and its fans, and especially between Kensrue and the fans. His lyrics have an outside-looking-in kind of introspection to them: “Do I trust my heart or just my mind?/ Why is truth so hard to find in this world?” from highlight and fan favorite “Stare at the Sun.”
Accordingly, upon returning to The Rave for the 10th time Friday night, the band opened with the first song from the recently-released Palms, “Only Us.” And for the 21-song, 90-minute show, Thrice made sure that band and audience were indeed a single entity. Kensrue only spoke a handful of times, each instance having an “aw shucks” sort of earnestness, and using only a handful of words between songs: “Thanks, We’re Thrice,” and a reminder that they were selling tour-exclusive vinyl. That may have come off as clock-punching sterility, or it could’ve been hesitation to speak to the crowd out of fear of breaking the spell the band was casting.
A big part of Thrice’s performance was the band’s precision. Aside from a few audience-led singalong codas, the quartet rarely veered from studio versions of songs, opting instead to let the songs carry themselves. This was helped along by the light show, which made the compact section of the multi-stage venue seem larger than it was. Mostly cued to the band’s underrated drummer, the lights added a level of immersion and color. During “Red Sky” and “Firebreather,” for example, the room was bathed in red, while a rainbow flourish was used when Kensrue sang, “I like all the pretty colors” from “Black Honey.” Similarly, the band was turned to silhouettes during “The Dark,” only to be flooded with light for the chorus of “I’m not gonna sit in the dark anymore.”
As for the setlist itself, the band drew from almost every corner of its expansive catalogue, only ignoring their first (and, at this point, least representative) album, Identity Crisis. Interestingly, the six songs pulled from the latest, Palms, weren’t front-loaded in the set—like vegetables to justify dessert. Rather, the band gambled by sprinkling them throughout the show, including ending their main set (pre-encore) with Palms’ closer, “Beyond the Pines.”
Thrice is a people-pleasing band. They played longtime fan favorites like “Image of the Invisible” and “Deadbolt” just as intensely as anything from Palms, both suggesting that they weren’t yet sick of the classics and that the new material can stand right beside the time-tested material. Kensrue didn’t have to speak much–Thrice’s performance did that for him.